There are plenty of instances when WordPress has received negative press for skimping on security. But upon closer inspection, most of the problems can be traced back to poor security practices on the part of the user. Of course, poor security and web knowledge, credentials management, system administration, and outdated WordPress programs will expose your site to hackers. However, the tips listed below are all that’s necessary to lock down your website and deter hackers from exploiting the vulnerabilities.
1. Get a New Admin Username
This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, a lot of website owners forget to change their username. And having your default username as admin is like welcoming cybercriminals to take advantage of your website.
Changing your username is an extremely simple process and should hardly take a minute. But that’s all the time you need to stump hackers. Plus, when you are posting something on your site or doing something else, make sure that it’s your real name that is displayed instead of your username. You will find the “Display name publicly as” option under the General setting.
Also, you should probably create a backup username on the off-chance your main account is hacked. This is not a guaranteed solution but it does afford some amount of safety to your site.
2. Never Download Unknown or Illegal Plugins
If you run a business website, chances are you are always looking for ways to reduce costs. And plugins always get the short end of the stick. But the money you spend on plugins from verified sources is well worth it. Illegal plugins might be available for cheap or even free, but they can cost you dearly in the long run and even land you in legal trouble.
That’s because the plugins feature modified codes to prevent them from phoning home. In some cases, they may even copy your login details and monitor your online activity. So, use low-cost plugins or even free software from reliable developers instead of downloading something that has already infected various websites.
3. Don’t Forget to Update Your WordPress Files
Hackers mainly target files that are outdated and old. So, err on the side of caution and keep your WordPress files updated at all times. If you’re worried about the stability of a new update, try using a test site to ensure your website can support the new version. This way, a plugin conflict or poor update does not harm your actual website. Automatic updates might seem like a good idea, but they sometimes lead to a broken website.
4. Choose a Secure Host
Lots of hosting companies exist but the cheapest ones are generally the first choice for WordPress users. But an insecure host can bring your site on the shaky ground. That’s why it’s better to opt for a secure and updated host.
To test this solution, force a pretend mock-up. Visit the WP chat and send a message to the host claiming you’re facing issues and believe your website might be hacked. Check out the instructions they provide to get your site back up and running again. The more informed you are about a host’s protective measures, the better you can assess their suitability for your website security.
5. Get Two-Factor Authentication
Not familiar with two-factor authentication? Well, have you ever entered the correct password for your account only to be greeted with another prompt for a secret code, generally given to you via a different device? Well, that’s what this solution is all about – adding an additional layer to access your website. More often than not, you have to set up a gadget like a phone that can access an application.
So, each time you try to log in, you will have to enter a passcode along with a password. Only then will you be able to see the data. Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, it is! But it’s a small price to pay for the level of security you are getting against hacks and other digital attacks. Two-factor authentication is currently one of the best ways to lock down your website and it is pretty much standalone, so you should definitely give it a try.
6. Never Permit Users to Auto-Register to Your Website
A lot of WordPress websites provide their users with auto-registration options, but this only makes your website susceptible to different kinds of attacks. However, there are circumstances where auto-registering becomes a necessity. In that case, it is better to use a third-party software such as Disqus. This means the user will be logging onto the tool instead of your website, thereby sparing it from any severe attacks.
7. Be Careful with Your Directory Permissions
Always maintain a high level of caution when it comes to setting the directory permissions for your WordPress website. One false move and it could dismantle the entire security process. The problem is even more acute when you’re in a shared hosting environment.
You must alter the directory and file permissions to protect your web pages at the hosting level. Always set the WordPress directory permissions to 755. The files must be set to 644 to guarantee the preservation of the entire file system, including individual files, directories, and subdirectories.
To get the job done manually, you will have to access the File Manager within the hosting control panel. You can even use the “chmod” command to complete the task via the SSH-connected terminal.
8. Never Let Anybody See Your WordPress Version Number
The version number of the WordPress platform you are using currently can be detected without much effort. In fact, it is present right there in plain view of your source. You need to rectify this situation as soon as possible, especially since it provides hackers with the information they need to craft the perfect attack customized to your website and bring it crashing down. There are plenty of security plugins that allow you to hide the WordPress version number.
9. Switch to HTTPS
Protect your product from different kinds of security attacks by switching to HTTPS. By encrypting the connection between your web server and web browser, you push attackers away from your site when transferring data from one server to the other. Moreover, HTTPS adds an extra layer of security against unreliable hidden scripts within your system as well as scripts that steal data from login forms. The most significant part is, WordPress has made it mandatory for all websites created by the platform to have HTTPS if they want to achieve a high enough ranking on the Google search results. HTTPS boosts your brand awareness significantly.
10. Remove All Unused Plugins and Themes from Your Webite
Visit the WordPress admin area and start deleting all the unused plugins and themes. These programs not only slow down the speed of your website but they also leave it wide open to security issues. Also, not using a certain theme or plugin means you no longer deal with the hassle of updating it. But hackers use this as an opportunity to detect loopholes within the outdated elements and find an entry point into your website. That’s why you should up the security level by deactivating and then deleting all the unused themes and plugins from the WordPress admin dashboard.
11. Safeguard the WP-Admin Directory
Every WordPress savvy user knows that the key to protecting a WordPress site is to protect the wp-admin directory. Considering how the admin dashboard tends to be a prime target for hackers and other cybercriminals, you should take extra precautions to boost its security level.
To properly secure your WordPress admin panel, use a password that shields the wp-admin directory. This means the owner of the website must enter two separate passwords before they can use their dashboard. While one password is meant to open the login page, the other can be used for unlocking the admin area. So, this step completely protects the admin panel of a WP site and does not let any digital attack slip through the cracks.
12. Personalize the Login URL of Your WordPress Site
There is no time like the present to alter the URL address of your WP login page. Not only does it shield your website from various cyber criminals and hackers, but it also makes it easier for users to find your website. WordPress enables you to browse the login page via wp-login.php by default. The problem is that everybody is able to see this in the website main URL. As a result, cybercriminals don’t have to work too hard to access the login page and use brute force to enter the website. Thus, it is important to customize the login URL, not only beefing up the security level but making it unbreakable as well. In fact, it isn’t a bad idea to develop a custom URL like my_custom_login.
Protecting your WordPress website might seem like a lot of work, but it all pays off when you successfully prevent a hack. There is no substitute for good security and it should always remain a priority when you’re using WordPress to build your website.
About the author: this is the guest article by Alex Levitov
Title illustration by Alexander Tolstov
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