WordPress Security Preventative Measures

A common misconception is that malicious hackers only target websites with large income, or those that store valuable sensitive information. However, WordPress websites generally get a lot of unwanted attention, which is why it’s important to take preventive measures from the get-go.

The good news is that (on top of basic measures such as having a robust updating strategy) WordPress offers you a lot of options to protect your website against hack attacks. Even simple implementations, such as enabling Two-Factor Authentication can drastically improve the security of your website or eCommerce store.

In this article, we’ll talk about why preemptive WordPress security is the way to go. We will also highlight five preventive WordPress security measures, so you won’t have to deal with messy cleanups afterward. Let’s get to work!

Why prevention is essential in WordPress security

Spending time on preemptive security is a lot like getting travel insurance before heading to a safe and well-known country. It’s a step that’s usually forgotten about by many travelers – until your hotel room is ransacked. From then on, travel insurance is always a top priority.

WordPress security works pretty much the same, although there are usually ways to clean up your site after a hack attack. However, with a little extra work, you can take the necessary preventive measures to protect your site against most common attacks in the first place. This is important because WordPress websites get a lot of malicious attention due to the platform’s popularity.

It also doesn’t matter if your site doesn’t handle sensitive data either, because most WordPress attacks are non-targeted. In fact even small websites do get hacked to be used for black hat Search Engine Optimization (SEO), DDoS attacks, malware distribution, and more. In short, preemptive security is definitely the way to go with WordPress.

5 ways to prevent attacks on your WordPress website

Protecting your WordPress website from most attacks isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine. Adopting just one of the measures below will help immensely, but for the maximum effect, you’ll want to implement them all.

1. Use Two-Factor Authentication

By default, you only need a username and a password to login to your WordPress website. However, you can install a two-factor authentication WordPress plugin to add in an extra factor and drastically increase the security of your WordPress website login.

In practice, the second factor can come in different guises. For example, you can have your site send a one-time code via email, which users will need to input to log in. You can also have them use a dedicated app, such as Google Authenticator to generate unique codes.

2. Maintain an audit log (activity log) to monitor your WordPress

We’ve talked a lot about activity logs in the past and it’s not without reason. WordPress activity logs essentially enable you to keep tabs on your website’s users and under the hood activity.

For example, if someone attempts to log in multiple times, it’s worthy of investigation. The same goes for cases where you can see changes made to the website, such as plugins installs, theme changes or WordPress settings changes without your authorization.

With the right WordPress activity log plugin you will keep a close eye on what is happening on your website, what your users are doing, and how attackers are trying to hack into it.

3. Enforce strong password policies

Let’s be honest – most people are terrible when it comes to the passwords they use. This isn’t an exaggeration either. Reading about some of the worst passwords habits and why people do not use secure passwords can be enough to make you lose faith in humanity.

The problem lies in the lack of knowledge most users have about passwords and best practices. In practice, this means there’s a large percentage of people using easy-to-crack passwords, who keep repeating them across multiple accounts.

You should educate your users about the importance of strong passwords and passwords management (so they always use strong passwords). However, enforcing their use is also very important. As such, you’ll drastically limit the risk of accounts on your website getting broken into.

4. Scan your WordPress website for file changes

Changes to files on a WordPress website happen quite often. For example, they happen when you:

  • upload an image or a media file
  • install, update or uninstall a WordPress plugin
  • install, update or uninstall a theme
  • update the WordPress core.

All of these file changes are desired. However, other file changes can be malicious, or done by mistake (which could lead to sensitive data exposure / leak). For example a developer leaves a backup file that exposes database connection details and passwords, or a hacker injects malware in your theme’s header.php file.

By running WordPress file integrity scans you can easily identify file edits done by mistake, developers’ left-over files and malware injections.

5. Install a Firewall Plugin or Service

Firewall software sits between the internet and your WordPress website. It analyzes every incoming connection request before it reaches your website and blocks the malicious ones. Refer to the guide to WordPress firewalls for more detailed information on how they work and what options you have.

In summary

Unfortunately, attacks on WordPress websites are an everyday occurrence. However, this doesn’t mean your site needs to become part of the statistic. With a little prevention work, you can secure your website against most low-level attacks, and practically ensure that you won’t have to deal with the fallout.

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