Using WordPress as the foundation for your blog or homepage is an easy choice to make. The software has been around for decades, comprises around 27% of ALL websites, and is used by some of the largest companies in the world.
If you’re looking for design flexibility and ease of use, WordPress has got you covered.
While WordPress is considered a content management system (CMS), it is capable of doing much more than just organizing blog posts. It lets individuals or groups manage all website data and choose how text, images, and video contents are displayed.
But like any web-based system, WordPress is vulnerable to certain forms of cyberattack. As a user, you need to be aware of these exploits and the steps to take to protect your website or blog.
One of the largest risks that a WordPress environment has is the concept of content injection, sometimes also referred to as SQL injection when it’s specifically related to a back-end database. In general, content injection occurs when an intruder manages to add malicious data to a website or execute a command without having full administrative rights to the system.
There was a known vulnerability in WordPress’s application program interface (API) where outside users could edit or delete existing posts. Obviously this would pose a major threat to any website developer or owner, as you need to ensure that only the appropriate people have access to modify content.
Always be updating: The first step in protecting against content injection is to make sure your WordPress software is always up to date. Check your WordPress security updates on a regular basis that include feature enhancement and security patches. Fail to install these in a timely manner and you shouldn’t be surprised if hackers manage to successfully infiltrate your site.
WordPress administrators who manage a back-end SQL database themselves should be extra cautious about injection attacks. Every input control on a website can be vulnerable, including search fields and registration forms. Make sure your WordPress code parses all input requests to block potential SQL injections from reaching your back-end servers.
When working with dynamic content in WordPress, all text entry should go through a process of sanitization in order to strip out content that could lead to an XSS attack. There are a number of WordPress plugins available to do this automatically and reduce a site’s overall risk.
Host Firewall Security
Although it is critical to ensure your own WordPress instance is protected against attacks, your data cannot be fully secure unless you use a reputable hosting provider. Certain cloud hosts, especially those that offer cheap or free solutions, may open your website to dangerous vulnerabilities.
If you decide to change your web hosting provider to one that is more security-minded, take the time to research how they manage their firewall policy. A firewall is a layer of protection that sits between a server and the open internet. Hosts with no default firewall are a dangerous option and should be avoided.
Some WordPress plugins let you set up a custom firewall at the website layer, but before heading down that road, check with your host to verify it will work with their configuration. No external IP addresses should be able to access any back-end systems, only the front-end website through a normal browser.
The marketplace for WordPress plugins is endless. These add-ons can offer huge leaps in functionality for your blog and homepage or more customizable security configurations. But be aware that not all plugin developers can be trusted. In fact, some of these handy little gizmos are created with malicious intent from the start.
Your first rule of thumb is to only browse for new plugins from a reputable directory, such as the primary WordPress.org site. Look for reviews and testimonials from other users, which can boost the reputation of a plugin. Also, make sure to keep your plugins up to date and remove them right away if you believe there could be a security concern. Plugins related to Captcha, Google Forms, and SEO tools have all been found to have vulnerabilities.
Admin Console Protections
As a rule, you should limit access to the WordPress admin console as much as possible. If an intruder manages to infiltrate the console, then your entire website and all of your visitors are at risk, including their personal information stored in back-end databases.
Many injection and XSS attacks begin from the admin console. Accounts for the console should be extended to as few people as possible and have strong passwords that are changed on a regular basis.
You may also want to consider enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) with your WordPress admin console. This involves receiving a code via SMS or email each time you log into the tool. MFA will not guarantee the security of a WordPress site, but it does reduce the chance that a hacker will be able to access the console and launch a larger attack.
The Bottom Line
You wouldn’t be the first person to think that all this hullabaloo to protect your website sounds like a hassle, and you might be right, depending upon your technical skills but anyone with the wherewithal to get online in the first can at least keep WordPress and its associated themes and plugins updated.
Consider the alternative of the hassle involved in dealing with a website breach by someone whose only goal is to create chaos with your data and files. Now that’s a real hassle.
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