WordPress is arguably the Windows of the CMS world. Websites built on WordPress make up more than a third of the internet, a statistic that continues to grow every year. As of December 2020, Windows had a 76.56% share of the operating system world. While that percentage is much more significant, both software systems are the clear leaders in their respective sectors.
And just like Windows PCs, being the most popular CMS makes WordPress a prime target for security attacks. Hackers constantly search for new ways to steal personal information, add malware, and send spam by infiltrating WordPress websites. This statement might seem like a downside to using WordPress, but fortunately, several proven practices virtually eliminate many of the risks.
WordPress Security Settings
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Before we get into the three proven tips, let’s talk about fine-tuning your WordPress security settings for the better.
One of the most important adjustments to your settings is to remove the default “admin” user. Since this user name is included with all new WordPress installs automatically, it’s the first entry point hackers attempt to pursue. Simply go into your User settings, create a new administration level user under a unique login name, then delete the default “admin” user. With this one step, you’ve reduced your security risks substantially.
Another quick fix is to limit the number of failed WordPress login attempts. By default, users can unsuccessfully try and log in multiple times, allowing hackers to test different passwords. By installing the WP Limit Login Attempts plugin, you add the ability to restrict unsuccessful password entries and even require Captcha to unlock.
Known WordPress security vulnerabilities
One of the best-known entry points for hackers into any software system is a security hole in out-of-date software. Internet browser, operating system, and mobile app developers know this fact all too well. Security holes can pop up in WordPress as well, but you can keep outside interference at bay by staying updated with the latest version.
Themes and plugins must also be kept up-to-date. This rule includes older themes and plugins that might still be installed but are no longer in use. Log in regularly, and watch your WordPress dashboard notifications to know when updates are needed. Don’t forget to backup WordPress before you download and install any type of add-on.
It’s also essential to choose a hosting service with a reputation for high levels of security. Much like older versions of WordPress, outdated server systems can be vulnerable to online attacks. Cloud-based managed WordPress hosting is an excellent option because enhanced security measures are already in place. It’s also much more affordable than maintaining your own server.
Easy WordPress security checklist
Finally, let’s get out our three proven tips for improving WordPress security.
Limit access for most users
If multiple people help manage your site, limit access as much as possible. There are various access levels build into WordPress, including Contributor, Author, Editor, Administrator, and Super Admin. The last role, Super Admin, should only be granted to the site owner. Admin-level clearance should only go to those who can be trusted and actually need to complete actions like exporting posts and publishing pages. Everyone else should be given a lower level of access, and never more than what they will need regularly.
Require complicated passwords
Using strong passwords is a standard piece of security advice that applies anywhere you go on the internet. WordPress passwords should be complicated and hard to guess. Password generators can quickly populate a one-of-a-kind string of letters, numbers, and symbols. While these passwords are harder to remember, they are also much harder to guess. Complicated passwords can be stored in an encrypted password manager app, as well, just in case you forget it.
A bonus tip is to require Two-Factor authentication for WordPress. This extra layer of security requires an additional plugin like Wordfence but can be worth it if your site stores highly sensitive information, such as customer contact data.
Always log in from a virtual private network
One of the most significant benefits of building a site through WordPress is the flexibility to edit posts and pages from anywhere. However, every wireless internet connection provides a potential entry point for a hacker. This truth now includes home WiFi networks, as devices such as smart speakers and lightbulbs go online. If a dedicated online criminal hacks your TV room lamp, they could potentially get into your WordPress site.
Connecting to a virtual private network, or VPN, before accessing your WordPress dashboard creates a barrier between you and other devices in your vicinity. This is especially critical when logging in from a shared hotspot in an airport or cafe. As remote work becomes a way of life for many worldwide, using a trusted VPN service becomes essential.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is an old proverb that still rings true. By keeping your WordPress security in top shape, it’s much easier to keep things under control. Trying to fix a hacked site after the fact can be costly and time-consuming. Follow the tips outlined in this guide to minimize risks, and rest assured that your online data is safe.