WordPress Security Explained

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

WP Security OverviewIn April 2013 a worldwide brute force attack began hitting WordPress installations on almost every host server in existence around the world.

These attacks were caused by botnets (networks of infected computers programmed to attack other vulnerable installations).

WordPress often comes under attack by hackers, due to its global popularity

(Being the world’s most used CMS makes WordPress an obvious target for hacking attempts)

On March 11, 2014, many technology sites reported that over 162,000 WordPress sites had been hacked.

Thousands of websites and blogs are hacked every year! Will yours be one of them?

(Over 160,000 WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in March 2014. Screenshot image: 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 flaw to attack unsuspecting WordPress websites and direct a distributed-denial-of-service attack (DDoS) towards another popular website.

When worldwide attacks happen on WordPress sites, it’s natural for people to start questioning just how safe and secure the WordPress platform is for building and running an online presence.

Being the world’s most used CMS makes WordPress a target for hacker attacks. But do you really need to be concerned about WordPress as being a secure platform for building your business website?

In this article, you will learn some of the main reasons why you should definitely consider choosing 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 worldwide is rising, and the situation is 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 no longer 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 Vulnerable Are “Open Source” Software Applications?

Many people will often argue that WordPress cannot be a secure platform for running web sites because its “open source” code is freely available.

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

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

It's not a matter of if, but when before someone attempts to hack your website ... WordPress or no WordPress!

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

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

This is because WordPress is supported by a huge community comprised 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, a large community of web developers around the world is responsible for keeping the core application code updated.

(With WordPress, a volunteer community of web developers is responsible for keeping the platform updated. Screenshot: make.wordpress.org)

WordPress evolves largely through the effort of a global volunteer community working around the clock to fix any issues detected by users. Everyone benefits from thousands of web developers, designers and users dedicated to improving the application, identifying and fixing security issues and making the WordPress platform safer for every user …

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

(The WordPress core software is built and maintained by an open community of WordPress users. Screenshot image: WordPress.org)

The moment that any security hole is discovered by developers or users, the WordPress core developers are then made aware of it …

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

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

The WordPress community support system is quite formidable and anybody can help contribute to improving the software.

For example:

  • If you find bugs or a security weakness, you can report these by emailing security@wordpress.org.
  • If you find any issues in a WordPress plugin, you can also report these by notifying plugins@wordpress.org.

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

WordPress continually releases new updates to plug any security issues found

(WordPress continually releases new version updates to plug security vulnerabilities)

WordPress CMS Vs Proprietary Platforms

Compare the benefits of using an open source CMS platform like WordPress with proprietary platforms where often a small team with limited time and resources is responsible for developing, monitoring and maintaining software security, fixing bugs, etc., and you will quickly understand the value and advantages of using WordPress to run your business web presence on a secure platform.

WordPress is 100% free to download, modify and use, and hundreds of volunteers and expert developers are continually working to improve the technology. Can a proprietary technology company afford to employ as many developers and programmers and still deliver you a free application that you can download, use and modify as you wish?

WordPress CMS Vs Other Open Source CMS Applications

CMS Platforms - WordPress, Joomla and Drupal

(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 Open Source CMS platforms like Drupal and Joomla.

For example, here is one study showing the number of security vulnerabilities discovered in popular open source platforms during a given period …

WordPress experiences less security vulnerabilities than other leading CMS applications

(WordPress has less security vulnerabilities than other leading CMS platforms. Image source: National Vulnerability Database)

Other research shows that, because WordPress is quite easy to use and to keep up-to-date, when sites using different CMS platforms were tested for security exploits, sites built with WordPress had fewer exposure to risk …

BlogDefender.com - CMS Tests

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

WordPress Is Not Always To Blame

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

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

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

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

Of immediate concern, however, is the fact that many security problems seem to be related to website owners not upgrading their WordPress software to the latest version …

Many security issues come from sites running outdated WordPress versions.

(Many WordPress sites are running on outdated versions. 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 third-party code are found in the WordPress CMS core, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and extensions …

WP Security Issues

(WP Security Issues. Source: WebDesign.org)

Like many modern web platforms, WordPress is regularly updated in order to deal with new security risks that may arise. Improving security is always a concern, and to that end, you should always keep your WordPress software, plugins, and themes updated to the latest version.

WordPress … Good Enough For Banks To Use!

The amount of misinformation online about WordPress security 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 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 use WordPress to build their websites, including banks, large organizations, and e-commerce sites, not just bloggers.

Other Areas That Can Affect Security

Other issues that can affect security include:

  • No platform is immune to hackers. As many as 90% of all websites across all platforms are vulnerable to attack, mostly due to software that is out of date.
  • The biggest weakness of all CMS platforms seems to be the users themselves. For example, many users ignore good password security recommendations.
  • Lack of constant system monitoring. Security processes require constant monitoring, testing, updating and improvement.
  • Webhosting setup. For example, sites on shared webhosting accounts are only as safe as the least safe site on the grid, so if another user on your shared server gets their site broken into, then every site on your shared server is potentially vulnerable to hacking as well.

There’s No Reason To Avoid Choosing WordPress

As you can see, WordPress is quite secure. As long as you commit to implementing basic security measures and keep your WordPress software (and plugins, themes, etc.) updated, there is really no reason not to use WordPress to run your web site or blog.

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 site offers malicious users with a valuable platform to launch denial of service attacks, spread malware and use your website to defraud others. Blog Defender Security Plugin makes your WordPress site invisible to botnets and hackers. Learn more about this plugin here:

If you are using outdated versions of WordPress remember to make a backup 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 previous settings.

If you don’t want to back up your files manually, there are a number of plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here: Back Up, Duplicate And Keep Your WP Web Site Protected With Backup Creator Plugin For WP

Important Info

References Used In This Article

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

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of issues that can affect your web site and how WordPress can help you improve your business online. To learn more about using WordPress for a business web site please click on links to visit our related posts section or subscribe to receive updates and notifications whenever new articles are published.

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"This is AMAZING! I had learnt about how to use WordPress previously, but this covers absolutely everything and more!! Incredible value! Thank you!" - Monique, Warrior Forum