WordPress has been built with security in mind and is incredibly effective at keeping malicious attacks at bay.
With that said, no website is entirely impervious to attack and there are still dangers you need to be aware of as a webmaster.
In fact, in some ways, WordPress sites have something of a target painted on their backs.
The reason for this is simple:
there are so many of them, each of which consistently has the same security measures and the same structure.
If a hacker can break the defenses of one WordPress website, they can break the defenses of many – and that’s a mighty big incentive to those that would be so inclined.
So how do you defend yourself against these threats?
And what is their exact nature?
Let’s take a deeper look…
A Recent Example – WordPress SEO by Yoast :
Another risk with WordPress is that it allows you to install so many additional plugins.
While this is also what makes WordPress so powerful and easy to use, it unfortunately means that your average site has code contributed by a large number of individuals – much of which will not be thoroughly vetted.
This makes it all easy for a security flaw to be installed when you’re adding some new feature, or some new widget.
This was the case recently with a vulnerability with WordPress SEO from the company ‘Yoast’.
One of the most popular SEO plugins, WordPress SEO was open to a type of attack called a ‘Blind SQL Injection‘.
This method asks the database ‘true or false’ questions and analyzes the response in order to insert SQL queries into the database to modify data.
Ultimately, this could lead to malware and spam making its way onto a website.
Fortunately, Ryan Dewhurst from WPScan found the problem early and passed the details onto Yoast.
Shortly after, an update fixed the problem.
You can hear about the fix and about what Yoast themselves had to say on the matter here at their blog.
Note that this doesn’t reflect badly on Yoast – Yoast provide a valuable service and do great work for the WordPress community; the reality is that vulnerabilities like this can affect any plugin, which is why it’s so important that we stay on our toes.
XSS Vulnerability :
Multiple WordPress Plugins meanwhile have recently been vulnerable to something called ‘Cross-site Scripting’ (XSS) as a result of add_query_arg() and remove_query_arg() functions being misused (a tool that wordpress developers can use to add and edit query strings to URLs).
Many popular plugins were affected by this vulnerability, including Jetpack, WordPress SEO (again), All In One SEO, Ninja Forms, Broken-Link-Checker and more.
Again, most plugins have now fixed this issue in a coordinated effort with recent updates.
Vulnerabilities You May Not Know About :
Most websites using WordPress have a number of security risks that their owners may not be worried about.
Did you know for instance, that any visitor can find the version of WordPress you are using by looking at your page header meta or readme.html file?
Another risk is letting users sign up as users.
If your site isn’t a community site (such as a forum) there’s no reason to leave this feature in-tact.
Of course another big danger with WordPress is the simple worry that someone might log into your control panel by working out your username and password.
It doesn’t help much that WordPress by default lets you know whether it’s the password or the username you got wrong!
How to Defend Yourself Against Security Threats :
Of course the best way to defend yourself against potential security breaches will depend on the nature of the security threat in question.
That said though, there are definitely some things you can do that will give you better overall security.
For instance, a common trend you’ve likely already spotted is that developers deal with their security threats in updates.
One of the easiest ways to keep your site generally more secure then is to make sure all your plugins are up-to-date and that your version of WordPress is similarly up-to-date.
One of the main reasons this updates happen in the first place is to plug security links, so put them off at your own peril!
Another tip is to avoid installing too many unnecessary plugins.
The more plugins you install, the more opportunities you are creating for a security flaw to emerge.
This is definitely a case where ‘less is more’.
You can also increase security by applying some common sense with regards to things like your password and username.
Avoid clichéd passwords and usernames and make sure that you change them from time to time.
Long passwords with multiple cases and symbols also help to reduce the chance of a script happening upon your particular combination.
You can also further increase your security here by moving the URL of your admin panel – rather than keeping it at the usual domain/wp-admin.
Finally, consider hiring a wordpress developer to take a look over your security who knows what they’re doing.
ColorWhistle can help you to make sure you’re not missing any big security flaws and this is one of those things where it’s definitely better to be safe rather than sorry!