For anyone planning to build a professional website, WordPress is the first option that comes to mind. After all, it is the preferred choice for website designers and owners worldwide, making it a market leader among all CMS platforms. This popularity makes WordPress sites the most targeted by hackers and cybercriminals making WordPress cybersecurity a topic of worry for all website owners.
In this article, we look at the best cybersecurity tips for WordPress websites. Let us get started.
Tips to Ensure Maximum Cybersecurity on WordPress
What does cybersecurity mean for your WordPress website? It means that your security measures can prevent cyberattacks including malware attacks, brute force attacks, and data breaches. How can you do this?
Here are 13 of the best cybersecurity tips that are tested and recommended to provide the best defense against hackers.
1. Use an SSL certificate
Short for Secure Socket Layer, this certificate encrypts all data transmitted between your web server and the user’s browser. How does this help? It adds a security layer that prevents hackers from intercepting and using sensitive data (like credit card details or other financial information). Besides the security aspect, SSL-certified websites are also favored by Google search engines and trusted by more users.
Check if your web hosting company can provide you an SSL certificate. Or else, you can install this certification through third-party WordPress SSL plugins like Let’s Encrypt.
2. Choose secure hosting
The quality of your hosting service is a crucial element to prevent cyber attacks on WordPress sites. Even if you are going for cost-effective shared hosting services, opt for reputable hosting platforms like WP Engine or BlueHost. These hosting platforms are known to protect their resources and hosted websites from various cyberattacks.
Alternatively, you can opt to host your website on managed WordPress hosts that offer security features like dedicated server space, regular software updates and backups, and website management. Additionally, check if your hosting company provides firewall protection and malware detection functionalities to keep cyberattacks at bay.
3. Limit login attempts
Among the most common cyberattacks, brute force attacks are used to guess your WordPress credentials – username and password – and gain unauthorized access to your account. Essentially, brute force attacks deploy automated scripts (or bots) to exploit weak login usernames and passwords.
You can easily thwart brute force attacks by configuring a long and strong password for every user. Another method is to limit the number of attempts made to log in to any user account. To do this, you can install the “Login LockDown” WordPress plugin to restrict the number of login attempts to a maximum of 3 or 4.
4. Use strong passwords
This is probably the easiest way of ensuring your WordPress cybersecurity. As mentioned, brute force attacks take full advantage of weak passwords that users continue to configure. This includes passwords like 123456, password, and qwerty.
As a security practice, follow a strong password policy for all users through the following measures:
- Make sure passwords are at least 10-12 characters in length – and consist of upper- and lower-case alphabets, special symbols, and numbers.
- Regularly change every user password, including admin users.
- Make use of online password tools like LastPass and 1Password to generate and store your user passwords automatically.
5. Harden database security
Apart from login pages, hackers can also target your WordPress database through cyberattacks like backdoors and SQL injections. Once they gain control of your database, they can insert malicious links or queries into database tables or records – that are activated whenever users click on them.
You can improve your database security through various hardening measures, including:
- Changing the default name of your WordPress database – so it cannot be identified by hackers
- Changing the default prefix (wp_) of your database table
- Modifying your database credentials – database name, username, password, hostname – in the wp-config.php file of your WordPress installation
6. Use the latest PHP version in WordPress
Every new WordPress released version is bundled with the latest PHP version, which contains the latest security fixes and patches to keep your website safe. However, over 75% of WordPress site owners continue to use an older PHP version that poses a security risk as time passes. These PHP versions are no longer supported by developers and can be exploited for any vulnerability by hackers.
To keep your website safe, always use the latest PHP version available in the marketplace. Check about the PHP version of your website with your current web hosting company – or use a tool like Pingdom.
7. Update your site
Apart from using the latest PHP version, you also need to use the latest version of Core WordPress and the installed plugins/themes. As in the PHP version, the latest WordPress versions also contain fixes (or patches) for security flaws reported in the previous version. The same is true for all your WordPress themes and plugins installed on your site.
As a security practice, keep updating these three components regularly. If you cannot find the latest updates to your plugins/themes, consider removing them or replacing them from a trusted source.
8. Do not use nulled themes and plugins
Updating your installed plugins/themes is good – but it is even better if you choose to buy only trusted plugins/themes from reliable sources. Check for these plugins/themes on the official WordPress repository or from trusted online marketplaces. Alternatively, you can download them directly from the developer’s website.
Nulled plugins/themes are pirated versions of the original products – and often contain malicious code inserted by hackers. While they can save your money, avoid installing nulled plugins/themes, as they carry the risk of damaging your website and getting them marked as spam by search engines.
9. Harden the wp-config.php file
The wp-config.php file contains all your database credentials. Apart from that, this file is an important file for WordPress security, as it includes security keys used for encryption. This is why hackers try hard to access this file to retrieve important information about your website.
Here are some tips for hardening the wp-config.php file of your WordPress installation:
- Consider changing the default location of this file (outside the root installation folder).
- Add the below code to the .htaccess file in your WordPress folder:
deny from all
10. Disable the XML-RPC feature
What is the XML-RPC feature in WordPress? This feature is typically used to write offline content in any document (for example, MS Word) and then publish the content. This feature was helpful in the days of slow Internet connectivity and disconnections – and is no longer used with today’s faster Internet speeds.
If you are still using an old WordPress version, it is best to disable this feature as hackers can exploit it. The easiest way of disabling this feature is by installing the ‘Disable XML-RPC’ plugin on your WordPress site.
11. Always take backups
In the age of website crashes and hacks, backups should be a key component of your cybersecurity policy. While cybersecurity measures are always important, a backup can be a life-saver if and when your WordPress site goes down. With a backup, you can now recover your website and get it operational in a matter of minutes so you don’t lose customers and revenue to downtime.
Most web host companies offer backup-related services to their clients. If you do not want to rely on your hosting company, you can pick from reliable WordPress backup plugins like BlogVault or BackupBuddy. These tools provide automated, scheduled, and on-demand backups of both your WordPress website and database data. BlogVault runs incremental backups and stores these backups on its servers so even the risk of slowing down your site is out of the question.
12. Disable file editing
WordPress is built with a File Editor tool for your convenience so admin users can customize plugin/theme configuration files. This can be a security risk if hackers get control of your File Editor. This is why we recommend that you disable the tool.
To disable file editing, you only need to add the following code to your wp-config.php file:
Additionally, restrict the number of users with admin rights – and assign lower-privilege user roles like “subscriber” or “author” to other users.
13. Install WordPress security plugin
Despite all your safety measures, hackers will keep devising new forms of cyberattacks to compromise your website. The easiest and best way of protecting your website is by installing a WordPress security plugin. Security plugins offer 3-step protection to WordPress sites by:
- Detecting and scanning for malware on the entire website
- Removing the malware, if and when detected
- Protecting your website from future attacks
Security plugins can be installed just like any other WordPress plugins, and you can choose from a wide variety of free and paid security plugins. We recommend investing in a paid plugin like MalCare specifically designed to detect multiple malware variants and clean your website automatically without having to rely on a security expert. WordPress security plugins make it easy even for beginners learning WordPress to secure their sites in a few clicks.
The Wrap Up
While there is no such thing as 100% immunity from cyberattacks, with these steps, you are sure to elevate your WordPress cybersecurity readiness. If you’re looking for a simple and ongoing solution to handle threats to your WordPress website, we highly recommend investing in a dedicated security plugin like MalCare that combines several steps from this article with up-to-date malware detection and removal capabilities.