WordPress Security Explained

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

WordPress Security BasicsIn 2013 a global brute force attack struck WordPress installations across almost every web host in existence around the world.

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

WordPress is the world's most used content management system which makes it a target for hacking attempts

(WordPress is often the target of attacks by hackers, due to its popularity)

On March 11, 2014, technology sites like Cnet.com began reporting that 160,000+ WordPress-powered websites had been hacked.

Thousands of websites are hacked every year! Could yours be next?

(160,000+ WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in March 2014. Image source: BlogDefender.com)

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 security firm Sucuri, hackers had leveraged a well-known flaw to attack unsuspecting WP websites and direct a distributed-denial-of-service cyber attack (DDoS) towards another popular website.

Whenever global brute-force attacks happen on WordPress sites, it’s natural for people to question if WordPress really is a secure application for building and running their sites.

WordPress is often the target of attacks by hackers, due to its global popularity. But should you really be concerned about WordPress as being a secure web platform?

In this article, you will learn some of the main reasons why you should consider using WordPress if you are concerned about website security.

WordPress Security Explained

Let’s start with some facts …

Thousands of websites are hacked every year … not just WordPress sites!

The scale of attacks on websites and blogs around the world is increasing on a daily basis, and this is getting worse.

You can safely assume that if your website or blog hasn’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 your website has been built with!

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

How Vulnerable Are “Open Source” Software Applications?

Many people will often try and argue that WordPress is not a safe platform for running a website or blog because having open source code means that anyone can view how the software program runs.

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

The argument against WordPress, then, goes something like this: If everyone can access the Open Source software code for WordPress, then hackers can also easily download all of the code and study every single line in great detail, looking for holes and weaknesses in the code that could be exploited …

It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when before a malicious user will try to hack your website ... WordPress or no WordPress!

(It’s no longer a matter of if, but when before a malicious user will try to hack your website … WordPress or no WordPress!)

While it’s true that WordPress is a free application and hackers can easily go through the code looking for security vulnerabilities or weaknesses they can exploit (hackers can do the same with any software program), the fact that WordPress is a free, open application actually makes it a lot more secure in many ways.

This is because WordPress has the support of a community comprised of hundreds 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 …

WordPress is built, maintained and updated by a community of developers worldwide.

(A volunteer community of developers around the world is responsible for maintaining and updating WordPress. Image source: WordPress.org)

WordPress evolves through the effort of a global community working around the clock to fix any issues detected by users. It benefits from hundreds of minds dedicated to improving the application, identifying and fixing security holes and making it safer for every user …

WordPress is built by an open community of volunteer web developers

(The WordPress core software is built by a global community of WordPress users. Screenshot image: make.wordpress.org)

The moment any security holes are identified by developers or users, these are immediately reported in user forums and addressed by the WordPress development team …

WordPress is continually being improved by thousands of committed individuals community of developers and users

(WordPress is continually being improved by a huge community community of users and developers. Screenshot: make.wordpress.org)

The WordPress community support system is very responsive and anyone can help contribute to the process of fixing security issues.

For example:

  • If you notice bugs and a security exploit, you can report these by sending an email to security@wordpress.org.
  • If you find issues in a WP plugin, you can report these by sending an email to plugins@wordpress.org.

This is why the WordPress team releases new updates so frequently, and why you continually need to keep your sites and blogs frequently up-to-date …

WordPress continually releases new version updates to address security vulnerabilities

(WordPress continually releases new version updates to address any security holes found)

WordPress Vs Proprietary CMS Platforms

Contrast the benefits of using an open source CMS technology like WordPress with proprietary CMS technologies where often the responsibility for maintaining software security, fixing bugs, etc. falls to a small team of developers with limited resources and you will very quickly understand the security benefits of using WordPress to run 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 are continually working to improve the software. 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 systems, there is valid research showing that WordPress is actually safer than other leading Open Source CMS platforms such as Drupal and Joomla.

For example, here is one study showing how many security vulnerabilities were found in each of these open source CMS platforms …

WordPress has fewer security vulnerabilities than other CMS applications

(National Vulnerability Database – Security Vulnerabilities IN CMS Platforms. Source: National Vulnerability Database)

Other studies also show that, because WordPress is quite easy to use and to maintain, when sites across different CMS platforms were tested for security exploits, sites run on WordPress had a significant degree of less exposure to risk …

WordPress has fewer exposure to risk than other leading CMS applications

(WordPress users are not as exposed to risks as other CMS platform users. Image source: BlogDefender.com)

It’s Not WordPress’ Fault

When WordPress sites are subjected to brute-force attacks, you shouldn’t be too quick to place the blame on WordPress.

According to a report called “Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective,” published by security organizations Commtouch and StopBadware, a large number of website owners are not fully aware of the security threats their websites are exposed to, how to properly secure a website, or how to deal with compromises.

In fact, over 60% of webmasters surveyed in this report didn’t even know how their sites had been compromised after an attack …

Most webmasters don't know how their websites were hacked.

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

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

Many security issues come from sites running an outdated WordPress version.

(Many WordPress sites use outdated versions. Image source: Sucuri.net)

When WordPress security issues were examined in more detail, it was found that only between 20% – 30% percent of vulnerabilities discovered in third-party code are found in the WordPress core software, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and extensions created by 3rd-party developers …

WP Security Issues

(WP Security Issues. Screenshot: WebDesign.org)

Like many modern software platforms, WordPress is updated regularly in order to address new security problems that could 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 – Even Banks Are Using It!

The amount of misinformation about WordPress security has even led 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” posted 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 use WordPress to build their web presence, including banks, global corporations, and e-commerce sites, not just bloggers.

Other Areas Affecting Site Security

Other areas that can affect website security include factors such as:

  • No platform is completely protected from security threats. As many as 90% of all websites across all platforms are vulnerable to attack, mostly due to outdated software.
  • The main risk in all CMS platforms seems to be the users themselves. For example, many users ignore strong password security recommendations.
  • Lack of constant system monitoring. All security systems require frequent monitoring, testing, updating and improvement.
  • Server setup. For example, websites on shared hosting are only as secure as the least secure website on the grid, so if another user on your shared server gets their site broken into, then all sites on the server can potentially become vulnerable to hacking as well.

There’s No Reason Not To Use WordPress

As you can see, WordPress is as secure as most of the leading web platforms being used by businesses of all sizes to build their presence online. As long as you continue to implement basic web security measures (which all website owners should do) and keep your WordPress software (and plugins, themes, etc.) regularly updated, there’s really no reason to avoid choosing WordPress.

Useful Tip

WordPress Security – Useful Tips

To learn about ways to protect your WordPress site from brute force attacks see this article:  Preventing WordPress Brute Force Attacks

A vulnerable blog offers malicious users with a resource to launch distributed attacks, spread malware and engage in information theft. Blog Defender WordPress Security Plugin makes your WordPress site invisible to bot and hacker attacks. Learn more about it here:

If you are using outdated WordPress versions make sure you make a complete backup before updating your software to protect your site from the latest security risks. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore things back to their previous state.

If you don’t want to back up your site manually, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your site backups here: Back Up, Copy And Protect Your WP Site With Backup Creator WordPress Plugin

Important

References

The above facts were referenced from various online sources, including those listed below:

Hopefully, the above 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 WordPress please see other posts published on this site or subscribe to receive updates and notifications when new content is published.

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