How to improve WordPress Security: Essential Steps to Protect Your Website
Reading Time: 5 minutes
With its user-friendly interface and extensive customisation options, WordPress has become the go-to choice for building websites. However, the popularity of WordPress also makes it a prime target for hackers. To safeguard your website from potential threats, it is crucial to prioritise WordPress security. In this blog post, we will explore a range of practical tips and best practices that will help you enhance the security of your WordPress website.
Keep WordPress core files up to date
WordPress core files are the files needed to make your WordPress website work. These files are the same for every WordPress install. They control the admin area and give WordPress developers the control and functionality they need to design and build your website.
The team behind WordPress constantly work to further develop and improve the platform. Part of their job is to ensure WordPress remains safe and secure, so they regularly provide bug fixes and security updates.
WordPress updates come in two forms, major and minor updates. Major updates usually contain new functionality. Minor updates usually contain bug-fixes and security patches. That is why it is important to keep your WordPress install up to date. Older versions of WordPress may contain vulnerabilities which hackers may be able to exploit. Keeping your WordPress install up to date makes hacking your site a lot more difficult.
Keep your themes and plugins up to date
The majority of themes and plugins aren’t built by the WordPress team, they are usually built by third parties. There are pros and cons to this.
The pros are there are thousands of themes available and well over 50,000 plugins on the WordPress Plugins directory.
The cons are a lot themes and plugins aren’t built very well. It’s usually the smaller, less supported themes and plugins that cause problems as they are not kept up to date as they should be.
Hackers are always looking to exploit vulnerabilities in WordPress and themes and plugins are a good place to start. Once a hacker has found a way to exploit the code in a theme or plugin they can gain access to your website and cause all manor of chaos.
If you have a theme or plugins that need to be updated it is likely because the theme or plugin developer has issued an update to tackle bug-fixes or other security issues. If the update contains a bug or security fix it’s important to run the theme or plugin update to ensure your website is protected.
Implement Strong User Authentication
A strong password policy is vital to prevent unauthorised access to your WordPress site. Encourage all users to create unique, complex passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Additionally, consider enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of security. Plugins like Google Authenticator can help you implement this feature easily.
Secure File Permissions
Properly configuring file permissions is essential to protect your WordPress files and directories. Restrictive file permissions ensure that only authorised users can access and modify crucial files. Directories should generally have a permission of 755, while files should have 644. Ensure sensitive files like wp-config.php and .htaccess have stricter permissions (e.g., 600) to prevent unauthorised access.
Download Themes and Plugins from Trusted Sources
When choosing themes and plugins for your WordPress site, it’s crucial to download them from reputable sources such as the official WordPress repository or trusted developers. These sources often conduct security audits, minimising the risk of installing malicious code. Additionally, regularly update your themes and plugins to patch any security vulnerabilities that may arise.
Protect Against Brute-Force Attacks
Brute-force attacks involve repeated login attempts to gain unauthorised access to your WordPress site. Protect against these attacks by limiting login attempts, which can be achieved through security plugins like Login Lockdown or Jetpack. Additionally, consider changing the default login URL and disabling the ability to log in using the username ‘admin’ to further thwart attackers.
Ban undesirable users
Another way to further secure the WordPress admin area is to ban users after too many failed login attempts. Using the WPMU Defender plugin you can set a limit of three failed login attempts before a user is blocked from the site. They can log in again after a few hours just in case it is a genuine failed login attempt.
The WPMU Defender plugin also allows you to create a username blacklist. You can add usernames such as admin and administrator so any hackers using these username get instantly banned from your WordPress website.
Regularly Backup Your WordPress Site
Implementing a regular backup strategy is essential to mitigate the impact of potential security breaches. Backing up your WordPress site ensures that you can restore it to a secure state if any issues arise. Explore backup solutions such as plugins like UpdraftPlus or using backup services provided by your hosting provider. Remember to store your backups securely, either offline or on a trusted cloud storage platform such as OneDrive or DropBox.
Secure Your WordPress Database
The WordPress database stores critical information about your site, making it a prime target for hackers. Change the default database prefix from ‘wp_’ to a custom prefix during the installation process or using a plugin like iThemes Security. Additionally, ensure your database has a strong password and consider limiting access privileges to prevent unauthorised actions.
Reset your WordPress security keys
WordPress security keys can be found in the installs WP-config.php file. Security keys are a string of random variables used for the authorisation and encryption of cookies generated by WordPress. Usually these cookies are used to verify the identity of logged in users and commenters. During the install process there is no need to set these keys as WordPress takes care of this as part of the installation process. However once your website is up and running it is recommend to reset these keys every 60 days or so. You can do this manually or to make life easier you can use a plugin such as WPMU Defender Pro.
Protect Against Malware and Hackers
Investing in a reliable security plugin can significantly enhance your WordPress site’s security. Plugins like Sucuri or Wordfence provide active scanning for malware, vulnerability detection, and firewall protection. Regularly scan your site for malware, remove any infected files promptly, and take advantage of the security features offered by these plugins.
Enable Website Firewall and SSL
A website firewall acts as a shield between your site and malicious traffic, effectively blocking suspicious requests. Consider using a web application firewall (WAF) service like Cloudflare or Sucuri to protect your website from common attacks.
Running a secure website provides peace of mind, knowing that you have taken necessary steps to protect your online presence and the interests of your users. It allows you to focus on growing your business or managing your content without constant worries about potential security threats.
Securing your WordPress website is vital to protect sensitive data, prevent malware infections, maintain website availability, preserve SEO rankings and reputation, mitigate financial losses, comply with regulations and ensure peace of mind for yourself and your users. It is a proactive approach that safeguards your online presence and maintains trust in your brand.