Popularity and accessibility often go hand in hand and, unfortunately, are often a double-edged sword when it comes to security. On the flip side, the belief is that if something is more obscure, it is by definition more secure. There is some truth to all of these beliefs, however, some of it is overblown. For example, people often point to Windows as being particularly vulnerable to viruses and exploits. Yes, most people use Windows, therefore most malicious software is written to target it. But, with the right security practices, you can avoid any kind of serious breaches. All it takes is having the sufficient knowledge and taking the right precautions to avoid situations that would leave you vulnerable. The same can be said when it comes to your website.
Every business owner has security on their mind at all times. That’s because we live in a world where the costliest crimes don’t happen because some robber in a mask sticks up a store. Instead, it’s someone with the right technical know-how attacking your system from halfway around the world. Even more alarming, you’re not even always necessarily the specified target. You just get caught in a widespread attack seeking to get its hooks in anywhere it can. That’s why you need to be mindful of doing what you can to protect your VPS or dedicated server.
All of this is to say, you need to take the right steps to secure your site no matter what software you use. But, this is especially true when dealing with very popular (and exploitable) content management systems like WordPress. WordPress is far and away the most widely used content management system in the world and it’s estimated to be powering nearly a quarter of all the websites on the internet. It’s popular for good reason. It’s a very easy to use bit of software that makes creating and updating a site relatively pain-free and is perfect for people who aren’t necessarily tech inclined. You certainly don’t need to be a developer to make changes to your site as far as adding more content.
That popularity does come at a price, though, as WordPress is often troubled by security issues. That is not to say you shouldn’t use WordPress. Many of the security problems people face when using WordPress often come down to the user. If you engage in best practices, you won’t be so open to malicious attacks. It just takes work staying on top of things. Many times, attackers try to crack a WordPress install in order to gain server level access and essentially turn it into a zombie, using the server to automate spam emails.
Whatever the goal of the attack is, you obviously want to thwart it. The best defense is prevention, so there are a number of things you’ll want to do to ensure that your WordPress installation is secure. Remember, a lot of the responsibility of securing a site falls on the user. While many hosting companies will provide some complementary protection for things like DDOS attacks, many of the standard fare brute force entries or file injections occur because of things like outdated software or a lack of following best practices. The following list will contain some obvious things you’ll want to do because they are the most effective at enhancing security. Hopefully, you’ll see some outside of the box things to try that you didn’t think to try before. With the right precautions, you can rest easy knowing that your site isn’t as vulnerable as you might think. While there are no guarantees, you have the ability to greatly reduce security incidences.
Update the Core Software
Honestly, if everyone stayed on top of updating the core WordPress software, many security issues would simply go away. It’s not a cure all, to be sure, but it comes as close as you can get. WordPress is open source, so anyone can see the code. This is both good and bad. When a new exploit is found, the software gets patched and those loopholes get closed. Rinse and repeat for every new release. If you’re still on an old version of the software with a well-known exploit, you’re setting yourself up for a potential attack. By keeping your WordPress installation up to date, you’ll be going a long way towards keeping your site secure.
Be Careful with Plugins
A similar approach should be taken with plugins (and themes for that matter), but you need to go a little further here. Your plugins need to be kept up to date for sure. Just like with the core software, out of date plugins and themes can be exploited to act as an entry point for malicious activity. However, as a general rule of thumb, you should try to limit going plugin crazy when building your site. Each plugin brings a vulnerability. While you of course need these plugins for essential functionality, limit them and only install them from reputable sources. Plugins you’ve never heard of that have no reviews and are hosted in suspicious repositories should be avoided.
You’re getting into development work now, but as you probably know the backbone of WordPress is PHP. You may want to disable PHP error reporting. For troubleshooting purposes, an error report is great. However, the downside is your PHP error report also includes your entire server path in it. If that error report falls into the wrong hands, that’s full access to the whole endeavor. Site, server, all of it is in plain view. You’ll have to add some code to wp-config.php to disable it.
The .htaccess file has a tremendous amount of power over your site. It has a large amount of influence over nearly every aspect of your site, including the security. Therefore you want to use the .htaccess file to your advantage. For example, you can use it to hide the wp-config.php file which itself is critical to your security. You can even restrict admin access down to only certain IP addresses.
Obscure the Login
The default WordPress set up for logging in is much too easy to brute force. Everyone knows the URL and everyone knows the default username is “admin.” The first step that needs to be taken is changing these things. Change the login URL and choose a different username. Also, put a limit in place that doesn’t allow constant login attempts if the password is incorrect. Remember, most brute force attacks are automated. A different login URL and a wrong password limit can easily thwart them.
A secure WordPress installation means a successful website. Well, that’s part of the equation anyway. Another integral part to the success of your online business is your hosting provider. You need a high performing, quality VPS or dedicated server that is up to the task of keeping your site online around the clock. At KnownHost, we know how important performance and reliability is to your business. Our servers and dedication to exceptional customer service make us the hosting partner you need so you can achieve your goals. Contact us today and we’ll help you find the perfect hosting solution for your business.