Table of Content
- Why Secure a WordPress Website?
- Top Tips for WordPress Security
- Keep WordPress Updated
- Use Secure Hosting
- Regular Back-ups
- Use Strong Passwords
- Install a Security Plugin
- Enable Web Application Firewall
- Use SSL Encryption
- Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
- Limit Login Attempts
- Disable File Editing
- Remove Unused Themes and Plugins
- Secure File Permissions
- Protect the wp-config.php File
- FAQs Related to WordPress Security Guide
Let’s say you have a fabulous-looking mansion with expensive cars, watches, and more. But if the security reinforcements are not sturdy, everything inside the house will be at risk. Now, compare the mansion with a WordPress website; the advanced features and contents will be like the cool toys in your home. Although you can’t install things like fingerprint scanners or high-profile locking mechanisms to a website, a comprehensive WordPress security guide would be of help. It ensures everything on the website is protected against any potential threats.
Every WordPress development company follows an extensive list of website security protocols. That includes secure WP-Admin login credentials, SSL certification, two-factor authentication, web application firewall (WAF), and much more. Other than enabling certain protocols, you also have to focus on limiting and restricting some things. That includes disabling file editing, limiting login attempts, disabling PHP file execution, and more.
So in this WordPress security guide, we’ll cover why you need to secure your WordPress website along with the best implementations with and without any coding.
Why Secure a WordPress Website?
Securing a WordPress website is crucial for several reasons, as WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) on the internet. It powers millions of websites, making it a prime target for hackers and malicious actors.
Here are a few critical reasons to secure a WordPress website:
Protecting User Data
If your website collects any user information, such as login credentials, personal details, or payment information, it is your responsibility to keep that data secure. A breach of user data can lead to serious consequences, including legal issues, damaged reputation, and loss of trust from your visitors.
Preventing Unauthorized Access
Hackers often try to gain unauthorized access to WordPress websites to exploit vulnerabilities, deface the site, or use it to distribute malware. Securing your website helps prevent such attacks and ensures that only authorized personnel can access the backend.
Avoiding Malware Infections
Malware can infect your WordPress website through vulnerable plugins, themes, or outdated software. Once infected, your site can be used to spread malware to visitors or even get blacklisted by search engines, causing a significant drop in traffic.
Protecting Website Performance
Security measures can enhance your website’s performance by preventing DDoS attacks and resource-intensive attacks that could slow down or crash your site.
Safeguarding SEO Efforts
A compromised website may be manipulated by hackers to include malicious links and spam content, which can harm your SEO efforts and lead to ranking penalties by search engines.
If your website is compromised and used to distribute malware or engage in malicious activities, search engines, and security software may blacklist it, warning visitors about potential dangers and severely impacting your online reputation.
Maintaining Business Continuity
A hacked website can lead to downtime, disrupting your business operations and causing revenue loss. Ensuring website security helps maintain business continuity and minimizes disruptions.
Depending on your location and the nature of your website, you may be subject to specific data protection and security regulations. Securing your WordPress site is essential to meet these compliance requirements.
But securing a WordPress website isn’t a small feat. There are some outstanding security measures to minimize the risk of a successful attack. That will keep your WordPress website safe and functional.
Top Tips for WordPress Security
WordPress security is a critical part of creating and maintaining a website. There are several ways to ensure a website functions well and remains secure against any possible cyber threats.
Let’s discuss the top tips to ensure WordPress security:
1. Keep WordPress Updated
Of course, the first and foremost tip for WordPress security is to update your WordPress core, themes, and plugins regularly. That ensures your website benefits from the latest security patches and bug fixes. Outdated software can be vulnerable to attacks.
First, there is the WordPress core, which includes the main files and directories that make WordPress function. By keeping the core up to date, you ensure that potential security weaknesses are addressed, reducing the risk of unauthorized access or attacks.
Then, there are the WordPress themes and plugins developed by third-party developers and WordPress itself. Updates might include fixes for security vulnerabilities or compatibility issues with the latest WordPress version. When installing the WordPress plugins, make sure to check its “Last Updated”. That will help you check if the developers update it with new features and security regularly. The same goes for when you are installing a WordPress theme on your website.
2. Use Secure Hosting
Choose a reputable WordPress hosting provider that prioritizes security. Look for hosts offering SSL certificates, regular backups, and security monitoring. Make sure your chosen hosting providers invest in robust server infrastructure, hardware, and software configurations. They must be designed to withstand various types of cyber threats, including DDoS attacks and hacking attempts.
Secure hosting environments often use encryption protocols to protect data in transit, such as SSL certificates (we’ll discuss it later) for encrypted communication between the server and users’ browsers. Some secure hosting plans include built-in WAFs that filter out malicious traffic and protect your WordPress website from common web-based attacks.
Here’s how you choose a secure hosting service for your WordPress website:
Step 1: Identify Your Hosting Needs: Determine your website’s requirements, such as expected traffic, storage needs, and any special features (e.g., e-commerce, multimedia content).
Step 2: Research Reputable Hosting Providers: After extensive research, compile a list of reputable hosting providers known for their security measures, reliability, and positive customer feedback.
Step 3: Evaluate the Technicalities: Analyze every option based on their technical offers with respect to performance, storage, scalability, backup, server locations, and of course, WordPress security.
Step 4: Compare the Prices & Value Proposition: While cost is a factor, prioritize value over the cheapest option. Invest in a hosting service that provides security features and supports your website needs.
Step 5: Test Customer Support: Contact the hosting provider’s customer support with security-related questions to gauge their responsiveness and expertise.
Other than that, consider the online reviews and recommendations from other websites with experience with secure hosting. Then, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the best, most secure hosting for your WordPress website.
It will help you establish a strong foundation for protecting your WordPress website against a wide range of threats and vulnerabilities.
3. Regular Back-ups
Regular back-ups are among the most fundamental aspects of WordPress security on your website. It includes backing up the database and files of your website. Backing up your WordPress website involves creating copies of your website’s files, database, and content at specific intervals.
So if your website is compromised by a security breach or malware attack, having recent back-ups allows you to restore your website to a clean and secure state. Regular back-ups also ensure you can quickly recover lost content, files, or settings. But manual back-ups can be a little tedious. So every WordPress development agency opts for automatic back-ups through WordPress plugins.
Here’s how you can take automatic back-ups of your WordPress website through plugins:
Step 1: Choose a Back-up Plugin: The WordPress plugin directory has a variety of reputable backup plugins. Some of the best options are Jetpack, BlogVault, and UpdraftPlus.
Step 2: Install and Configure the Plugin: Install your chosen backup solution, activate it, and configure the backup settings. In the plugin settings, choose the backup frequency (daily, weekly, etc.) and where the backups will be stored (local server, cloud storage, etc.).
Step 3: Perform Manual Back-up: Some plugins allow you to create manual back-ups at any time. So perform a manual backup before making any significant changes to your website.
Step 4: Automatic Back-ups: Set up automated back-ups according to your chosen frequency. Regular automated back-ups ensure that you always have recent copies of your website.
Step 5: Test Back-up Restoration: Periodically test the restoration process using a backup copy. That will help ensure you can successfully recover your website if needed.
Regular backups act like a safety net that enables you to recover quickly from various potential threats and challenges.
4. Use Strong Passwords
Use robust, unique passwords for all user accounts, including admin, FTP, and database access. Make sure you don’t use common passwords. Opt for a password manager to generate, store, and manage the secure passwords.
A strong password is a combination of various characters. So it will be difficult for attackers to guess or crack. They’ll have to try multiple username and password combinations until they find the correct one. Moreover, strong passwords safeguard not only the admin account but also other user accounts with elevated privileges.
Here are a few tips for creating strong passwords:
- Use passwords with a minimum character length of 12 or more for more security.
- Include a mix of numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and special characters (e.g., !, @, #, $, %).
- Refrain from using easily guessable words, such as “password,” “123456,” or common phrases.
- Don’t use easily accessible information like your name, birthdate, or common dictionary words.
- Generate passwords randomly rather than using predictable patterns.
After you have generated a strong password, try using a password manager to ensure you don’t forget it. By using strong passwords and adhering to best practices for password management, you significantly enhance the security of your WordPress website. That reduces the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches.
5. Install a Security Plugin
Utilize a reputable security plugin to enhance your website’s security. It helps enhance the protection of your site by detecting and preventing various types of cyber threats. It includes features like malware scanning, firewall protection, and login activity monitoring. So your website will be safeguarded against multiple threats.
Many security plugins perform regular malware scans of your website’s files and database. They can identify malicious code or suspicious files that could compromise your site’s integrity.
Then go to the WordPress Admin Dashboard and install (and activate) the security plugins of your choice. After that, configure the plugin settings to your security preferences. Make sure you regularly update the plugin to the latest version. It will help you ensure access to the most recent security features and bug fixes.
6. Enable Web Application Firewall
A WAF (Web Application Firewall) acts as a shield between your website and the internet. It inspects and filters incoming traffic to block malicious requests and protect against various cyber threats. This technology is meant to detect and block common web attacks, such as cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and more.
WAFs can differentiate between legitimate users and malicious bots. By blocking harmful bots and spam traffic, a WAF helps maintain server resources. That reduces the risk of DDoS attacks and enhances website performance. WordPress developers use WAFs for their built-in malware scanning capabilities. So they can detect and block malicious files or code injections on your website.
There are several options for enabling a web application firewall for your WordPress security.
- Cloud-Based WAF Services: Choose a reputable cloud-based WAF service provider that specializes in WordPress security.
- Web Hosting with Built-in WAF: Some managed WordPress hosting providers include a WAF as part of their security features.
- WAF Plugins for WordPress: Certain WordPress security plugins also offer WAF functionality.
Make sure you implement the web application firewall as a supplement to other WordPress security practices rather than their alternative.
7. Use SSL Encryption
SSL encryption ensures that the data transmitted between your website’s server and your visitors’ browsers is encrypted and secure. That will help protect sensitive information from being intercepted or tampered with by malicious actors. SSL certificates provide authentication, assuring visitors that they are connecting to the legitimate and secure version of your website. It builds trust and credibility among your users.
For e-commerce websites, SSL encryption is essential to secure payment transactions and protect customer financial information.
Here’s how you can implement SSL encryption for your WordPress website security.
Step 1: Obtain an SSL Certificate: Purchase an SSL certification from a trusted certificate authority (CA), or in many cases, your web hosting provider may offer free SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt.
Step 2: Install the SSL Certificate: Follow the stipulated instructions and install the SSL certification. Some hosting providers even offer a one-click SSL installation process.
Step 3: Update Website URLs: After installing the SSL certificate, update your URLs from “http://” to “https://“. Either make the changes in the settings or modify the “wp-config.php” file.
Step 4: Install a WordPress SSL Plugin: Some SSL plugins can help you configure SSL settings and ensure your WordPress website functions smoothly with SSL encryption.
Step 5: Enforce SSL: Use a plugin or edit your website’s .htaccess file to enforce SSL usage across your entire website. That ensures all traffic is encrypted.
Step 6: Update Internal Links: Ensure that all internal links within your website also use the “https://” protocol. That helps maintain a consistent SSL-encrypted experience for users.
After installing and setting up SSL, you’ll be able to create a secure and encrypted environment for your users. Plus, it will help protect sensitive data, enhance your website’s trustworthiness, and contribute to a stronger overall security posture.
8. Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Enable 2FA for your WordPress login to add an extra layer of security. With 2FA, users need to provide a second form of verification (usually a one-time code sent to their phone) in addition to their set password. The second factor introduced by two-factor authentication could be something like a password (that the user knows), a hardware token, or maybe something even more critical like biometric verification.
Two-factor Authentication helps verify the user’s identity through a separate channel to ensure the person logging in has the legitimate right to do so. Install WordPress plugins like Jetpack, Wordfence, etc., to implement 2FA as a WordPress security protocol on your website.
This powerful WordPress security method adds an additional layer of verification to the traditional username and password login process. So it will be more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access.
9. Limit Login Attempts
Use a plugin or web server configuration to limit the number of login attempts. This crucial WordPress security optimization helps prevent brute-force attacks. So if attackers try multiple username and password combinations to gain access, limiting the login attempts would help.
Limiting login attempts is especially important for admin accounts, as these accounts have elevated privileges. Preventing unauthorized access to admin accounts is crucial for maintaining control over your website. When an excessive number of failed login attempts are detected from a specific IP address, the system can enforce a temporary lockout period.
Plugins are the best way to implement login attempt limits for WordPress security on your website. The best plugin to limit the login attempts on your website is “Limit Login Attempts Reloaded“. After installing this plugin, access its settings and specify the maximum number of allowed login attempts and the duration of the lockout period.
This robust WordPress security technique helps protect the integrity of your website.
10. Disable File Editing
Prevent unauthorized changes to your website by disabling the file editor in the WordPress dashboard. It prevents potential attackers from modifying your theme or plugin files through the admin area.
By default, WordPress allows administrators to edit theme and plugin files directly from the dashboard. However, disabling this feature adds an extra layer of security to prevent unauthorized changes to critical files.
Here’s how you disable file editing for WordPress security:
#1 Manual Method
Step 1: Connect to your website’s server using FTP client or a file manager provided by your hosting provider.
Step 2: Navigate to the “wp-config.php” file in your WordPress root directory.
Step 3: Add the following code excerpt to the “wp-config.php” file:
Step 4: Save the changes and upload the modified “wp-config.php” file back to your server.
#2 Through a Security Plugin
Step 1: Install and activate a reputable security plugin like Wordfence Security.
Step 2: Go to the plugin’s settings and find the option to disable file editing.
Step 3: Enable this feature to prevent file editing from the WordPress dashboard.
#3 Through a Custom Function
This method is suitable for those with knowledge of the WordPress file and directory structure. If you are one of them, open the ‘functions.php’ file and add the following custom function code:
After implementing any of these methods, attempts to access the file editor from within the WordPress dashboard will result in an error. So it’s a valuable step in WordPress security.
11. Remove Unused Themes and Plugins
Delete any themes and plugins you’re not actively using to ensure WordPress security. Themes and plugins that are not actively used pose potential security risks, as they can become avenues for attacks, vulnerabilities, and outdated code.
By removing them entirely, you reduce the potential entry points for malicious actors. Plus, you can ensure you only have actively maintained and secure code on your website. You can even optimize backup sizes and improve backup efficiency.
Follow this process to remove unused themes and plugins from your WordPress website.
Step 1: Log In to Your WordPress Admin Dashboard: Log in as an administrator to your WordPress dashboard.
Step 2: Go to Themes and Plugins: Navigate to “Appearance”→ “Themes” to manage your themes and “Plugins”→ “Installed Plugins” to manage your plugins.
Step 3: Identify Unused Themes/Plugins: Review the list of installed themes and plugins. Identify those that are no longer in use or needed.
Step 4: Deactivate Unused Themes/Plugins: Deactivate any unused themes or plugins by clicking the “Deactivate” link beneath them. Afterward, click the “Delete” link to remove it from your website.
For the active themes and plugins you decide to keep, make sure they are regularly updated to the latest versions to maintain security and compatibility. So you can ensure a more secure and optimized environment.
12. Secure File Permissions
Set appropriate file permissions for your WordPress files and directories. File permissions dictate who can access, modify, or execute files on your server. Properly configuring file permissions prevents unauthorized users from accessing sensitive files and directories.
Moreover, proper permissions limit the ability of attackers to inject malicious code into your website’s files. That reduces the risk of malware infections or code execution vulnerabilities.
Here’s how you set the file permissions for WordPress security on your website:
Step 1: Use FTP or File Manager: Connect to your website’s server using an FTP client or the file manager provided by your hosting provider.
Step 2: Adjust Directory Permissions: Set directories to “755” to grant read, write, and execute permissions to the owner and read and execute permissions to others. Special directories like “wp-content/uploads” may need “775” permissions to allow file uploads.
Step 3: Set File Permissions: Set files to “644” (-rw-r–r–) to grant read and write permissions to the owner and read-only permissions to others. Executable files or scripts may need “755” permissions.
Step 4: Adjust wp-config.php: Set “wp-config.php” to “600” (-rw——-) to ensure only the owner (WordPress) can read and modify the file.
Step 5: Secure .htaccess: Set “htaccess” to “644” (-rw-r–r–) to prevent unauthorized modifications.
Step 6: Limit Root Directories: Limit permissions on the root file directory of your WordPress installation to prevent unauthorized access.
Moreover, some security plugins offer features to automatically set and maintain secure file permissions. It will play a critical role in reinforcing the WordPress security of your website.
13. Protect the wp-config.php File
A ‘wp-config.php’ file is one of the most critical aspects of security considered by WordPress specialists. This file contains sensitive information and configuration settings that are vital for your website’s functionality. Protect it by moving it to a higher directory level and preventing unauthorized access.
Attackers may attempt to inject malicious code into the wp-config.php file to compromise your website. But properly securing the file will help prevent such code injection attempts. By restricting access to the ‘wp-config.php’ file, you minimize the potential entry points that attackers can target.
Follow this process to protect the ‘wp-config.php’ file for WordPress security.
Step 1: Move to a Non-Web Accessible Location: Move the ‘wp-config.php’ file to a directory outside the web root if your hosting environment allows. That ensures the file is not accessible via a browser.
Step 2: Set Proper File Permissions: Set file permissions for wp-config.php to “400” or “440” to limit access to the file. That restricts both read and write permissions.
Step 3: Limit Database User Privileges: When setting up database credentials in the ‘wp-config.php’ file, grant the minimum necessary privileges to the database user. Avoid using a user with excessive permissions.
Step 4: Use Security Plugins: Some security plugins offer features that automatically protect the wp-config.php file by restricting access and setting appropriate permissions.
Step 5: Regularly Audit and Monitor: Periodically review the permissions and access controls for the ‘wp-config.php’ file to ensure they remain secure.
Step 6: Back Up the File: Regularly back up the ‘wp-config.php’ file to ensure you have a copy in case of accidental changes or emergencies.
This process will help you enhance the overall WordPress security by safeguarding sensitive information and reducing the risk of unauthorized access or malicious activities.
Last but not least, regularly monitor your website’s activity, including login attempts and user actions. Plugins can help track suspicious activities and alert you of potential security threats. But ultimately, it will come down to the effectiveness of your regular WordPress security monitoring.
Following this WordPress security guide should help you significantly reduce the risk of breaches. It will keep your WordPress website safe and protected from potential threats. Remember that security is an ongoing process. So stay vigilant and keep up with the latest WordPress security best practices.
FAQs Related to WordPress Security Guide
Security is of paramount in every WordPress website since there’s a horde of cyber threats in this ever-evolving digital landscape. Whether you’re running a personal blog, an e-commerce platform, or a corporate website, ensuring the security of your online presence is not just a best practice – it’s an absolute necessity.
Every aspect of your website, from the core software and themes to plugins and user accounts, must be fortified against potential vulnerabilities. So you have to opt for a multi-faceted approach to WordPress security. That’s why this guide to security in WordPress websites includes everything from keeping WordPress updated and installing security plugins to more complex methods like 2FA and securing file permissions, and much more. Follow these practices to ensure the best WordPress security.
If you want to fortify the security of your WordPress website, get in touch with our experts today!