WordPress Security Explained

Learn why WordPress is a secure web platform for building and running your business online …

WP Security BasicsIn early 2013 a worldwide brute-force attack hit WordPress installations across almost every host server in existence around the world.

These attacks were caused by infected computer networks programmed to attack other sites (botnets).

Powering millions of websites and blogs worldwide makes WordPress an obvious target for attempted attacks by malicious users

(Powering millions of websites worldwide makes WordPress a target for hacker attacks)

In March 2014, many technology sites began reporting that 162,000 WordPress-powered sites had been hacked.

Thousands of websites are attacked every year! Will yours be one of them?

(160,000+ WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in early 2014. Screenshot image: Blog Defender)

According to the Cnet report,

“With some old-fashioned trickery, hackers were able to get more than 162,000 legitimate WordPress-powered Web sites to mount a distributed-denial-of-service attack against another Web site.”

(Source: cnet.com/news/ddos-attack-is-launched-from-162000-wordpress-sites)

According to leading security firm Sucuri, hackers had leveraged a flaw to attack unsuspecting WordPress web sites and direct a distributed-denial-of-service attack (DDoS) towards another popular website.

Whenever worldwide brute force attacks happen on WordPress sites, it’s natural for people to start asking if WordPress really is a secure application for running an online presence.

WordPress is the world’s most used content management system which makes it a natural target for hacking attacks. But should you really be concerned about WordPress as being a secure platform for building your business presence online?

In this article, you will learn some of the main reasons why you should definitely choose WordPress if you have any concerns about website security.

WordPress Security Explained

Let’s start by looking at some facts …

Thousands of websites and blogs are attacked every year … not just WordPress sites!

The sheer number of attacks on websites and blogs around the world is increasing on a daily basis, and it’s only going to get worse.

You can safely assume that if you haven’t been hacked yet, then it’s inevitable that at some point in time someone will attempt to hack into your site … regardless of the web platform you use!

Since it’s not a matter of if, but when before your website is targeted by hackers, are there any advantages that WordPress can offer you in terms of security?

How Secure Is “Open Source” Software?

Many people will often try and argue that WordPress cannot be a secure platform for building and running a web presence because its open source code means that anyone can view how the application runs.

Open-source CMS software like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are free to use and anyone can have access to the entire underlying software code.

The argument, then, goes something like this: If anyone can examine the Open Source software code for WordPress, then hackers can also easily obtain the code and go through all of it in detail, searching for vulnerabilities that can be exploited …

It's no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when before your website is targeted by hackers ... WordPress or no WordPress!

(It’s no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when before your website is targeted by malicious hackers … WordPress or no WordPress!)

While it’s true that WordPress is a free program and hackers can easily access it and study the code searching for security weaknesses and vulnerabilities (hackers can do the same with any software program), the fact that WordPress is a free, open-source software platform actually makes it a lot more secure in several ways.

The reason for this is that WordPress has the support of a global community consisting of thousands of people such as software programmers, plugin developers and theme designers who are constantly working to help to improve the platform and make WordPress more secure …

A volunteer community of thousands of web developers worldwide is responsible for building and maintaining WordPress.

(With WordPress, the platform is built, maintained and updated by a community of developers. Image source: make.wordpress.org)

WordPress continually evolves because of the effort of a global volunteer community working around the clock to fix issues. Everyone benefits from hundreds of minds dedicated to improving the code, identifying and fixing security holes and making it safer for every user …

WordPress is built by a large community of volunteer web developers

(The WordPress core software is built and maintained by a large community of WordPress users. Image source: WordPress.org)

The moment any security vulnerabilities are identified by developers or users, the WordPress core development team are then made aware of it …

WordPress is continually being improved by an open community of developers and users

(WordPress is continually being improved upon by thousands of committed individuals community of web developers and users. Image source: make.wordpress.org)

The WordPress community support system is very responsive and anyone can help contribute to improving the software.

For example:

  • If you notice bugs and security exploits, you can report these by sending an email to security@wordpress.org.
  • If you find any issues in a WordPress plugin, you can also report these by emailing plugins@wordpress.org.

This is the reason why the WordPress community is constantly releasing new version updates, and why you continually need to keep your WordPress site regularly maintained …

WordPress frequently releases new version updates to plug any security issues found

(WordPress frequently releases new version updates to plug any security holes found)

WordPress Vs Proprietary CMS Platforms

Compare what we have just discussed above with proprietary platforms where often a much smaller team with limited resources is responsible for monitoring and improving software security, fixing bugs, etc., and you will quickly understand the value and advantages of using WordPress to power your business presence online on a secure platform.

The WordPress CMS is free to download, use and modify, and hundreds of volunteers and expert developers work on improving the platform. Can a proprietary CMS company afford to employ as many developers and programmers and still deliver you software that is 100% free to download, use and modify as you wish?

WordPress CMS Vs Other Open Source Platforms

CMS Platforms

(CMS Platforms include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal)

Whilst on the topic of Open Source content management applications, there is valid research to support the fact that WordPress is safer than other Open Source CMS platforms like Drupal and Joomla.

For example, the chart below shows the number of security vulnerabilities found in popular CMS platforms …

National Vulnerability Database - Security Vulnerabilities IN CMS Platforms

(WordPress experiences less security vulnerabilities than other CMS applications. Screenshot source: National Vulnerability Database)

Other studies indicate that, because WordPress is quite easy to use and keep updated, when sites using different CMS platforms were tested for security vulnerabilities, WordPress sites had significantly less exposure to risk …

WordPress is safer to use than other leading CMS platforms

(BlogDefender.com – CMS Tests. Screenshot source: BlogDefender.com)

WordPress Is Not Always To Blame

If someone compromises the security of your WordPress site, don’t be too quick to blame WordPress.

According to a report called “Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective,” published by a nonprofit organization that helps webmasters identify, remediate and prevent website compromises called StopBadware and security vendor Commtouch, many website owners have no idea about the threats their websites are exposed to, how to secure a website, or deal with security compromises.

In fact, 63% of webmasters surveyed for the report didn’t even know how their websites were hacked after an attack …

Many webmasters don't know how their sites were hacked.

(Many webmasters don’t know how their sites were hacked. Screenshot: StopBadware.org)

Of more immediate concern for WordPress users, is the fact that many security problems seem to be related to website owners running sites with an outdated version of WordPress …

Many WordPress users have not upgraded their sites.

(Many WordPress users have not updated their WP software. Source: Sucuri.net)

When WordPress security issues were looked at in more detail, it was found that only a small percentage of vulnerabilities discovered in 3rd-party code are found in the WordPress core software, while 70% – 75% percent of all security issues are found in plug-ins and developed externally …

WordPress Security Issues

(WordPress Security Issues. Screenshot source: WebDesign.org)

Like many software applications, WordPress is regularly updated in order to address new security risks that can arise. Improving software security is an ongoing concern, and to that end, you should always keep up to date with the latest version of WordPress.

WordPress Is Secure – Just Ask Any Bank Using It!

The amount of misinformation about how secure WordPress is has even caused Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, to chime in and reply to posts online.

In a blog post entitled “A Bank Website on WordPress” published on April 15, 2015, Matt wrote the following about WordPress …

There’s a thread on Quora asking “I am powering a bank’s website using WordPress. What security measures should I take?” The answers have mostly been ignorant junk along the lines of “Oh NOES WP is INSECURE! let me take my money out of that bank”, so I wrote one myself, which I’ve copied below.

I agree there’s probably not a ton of benefit to having the online banking / billpay / etc portion of a bank’s website on WordPress, however there is no reason you couldn’t run the front-end and marketing side of the site on WordPress, and in fact you’d be leveraging WordPress’ strength as a content management platform that is flexible, customizable, and easy to update and maintain.

Matt then goes on to provide a couple of security tips, before stating the following …

For an example of a beautiful, responsive banking website built on WordPress, check out Gateway Bank of Mesa AZ. WordPress is also trusted to run sites for some of the largest and most security-conscious organizations in the world, including Facebook, SAP, Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, eBay, McAfee, Sophos, GNOME, Mozilla, MIT, Reuters, CNN, Google Ventures, NASA, and literally hundreds more.

As the most widely used CMS in the world, many people use and deploy the open source version of WordPress in a sub-optimal and insecure way, but the same could be said of Linux, Apache, MySQL, Node, Rails, Java, or any widely-used software. It is possible and actually not that hard to run WordPress in a way that is secure enough for a bank, government site, media site, or anything.

Millions of businesses around the world, including banks, large organizations and e-commerce sites choose WordPress to build their presence online, not just bloggers.

Other Areas Affecting Site Security

Other issues that can affect WordPress blog security include:

  • No platform is protected from hacking. As many as 90% of all websites across all platforms are vulnerable to being attacked, mostly due to software that is out of date.
  • The biggest security risk of all web platforms seems to be the users themselves. For example, many users ignore good password security recommendations.
  • Lack of constant system monitoring. All security systems need to be frequently monitored, tested, updated and improved.
  • Server setup. For example, websites on shared webhosting servers are only as secure as the least secure site on the grid, so if someone else has a weak FTP password on your shared server, then every site on the server becomes vulnerable to hacking as well.

There’s No Reason Not To Use WordPress

As you can see, WordPress is a secure web platform. As long as you implement basic security measures and keep your WordPress software (and themes, plugins, etc.) updated, there is really no reason to avoid choosing WordPress to drive your web site or blog.

Practical Tip

WordPress Security – Practical Tips

To learn about ways to protect your WordPress site from brute force attacks see this article:  WordPress Brute-Force Attack Prevention Measures

A compromised blog provides hackers with a platform to launch distributed attacks, spread malware and engage in information theft. Blog Defender Security Plugin for WordPress makes your WordPress site invisible to malicious attacks from hackers and botnets. Learn more about it here:

If you are currently using an older WordPress version remember to make a complete backup before updating your software to benefit from the latest security updates. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore your web site or blog to its previous settings.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many free and paid plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your backup process here: Backup, Copy And Keep Your WP Websites And Blogs Protected With Backup Creator Plugin For WordPress

Useful Information

References Used In This Article

The above facts were sourced from the following sites:

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of issues that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you expand your business online. To learn more about using the WordPress web content publishing platform please see our related posts section or subscribe to receive updates and notifications when new articles are published.

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