As we are moving ahead in the digital world, everyone around us is trying to adapt to the change. This digitization has affected the way people approach their day to day tasks and actions. Such is the situation that for most people, if you are not present in the digital world, you do not exist at all. You might be offering the world’s best product or service, but if you don’t effectively market it across digital platforms, you are missing out on a considerable number of audience that you could be targeting.
One of the most, if not the most significant part of your digital strategy is having a website that catches the user’s eye and serves the purpose. Currently, in 2020, there are over 1.5 Billion websites. There was once a time when developing a website was a huge mountain to climb. That has been remedied by the arrival of the content management systems (CMS) with over 60% of the active websites being designed and developed using CMS, as it is much simpler and less time-consuming. Out of this number, more than 50% of the websites are using the WordPress platform. The popularity of WordPress is thanks to the ease of development and the large number of functionalities that it has to offer.
But of course, all is not rosy. One of the drawbacks of having a WordPress website is its vulnerability to hacks and malware attacks. With a platform like WordPress having huge volumes of data and information, as it is being used by hundreds and thousands of people; it is the ideal playground for cyber-criminals to strike. Among the number of cyber-crimes that these people can commit, the most common one is hacking. Hacking in simple terms means to illegally access your digital property and manipulate it.
In this post, we will discuss some of the common reasons why a WordPress website keeps getting hacked, what are fixes available in case a website does get hacked, and what are the ways to have a secure WordPress website.
So let’s dig in and see some loopholes that are left open for a WordPress hack to happen:
1. Passwords Strength
Your first and most standard line of defense is your admin password for the website, that can keep the hackers away from completing their jobs. People usually don’t focus on it very much and have a weak password, making it very easy for a hacker to figure out the password. Having a weak password would be like a wooden door to your house, that the hacker can break through with force. You can reinforce the door of your WordPress website to make it harder for the hacker to barge in your digital space. How?
You can increase the security of your WordPress website by making sure that you have a strong password for your WordPress resources. These include your
- WordPress Account
- Hosting Control Panel
- FTP Account
- Database Access
- Email linked to your WordPress Account
These are the easiest steps you can take to ensure that your first line of defense is strong against any hack.
2. WordPress Version Updates
Many people, once a WordPress website is designed, developed, and deployed, do not tend to pay attention to it as their whole focus is to have a digital presence. However, what many do not know is that given that WordPress is an open-source platform, it is prone to security vulnerabilities. That is why it gets continuously updated from time to time and new WordPress versions keep coming.
On the flip side, even when people know about the updated versions, they still ignore it because they believe that it will not make any huge difference or that they do not have the resources available to make the update to their WordPress website.
So what to do in both situations?
First, it is important to realize that a website is more than just a digital presence – it is a digital vault of valuable information that in the wrong hands can do a lot of damage. Second, if you are unaware of the WordPress version updates, or do not know how to install a newer version, check out WordPress forum, or contact any good WordPress maintenance company to help you out.
3. Right Plugins
The popularity of WordPress websites is because of its flexible ability to extend as many functions as you can dream of. These plugins are mostly free and developed by volunteers which are preferred by many users. The Drawback of these plugins is its susceptibility to hacks, threats, and at one point, if not updated then crash.
As you know that WordPress is an open source program and so are the plugins, it is wise to use only those that are highly popular, come with regular security updates, and are recommended by WordPress itself. Another option is to use paid Plugins as those are more reliable in terms of security updates, and stability. In both the options, it is important to know which plugin is more secure against hacks so that your WordPress website is safe from any attack.
4. Web Hosting
Web hosting plays a crucial part when it comes to security. One of the reasons that we have often seen why WordPress websites get hacked is because of un-secure web hosting servers. Why? Many companies choose hosting servers based on the pricing. Cheap pricing means the web hosting company is cutting many corners to provide you with a service at that price. What you do not know is that sometimes cheap is not good when it comes to keeping your data protected on those servers. This low-secure server is an easy target for hackers to find a website and play around with it.
Fixing this is simple. Find a well rated hosting company that offers highly secure servers even if the price is high. This will not only help you with your hacker problem but will also improve the performance of your website tremendously. Another way to make sure that your data is secured on the existing servers is to employ different layers of firewall making your server a fortress for the hacker to enter.
5. Pirated Resources
Piracy is a huge problem in this digital industry. In order to avoid expensive digital products and software, many use pirated versions. The scenario is the same when it comes to developing websites using WordPress themes and plugins. Pirated versions of these themes and plugins are highly used by many businesses to avoid paying for them and to have a good looking website at the same time. What you fail to realize is that these pirated copies are mostly designed and distributed by hackers themselves as a way to insert viruses and malware in your system to corrupt your data and eventually the website after stealing valuable information such as credit cards etc.
Now, if you cannot afford a purchased theme and also do not wish to expose your data to pirated software, what should you do?
The best way to go about this is to go for free themes and plugins that work just as good as the paid ones and update it regularly. If you are unable to make continuous updates on both as well as create security firewalls to protect your website at all times, then hire a WordPress website maintenance company to do this for you or risk letting your website and its data fall prey to hackers.
6. Password Reset
Have you ever wondered why you receive emails from your web hosting company or any other email subscription company reading “here is the link to reset password”? Do you know what it means? It means that someone has been trying to enter your account and after multiple attempts, have sent a link to reset your password. Now hackers actually love this. Why? Many of us have a habit of using really easy and quick to remember passwords such as our pet’s name, birth dates, etc.
This exact scenario happens for WordPress website admin console. Since the majority of the websites are built on WordPress, it is very easy to guess passwords or send reset links to emails which are already hacked. From there, a hacker’s job is easy.
There is no complicated method of solving this problem. It is simple. Keep a password that is complicated using special characters, numbers, alphabets (upper and lower case both) and write it down where you can easily access it. Moreover, you should also keep changing your passwords to admin panels of WordPress websites occasionally.
7. Two factor authentication
WordPress understands the common risks that your website may encounter and has equipped you with a lot with tools to guard against cyber-criminal activities. If you or your team has access to the website admin console, why not make sure that whenever there’s an attempt to access your website, even if the person knows the credentials, you would be notified about it. This is something that is called a Two-factor authentication. Want to know how it works?
A two factor authentication might be a stereotypical technique but is still highly effective against any hack attempt. There are many techniques how a two-factor authentication might work. Simple ones are that when you log in to your WordPress website admin console or hosting server, you first enter your password and then receive a code either on your phone number or email that you need to enter to gain access. This code will be new every time you enter your password.
Another two-factor authentication technique is that you receive two codes when you enter your username. The first on your email and second on your phone number. This serves as a better and stronger protection as there is no set password and every time you log in, it changes. A hacker would need both the codes in order to gain control of the WordPress website.
However, with both the fixes, you will need professional help as this authentication technique is actually encoded in the website and cannot be done by simple methods unless you are a programmer yourself.
8. File permission
File permissions as the name suggests is a set rule that is used by the web server to control access to the files that are used to run your WordPress website. If an incorrect file permission is written, (there is a set standard on how a file permission needs to be written) it can give a hacker access to write and change this file and enter your website.
So how to check for correct file permissions and write the wrongs?
There is an option of changing file attributes in WordPress admin console. You need to access it to check the file permissions. In this panel, the numeric value of all WordPress files need to be 644 while the numeric value of all WordPress folders need to be 755 as its respective file permission. Now this is a standard practice that obviously a hacker would also know and will try to by-pass it. So, there is also a need to add another security layer which prevents from getting to and changing the files attributes a bit difficult for the hacker.
9. WordPress Table Prefix
As a default option, all tables created in the WordPress database are done by using wp_ as a prefix. However, there is an option of changing it while installing it but many choose to ignore it simply because it is easier to keep things at default so there are no issues going forward. Using this default prefix is something that can easily let a hacker in your database and corrupt the website. So what should be done?
A simple recommendation is to use a more complicated prefix instead of wp_. This will make it difficult for the hackers to actually guess the database table names and prevent it from been hacked.
10. Removing Unwanted Users
Are you the only one with admin access? That is the question you need to answer first. After that, did you create any authorized users for using the WordPress website control? How many did you create? This is important because sometimes, in order to gain access, hackers can send malicious firmware to create unwanted users without even you knowing.
Use the WordPress admin and select USERs under which you will be able to see the complete list of the users who have access to the admin panel and the overall website. DELETE any users that you cannot identify.
Another step is to ask your website development company or a WordPress website maintenance company to create user firewalls for you to prevent any unauthorized users from being created.
All the efforts and time that went into designing and developing your WordPress website can go to waste if proper security actions are not put in place proactively to protect it from any hacks. Even with all the protections in place, there are sometimes chances that something might be overlooked or even the security layers are not as strong to prevent a hack. The hackers are also getting wiser so there is that. The reasons and fixes mentioned in this article is not a complete list as there are many others that we will talk about in the next part of the article soon. Till then, keep your WordPress website safe from following these tips and advice, and if need arises, contact a WordPress website management support company like WP-Bridge to help you out.