Step by Step WordPress Security Guide
While WordPress is generally far from being an easily-penetrable system, if you’re not thinking about the security of your website, you can easily fall prey to attacks made by skilled hackers. The potential damage caused by these attacks should not be taken lightly. Passwords and other confidential information can be stolen. Hackers can significantly weaken your website by installing malware, or they can even infect your visitors’ systems. With our WP security guide, on the other hand, you will have a solid foundation on which to base your WP security measures. So, let us begin!
#01 Choose a hosting provider with efficient security measures
First, let’s go over the basics. Namely, choosing the right hosting service will significantly affect the security of your WordPress website. Your hosting provider’s employees have a responsibility to do what’s in their power to prevent hacking attacks. This means that they need to keep track of any hacker activity in your network at any given time. They have set-up precautionary measures making sure that the website is protected against DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. Their software is regularly updated so that the attackers cannot exploit the vulnerabilities that were exposed in the previous software versions.
The first step in our WP security guide, thus, is to find a reliable hosting service that will satisfy your security needs. Getting recommendations from friends or colleagues and looking for reviews online is a good way to filter reliable hosting providers.
#02 Perform regular updates
But, just like a hosting service company needs to update its software, so do you. WordPress’s default option is to automatically install smaller updates that are being produced very frequently. However, when it comes to major updates, it is up to you to install them on your own. And, if you have any plugins installed, you’ll have to make sure that they’re regularly updated as well.
Keep your website updated, and you’ll make it much harder for the attackers to find weaknesses that they can exploit.
#03 Use strong passwords
As we said, one of the major problems that WordPress website owners face involves stolen passwords. One of the ways to protect yourself from such attacks is to use passwords that will be much tougher to crack. A strong password is long (at least 15 characters), different symbols are used (numbers, uppercase, lowercase, etc.), and the symbols are combined (instead of “mountainLEFT3364”, you can use “3MouNT3aIn6LeFt4”).
This involves all passwords on your website – database, all accounts, the password for your hosting account and, of course, the password for WP’s admin section. While we understand why people have a preference for passwords that are easier to remember, that is, unfortunately, a luxury that website owners nowadays don’t have.
#04 Perform regular website backups
The next step in our WP security guide is to make sure that you always have a backup of your website. Even if you did all that you could to prevent security breaches, your website could still be compromised. If that happens, you’ll be glad that you had a previous version of your site’s content that you can restore in no time.
Making backups is easy with the help of good backup WordPress plugins, such as VaultPress. Just remember that you should always save backups on a remote platform, such as Dropbox, instead of using your hosting service account. As your hosting provider is also in danger of being hacked, your data will be much safer somewhere else.
As for how often you should create new backups, as a rule, the best option is to do it every time you update your website.
#05 Install reliable WordPress security plugins
Good WordPress plugins won’t just help you with making backups. Rather, some of them are also designed to actively monitor the security of your website. As such, they are an essential part of any WP security guide, and they can definitely save you when all other safety measures fail. One tried & tested WordPress security plugin is called WordFence, but you can also experiment with different plugins and see which one works the best for you.
These plugins are actively monitoring your website for malware, they are looking for any suspicious login attempts, and they are checking to see if the file integrity is intact. For advanced users, they also offer a plethora of different settings, that you will allow you to customize the way they work.
#06 Protect yourself with a web application firewall
As an additional measure of precaution, it’s a good idea to build a wall around your WordPress website; a firewall, that is! A firewall is designed so as to intercept all attacks before they even had a chance to breach your website.
There are two kinds of web application firewalls (WAF) – application-level website firewalls and DNS (domain name server) level firewalls. Application-level firewalls deal with all the traffic after it had reached your website, but before most of the scripts that are operating in WordPress were loaded. As that traffic did reach your server, this has a negative effect on server load. On the other hand, DNS level firewalls will disencumber the server, providing for more efficient performance. They function by rerouting the traffic by using their own servers. After filtering traffic this way, they only send the traffic that was deemed to be safe.
When it comes to security, both kinds of web firewalls can be equally efficient. Sucuri, for example, is a popular and robust solution that should keep you adequately protected.
#07 Use SSL
Finally, you can also use the so-called SSL (secure sockets layer) protocol. This protocol adds a level of encryption whenever data is being exchanged between you and your website’s visitors. With SSL optimization, all information receives an additional level of protection, making it harder for someone to intercept such confidential data.
A lot of hosting service providers are offering SSL certificates free of charge, but not all of them do this. This could be another factor that will influence your decision when it’s time to choose a hosting company. However, it’s worth noting that you can also choose a good hosting company that’s not offering SSL certificates free of charge, and buy one on your own. Prices vary, but you can expect to spend around 100 dollars per year.
Alex Durick has seven years’ worth of experience working in the web development industry. One of his fields of expertise is related to the safety of his clients’ websites, no matter if they’re WordPress-based or not. In his free time, he enjoys all kinds of sports (especially basketball), but he also loves reading a good book and spending time with his two daughters.