WordPress Security Explained

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

WordPress Security OverviewIn 2013 a worldwide brute-force attack hit WordPress installations across virtually every WP hosting server in existence.

These attacks were caused by botnets (infected computer networks programmed to attack other computers with security vulnerabilities).

Powering millions of websites and blogs worldwide makes WordPress an obvious target for hackers

(WordPress is the world’s most used content management system which makes it a target for hacking)

In March 2014, many leading technology sites reported that over 162,000 WordPress websites had been hacked.

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

(Over 160,000 WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in early 2014. Image source: 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 security firm Sucuri, hackers had leveraged a well-known flaw to attack unsuspecting WordPress web sites and direct a distributed-denial-of-service cyber attack (DDoS) towards another popular website.

Whenever brute force attacks on WordPress sites happen, it’s natural for website owners to question just how secure WordPress is as a software for running their websites.

WordPress often comes under attack by hackers. But should you really be concerned about WordPress as a secure platform for building your business website?

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

WordPress Security Explained

Let’s start with some facts …

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

The sheer number of attacks on websites and blogs worldwide is increasing on a daily basis, and the situation is getting worse.

It’s safe to assume that if you haven’t been hacked yet, then it’s only a matter of time … regardless of the web platform your website has been built with!

Since it’s no longer a matter of if, but a matter of when before someone attempts to hack your website, are there any advantages that WordPress can offer you in terms of security?

Is “Open Source” Safe From Hacking?

Many people will often try and argue that WordPress cannot be a safe platform for building and running a business online because having open source code means that anyone can view how the software code works.

Open source CMS programs 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 examine the Open Source code for WordPress, then hackers can also easily get hold of the code and study all of it in detail, searching for holes and weaknesses that can be exploited …

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

(It’s not a matter of if, but when before your website will be targeted by malicious hackers … WordPress or no WordPress!)

While it’s true that WordPress is free to download and hackers can easily go through the code searching for weaknesses or vulnerabilities (hackers can do the same with any software program), the fact that WordPress is a free, open application actually makes it more secure in a number of ways.

This is because WordPress has the support of an open community of thousands of software programmers, plugin developers and theme designers who are constantly working to help to improve the software and make WordPress more secure …

With WordPress, the core application is built, maintained and updated by a community of volunteers around the world.

(With WordPress, a huge volunteer community of hundreds of web developers is responsible for keeping the code maintained and updated. Screenshot image: make.wordpress.org)

WordPress evolves largely through the effort of a huge community working around the clock to fix issues. Everyone benefits from hundreds of web developers, designers and users who, at any one time, are focused on improving the application and making the WordPress platform safer for every user …

The WordPress core software is built and maintained by an open community of contributors

(WordPress is built by a global community of volunteers. Screenshot source: make.wordpress.org)

As soon as any security holes are identified by developers or users, the WordPress core development team are then notified …

WordPress is continually being improved by a global community community of users and developers

(WordPress is continually being improved upon by an open community of users and developers. Screenshot image: WordPress.org)

The WordPress community support system, therefore, is solid and formidable and anybody can contribute to fixing the platform.

For example:

  • If you come across bugs and security weaknesses, 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 sending an email to plugins@wordpress.org.

This is one of the reasons why WordPress is constantly releasing new updates, and why you continually need to keep your WordPress sites and blogs updated …

WordPress frequently releases new updates to plug security holes

(WordPress frequently releases new version updates to address security vulnerabilities)

WordPress CMS Vs Proprietary Platforms

We’ve just seen that one of the security advantages of using an ”open” platform like WordPress is that users benefit from a large community of developers who continually contribute to make the platform more secure. By contrast, proprietary or “closed-source” software applications are normally built by a small team of developers with limited time and resources to provide continuous security monitoring, software maintenance, bug fixes and updates.

The WordPress CMS is 100% free to download, modify and use, 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 a free platform that you can download, use and modify as you wish?

WordPress Vs Other Open Source Platforms

CMS Platforms - WordPress, Joomla and Drupal

(CMS Platforms - 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 leading Open Source CMS platforms such as Drupal and Joomla.

For example, the chart below shows the number of security vulnerabilities found in popular platforms during a certain period …

National Vulnerability Database - Security Vulnerabilities IN CMS Platforms

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

Other studies also indicate that, because WordPress is easy to use and keep up-to-date, when sites across different CMS platforms were tested for security exploits, WordPress sites had fewer exposure to risk …

BlogDefender.com - CMS Tests

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

It’s Not WordPress’ Fault

If someone breaks into your WordPress site, don’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, most website owners are not fully aware of the threats their websites are exposed to, how to secure a website, or how to deal with compromised web security.

In fact, over sixty percent of webmasters surveyed for the report didn’t even know how their sites had been hacked after an attack …

Most webmasters don't even know how their sites got hacked.

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

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

Many WordPress users have not upgraded their WordPress software.

(Many WordPress users have not updated their WordPress software. Image: 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 CMS core, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and developed externally for WordPress …

WP Security Issues

(WordPress Security Issues. Image: WebDesign.org)

Like many web platforms, WordPress is updated regularly in order to address new security problems that may arise. Improving security is always a concern, and to that end, you should always keep up to date with the latest version of WordPress software, themes, plugins, etc..

WordPress Is Used By Many Security-Conscious Businesses!

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

In an article entitled “A Bank Website on WordPress” published on April 15, 2015, Matt wrote the following about WordPress security …

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, including banks, global corporations and e-commerce sites use WordPress to build their web presence, not just bloggers.

Other Issues That Can Affect Site Security

Other areas that can affect WordPress website security include:

  • No platform is safe from hackers. As many as 90% of all websites across all platforms are vulnerable to being attacked, mostly due to using software that is out of date.
  • The biggest risk of all content management platforms seems to be the users themselves. An example of this is users ignoring good password security practices.
  • Lack of constant monitoring. All security processes require constant monitoring, testing, updating and improvement.
  • Hosting setup. For example, websites on shared webhosting are only as safe as the least secure website on the hosting grid, so if another user has a weak FTP password on your shared server, then all sites on your server are potentially vulnerable to being hacked also.

There’s No Reason Not To Choose WordPress

As you can see, WordPress is as secure as most other leading web platforms being used by businesses to build their presence online. As long as you continue to implement basic website security measures (which all website owners should do, regardless of their chosen technology platform) and keep your WordPress software (and plugins, themes, etc.) regularly updated, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use WordPress to power your web site or blog.


WordPress Security – Useful Tips

To learn about ways to protect your WordPress site from brute force attacks see this article:  Ten Security Measures That Can Help Prevent Brute Force Attacks On WordPress

A compromised website presents malicious users with a platform to launch denial of service attacks, spread malware and use your website to steal information from others. Blog Defender Security Plugin makes your WordPress site invisible to malicious attacks from hackers and bots. Go here to learn more:

If you are using outdated WordPress versions remember to back up everything before updating your software to protect your site from the latest security risks. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your site backups here: Back Up, Clone & Protect Your WP Web Sites With Backup Creator Plugin For WordPress

Useful Info

Article References

The above facts were sourced from the following sites:

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of issues that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you get better business results online. To learn more about using the WP website management software please see our related posts section or subscribe to receive updates and notifications whenever new content is published.


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