Do recent WordPress hacks have you worried about your site’s security? You’re not alone.
The truth is that security breaches are always going to be a concern. The ever-changing world of online security and hacking means that you can never be complacent. Protecting your site means constantly staying on top of things.
While vigilance is the best defense against security breaches, that doesn’t mean you have to be reactive. There’s no shortage of things you can do in order to ensure that you feel as comfortable as possible regarding the state of your site regardless of what new threats may emerge.
To start, here are some basic security tips that every WordPress site owner needs to know.
Choose the Right Host
We’ve spoken before about the value of choosing the right host. Good hosts offer you the best features, the best speeds, and, for our purposes, the best security options.
Here’s the thing: It’s understandable that you might want to save money on a host. However, the truth of the matter is that regardless of what your price range may be, it’s always worth spending a little more (or something) on a secure host.
Don’t break the bank, but make sure that your host is known for its security features.
Update Your Password Regularly
This sounds like an obvious piece of advice, but you’d be amazed how often people overlook this tip.
You need to update your password as regularly as you’re comfortable with. What that means can vary, but we’d say that you need to be updating your password at least once a month.
This tip goes beyond that, though. Make sure that your updated passwords are strong and that those who regularly use the backend of your website are also updating their passwords regularly.
Use Security Plugins
We’ve talked about the best security plugins before, but it’s time to reiterate that you absolutely need to be using security plugins for your WordPress website.
Security plugins do everything from validate the strength of your password and notify you of possible breaches. While you typically don’t want to download too many plugins so that you don’t slow your website down too much, you need to be working with a few of them.
A few smart security plugins make your website significantly safer.
Check Your Login Settings
There are a few things in your log-in settings that can cause a lot of trouble.
For instance, you need to be sure that you limit the number of log-in attempts for your site in order to cut down on the number of brute force hacks. It’s also important to use your email address rather than your name as the log-in requirement as the later is much easier to figure out.
Changing a few log-in settings in your WordPress account can make a world of difference.
You’d think that WordPress would automatically keep everything updated. While that sometimes proves to be true, you’d be surprised how often that’s strictly not the case.
As such, it’s up to you to ensure that everything remains up to date. What does that mean? It means everything from your WordPress build to your plugins. If there’s an update that’s relevant to you, you need to be downloading it.
Having said that, there’s one small catch to this rule that you should be aware of…
Stay on Top of Known Vulnerabilities
In a perfect world, a constant series of updates would combat a constant series of hacking attempts. Sadly, that’s rarely the case.
There are times when updates can potentially create vulnerabilities. When that happens, you may need to roll back the version of whatever you are currently using or just download any emergency updates that may come out to address that issue.
Again, the idea here is to stay on top of your updates and be aware of what you’re downloading.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
In recent years, two-factor authentication has more or less become standard. Sadly, that doesn’t mean that it’s automatically available at all the places you need it.
If your WordPress site doesn’t naturally support two-factor authentication, you need to download a plugin that will allow you to enable it. Two-factor authentication deters many hackers by forcing them to complete a login step that just isn’t worth their time.
Whatever time and resources you spend adding this to your site will automatically be paid off by the improved security you’ll soon enjoy.
Limit Your Admin Logins
Here’s a somewhat strange tip that only the most experienced WordPress users ever consider.
The basic idea is that you should only log-in to your site using your admin information when absolutely necessary. Why? There are a few reasons, but repeatedly logging in using that information (or just staying logged-in) increases your exposure to hacking and data leaks.
Try to create a separate account that you’ll use for everything but admin specific privileges.
Create Site Backups
This is one of those tips that’s certainly good for preventing hacking and also a generally good piece of advice.
It’s vital that you create backups for your WordPress site as often as you’re comfortable with. Honestly, this is one of those things that’s good to do on a daily or weekly basis if you have the resources to support such a thing.
Backups help ensure that your website is able to continue running after a potential attack and that said attack doesn’t cause you to lose everything.
Enable a Firewall
This kind of ties into the idea that you need to utilize more security plugins, but firewalls are important enough to be singled out.
Some users believe they’re against firewalls because of how they slow your website down, but the truth is that modern firewalls really reduce the impact of that potential downside.
That being the case, a good firewall can really be your first and last line of defense against all but the most complicated and intelligent of hacking attempts.
Alter Your Login URL
Here’s another one of those tips that is so easy to overlook yet makes a surprising difference in terms of overall security.
Basically, the default URL for your WordPress sign-in page is awful. It’s typically something that even amateur hackers will be able to guess and potentially exploit. As such, it’s important to go into your settings and change that URL to a string that will be almost impossible for someone to simply guess.
Alternatively (or perhaps on top of the above advice) you can add security questions that must be answered to even reach your log-in page. Of course, that might not be as appealing if multiple people need to access your WordPress site on a daily basis.
Monitor Login Activity
You’ll most likely need a plugin that helps you do this accurately, but it’s important to stay on top of your website’s login activity.
There are a few things you can accomplish by doing so. The first is ensuring that you recognize the log-in attempts of all known user and admin accounts. Beyond that, it’s also valuable to monitor for any “brute force” attempts that occur when one user appears to be trying to log-in an inhuman amount of times.
Being able to generate reports of log-in attempts can help you identify and stop hackers before they’re able to do any real damage.
Disable File Editing
This one might be a little controversial, but it’s certainly worth considering if you’re really concerned about potential vulnerabilities.
Some plugins and themes allow you to edit the source code after you’ve installed them. If you’re really concerned about security, it might be worth your time to disable that feature. Doing so allows you to ensure that anyone who gains access to your admin account maliciously is not able to insert any code which may stealthily harm your website or expose you to further risks.
If you insist on having this option available, then we recommend you leave it disabled whenever you’re not actively editing something.
Use an SSL Certificate
Do you know those scenes in spy/war films where we see a lot of people in a room trying to break the enemy’s encryption code? Basically, SSL helps to encrypt your website’s information.
Without the benefits of SSL or something relatively similar, you’re basically sending your website’s information out into the world as plain text that can easily be read by just about anyone.
With an SSL certificate, you can essentially encode your data and set up an extra layer of protection against anyone who is interested in sneaking a peek.
Manage the Access of Your Contributors
While many of the best security tips are based on automated processes and plugins, this is one that you’re just going to have to monitor yourself.
You need to keep track of how much access your site’s various users have. That’s especially true of any contributors who should only have as much access to your website as they strictly need at any given moment.
While permissions can change over time, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re the only one who is able to truly access every corner of your site.