WordPress Security Explained

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

WP SecurityIn 2013 a worldwide brute-force attack hit WordPress installations across almost every web host in existence.

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

WordPress is the world's most popular content management system which makes it a natural target for attempted attacks by hackers

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

In March 2014, many technology sites reported that over 160,000+ WordPress web 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. 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 WordPress web sites and direct a distributed-denial-of-service cyber attack (DDoS) towards another popular website.

When worldwide attacks happen on WordPress sites, it’s natural for website owners to start asking if WordPress really is a safe platform for running a business web presence.

WordPress powers millions of websites worldwide, making it a natural target for hacker attacks. But do you really need to be concerned about WordPress as a secure platform for building your business presence online?

In this article, you will learn some of the main reasons why you should definitely consider using 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 increasing on a daily basis, and it’s only going to get worse.

It’s safe to 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 no longer a matter of if, but when before a malicious user will try to hack your website, are there any advantages that WordPress can offer you in terms of security?

How Secure Is “Open Source” Software?

Many people will often argue that WordPress should not be used for running a business online because it’s a freely available open source software application.

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

The argument against WordPress, then, goes something like this: If anyone can examine the Open Source code for WordPress, then hackers can easily download all of the code and study all of it in detail, looking for holes and weaknesses that could 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 will attempt to hack your website … WordPress or no WordPress!)

While it’s true that WordPress is free and hackers can easily access it and study the code looking for holes or vulnerabilities they can exploit (hackers can do the same with any software application), the fact that WordPress is a free, open-source software platform actually makes it a whole lot more secure in many ways.

This is because WordPress is supported by a huge community consisting of thousands of software programmers, plugin developers and theme designers who constantly help improve the software and make WordPress more secure …

With WordPress, an open community of developers worldwide is responsible for keeping the software platform up-to-date.

(With WordPress, a large community of developers around the world is responsible for keeping the platform updated. Screenshot source: WordPress.org)

WordPress continually evolves largely through the effort of a huge community working around the clock to fix issues. Everyone benefits from hundreds of individuals dedicated to improving the application, identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities and making WordPress safer for every user …

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

(WordPress is built by an open community of WordPress users. Screenshot source: make.wordpress.org)

As soon as any security issues are discovered by developers or users, these are then recorded in user forums and addressed by the WordPress core development team …

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

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

The WordPress community support system is very responsive and anybody can contribute to the process of addressing security issues.

For example:

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

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

WordPress continually releases new updates to address any security issues found

(WordPress frequently releases new version updates to address any security exploits found)

WordPress Vs Proprietary CMS Applications

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

WordPress is 100% 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 Vs Other Open Source CMS Applications

CMS Platforms

(CMS Platforms)

Whilst on the topic of Open Source content management applications, research shows that the WordPress CMS is actually safer than other Open Source CMS platforms like Drupal and Joomla.

For example, the chart below shows the number of security vulnerabilities found in each of these open source CMS platforms …

WordPress experiences fewer security vulnerabilities than other leading CMS applications

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

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

WordPress is more secure than other leading CMS applications

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

WordPress Is Not At Fault

Whenever WordPress sites are attacked, don’t be too quick to blame the WordPress CMS platform.

According to security organizations Commtouch and StopBadware in a published report entitled “Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective“, a large number of webmasters have no idea about the threats their websites are exposed to, how to secure a website, or how to deal with compromises.

In fact, 63% of webmasters surveyed for the report didn’t know how their websites had been compromised after an attack …

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

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

Of more immediate concern is the fact that many security problems seem to be related to users running WordPress on outdated versions of the software …

Many WordPress users have not upgraded their WP software.

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

When WordPress security issues were looked at in more detail, it was found that only around between 20% – 30% percent of vulnerabilities discovered in 3rd-party code are found in the WordPress CMS core, while 70% – 85% percent of all security issues are found in plug-ins and developed externally for WordPress …

WordPress Security Issues

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

Like many web platforms, WordPress is regularly updated in order to deal with new security vulnerabilities that could arise. Improving software security is an ongoing concern, and to that end, you should always keep your WordPress site, plugins, and themes updated to the latest version.

WordPress Is Used By Many Security-Conscious Businesses!

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

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

Other Factors That Can Affect Website Security

Other studies on issues that affect WordPress security point to areas such as:

  • No platform is immune to 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 security risk of all CMS platforms seems to be the users themselves. For example, many users ignore good password security recommendations.
  • Lack of constant monitoring. Security systems need regular monitoring, testing, updating and improvement.
  • Webhosting server setup. For example, websites on shared hosting servers are only as safe as the least secure website on the hosting grid, so if another user on your shared server gets their site hacked into, then every site on the server becomes vulnerable.

There Is No Reason Not To Use WordPress

As this article has hopefully shown, WordPress is quite secure. As long as you commit to implementing basic web security measures (which all website owners should do) and keep your WordPress software (and themes, plugins, etc.) regularly up-to-date, there’s really no reason not to choose WordPress.

Practical Tip

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 Prevent Brute-Force Attacks On WordPress

An unsecured site provides malicious users with a resource to launch distributed attacks, spread malware and use your website to steal information from online users. Blog Defender makes your WordPress site invisible to botnets and hackers. Learn more about it here:

If you are currently using an outdated WordPress version remember to back up your WordPress website fully before updating your software to protect your site from the latest security risks. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore everything to its previous configuration.

If you don’t want to back up your site manually, there are a number of WordPress plugins you can use. You can read about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your backup process here: Backup, Duplicate & Keep Your WP Sites Protected With Backup Creator Plugin For WordPress


References Used In This Article

For more information on the above, see the following sources:

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


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