Many website owners, particularly those who are building their first website, miss the importance of good security. Either they are unaware of its benefits or they lack the skills necessary to properly implement security protocols on their website. However, security is very important, and it is best to get into good habits early when it comes to your website and personal security.
WordPress offers users numerous ways to improve the security of their websites. Below are the most important aspects of good WordPress site security.
Keep WordPress Updated
This is the most basic, but perhaps also most important, a piece of security advice that anyone can give you. You need to ensure that you keep WordPress updated so that you are protected from as many potential attacks as possible. WordPress is open source software, meaning that anyone is free to take it, modify it, and redistribute it (for free).
Because the base code of WordPress is freely available for anyone to look at, it is regularly audited by its users, making it fairly secure. There is also a wealth of different plugins and themes made by other users that you can incorporate into your site.
Keeping the software updated is crucial for maintaining good security. Minor updates will be released relatively frequently and will be applied automatically. Major updates, however, will require a manual installation. It is essential that you stay on top of these updates, as this will ensure that you are using the most secure version of WordPress available.
Passwords and Permissions
As is often the case with technology, the most commonly exploited weakness in a WordPress site security is the people who own it. It is often prohibitively difficult for a hacker to force their way into a system without the password. Similarly, extracting the password from a system is usually a fruitless pursuit. However, extracting a password from a person is considerably easier to do. It is vital that you keep passwords secure.
In order for your passwords to be secure, they need to be difficult, almost impossible, to guess. This is actually a far easier undertaking than it might sound. When hackers try to guess a password, they use a technique called brute force. This method of attack involves automatically trying different passwords until the correct one is found. The passwords that are tried are taken from plain text lists that can either be dictionaries or password lists. A dictionary consists of a number of commonly used passwords while a password list is known to contain the correct password within it somewhere.
You should choose passwords that are unique, and therefore unlikely to be included in a standard dictionary. Make sure that your passwords contain a mix of letters, numbers, and upper and lower-case letters. If you want to be extra secure, add in some special characters too.
WordPress makes it easy for website owners to set their own custom permissions. The permissions you set for your website will determine who has access to what. This is very important, but it is often overlooked. Don’t give anyone involved in your website access to anything they don’t need access to. Getting into good habits regarding permissions will make keeping your passwords secure second nature.
Choose the Right Host
The host that you choose will have a significant impact on the overall security of your website. It is on the host’s servers that your website will be stored, so their own security protocols will naturally be important. It’s no good putting the effort into securing your website, only to host it on an insecure server.
The most basic and affordable hosting packages will use shared hosting. Shared hosting requires multiple websites to share server space and resources on the host’s servers. Good shared hosting providers, such as Siteground or BlueHost, will take extra steps to ensure the security of their servers. However, the most secure option is to look for a managed WordPress hosting service. These providers offer a more secure platform and additional features like automatic backups. They also give you more control over their advanced security settings.
Change the Default Admin Login
The above tips are the most basic and fundamental steps that you need to take to achieve a base level of security from which you can work. If you are confident that you have implemented all of the aforementioned security policies, it’s time to look at some extra defenses. The first of these will be to change the default admin username for your website.
Some of you may remember a time when the default WordPress admin username was forced to ‘admin’. This was a gift to brute force hackers; knowing what the administrator username was, they then just needed time to crack the password. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.
During the initial setup of your WordPress, you will usually have the option to choose your admin username. However, there are some streamlined, or 1-click, installers that still default to the ‘admin’ username. If this is the case, it is usually an indication that you need different hosting.
If your host has defaulted your account to the ‘admin’ username, things get a bit more complicated. The easiest way of making the change is to use the Username Changer plugin. But, if your site is still in its earliest stages, you might be better starting again on a more secure host.
Disable File Editing
Among the many tools that WordPress comes bundled with, is a code editor. The idea of this editor is that you can make adjustments to your WordPress theme and plugins while the website is live. Unfortunately, if someone gains access to your admin control panel, they can use this tool to cause some serious damage.
If you’re serious about WordPress site security, you should keep this option turned off altogether. It might save you time and improve the efficiency with which you are able to administrate your website, but the security trade-off is huge.
Limit Login Attempts
We touched on this tip earlier but limiting the amount of failed login attempts a user is allowed before their account is pre-emptively locked is one of the most effective steps you can take to reduce your chances of being hacked. Most hackers will be trying to access your system using either real-world knowledge of you and your password choices or by initiating a brute force attack.
A brute force attack relies on the attacker being able to try different username and password combinations until they land upon the right one. With the right setup, it is possible to try many passwords every second. However, if the system automatically stops login attempts after 5 incorrect logins. It will make it practically impossible for an attacker to brute force you.
The most straightforward and reliable way of adding this security feature to your website will be to make use of the Login LockDown plugin. Once the plugin has been activated, you can then find the setting for it in the Settings menu >> Login LockDown.
Change the Database Prefix
WordPress will, by default, us the ‘wp_’ prefix for any and all tables in its database. As with using the default login for the admin account, using these default prefixes makes it easy for attackers to locate the most sensitive parts of your website. It is therefore recommended that, in the interests of security, you change the database prefix.
Note that this step should not be undertaken if you aren’t sure of what you are doing. If you change the wrong setting within your WordPress settings, you could end up rendering your entire website inaccessible.
Password Protect Sensitive Pages
You may be surprised to learn that just about anyone can request your wp-admin folder without any restrictions at all! Needless to say, to those who want to hack you, this is one of the first things they will look for. If they discover that your page is not password protected, this will indicate to them that they will likely have little trouble breaching the rest of your defenses.
Disable Directory Indexing and Browsing
Directory browsing allows hackers to see the structure and architecture of your website. This provides them with lots of useful information and might alert them to vulnerabilities in your system. Not only can malicious actors use directory browsing to sniff out weaknesses in your defenses. They can also use directory browsing to gain access to files, images, and other sensitive information.
In order to protect yourself from this, you should follow this guide. As always, be very careful when you are editing sensitive WordPress files.
As you can see, the key to good security for your WordPress site doesn’t lie in any kind of coding or advanced knowledge. It is all about making sure that you don’t lapse on the basics. The majority of data breaches and hacks are made possible by human error. As long as you manage passwords appropriately, keep things updated, and vet the hosting service you plan on using, it is very unlikely you will have any security breaches.
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