WordPress is the go-to CMS for 63% of the internet. It’s a massive number considering its closest competitors: Joomla and Drupal, occupy measly single-digital market shares.
The platform is massive. It’s open-source, highly-customizable, and has plenty of tools that enable your brand to scale above and beyond in the digital world.
But is it safe to use?
This question, coupled with some criticism in reply to this question, is the reason is a reason why people are put-off by the platform.
For the most part, it’s a valid question. WordPress isn’t secure from the outset. Fortunately, with the right tools at your disposal, you can make it so!
In this article, we’ll take the non-technical user through the basics of WordPress security. But before we begin, let’s elaborate on why it matters so much.
Why is Website Security Important?
We mentioned before that WordPress isn’t secure from the get-go. You have to put some effort into building a defense mechanism against cyberattacks.
Now, what would happen if you don’t take such precautions?
Simply put, your website gets hacked. The story can take so many turns once that happens. Your business reputation gets ruined, your customers can get compromised, your search engine rankings drop, among other things.
In a nutshell, all your hard work comes to naught.
There are plenty of cases where a bad plugin can cause irreversible damages to thousands of websites. In terms of search engine rankings, Google has a strict policy against hacked websites: a deadly blacklist.
All of this means that even if the hack is relatively benign, you must be prepared to avoid it at all costs.
The next section explains how you can do that.
1. Keep Your Website Backed Up
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Your first line of defense should be to have a backup plan if your site gets hacked.
WordPress backups are the best way to ensure that there’s a running version of your website in case of emergencies.
Now, there are plenty of WordPress backup plugins available. You can use anyone that you like. The goal is not to have a shiny plugin but to use it to back up your site to a safe location.
By safe location, we don’t mean your hosting account. As a best-practice, you should back up your website to a remote cloud location like Dropbox, Stash, or even Google Drive.
VaultPress and BackWPUp are two of the best backup plugins available in the market. They are plug-and-play and can get the job done quickly and efficiently. Additionally, you can configure the frequency for backups.
2. Switch Your Site to SSL/HTTPS
This one’s a bit technical but is an absolute requirement for modern websites.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is essentially a web protocol that gives your site the extra layer of security through encrypted data transfers. Ever seen that “HTTPS” before a website? You get that when you install an SSL on your website.
Whenever you transfer data through an HTTPS, it’s guaranteed to be safer, secure, and not prone to hackers. Moreover, Google favors the SSL encryption and gives search engine preferences to websites over those that don’t have it.
More often than not, an SSL certificate is offered by the hosting provider. If, for some reason, you don’t get an SSL in your package, you can always purchase one.
3. Set Strong Usernames and Passwords
It’s 2020, time to wake up to reality.
Gone are the days when you could set your username as “admin” and password as “password” or something easy to guess.
As technology advances, so do hacking methods. Having a strong password and username are the barebones essential for securing your website against hackers.
You can change your username to anything you like. There’s no best practice to that. Just make sure that it’s not something obvious like your site name or your name in the author bio.
With passwords, you need to make sure it’s a combination of letters, symbols, numbers, and special characters.
When you have a weak password, you’re prone to brute force attacks aimed at guessing your password. With strong credentials under your belt, you can foil a hacker’s attempts at the login screen.
Speaking of securing the login screens, if you want to beef it up a bit more, you can use a security question plugin. With strong answers to your questions, there’s no way a hacker could access from the login screen.
4. Install a WordPress Security Plugin
Now let’s move away from the login screen and talk about security plugins. Such plugins on WordPress provide a granular level of security.
Firewalls, malware scans, monitoring reports, brute force protection, and more. You name it, and these plugins provide it. The only caveat here is that there’s too many of them out there.
For the sake of convenience, we’re only going to be talking about one of them: WordFence. A powerful website monitoring solution, this plugin has everything you need to create an air-tight security solution for WordPress.
To name a few of its many features:
- Real-time traffic analysis and segmentation
- Brute force protection
- DDoS protection
- Website scanner
- Malware analysis tools
- Spam detection
- Malicious redirect protection
- File analysis
- Efficient reporting
Among other features, this plugin promises you 360-degree protection against all sorts of cyberattacks.
5. Keep Your Plugins and Themes Updated
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks on WordPress are common. Their major target? Your themes and plugins files which should always be updated. Webmasters, for one reason or another, forget to update their plugins and themes.
WordPress theme and plugin developers release updates for a reason. It’s a constant race where hackers discover vulnerabilities, and developers fix them and release updates. Both the former and the latter gain their leads for some time.
Because of all this, you must update your themes and plugins when possible. The older versions of them will most probably be infected with malicious code.
There are several reasons why webmasters do this. One of the most common reasons being the fear of a broken site. While that is a problem, it’s not worth risking your entire website over.
6. Keep Your WordPress Core Updated
This one is the most critical step you can take from a beginner’s point of view. WordPress, the company, focuses on providing a secure website experience to its users. To that end, they work on releasing newer, more secure versions of WordPress.
If you haven’t updated your WordPress core yet, it’s time you do so. Failure to do so puts your website at risk of malware injections. That’s because an older version will have a vulnerability that the new version has already fixed.
A part of your site is openly exposed, and you’re susceptible to all sorts of damage. If you’re a bit too busy, you can enable automatic updates, so you don’t have to update it manually.
So, you’re now aware of six of the most beginner-friendly WordPress security guidelines. Armed with just this knowledge, you can create an air-tight security system for your website.
The only thing we wanted to talk about was website hosting. It’s a bit technical, but with a good WordPress host, you can gain an extra layer of security that monitors and protects your backend. The costs of managed hosting services are generally high but the protection it gives is impressive.