How Not To Worry About Your WordPress Site Being Hacked

The internet is a wonderful place, but it can also be treacherous and very unforgiving. Every year millions of WordPress sites are hit by cyberattacks that cause them mild to irrecoverable losses, and this number is only going to increase. These cyberattacks are becoming more advanced, sophisticated, and penetrating further than before, causing more damages. 

WordPress security is paramount for the well-being of your online business. You simply can’t do without. It is the first step towards a profitable and sustainable business. With the ever-increasing number of cyberattacks, it is crucial to understand the security challenges your website faces, and the possible solutions to overcome them.

The following article will walk you through the most crucial security problems you need to look out for as a business owner or as a webmaster. Later, solutions are presented that can actually help you fight these WordPress security issues.

68% of business owners feel that their cybersecurity risks are increasing

Source: Accenture

Why Having a Secured Website Is Crucial

WordPress security tops all other aspects of your online business. It is a risk that is difficult to measure, and it is even more difficult to recover from. Unfortunately, more than 70% of online businesses do not even have a cybersecurity incident response plan which means if they are hit by a cyber attack they have no safety net to fall back on. 

There are several reasons for having a secure website but I am listing down some of the most crucial ones that you need to consider for your online business.

Revenue loss

Businesses suffer from heavy financial losses directly or indirectly due to cyberattacks. More than 86% of the breaches are financially motivated which means hackers attack your website for one reason mostly, and that is to financially hurt your business.

These cyberattacks can crash your website or make your server too busy fighting off bad traffic to the point that it can’t handle the normal traffic generated through various marketing efforts. These attacks can also steal valuable data of your business and your customers, and hold it against heavy ransom. 

“Cybercrime is the greatest threat to every company in the world.”

Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chairman, President, and CEO

 Data Security 

The online business is based entirely on its data(base) and the sensitive data of its customers that come with it. The data in your database has been gathered over time after investing both time and resources. Losing it or having it breached in a cyberattack will take your business back in time.

When your data has been breached in the shape of ransomware, malware, and phishing scams, they are affecting online businesses more than ever. And that’s just the business part. With the GDPR in place, you are legally bound to protect personal data. Data loss of any kind can be fined with hefty penalties.

The average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million as of 2020.

Source: IBM

Credibility 

Your business loses its credibility when the website is unable to serve its customers or offers a bad user experience when the site crashes, loads slowly, or when client data is compromised. After every breach or cyberattack, your customers lose trust in your business and will look for a more credible and secure alternative.  

Interrupted Operations

Interruption in operations is also bad for the business. It’s not just your customers that interact with the site. Your staff will need to perform admin and shop managing tasks, for instance. When your server is busy or unresponsive the whole operation gets affected negatively.

In short, you can’t afford to not have security be an integral part of your online business. Let’s dive into what kind of WordPress security issues we’re looking at.

Secure Server

The most important building block in creating a secure website starts at the server level. A typical web server is running dozens of pieces of software all the time and they all need to be updated at all times to their latest and most secure versions. Server software like PHP, Linux, MariaDB, Nginx needs to be updated continuously to even have a shot a having a secure website.

What Are WordPress Security Vulnerabilities?

Over the years, WordPress core has become very secure and stable, but unfortunately, a typical WordPress site is not limited to just using WordPress core software. It also has plugins and themes installed either through the WordPress repository or somewhere else. Any of those third-party solutions can contain malicious scripts, or a vulnerability, that serves as a backdoor to your website. 

WordPress sites are, because of their popularity, constantly probed for opportunities to hack any site by bad bots. This happens 24/7 and your site doesn’t have to be a very large site to see these kinds of bad bots constantly looking for ways into your site.

Let’s dive in at what specific elements make your WordPress site vulnerable to cyber attacks. 

Outdated WordPress Installation

Every new release of WordPress core includes improved security fixes, but you will be surprised to know that only 35.9% of the WordPress sites are running on the latest WordPress 5.7 version.

Outdated WordPress installations lack security patches, data validation, and code sanitization. Because the vulnerabilities present in outdated WordPress versions are being published publicly, hackers easily find their way to your site to exploit it.

Another problem with the older WordPress versions is deprecated functions that still are available to use for hackers. Certain malware leverages these deprecated functions to execute malicious activities. Therefore, it is highly recommended to run a website on the most recent WordPress version.       

Outdated Themes & Plugins

Themes and plugins from 3rd party developers make the majority of the WordPress ecosystem. It’s a fact that without themes and plugins the platform would not have been this popular, but it is also true that they become one of the main sources of WordPress security issues.

If a theme or plugin is not getting updated in a long time by its developers then it can cause serious security issues. Currently, more than 345 WordPress themes and 2500+ plugins out there contain security vulnerabilities. These numbers show the likelihood of your WordPress site getting hacked due to outdated themes and plugins. 

Outdated themes and plugins miss the latest security upgrades. It is vital to use only the most up-to-date theme and plugins for optimum performance and security benefits. If a theme or a plugin that you use has stopped getting updates then lookout for alternatives or if you have paid for it then contact the developers and ask them about the updates.         

Brute-force Attacks

Brute-force attacks are quite common in WordPress sites. In this type of attack, the hacker attempts to guess the correct username and password to access your WordPress admin. Hackers use specialized bots to start hitting the URL using a dictionary that contains commonly used words and phrases to try out various combinations. One specific type of brute-force attack is targeting the XML-RPC functionality of WordPress to gain access.

This process is resource-intensive as thousands of attempts are made in minutes that puts a strain on your server resources. Guessing the right username and password is not the motive behind such attacks. After getting access to WordPress admin, hackers deploy malicious scripts or steal your valuable data or simply shut it down.  

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is another type of cyberattack that paralyzes your website for some time and in severe cases can completely crash your server. In this type of attack, a network of computers known as botnets, which are already compromised machines and are now in control of a bad actor, start hitting a single website with so many simultaneous requests until it stops responding to new requests. This unwanted traffic prevents the legit traffic to bypass.

Unlike the Brute-force attack, DDoS is not carried out to gain access to your WordPress site or to inject any malicious script. It is simply executed to deny service to your actual visitors by keeping your server jammed with illegal requests. The intent behind such attacks is mostly financial such as corporate espionage where your competitor shuts you down to take over your client base.  

The above WordPress security vulnerabilities damage thousands of online businesses every year. The good news is, protecting your site against these issues is not that difficult. All you need is a tested WordPress security plan in place that can protect your website from an array of cyber-attacks.     

Solutions to WordPress Security Issues

Security problems are a great example of where a solution to the problems it presents should lie. We believe all problems should be solved at the root of those problems. We can’t solve the problem at the very root in this case as we can’t stop the people from actually performing the hacking, the DDoS attempts, and brute-force attacks. What we can do, though, is stop the problems as early as we can detect them.

Many WordPress users try to solve WordPress security issues with plugins and do not focus on other more crucial factors such as best site configuration practices. A prime example is to focus on keeping your site as minimal as possible with the least amount of plugins.

Let’s dive in on how this should be solved.

What Does Secure Managed WordPress Hosting solve?

Secure managed WordPress hosting provides the essential security layer that protects your WordPress site from potential cyberattacks. As a managed service, it also updates and patches the server when needed and proactively monitors to detect any suspicious activity. 

Let’s look at some of the highlighted features of secure managed WordPress hosting.   

Managed Security

Server-level security which is difficult to manage and needs expert help is taken care of by the managed hosting provider. This includes frequent updates and patching of all the software layers present at the server level.     

Secure Infrastructure

Physical security of the infrastructure is also crucial and is taken care of by the managed hosting provider.

Proactive Monitoring

Managed hosting provider like Servebolt offers 24/7/365 proactive monitoring for all the servers to take necessary actions to prevent malicious traffic from hitting your server.    

Automated Backups

Backups in themselves are not a security measure, but they are imperative to be able to survive any kind of mishap with your site. At Servebolt, we take automatic backups of code, files, and databases that can be used to recover from disastrous incidents. These backups help you resume online services in no time if you would ever run into trouble.  

What about WordPress Security plugins?

A common solution that is implemented to protect a WordPress site comes in the share of a WordPress security plugin. And even though it may solve some elements, it does not protect you completely against all WordPress security vulnerabilities. Here are the two main reasons why.

  1. There’s an inherent problem with having to load WordPress in its entirety before a plugin can do its job. This is even worse for security plugins as not only does it require WordPress to load fully, the plugin itself needs to also be loaded fully, and only then can it start to process all traffic. Good and bad. This means it’s a very resource-heavy thing to do.
  2. Given the above, it should be clear that blocking malicious traffic of any kind should actually happen before it even hits your server. WordPress security should be solved mainly in the layer that’s actually in front of it.

Solving WordPress Security the right way

As mentioned previously, WordPress security issues should be solved as early in the timeline as possible. As close to the root as you can get. To this end, we’ve built a service that does solve many of today’s website problems; security being a key component. It’s called Accelerated Domains.

Accelerated Domains is a fully managed service developed to solve security issues without compromising on performance. In fact, it’s a service when added to any site hosted with Servebolt, will enhance its performance and improve its scaling capabilities tremendously. Unlike any other solution out there, Accelerated Domains offers WordPress security that does not require any complex configuration or maintenance. It’s a service that works in front of your WordPress site and it doesn’t require WordPress to be loaded in any shape or form for it to perform its magic.

How does Accelerated Domains solve WordPress security issues for me?   

Managed Enterprise-Grade Security

Accelerated Domains Security Engine works in front of the server as a front-line defense through its firewall against any malicious activity. It smartly detects bad actors early in the timeline through smart heuristics powered by Cloudflare’s large traffic analysis data and Servebolt’s hands-on experience and traffic analysis.

The service also comes with a managed Web Application Firewall that is pre-configured to block potentially harmful requests. Additionally, it also hides the IP address of your origin server to protect it even further.       

Bad Bot Protection

Bots are roaming the internet more than ever and close to 40% of all the traffic that comes to your website is from bots. Some of these bots are essential for the well-being of your online business but the rest are bad bots and need to be blocked.

Accelerated Domains has built-in bad bot protection that efficiently blocks bad bots from hitting your server and consuming its bandwidth. These bots are hard to detect but thanks to Accelerated Domains smart Security Engine that is constantly fed with fresh HTTP traffic data allowing it to learn various patterns and create a strategy against these bad bots.      

Auto DDoS Protection

Accelerated Domains proactively mitigates most DDoS attacks in under 3 seconds. It does this through smart traffic pattern recognition powered by machine learning that scores the threat level on each request. Accelerated Domains is equipped with 60 Tpbs network capability that is capable to withstand even the largest DDoS attack on the internet.  

What do you need to do yourself?

Even though managed WordPress hosting and Accelerated Domains solve the major part of WordPress security on auto for you but there are few things that require your attention and manual labor every now and then. 

Updated Core, Themes, & Plugins

There is no excuse for not updating WordPress core, themes, and plugins if the update is available. However, it is quite possible that the update is available but you are unable to update it because of the issues like:

  • Theme update might break the site due to compatibility issues.
  • The current PHP version might not be compatible with the update.
  • Operational issues and pending approval from the stakeholders. 

You can easily solve the first two points by setting up a staging environment. It is recommended to first try and test any new update on staging before rolling it out for the public. If your current host does not support the latest PHP version then you seriously need to consider switching. WordPress is built with PHP and running it on older versions can introduce your site to various WordPress security vulnerabilities. 

The last point requires more convincing from you or you can also share this article with the stakeholders so they can understand the seriousness of this matter and take action.

Last but not least, under no circumstances should you use a nulled theme or plugin. Nulled is referring to premium themes or plugins that are offered for downloading by someone else than the original author. Nulled themes and plugins are riddled with backdoor entries and other malicious code hurting your sites in more than one way. They are a perfect recipe for potential cyberattacks. Just purchase the original version from the developer. Trust me, you don’t want those kinds of headaches.

Final Thoughts

WordPress security should be the priority of online business owners as any vulnerability can cause serious financial and reputational damages. To protect against cyberattacks, secure managed WordPress hosting is the stepping stone followed by more sophisticated services like Accelerated Domains that proactively mitigates malicious activities without putting any strain on your origin server.

Ibad ur Rehman

Community & Content Manager

Ibad ur Rehman is a Community & Content Manager at Servebolt. Enthusiast about Cloud Computing, AI, and Digital Marketing. Technical content creator, JavaScript advocate, educator, and a lifelong learner.

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