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WordPress is one of the best CMS platforms used by millions of websites around the world. But one of the downsides of this platform is that it isn’t safe against hacking. In fact, Colorlib reported that more than 95.6% of infections detected by the Sucuri security software were on websites based on WordPress.
To stop security breaches and save data, you must understand why WordPress sites get hacked. One major reason is outdated software. WordPress experts recommend you opt for updates, including security patches. But if you don’t update the software, your website will become vulnerable and an easy target for attacks.
There are more reasons why WordPress sites get hacked, and we’ll cover them in this blog. We’ll also see the methods used by hackers to exploit WordPress websites and how you can secure them. Let’s begin.
Why do WordPress Sites Get Hacked?
WordPress is an open-source CMS, so you can freely customize your websites with ease. But it also makes your website open to vulnerabilities. Often, its open-source nature is why WordPress sites get hacked.
WordPress security has always been a matter of discussion among the experts. But before implementing the reinforcements, you need to understand the common vulnerabilities of WordPress sites.
Outdated WordPress Core
An outdated WordPress core compromises the security, limits performance, and causes compatibility issues. Plus, users are unlikely to get support if they have an outdated core. In short, outdated cores put websites at risk! So, keeping the WordPress core updated is an essential part of website security.
Past incidents show that outdated WordPress cores can lead to cyber-attacks. These events made website owners realize the importance of staying up-to-date. If not, data can be compromised and their reputation damaged.
That’s why it is critical to keep the WordPress core updated for any website using this content management system.
Insecure Themes and Plugins
Insecure and outdated plugins and themes can be a hacker’s entry point; they can exploit known security flaws and access your website without permission. Nulled or pirated themes and plugins may contain malicious code, so only use legitimate, licensed versions. Plus, inexperienced or untrusted developers may create themes and plugins with coding errors and weak security.
So, when installing a WordPress theme or installing a WordPress plugin, make sure to verify the details carefully. Deprecated or unsupported themes and plugins raise the risk of vulnerabilities, as they no longer receive security updates. Plus, some themes and plugins need excessive permissions, leaving your site open to danger if they are compromised.
To keep your WordPress website secure against the cyber-attacks, follow these steps:
- Get themes and plugins from official WordPress or trusted marketplaces.
- Constantly update them for bug fixes, performance enhancements, and, most importantly, security patches.
- Check the developer’s reputation and code quality.
- Remove unused or unnecessary themes and plugins.
- Use a security plugin and scan regularly.
- Lastly, have strong password policies and use unique usernames/passwords for each admin account.
By taking these steps, you can enhance your WordPress site’s security and reduce the risk of vulnerabilities caused by insecure themes and plugins.
The most obvious reason for why WordPress sites get hacked is weak passwords. They can leave your website open to hackers, so it’s important to make passwords that are tough to figure out. Create passwords that are unique and strong for your WordPress site.
- Choose passwords that aren’t easy to guess. Don’t use birthdays, names, or common words.
- Make passwords a minimum of 12 characters long. The longer, the better.
- Mix up lower and upper case letters, numbers, and symbols. That makes it harder for hackers.
- Don’t use the same password for multiple websites. Use a password manager on your browser to store unique passwords.
Add an extra protection layer by using multi-factor authentication. This requires more than just your password.
If you experience any irregularities with your WordPress website due to one of the above-mentioned reasons, I recommend you consult with a WordPress development company. They’ll analyze your website and work on securing it effectively because hackers can use several methods to exploit your WordPress website.
Methods Used by Hackers to Exploit WordPress Sites
There are several ways hackers can exploit WordPress sites. You need to be aware of these cyber threats to ensure you implement the best security techniques on your website.
Brute Force Attacks
Brute Force Attacks are systematic attempts to crack passwords. Hackers use automated tools to make multiple login attempts. This can overwhelm the server and slow the website. Attackers often target weak or common passwords.
Strong password policies can help in mitigating the risk. Plugins and security measures that limit login attempts are also effective.
It’s crucial to note that Brute Force Attacks are a serious threat to WordPress site security. If hackers generate enough login attempts, they could get the right username and password combination – and gain full control of the website.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks compromise user security by injecting malicious scripts into trusted websites. Let’s learn more about XSS. There are 3 types of XSS: Stored, Reflected, and DOM-based.
- Stored XSS: This type of XSS attack occurs when malicious code is stored on a web server, such as in a database or comment section. When a victim visits the web page, the malicious code is executed in their browser.
- Reflected XSS: This type of XSS attack occurs when malicious code is reflected back to the victim in response to a request. For example, an attacker might submit a malicious search query to a website, and the website would then reflect the query back to the victim in the search results.
- DOM-based XSS: This type of XSS attack occurs when malicious code is injected into the Document Object Model (DOM) of a web page. The DOM is a representation of the web page that is used by the browser to render the page. By injecting malicious code into the DOM, an attacker can change the way the page is rendered and execute arbitrary code in the victim’s browser.
You can easily prevent the XSS attacks by encoding all user input before it is displayed on the page. You can also use a CSP or content security policy and a web application firewall (WAF) to restrict the types of scripts that a hacker can execute on a page.
Users can also help to protect themselves from XSS attacks by keeping their browsers up to date and using a security extension, such as NoScript.
SQL (Structured Query Language) injection is a type of website security vulnerability that allows an attacker to interfere with the queries that an application makes to its database. This can be done by injecting malicious SQL code into user input, such as a login form or search bar.
Since this CMS uses a MySQL database to store its data, SQL injection may be one of the reasons why WordPress sites get hacked. To prevent falling prey to such attacks and protect your website from potential harm, it’s important to put strict security measures in place. Updating WordPress plugins regularly, using parameterized queries, and employing a web application firewall can help reduce the risk of SQL Injection attacks.
Now, as you may expect, these hacking tactics have some drastic impacts on the website, with respect to the technical aspects as well as the reputation.
Impact of Hacked WordPress Sites
Hacked WordPress sites can have a significant impact on website owners, visitors, and the internet ecosystem as a whole. Let’s take a look at how hacking affects your online presence.
Data Breaches and Unauthorized Access
Data breaches and unauthorized access are huge risks to WordPress sites. This can cause sensitive info to be exposed, user accounts to be compromised and could lead to more cyberattacks. Let’s look at some key figures with respect to security vulnerabilities in 2021 and 2022 obtained from WPScan:
|Threat Vector (Vulnerability Type)||2021||2022|
|Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)||885 (54.4%)||890 (50%)|
|Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)||167 (10.2%)||261 (14.7%)|
|SQL Injections||152 (9.3%)||142 (8%)|
|All Others||424 (26.2%)||486 (27.3%)|
These stats show exactly why companies should use strong security measures to protect against these risks. Data breaches and unauthorized access can also lead to a bad reputation. With news spreading quickly on social media, one incident can hurt an organization’s image. It’s difficult to win back the trust of customers and partners.
Data breaches and unauthorized access have major consequences. It affects people’s lives and spreads throughout organizations. That’s why WordPress developers prioritize cybersecurity to protect their assets, maintain trust, and uphold their image in a digital world.
Defacement and Damage to Website Reputation
Website defacement can have drastic effects. It can taint a business or person’s online reputation. This cyber-attack not just alters the look of a website but also jeopardizes its trustworthiness, integrity, and authenticity.
Here’s how defacement and damage to the site’s reputation:
- Defacement weakens the reputation of a website by replacing the content with malicious material or tampering with the original material. This affects the faith visitors have in the website and its owner.
- Defaced websites give off an aura of inadequate security measures. This deters potential customers who worry their personal info might be compromised if they connect with the website.
- Lastly, defacement hurts the reputation of individuals or businesses connected with the hacked website. Visitors might link their name to a lack of knowledge in cybersecurity.
To reduce these risks and maintain the website’s reputation:
- Put robust security measures in place, such as hard-to-crack passwords and regular updates, to stop unauthorized access to your website.
- Monitor your website constantly for any signs of defacement or malicious activities. Early detection allows for rapid action and limits potential damage.
- Back up your website regularly to guarantee swift recovery if ever there’s an attack. Having up-to-date backups aids in reviving the site quickly without harm to its reputation.
By adopting these tips, website owners can protect their reputations online, preserving the trust of visitors and safeguarding themselves from possible long-term harm caused by defacement attacks.
SEO Manipulation and Blacklisting
Although WordPress SEO strategies can help get the website to the top of the SERPs, hackers may use them to rank the hacked websites higher. They add secret links, spam content, or harmful keywords to fool algorithms. So, these hacked sites appear more visible and draw in unsuspecting users. This black hat SEO practice damages the accuracy of search engine results and also puts users’ online security in danger.
Moreover, hacked WordPress sites that do SEO manipulation can be blacklisted by search engines for breaking their regulations. When this happens, the website is taken off search engine indexes. This leads to a loss of organic traffic and potential customers.
Furthermore, blacklisting affects a website’s rep and trustworthiness with users. Potential visitors may be warned or prevented from going on the website due to security worries. Subsequently, businesses suffer from less visibility and conversions.
So make sure you opt for the best WordPress development agency and have them prioritize cybersecurity measures to keep your website safe.
Best Practices for Securing WordPress Sites
To ensure the security of your WordPress site, implement best practices for securing WordPress sites. By implementing these tactics, you won’t have to worry about stuff like why WordPress sites get hacked.
Here are a few of these tactics:
Keeping WordPress Core, Themes, and Plugins Up-to-date
Updating WordPress Core, Themes, and Plugins is vital for a secure and functioning WordPress site. It’s also necessary to access the newest features and improvements. Here’s an easy 6-step guide to help you:
Step 1: Check for Updates: Log in to the WordPress dashboard and check for updates. Look under the “Updates” tab.
Step 2: Update the Core: Click on the “Update Now” button to install the latest version available. This gets you all the security patches and performance enhancements.
Step 3: Update Themes: Go to “Appearance”→ “Themes”. Click on each theme’s “Update Now” link if available. Updated themes can fix bugs, be more compatible, and have more features.
Step 4: Update Plugins: Go to “Plugins”→ “Installed Plugins”. Click on each plugin’s “Update Now” link if provided. Keeping plugins updated is super important for security and getting new features.
Step 5: Delete Unused Themes and Plugins: Remove unused themes or plugins from your website. They can be security risks even if not active.
Step 6: Consider Automatic Updates: Enable automatic updates for WordPress core, themes, and plugins whenever possible.
Plus, make backups of your site before updates in case of problems. Regular updates are key for keeping your WordPress site safe and running well.
Using Strong Passwords and Implementing Two-Factor Authentication
Choose a unique, complex password. Include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, and update them regularly. Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) for an extra layer of security. Enable account lockout after multiple failed login attempts.
These measures will boost the security of any WordPress site, protecting against unauthorized access.
I remember a friend of mine kept a weak password on his WordPress site, and it got hacked. The hackers changed stuff on his website without permission. It took a long time to restore the site back to its original state. This served as a reminder to prioritize strong passwords and 2FA for all online accounts.
Regularly Backing Up WordPress Sites
Regular WordPress backup ensures your data & content are secure in case of any unexpected issues. Here’s a 3-step guide:
Step 1: Get a dependable plugin: Choose one from the WordPress repository, like UpdraftPlus, BlogVault, or BackupBuddy. Each has different features, so choose the best for you.
Step 2: Set up backup settings: Once installed, configure the backup settings for frequency (daily, weekly, or monthly) & which files/directories to include.
Step 3: Store backups safely: Specify where you want to store them – cloud storage (Dropbox, Google Drive), external hard drives, or remote servers.
Backups not only safeguard against data loss but also enable you to test changes on a WordPress staging environment before applying them to your live site. Test restoring backups regularly to guarantee they work when needed.
Installing Security Plugins and Implementing Firewalls
Another crucial tactic to stop your WordPress website from getting hacked is installing security plugins and implementing firewalls. Here’s a 3-step guide for the same.
Step 1: Research Security Plugins: Research reliable security plugins for your website. Look for plugins with good reviews and a history of protection against malware, spam, and other risks. Once you’ve found one, install it.
Step 2: Activate & Configure: Activate the plugin on your WordPress dashboard. Then, customize the features in the configuration settings according to your website’s needs. This can include firewalls, malware scans, and login restrictions.
Step 3: Update: Cybersecurity threats evolve quickly, so it is important to update your security plugins regularly. Developers often release updates to fix vulnerabilities or improve features. By updating, you make your website more secure.
Other than this 3-step guide, there are some additional tips to reinforce the security of your WordPress website:
- User Authentication: Use complex passwords and enforce strong password policies. Also, consider two-factor authentication (2FA).
- Limit Login Attempts: Install a limit login attempts plugin or modify .htaccess file settings to restrict failed login attempts.
- Backups: Create regular backups of your WordPress database and other essential files. This allows you to restore your website quickly in case of a security breach.
Additionally, you should regularly scan the WordPress site for malware and ensure there are no irregularities. If you find any, I recommend you opt for the WordPress development experts. They will analyze your website and recommend the best course of action.
FAQs on Why WordPress Sites Get Hacked
Why do WordPress sites get hacked? Well, the common reasons include weak passwords, outdated WordPress core, insecure themes and plugins, and a lack of security measures. It can cause data breaches and unauthorized access, defacement and damage to the website’s reputation, and even SEO manipulation and blacklisting.
But you can easily protect it against the primitive security threats by following some common practices:
- Use strong passwords and implement 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) and WAF
- Update the WordPress core, themes, and plugins
- Backup your WordPress website regularly
If your WordPress website has been hacked or you encounter issues, consult with our experts today!