How to Protect your WordPress Website from Hacking in 2020

Did you know that WordPress dominates the CMS domain with 76.5 percent of the market share? It powers nearly 27 percent of all websites.

WordPress was launched under the GNU GPL licence. This licence permits everyone across the globe to use it. It is available at zero cost accessible by everyone to download, use, customize and build upon. This is the primary reason for its popularity.

However, due to the same reason it is even more important to protect WordPress CMS. Because the source-code is easily available online, it is very easy for hackers to find loopholes and attack websites.

A research conducted in 2012 highlighted the most vulnerable sections where successful hacking attempts were carried out:

  • 40 percent hacking attempts took place through hosting platforms.
  • WordPress themes took second place with 28 percent of hacking attempts.
  • 23 percent websites were attacked due to security issues in WordPress plugins.
  • Weak login information lead to 9 percent of successful hacking attempts.

This data provides an overall understanding about the areas which need maximum attention to keep a WordPress website secure. Also, it is important that you take preventive steps to secure your website from malicious attacks, rather than waiting for a mishap to gather your wits together.

Let us walk through, on how you can protect your site from being compromised in all the ways mentioned above and some more too.

Choose a Credible Hosting Provider

The hosting platform is your first line of defense and compromising on it will be considered foolishness. Hosting service providers take extra measures to protect their servers against malicious activities.

You can choose between managed or shared hosting services. However, managed services are safer because they provide more security for your website. Automated backups and WordPress updates, along with augmented security configurations are offered by managed WP hosting companies. WP Engine, Kinsta and SiteGround are amongst the top three managed hosting service providers.

On the other hand, if you opt for a shared hosting plan, then you are sharing the server and other resources with other businesses. This arrangement can increase the chances of hacking due to someone else’s carelessness. Any business you share the hosting platform with chooses to go lenient with the security, it can harm your site too.

Hence, choosing a reliable hosting service provider is the key to tackle security threats and attacks to your website.

How does a trustworthy hosting service company work towards safeguarding your data and website?

  • Scan their network continuously to thwart suspicious activities.
  • Equipped for preventing DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack. This kind of an attack is simple yet intense.
  • Regular monitoring for malware detection and removal.
  • Limiting access for trained and authorized technicians.
  • Ready with a disaster management plan to protect your valuable data in the wake of any major adverse event.

Request a report from the hosting provider of the security measures they are undertaking to double check the security of your website.

Ensure that the hosting provider has automated backup to maximize website uptime in spite of any mishaps. You can also contemplate on encrypting the data on the backups to enhance the security to critical data.

 Plugins to Enhance Website Security

Activating a WordPress security plugin can amp up your security to the next level. Security plugins inspect malware and keep a check for vulnerabilities on your site round the clock.

Security plugins can detect and block infectious bots to keep your website up and running. Many plugins offer layered protections to find hidden malware and alert you so that these can be cleaned at the earliest.

In fact, there are certain WordPress security plugins that enable instant (real-time) backup and website monitoring services.

Here is a list of the best WordPress plugins

  • WordFence
  • Sucuri
  • Bulletproof Security
  • Google Authenticator
  • VaultPress

Comprehensive Features of WordPress Security Plugins

  • Dynamic security scans
  • System security hardening
  • Conducting malware scanning
  • Two factor authentications for added security
  • Protection from brute force attacks by limiting login attempts
  • Report hacking attempts instantly
  • Blacklist monitoring

 How to choose a good security plugin?

  • References, reviews and ratings! The three R technique will help you select the best security plugin for your website.
  • Choose a plugin that has been updated recently. A plugin that has not been updated in the last 6 months is a big NO. There is a good chance of its security features being redundant.
  • Do not rush into downloading several plugins and themes at once. You will know the exact cause if things go wrong. And the most important thing is to have a backup ready before installing anything onto your site backend.
  • Don’t get carried away into installing themes and plugins from unknown sources. Get them from credible sources.

Restrict Multiple Login Attempts

WordPress does not automatically restrict login attempts. This may be a boon if you forget the passwords often. But this feature can become a bane if left unattended. It exposes your website to hacking attempts and brute force attacks. Restricting multiple login attempts till they are provisionally blocked can ensure the security of your website. The hacker will locked before doing any harm.

There are plugins that you can install to limit attempts to the admin panel of the WordPress website. After activating the plugin you can specify the number of login before anyone gets locked down.

Enabling a Web Application Firewall

A Web Application Firewall (WAF) prevents bad traffic intrusion such as malicious attempts, DDoS etc. between the client website and the application. It permits only good traffic to go through, augmenting the security of your website multiple times.

A report released by Sucuri revealed that out of all the websites that were hacked in 2018, 90% websites were built on WordPress.

The report highlighted that many a times businesses are unable to update the current WP version. It may be due to hindrances caused due to plugins or themes. This can expose websites built on WordPress platforms to hacking attempts.

A WAF can remotely update the website protecting it from potential harm.

How does a firewall work?

  • Foils known hacking methods and patterns to keep your WordPress website safe and secure.
  • Fixes every loophole in the website software which can be exploited by hackers through plugins and themes.
  • Prevents unauthorized access to wp-admin or wp-login pages by employing brute force automation to prevent hackers from predicting your password.
  • Detects and blocks DDoS attacks. Ensures zero downtime for WordPress websites even under this assault. This attack happens when high volume fake traffic bombards your website restricting genuine users to visit it. WAF application makes sure that your website is available even under attack.

 Limit IP Addresses to Log On To WordPress Backend

This is the easiest and safest way to secure your WordPress website. Allowing only authorized IPs to access the admin panel and blocking the rest will ensure that your website is in safe and trusted hands.

You can manually create a plain text file in your admin panel and rename the folder to .htaccess following it with the code /wp-admin/ folder except your IP address (a.b.c.d).

You get detailed step by step particulars from the WordPress Codex Website.

 Add SALTs

SALTs or WP security keys add another layer of security by encrypting data in browser cookies. This is a great way of password protection and other critical data. You can add them manually through automatically generated phrases stored inside wp-config.php.

 Deploy Robust Login Information

This is very basic, but a fool proof method to secure your website. Hackers try attacking your website through a combination of UserID and password through scripts till they are successful. In fact, WordFence security plugin had recorded 36 million hacking attempts in 2017 every single day.

 Therefore, following best practices is the way to protect WordPress sites:

  • Admin username is generated automatically by WordPress. Please change it. If you don’t you are risking the security of WordPress website, because you have already made it easy for hackers to attack your website. The username was generic, all they have to do is to crack the password to pull your website down.
  • Practice having two different accounts – one for administration and the second one for publishing the content. When you have just one account the username usually show up in the author archive repository. Therefore, to keep the site secure, this is highly recommended.
  • Robust password selection is mandatory. WordPress will prompt you to choose a strong password. However, if you want to pick a password that you can easily remember, go for something that cannot be cracked. In fact, there are certain services that generate strong random passwords like Password Generator, you can opt for such facilities.

 Wrapping up

Like they say, “prevention is better than cure”, similarly securing your website before any attack is easier than cleaning up the mess after it. Review your site (very important), prepare a checklist for things you need to do, and do them one at a time. Create backups, update everything, reset passwords and you are set to fight back every malicious attack.

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I'm an eternal optimist, follow a Buddhist philosophy, geek of many areas, entrepreneur, learning the Chinese language, a die-hard sports fan, love politics and nuclear submarines.

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