You’ve worked hard to craft your WordPress website into the compelling, trust-engendering, brand representative it was meant to be. Your website is your identity. But if it’s not a safe place for visitors, all your hard work could end up going to waste.
The internet is vast, powering billions of websites around the world. Even if you’ve taken a few well-known safety measures, it may still be possible for viruses, data breaches, ransomware, backdoor Trojans, etc., to pose a serious threat to your website.
And, as technology evolves and expands, so do the types of threats that can do catastrophic damage to your site’s security and, as a result, your brand’s image.
The Dark Truth of the Internet
In only the space of a few years, the CMS (Content Management System) has gone rapidly from mere concept to mainstay, with WordPress leading the pack every year. But just as WordPress continually gains momentum, so do the risks associated with running it.
For the internet is a dark place, a haven for devious types who, for myriad reasons, seek to corrupt and destroy what others have built.
But before we get off topic, we’ll narrow our focus only to those shadowy parts of the web that relate to WordPress.
We love WordPress for the same aspects that make it vulnerable: it’s an open source, free-to-all and allows third-party plugin and theme developers to sell their products through its repository.
For developers, the ability to reach so many users is a huge draw, while for users, WordPress’s vast array of useful plugins makes it a hard CMS to beat. And those are precisely the things that make WordPress a target.
The use of so many different plugins from so many different developers creates security loopholes, allowing external threats to enter. Although the WordPress security team works round the clock to mitigate rifts in the infrastructure, the bad guys still sometimes manage to get through.
And when the bad guys get through to your site, they don’t just go after you. They go after your site visitors and customers, as well. And that can be a veritable death knell for your business.
So does that mean all WordPress websites are doomed? That you should stop using plugins yesterday? Of course not.
While nothing’s foolproof, there are steps powerful steps you can take to beef up your site’s security and, for all our fellow WordPress users, I’m about to run through the most important ones.
WordPress Website Security: 8-Point Checklist
Commendable Hosting Service
A good hosting service is absolutely necessary for website security. If you’re happy with your current hosting service, great. If not, you can usually find a one by doing some light research and reading reviews.
My recommendation is to host your website in a managed cloud environment, such as WP Engine.
While some WordPress users may feel that having a great hosting provider is enough, using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) on top of it will increase site speed, cut down on DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks and boost overall user experience.
Of course, there are those who believe using CDNs make websites less secure because they may increase malware accessibility, but if you’re mitigating your risk by using a reputable, well-established CDN like Akami, MaxCDN or Incapsula, I think you’ll agree that the increased site speed is worth it.
Normally provided as a free resource by your hosting provider, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certification adds to the validity of your website by allowing you to authorize it as an authentic domain, thereby ensuring a safe path for it to be hosted over the internet.
In the event your hosting provider doesn’t offer SSL Certification, you can get it for free through Let’s Encrypt.
If your website contains sensitive information or performs multiple transactions each day, there’s a good chance it can be hacked. In order to keep your website secure from such attacks, DDoS Protection is the best solution.
I’ve discussed the fact the using a CDN can cut down on DDoS attacks, but many of them, like Incapsula, offer added protection. I recommend doing some research on which companies perform the best before deciding which type of protection to invest in.
Install a Firewall
Most good hosting providers offer firewalls, which is still the best method of prohibiting unwanted visitors to your website, but if your host doesn’t provide one and you don’t feel like switching, you can download a free one as ConfigServer Services.
Bear in mind, though, that even though firewalls are great, they aren’t infallible, especially since hackers are continuously gaining practical knowledge on how to breach them.
Keep Security Plugins/Modules in Check
The chances of malware entering your website through third party inclusion to your web application increase greatly when you’re using plugins, which is why it’s so important to check new plugins and modules thoroughly before you download them.
Always make sure to:
- Check the source of the plugin by seeing how many other good plugins/modules they’ve provided. Also, Google them and look for reviews.
- Read reviews about the plugin, itself.
- Check Plugin scripts for (often visible) malicious code.
Disable “Error Reporting”
Error reporting allows everyone, including hackers, to observe your server path, thereby creating a significant hole in your website’s security. Disabling your front-end error reporting denies hackers the data-stealing opportunities they’re always waiting for, which helps protect you and your customers.
Clean Up Your Spam
Last but not least, spam can pose security threats to your website by revealing your IP addresses to the wrong people and doing severe damage to your online presence. To help keep spam at bay, try Akismet which is a highly effective plugin designed to keep spam traffic off your website at all times.
These are just a few of the techniques I’ve learned over years spent crafting, maintaining and repairing websites. If you found these options informative and useful, have some tips of your own you’d like to share, or have any questions, all types of feedback are welcome.