No matter how you parse it, the most popular content management system (CMS) available today can be found at WordPress.org. It powers 30% of all websites, comprising 60% of the total CMS market. Many people consider WordPress a blogging platform, but its flexibility and level of function are why it is used for eCommerce, SMBs, and by Fortune 500 companies like Forbes and Sony Music.
What makes WordPress so popular?
On its face, WordPress allows anyone to create a beautiful, functional website and have it up and running within hours with little or no technical knowledge. It’s the built-in features, level of support, and open source availability that makes this possible. WordPress is also easy to customize, includes plenty of analytical tools, and makes SEO a snap.
But, the popularity of WP goes deeper than that:
- It’s free. You’ll have to pay for hosting and your domain name, but everything else is on the house.
- Open source themes and plugins. You can use them off the shelf or add your own custom coding.
- It’s easy to manage. Everything can be updated with a click from a single dashboard.
- Security is built-in. They use Sucuri to protect against malware and brute force attacks. You can also add your own security measures.
- It’s compatible with a range of media types. The built-in media uploader supports audio, video, and images, and it makes integration with embed-enabled platforms like InstaGram and YouTube effortless.
Unfortunately, a few of the things that make WordPress a popular, flexible CMS are also the source of some common security issues.
What are these issues, and how can you resolve them with a minimum of stress and hassle?
Top 5 WP security problems and their solutions
The ability to optimize WordPress makes it user-friendly for novices while allowing professionals at all levels to customize every facet of their website. The first step to resolving security issues is knowing what they are; the rest is a matter of upkeep.
Brute Force attacks
The problem: Called “brute force” due to the nature of the approach, these are the most blatant attempts at penetrating WP websites. Such an attack involves repeatedly entering a variety of username and password combinations until the hackers hit the correct one. Even if all attempts are unsuccessful, this method of attack can overload the system. This can cause issues with your hosting service and lead to account suspensions. If they’re successful, the hacker can change your password and things get worse from there.
The solution: WordPress doesn’t put a limit on login attempts by default, but you can fix this situation yourself by choosing strong passwords and using two-factor authentication. There is also software available to prevent such attacks and WP plugins that allow you to limit login attempts.
The problem: The WordPress web platform uses the MySQL database management system to operate. An SQL injection attack is conducted by inserting code into your website, often through the login mechanism. The hacker simply inserts a statement into the username and password fields that allow access to your website.
For example: User Name: “or” “=” Password: “or” “=” would result in a valid SQL statement like [SELECT * FROM Users WHERE Name =”” or “”=”” AND Pass =”” or “”=””] that would give them access to all usernames and passwords in the database. Such a hack can be performed as a single command line or in batches of two or more lines of code.
The solution: Coders can prevent SQL injections by setting parameters marked by an “@” symbol in the code. For example,
[txtUserId = getRequestString(“UserId”);
txtSQL = “SELECT * FROM Users WHERE UserId = @0”;
Non-techs should make sure that they choose a hosting service that includes a WP firewall and supports MySQL.
File inclusion exploits
The problem: This sort of attack searches for and exploits PHP code vulnerabilities, which is the source code that runs your website, plugins, and themes. Once a vulnerable bit of code is discovered, the hacker simply alters it to gain access to your databases.
The solution: Maintenance is the key to avoiding this problem.
- Make sure to update your WP website frequently so that you have the latest in place.
- Obtain plugins and themes from a reputable source
- Remove old, unused, and obsolete plugins and themes
The problem: Malware is a malicious code or program that infects your files. The source can usually be traced to a newly created or altered file, often inserted through a link attached to an email.
The solution: The best defense against malware is to install comprehensive anti-malware and update it frequently. For those that slip through your defenses, the solution is to identify and remove the problem code by:
- Manually deleting it,
- Installing a new version of WordPress, or
- Restoring your WordPress website to an earlier version before it was infected.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
The problem: This bit of trickery accounts for 84% of all internet security problems. It’s also the number one vulnerability among WP plugins. The attack is initiated on the user side, and site administrators may not even know their visitors are being redirected until they notice a loss of revenue or related issue with web traffic. It involves inserting alternate code into a vulnerable section in order to gain access to user data. The most common interface is web forms.
The solution: This can be avoided in several ways. First, make sure to back up all data and run WP and plugin updates as soon as they’re available. Use only reputable plugins from a reliable source that has legitimate contact information and support, and delete any unused or outdated plugins.
Performance and security: Choosing the right platform for your WordPress website
You can minimize risk using the suggestions outlined above, but the wrong hosting platform can still lead to problems. It’s tempting to find the cheapest route, but you’ll find that you get what you pay for. Free may be okay for a personal blog, but the dangers of choosing free web hosting platforms for online businesses are many.
- Limited bandwidth, storage, and features
- Lax or outdated security
- Limits on using your own domain name
- Third-party affiliate links and banner ads
- No guarantees on uptime
- Slow page loads, high lag times
The best WordPress Hosting service is one that offers enhanced security, scalability, and privacy. At the minimum, your hosting service should meet the following criteria:
- Automated backup systems
- 24/7/365 customer support
- High levels of uptime and low incident history
- Technical scalability
- Exemplary reputation and longevity
- One-click WP installation
- Website transfer feature
The bottom line
Security issues with WordPress are mainly a matter of diligent housekeeping. The benefits of using this CMS far outweigh any potential problems. An audience of more than 400 million people can’t be wrong.