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WordPress Security Explained

In April 2013 a global brute force attack struck WordPress installations on almost every WP host server in existence around the world.

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

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

In March 2014, technology sites like Cnet.com reported that over 162,000 WordPress-powered web sites had been hacked.

(Over 160,000 WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in March 2014. Screenshot image: 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)

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

Whenever worldwide brute force attacks happen on WordPress sites, it’s natural for people to start asking just how safe and secure the WordPress platform is for building and running their sites.

WordPress is the world’s most used content management system which makes it a natural target for attacks by malicious users. But should you be concerned about WordPress as being a secure platform for building your business web presence?

In this article, you will learn some of the main reasons why you should 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 massive, and things are getting worse.

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

”How Can Open Source Applications Prevent Hacking?”

Many people will often argue that WordPress is not a safe platform for building and running websites and blogs because having open source code means that anyone can view how the software program was built.

Open source CMS programs like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are free to use and anyone can view the entire underlying code.

The argument, then, goes something like this: If everyone can study the Open Source software code for WordPress, then hackers can easily obtain the code and go through every single line, searching for security vulnerabilities that can be exploited …

(It’s no longer a matter of if, but 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 security holes and weaknesses they can exploit (hackers can do the same with any software program), the fact that WordPress is a free, open platform actually makes it a whole lot more secure in a number of ways.

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

(With WordPress, a huge community of thousands of web developers around the world is responsible for keeping the platform code maintained and updated. Screenshot: WordPress.org)

WordPress evolves because of the effort of hundreds of committed volunteers working around the clock to fix any issues detected by users. Everyone benefits from hundreds of minds dedicated to improving the application, identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities and making it safer for every user …

(WordPress is built and maintained by a large community of volunteers. Image source: WordPress.org)

The moment that any security issue is identified by developers or users, the WordPress development team are then made aware of it …

(WordPress is continually being improved upon by a global community community of developers and users. Image source: WordPress.org)

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

For example:

This is the reason why WordPress is constantly releasing new updates, and why you need to keep your sites and blogs frequently up-to-date …

(WordPress frequently releases new version updates to plug any security issues found)

WordPress CMS Vs Proprietary CMS Platforms

Compare 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 smaller team of developers with limited resources and you will very quickly understand the value of using WordPress to run your business web presence on a secure platform.

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

WordPress Vs Other Open Source Applications

(CMS Platforms)

Whilst on the topic of Open Source content management systems, there is valid research to support the fact that the WordPress CMS is actually safer than other leading Open Source CMS platforms like Drupal and Joomla.

For example, here is one study showing how many security vulnerabilities were discovered in each of these open source platforms during a given period …

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

Other studies show that, because WordPress is quite easy to use and to update, when sites across different CMS platforms were tested for security vulnerabilities, WordPress sites had fewer exposure to risk …

(WordPress is safer to use than other leading CMS applications. Image source: BlogDefender.com)

Don’t Blame WordPress

When WordPress sites get subjected to brute-force attacks, don’t be too quick to blame WordPress.

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 how to deal with compromises.

In fact, over sixty percent of webmasters surveyed for the report didn’t even know how their sites were compromised by hackers after an attack …

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

Of more immediate concern, however, is the fact that many security-related issues result from users not upgrading their CMS software to the latest version …

(Many WordPress users have not updated their WP sites. Screenshot source: Sucuri.net)

When WordPress security issues were examined in more detail, it was found that only a small percentage of vulnerabilities discovered in 3rd-party code are actually found in the WordPress core software, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and developed externally …

(WP Security Issues. Image source: WebDesign.org)

Like many web applications, WordPress is regularly updated in order to address new security threats that may arise. Improving software security is always a concern, and to that end, you should always keep your WordPress site, plugins, and themes up-to-date.

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 debate.

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 around the world, including banks, global corporations and e-commerce sites choose WordPress to build their websites, not just bloggers.

Other Areas That Can Affect Security

Other areas that can affect website security include:

There Is No Reason To Avoid Choosing WordPress

As this article has hopefully shown, WordPress is quite secure. As long as you commit to implementing basic security measures and keep your WordPress software (and themes, plugins, etc.) up-to-date, there is no reason why you shouldn’t choose WordPress.

WordPress Security – Tips

To learn about ways to protect your WordPress site from brute force attacks see this article:  Ten Things You Can Do To Prevent Brute-Force Attacks On Your WordPress Site Or Blog

A vulnerable blog presents malicious users with a platform to launch denial of service attacks, spread malware and engage in information theft. Blog Defender makes your WordPress site invisible to bots and hackers. Go here to learn more:

If you are currently using an older version of WordPress remember to back up your 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.

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

References Used In This Article

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

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of issues that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you grow 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 when new articles or tutorials are published.

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"These tutorials have so much information and are easy to understand. If you use WordPress or plan to in the future these will help you with everything you need to know." - Valisa (Mesa, Arizona)

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