Imagine waking up one day to find your WordPress website hijacked by hackers, your content replaced with malicious code, and your visitors’ trust shattered. This nightmare scenario is a stark reality for many, but it can be prevented. In this post, we’ll dive into the essential steps to fortify your WordPress site against such digital calamities.
Imagine strolling out of your home, leaving the door ajar. It’s essentially an open invitation to opportunists. Similarly, failing to harden your website is akin to this risky oversight.
Picture these hackers as stealthy thieves, eyes peeled for an unlatched window or a forgotten bolt. They prowl the web, hunting for susceptible sites to pillage.
Upon breaching your site’s defenses, they sift through your virtual possessions – confidential data, user details, and premium content. They may vandalize your site with unsolicited ads, jumble your layout, or seize control by altering your access codes, effectively locking you out of your own home.
The fallout is severe. Search engines swiftly flag your site as a hazard, demoting it in their listings and cutting it off from the virtual community.
Don’t you agree that it’s crucial to secure your online property just as you would your physical one?
In this article we’ll cover how to access your website for vulnerabilities, implement basic security measures and cover regular maintenance.
Let’s dive into how to harden WordPress to keep hackers out!
Table of Contents for Harden WordPress
Assessing Your WordPress Site for Vulnerabilities
What areas in a WordPress website are vulnerable to hackers, spammers, ransomware gangs and other malign actors?
Well, just like a house we not only want to shut the front door we need to put a lock on it – in fact let’s put multiple locks on the front door. Just to be safe.
That means we need to make the login page as secure as possible. I suggest that the default location be moved. This move thwarts automated hacking attempts dead in their tracks, as their scripts search for the predictable default login URL.
In addition, let’s add 2FA (two factor authentication) to the login page. It’s like having a secret handshake. This requires a second code, after the normal login, to authenticate. This could be a code from the Google Authenticator app. Doesn’t that sound like a robust guard against intruders?
Now, your thinking, woah – how am I supposed to do all that? Take a deep breath – it’s simpler than you think. With a free security plugin, you can seamlessly integrate 2FA and customize your login page location. It’s a quick setup, a matter of minutes!
Remember to install Google Authenticator on your smartphone as well. It’s like fitting your online home with an advanced tech shield. Ready to fortify your site?
Implementing Basic WordPress Security Measures
Automating software updates across your hosting environment, WordPress Core, themes, and plugins is crucial. This means every component updates itself without your intervention.
Let’s start with PHP – the programming language that’s the backbone of WordPress, along with all its themes and plugins. A single chink in its armor could compromise your entire site, regardless of how up-to-date other elements are.
You will need your hosting provider to support automatic updating of PHP. Below you can see a screenshot of automatic PHP management using my hosting provider Siteground, other providers offer similar tools.
Next, ensure WordPress Core is automatically updated. Again, your hosting provider can help you with this. WordPress will notify you if updates are available when you login. You should update when you see this notification.
Your themes. All of your installed themes should be keep updated. Ideally, only have your activated theme installed, since it’s the only one you need. Other themes do not provide value and present a security risk – uninstall them.
Your plugins. WordPress has a nifty feature allowing you to set auto updates for each plugin. Enable this feature for each plugin you have installed.
Side note on plugins: Each plugin you have installed and activated is a potential security risk. Try to keep plugins to a minimum as they can be exploited by hackers if they contain vulnerabilities.
Advanced Techniques to Harden WordPress
After setting up basic security measures, are you curious about more robust options? Let’s explore two sophisticated security enhancements we highly recommend.
SSL: A Digital Shield
SSL, short for Secure Sockets Layer, acts as a digital shield. It’s a protocol that encrypts data exchanged between a web server and a browser. Think of it as a secret code, protecting sensitive information like usernames, passwords, or data on contact forms from prying eyes.
Installing an SSL certificate on your web server is like fastening a virtual seatbelt for your site visitors. It ensures all traffic to and from your server is encrypted, offering them peace of mind.
Worried this sounds too technical? Don’t be. Most hosting providers offer easy-to-use tools for this purpose.
Take SiteGround’s SSL Manager as an example. It simplifies the SSL installation process. Just select your domain from the “Select Domain” dropdown, choose your SSL certificate (Let’s Encrypt offers free ones), and voila! The hosting provider handles the installation and setup. Easy!
Have you ever considered the security risks posed by traffic from certain countries? It’s a known fact that some nations harbor hacker groups, even those sponsored by the state, aiming to infiltrate websites for illicit gains or ransom.
If you are not selling in a country and it’s a security risk why not block all traffic? Many hosting providers offer tools to help you do just that, reducing the risk of hacking and spamming attempts.
For example, SiteGround provides a feature to block traffic from specific IP addresses or even entire countries. An IP address represents the unique location of a server on the internet, much like a postal address for a physical building. This level of control can significantly bolster your website’s security.
Mitigating Risks from Hackers and Spammers
While it’s true that determined hackers can sometimes circumvent blocks, implementing these measures significantly deters opportunistic and low-effort cybercriminals. Think of it as a sturdy fence around your property – it won’t stop the most determined intruders, but it will certainly discourage the casual trespasser.
Beyond just hackers, these blocks are effective against another digital nuisance: spam. Whether it’s unwanted emails clogging your inbox or spam comments cluttering your website, these blocks can help. And remember, spam comments can do more than just annoy – they can harm your website’s SEO.
As an important tip, always enable comment moderation on your site. This step ensures spam comments don’t slip through and appear on your website.
Regular Backups to Recover From Hacking Attempts
Despite all the preventative measure you take there is no guarantee you won’t be hacked. Some vulnerabilities only become know after they are being actively exploited.
For peace of mind, and quick recovery, you should enable full automated daily backups of your entire website – including all the content uploaded.
It’s the only way to guarantee you can return to a clean version of your site with no malicious code hidden somewhere deep within an obscure file somewhere.
Below is the Backups management page on the SiteGround tools section. Other provider should provide a similar interface. Note, some providers may charge extra for daily backups.
As you can see from the screenshot, it’s easy to restore – just select the latest version you know is clean and click “Restore All Files and Databases”. This should restore your site to it’s pre-hacked version.
Final Thoughts on Harden WordPress to Keep Hackers Out of Your Website
Thanks for reading this article, I hope you found it informative and useful. Here is a quick recap:
- Harden your Website to block hackers and cybercriminals
- Secure the login page with a hard-to-guess password and enable 2FA
- Automate updating of all your software (PHP, WordPress Core, Themes and Plugins)
- Add SSL to your website to encrypt all traffic to and from your website
- Add traffic restrictions to block countries with lots of cybercriminals
- Setup automated, daily backups of your entire website – for peace of mind and easy recovery
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