5 Ways to Protect Your WordPress Website from Hackers
Hundreds of content management systems (CMS) populate the Internet but none are as well loved or as widely used as WordPress. Powering 30 percent of all websites in cyberspace, there is no question that WordPress is here to stay.
One reason why individuals and businesses prefer to use this open source CMS platform? Versatility.
You can build all kinds of website with WordPress alone. From e-commerce stores to travel blogs to online portfolios to corporate websites, WordPress accommodates all industries and niche markets. Moreover, users can access free and premium themes and plugins through WordPress.org’s theme and plugin directories.
WordPress is easy to use. Themes and plugins are easy to install and there is no problem uploading and downloading media files. Anyone can create visually stunning and interactive websites even without prior coding knowledge.
But its strength is also its weakness.
Why WordPress Is Prone to Hacking
For any website owner, it is a serious cause for concern when their WordPress site is hacked.
Though built with the highest security standards in mind, WordPress is still susceptible to hacking and other security threats. In fact, some of the largest security breaches have been targeted towards websites powered by WordPress.
Wordfence reports that there are nearly 100,000 hacking attacks per minute against WordPress sites of any size. These attacks come in the form of malware, SQL injections and bot-driven trial-and-error username and password combinations among others.
If you want to protect your WordPress site from hackers, a good start would be to understand how hackers think. They target the most vulnerable areas of your site to get into the core of your system. And if your site is powered by WordPress, then your site’s weak points may be similar to any site using a WordPress platform.
As earlier mentioned, users prefer WordPress for its easy interface, which allows them to by-pass coding learning curves and create an aesthetic and functional website. They can install and then activate plugins and themes in just a few clicks.
But this ease of use is a double-edged sword.
The platform’s open source nature makes it vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. Plugins, themes and files are common entry ways for infiltration. Facilitated by bots or pre-programmed hacking software, hackers purposely inject malicious codes or malware into your web system.
Video, picture and slides and linking to external websites on your WP editor may also backfire. If these media files are hosted in non-secure platforms, you increase your chances of exposing your site to malware, script injections and other forms of online security breach.
Reasons for Hacking a WordPress Site
Your WordPress Site can get hacked for several reasons. For the most part, hacking is triggered by the following motives:
1. To steal financial data
Some hackers target classified information, usually financial information, and use it for personal gain. They install malware, keyloggers or phishing software to obtain your financial details. When successful, they use your username and password and credit card or bank account information to illegally withdraw money from your online banking and payment system accounts.
2. To test IT skills or indulge in a hobby
Not all hacking attacks are malicious in nature. Penetration attempts on your site may be done by individuals who want to test their hacking abilities. The ever-evolving Information Technology (IT) industry pushes its members to step up and improve their skills. Which is why IT professionals – who are not necessarily hackers by trade – breach secure websites just to see how far their skills will take them. Others find the adrenaline rush of outsmarting complex security protocols rather addicting.
3. To carry out black propaganda
Companies or political organisations may commission hackers to tarnish the reputation of their biggest rivals. They request hackers to:
⌦ Obtain trade secrets, exclusive contracts, marketing plans and other classified data they can use to get ahead of the pack
⌦ Change the content, structure or on-page elements of a website to make the company look bad in the eyes of potential customers
⌦ Tweak a website’s core to delay, disrupt or destroy its performance
⌦ Manipulate polls or content message to discourage would-be voters from supporting a candidate (in the case of political campaigns)
How to Protect Your Site from Hackers
WP site owners need to improve their web security and switch to a hack-proof system. Before the number of hacking tools multiply and before the hacking industry is saturated with adrenaline junkies, you have to install measures to protect your website. And there is no better time to do this than at present.
Below are simple but effective methods for protecting your website against hackers:
1. Rename Your Default Login URL
WordPress platforms have default login URLs. But websites make the mistake of retaining their default login URL instead of customising it to strengthen their backend security.
Hackers operate specially programmed hacking tools that are capable of cracking default WordPress admin logins like website.com/wp-login.php or website.com/wp-admin. However, by changing the text on your login URL permalink, you keep your website’s backend away from any hacking radar.
If you have insufficient privileges to rename your login URL, look for available plugins on the WordPress plugin directory. Plugins like Custom Login URL (CLU), LockDown WP Admin and WPS Hide Login, all available at WordPress.org, enable users to change their default login URL into any name they want.
2. Deploy 2FA
Another effective method for deterring hackers is securing a two-factor authentication, otherwise known as 2FA, on your login page. 2FA requires anyone with access to the backend to login twice using different approaches. Website owners have the discretion to determine which authentication processes should apply.
The first authentication process usually requires a regular password followed by a second authentication process. For the second authentication, you may be asked to answer a security question, provide a phone number or supply a special code. Once all login stages have been cleared, you can now access your website’s backend.
Not all themes have a built-in 2FA option but you may consider using a plugin called the Google Authenticator. It takes nothing more than a few clicks to install and activate this plugin.
3. Hide Login Credentials
While changing your login URL is important, it is just as important to hide it. Think of this as placing another layer of security to ensure your website is hack-proof.
Hackers have no trouble infiltrating your website through the /wp-admin permalink. In fact, it has been the subject of many hacking incidents for years now. By simply adding ?author=1 script next to your homepage URL, hackers automatically find their way through your backend.
Hiding your login credentials involves some technical know-how. Where necessary, ask your web developer to assist you. All you need to do is go to your /functions.php file and add this small code below:
4. Encrypt Data with an SSL or a TLS Certificate
A Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate secures data transmitted between web servers and user browsers. SSL certificates need to be installed on your web server. They encrypt the Hypertext Transfer Protocols (HTTP) by activating a padlock, which facilitates secure data transfers. Transport Layer Security (TLS), also known as SSL 3.0, is simply an improved and more secure version of SSL.
SSL helps protect the most sensitive information on your website including online online payment, bank or credit card transactions. This certificate also protects login credentials, data transfers and, more recently, social media activities. And SSL is a ranking factor, which could help your website rank higher on search results.
How to know whether a website is secure and has an SSL certificate? Here is a list of key indicators:
⌦ When you see a padlock icon 🔒 along with the word Secure on the address bar, right before the URL.
⌦ When URL uses HTTPS instead of the usual HTTP (the added S stands for Secure)
Getting an SSL certificate for your website may or may not be free. You can purchase it from a dedicated SSL provider or get it free from a trusted open source SSL/TLS website. You also have the option to request this security feature from your web host.
5. Secure Files on Your Website’s Core
The biggest crime any hacker could do is damage a website’s core. The core holds your backend files together and ensures your website is functioning as well as it should.
To protect your core, your resident developer must do the following:
⌦ Move your files to a safe location in your site’s root directory since this file contains details about your WP installations.
⌦ Add a special code to your .htaccess file that blocks harmful scripts and malware from corrupting your file.
⌦ Place a strong htaccess protection code and an anti-SQL injection code on your .htaccess file.
⌦ Add a code that disallows file editing on your wp-config.php file
⌦ Set a strong username and password combination with capital letters, numbers and special characters.
⌦ Rename your wp-table prefix used by your WordPress database into something unique (the same way you rename your login URL).
⌦ Regularly back up your entire website.
Responsible Website Ownership
WordPress constantly updates its security protocols for the benefit of site owners and web users. However, as a web owner, it is your responsibility to go out of your way to secure your WordPress site instead of simply relying on built-in security features.
Hacking, for whatever reason, is an unavoidable reality for website owners. And hackers, especially those with the intent to steal and destroy, are faceless threats you can ward off by increasing the security of your website’s most vulnerable areas. Whether using WordPress or any other platform, web owners play an important role in maintaining their website’s security.
Your website security is only as good as your effort.
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