WordPress Security Explained

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

WP Security OverviewIn 2013 a global brute-force attack began hitting WordPress installations on almost every WP hosting server in existence.

These attacks were caused by infected computer networks programmed to attack other installations, also commonly known as “botnets”.

WordPress often is targeted by hackers

(Powering millions of websites around the world makes WordPress an obvious target for hackers)

On March 11, 2014, many technology sites reported that over 160,000+ legitimate WordPress-powered websites had been hacked.

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

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

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)

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

When brute force attacks on WordPress sites seem to increase, it’s natural for people to start questioning just how safe and secure WordPress is as a software for building and running their sites.

Powering millions of websites and blogs around the world makes WordPress an obvious target for hacking attempts. But should you be concerned about WordPress as being a secure web platform?

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

WordPress Security Explained

Let’s start with the facts …

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

The scale of attacks on websites and blogs worldwide is massive, and things are getting worse.

You can safely assume that if your website or blog hasn’t been hacked yet, then it’s only a matter of time … regardless of the web platform you use!

Since it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when before someone will try to hack your website, are there any advantages that WordPress can offer you in terms of security?

How Secure Are “Open Source” Software Programs?

Some people will often try and argue that WordPress should not be used for running a web presence because it is a freely available open source software program.

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

The argument against using WordPress, then, goes something like this: If anyone can examine the Open Source software code for WordPress, then hackers can easily obtain the code and study all of it in detail, looking for security vulnerabilities that can be exploited …

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

(It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when before someone tries to hack your website … 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 holes and vulnerabilities (hackers can do the same with any software program), the fact that WordPress is a free, open software platform actually makes it a lot more secure in a number of ways.

The reason for this is that WordPress is supported by a volunteer community comprised of thousands of people such as software programmers, plugin developers and theme designers who constantly help improve the platform and make WordPress more secure …

With WordPress, an open community of thousands of web developers around the world is responsible for keeping the platform code maintained and updated.

(With WordPress, a community of hundreds of web developers worldwide is responsible for keeping the core application maintained and updated. Source: WordPress.org)

WordPress evolves through the effort of a huge volunteer community working around the clock to fix issues. Everyone benefits from thousands of individuals who, at any one time, are focused on improving the code and making WordPress safer for every user …

The WordPress core software is built by a large community of contributors

(WordPress is built and maintained by an open community of users. Source: make.wordpress.org)

As soon as security holes are discovered by developers or users, the WordPress developers are then made aware of it …

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

(WordPress is continually being improved by thousands of committed individuals community of web developers and users. Screenshot image: WordPress.org)

The WordPress community support system is solid and formidable and anybody can contribute to the process of getting bugs fixed.

For example:

  • If you discover bugs and a security issue, you can report these by emailing security@wordpress.org.
  • If you find issues in a WP plugin, you can report these by emailing plugins@wordpress.org.

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

WordPress frequently releases new updates to address any security weaknesses found

(WordPress frequently releases new updates to plug security issues)

WordPress Vs Proprietary CMS Applications

Compare what we have just discussed above with proprietary technologies where often the responsibility for maintaining software security, fixing bugs, etc. falls to a much smaller team of developers with limited resources and you will quickly realize the value and advantages of using WordPress to power your site on a secure platform.

The WordPress CMS is 100% free to download, use and modify, and thousands of volunteers and expert developers are continually working to improve the technology. 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 Vs Other Open Source CMS Platforms

CMS Platforms - WordPress, Joomla and Drupal

(CMS Platforms)

Whilst on the topic of Open Source content management systems, research shows that the WordPress CMS is safer than other 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 CMS platforms …

National Vulnerability Database - Security Vulnerabilities IN CMS Platforms

(WordPress experiences fewer security vulnerabilities than other leading CMS platforms. Screenshot source: National Vulnerability Database)

Other research shows that, because WordPress is quite easy to use and keep up-to-date, when sites using different CMS platforms were tested for security issues, sites run on WordPress had a significant degree of less exposure to risk …

WordPress is more secure than other CMS platforms

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

WordPress Should Not Be Blamed

If someone hacks into your WordPress site, don’t be quick to place the blame on WordPress.

According to a report called “Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective,” which is published by a nonprofit organization that helps webmasters identify, remediate and prevent website compromises called StopBadware and security vendor Commtouch, a large number of webmasters are not fully aware of the threats their websites are exposed to, how to properly secure a website, or deal with compromised web security.

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

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

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

Of more immediate concern for WordPress users, is the fact that most security issues seem to be related to site owners not upgrading their CMS software to a newer version …

Many WordPress sites are running on outdated versions.

(Many security issues come from sites running outdated WordPress versions. Image source: Sucuri.net)

When WordPress security issues were examined in more detail, it was found that only a small percentage of vulnerabilities discovered in third-party code are actually found in the WordPress CMS core, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and developed externally for WordPress …

WordPress Security Issues

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

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

WordPress Is Used By Many Security-Conscious Businesses!

The amount of misinformation about WordPress security has even led the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, to chime into the discussion.

In an article entitled “A Bank Website on WordPress” posted 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 around the world, including banks, large organizations and e-commerce sites use WordPress to build their websites, not just bloggers.

Other Issues That Can Affect Blog Security

Other factors that can affect security include:

  • No platform is completely protected from hacking. As many as 90% of all websites across all platforms are vulnerable to being attacked, mostly due to outdated software.
  • The main security vulnerability of all content management platforms seems to be the users themselves. For example, many users ignore strong password security recommendations.
  • Lack of constant monitoring. All security systems require constant monitoring, testing, updating and improvement.
  • Server setup. For example, sites on shared hosting are only as secure as the least secure website on the hosting grid, so if someone else has a weak FTP password on your shared server, then all sites on that server can potentially become vulnerable to being hacked also.

There’s No Reason To Avoid Choosing WordPress

As this article has hopefully shown, WordPress is a secure web platform. As long as you commit to implementing basic security measures (which all website owners should do, regardless of their chosen technology platform) and keep your WordPress software (and plugins, themes, etc.) up-to-date, there’s no reason to avoid choosing WordPress to run your web site or blog.

Practical Tip

WordPress Security – Useful Tips

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

An unsecured blog offers malicious users with a valuable platform to launch denial of service attacks, spread malware and engage in information theft. Blog Defender makes your WordPress site invisible to botnet and hacker attacks. Go here to learn more:

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

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of WordPress plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here: Back Up, Duplicate And Protect Your WordPress Website With Backup Creator WordPress Plugin


References Used In This Article

For more information on the above, refer to the sites below:

Hopefully, the above article has given you 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 the security benefits of using WordPress for a business website or blog please see our related posts section or subscribe to receive updates and notifications whenever new articles are published.


"Wow! I never knew there's so much to learn about WordPress! I bought one of the WordPress for Dummies three years ago, such authors need to be on this course!" - Rich Law, Create A Blog Now

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