WordPress is a reliable solution for building and managing websites. It offers many features that make it the leading content management system (CMS). However, with this popularity comes the risk of attackers targeting these websites. WordPress websites are particularly vulnerable to attacks caused by third-party plugins. According to a recent report, about 75% of WordPress attacks were through third-party plugins.
To efficiently run WordPress websites in today’s threat landscape, it is important for website operators to actively monitor their web pages and keep checking for the plugin, software and theme updates. The value of organizations regularly updating their WordPress cannot be overstated. Apart from monitoring for updates, there are a few other ways that can help organizations prevent WordPress cyberattacks.
Actions You Can Take Today to Protect Your WordPress Site
- Use strong passwords- A significant security vulnerability that can be easily prevented is using a weak password. It is important to ensure that the WordPress admin password is strong and contains various types of characters, symbols and numbers. Furthermore, this password must be unique and not reused anywhere else. Investing in a password manager to create and manage passwords is helpful.It is also recommended to install a plugin that limits the number of login attempts because WordPress does not offer this feature by default. A popular plugin for this purpose is iThemes Security Pro. With this plugin, site owners can set limits on the number of login attempts allowed and configure lockout times for failed attempts. This helps in protecting the WordPress site from unauthorized access.
- Set up proper permissions- The first step to securing the WordPress installation is to disable file editing in the WordPress admin area. By default, WordPress allows the editing of any file from the admin area. This can be exploited by attackers to inject malicious code into files. Disabling file editing adds an extra layer of security in case the admin login is compromised. This can be achieved by adding a single line to the wp-config.php file,
_define( 'DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true );_
Proper permissions dictate who can read, create and edit files. By default, WordPress sets permissions to 644 for files and 755 for directories. This means that anyone can read these files, but only the owner can make changes to them. However, these permissions can be changed to 440 for files and 750 for directories for added security. These permissions allow only the owner and group to read and modify them.
- Make changes to the Default Admin Account- WordPress has a default admin account username- "admin". This is easy for attackers to guess. Additionally, the path to the admin area, which is "wp-admin," is also predictable. Changing the default username and path is a basic security measure to prevent attackers from successfully launching attacks against the organization’s WordPress sites. There are plugins available that can help WordPress operators customize this name. By naming the admin account something unique, organizations can reduce the chances of a successful SQL Injection (SQLi) Attack.Although security through obscurity is not a foolproof method, it is an essential first step in securing the WordPress site.
- Choose a strong hosting solution- One of the most critical steps in securing a WordPress site is choosing a reliable hosting provider. A hosting provider is responsible for storing the website data and making it available to the public. Selecting a reputable hosting provider can minimize the risk of cyberattacks and ensure that the site is up and running at all times. Additionally, the hosting provider should ensure quick and responsive customer support in case of any issues.Another crucial factor to consider is the type of hosting plan chosen. Shared hosting is the most common type of hosting, where multiple websites share the same server. While shared hosting is the most affordable option, it can also be the most vulnerable to cyberattacks.
- Uninstall and delete all the unnecessary plugins- WordPress uses PHP to execute all its server-side scripts. PHP is very easy to exploit and hence, makes WordPress sites susceptible to URL attacks. To avoid breaches, it is recommended to host WordPress on Apache Web Server. It uses .htaccess files and hence provides protection from URL hacking. Deleting unnecessary plugins is an important safety measure organizations must take while ensuring their WordPress security.This limits the access points of attackers and hence reduces the overall attack surface. It is also important to get rid of any themes that are not in use. Deleting unused themes and plugins provides the added advantage of increasing the load speed of the website and hence improving overall SEO.
- Keep the WordPress site updated- Each time a site operator runs a WordPress site using outdated software, he endangers it to a vast number of exploits. Outdated software, plugins, and themes are responsible for some of the most common WordPress security issues. Theme and plugin developers regularly release updates that include critical security patches and bug fixes. Keeping extensions up-to-date is essential to prevent attacks. It is recommended to check for updates regularly and install them promptly to ensure the website is secure.However, it is important to ensure that all the updates are installed from safe and trustworthy sources. Downloading updates from unsafe sources can invite hackers right in.
All these solutions are a must to ensure the right level of security for WordPress websites. However, manually monitoring for updates can be a daunting task. One that involves a high risk of human error. Automating this process can drastically improve the security of WordPress websites.
Leveraging Automation for Managing WordPress Threats
Being an open-source platform, WordPress allows anyone and everyone to contribute to its core software. While this provides flexibility, it also drastically increases the attack surface. Running a WordPress site that is vulnerable to attacks can lead to hefty penalties and even reputational damage. By addressing WordPress security issues in real time, businesses can gain a competitive edge due to their ability to safeguard customer data.
However, maintaining robust cybersecurity for WordPress sites is not an easy task. It is important to protect all the layers of the platform, including the core functionality, external themes and plugins, and the underlying infrastructure. Doing so requires keeping a track of all the software, plugins, themes, and infrastructure that make up a WordPress website. Each of these components needs to be updated regularly to ensure that they are not vulnerable to known exploits.
Additionally, securing a WordPress site requires a thorough understanding of web security and the latest vulnerabilities. With new vulnerabilities being discovered regularly, it is almost impossible to track them manually. This is where automation becomes pivotal.
WordPress Vulnerability management with EASM
WordPress sites are particularly vulnerable to attacks caused by outdated third-party plugins and themes. Regular updates are released to include critical security patches and bug fixes for these extensions, but it can be challenging to stay on top of updates for all installed plugins and themes, especially for larger organizations with numerous websites. Hence, it is wise to invest in an automated External attack surface management tool.
External attack surface management (EASM) can help resolve WordPress vulnerabilities by:
- Vulnerability Scanning: EASM tools scan WordPress sites for known vulnerabilities and security issues. This includes checking for outdated software, plugins, and themes, as well as identifying common vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and more.
- Continuous Monitoring: EASM tools continuously monitor the WordPress attack surface and report vulnerabilities discovered in real-time. This helps identify new risks as they emerge, allowing site operators to take action before these vulnerabilities can be exploited.
- Asset Discovery: EASM tools help organizations discover all their websites and assets, including abandoned or forgotten WordPress sites. This helps in identifying potential security risks and taking necessary actions to secure them.
- Remediation Support: EASM tools provide guidance and support for resolving vulnerabilities discovered in the WordPress site. This includes recommendations for updates or patches, as well as advice on how to mitigate potential risks.
Using an External Attack Surface Management Tool to Mitigate WordPress Vulnerabilities
With the constant creation and abandonment of WordPress sites, organizations often have abandoned sites that become easy targets for attackers. It can be a challenge to keep track of these sites, especially when they were created for one-time events or by an employee who no longer works for the company. This leaves organizations vulnerable to potential cyber threats.
External Attack Surface Management (EASM) can help resolve WordPress vulnerabilities by providing complete visibility of all websites, code repositories, web directories, and other assets that belong to the organization. By using automated tools to scan the internet for all assets associated with the organization, EASM can identify abandoned WordPress sites and provide insights on any vulnerabilities that exist. This way, organizations can take proactive measures to secure these sites and reduce the risk of cyber attacks.
EASM can help in identifying outdated software, plugins, and themes that can pose a significant security risk to WordPress sites. By regularly scanning for vulnerabilities and checking for updates, EASM can ensure that all WordPress sites are up-to-date and adequately protected against common vulnerabilities
Investing in an External Attack Surface Management solution like Horizon can provide organizations with complete visibility of all WordPress sites and ensure that all sites are up-to-date and adequately protected against known vulnerabilities.