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WordPress Security Explained

In 2013 a global brute-force attack struck WordPress installations across virtually every WP hosting server in existence.

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

(WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS which makes it an obvious target for attempted attacks by hackers)

On March 11, 2014, technology sites like Cnet.com reported that over 160,000+ legitimate WordPress-powered web sites had been hacked.

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

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

Whenever brute force attacks on WordPress sites seem to increase, it’s natural for website owners to ask if WordPress really is a safe software for building and running an online presence.

WordPress powers millions of sites around the world, making it a target for hacking. 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 choose WordPress if you have any concerns 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 rising, and things are getting 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 a matter of 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?”

Some people will often argue that WordPress should not be used for running a website or blog because its open source code means that anyone can view how the application code works.

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

The argument, then, goes something like this: If anyone can access the Open Source software code for WordPress, then hackers can also easily get hold of the code and study every line, looking for vulnerabilities that they can exploit …

(It’s not a matter of if, but when before someone attempts to hack your website … WordPress or no WordPress!)

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

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

(With WordPress, a large community of hundreds of developers is responsible for keeping the software code maintained and updated. Source: WordPress.org)

WordPress evolves largely through the effort of a global volunteer community working around the clock to fix any issues detected by users. It benefits from hundreds of individuals who are dedicated to improving the software, identifying and fixing security issues and making the WordPress platform safer for every user …

(The WordPress core software is built and maintained by an open community of volunteer members. Source: WordPress.org)

As soon as security problems are identified by developers or users, these are normally noted in user forums and addressed by the WordPress development team …

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

The WordPress community support system is quite formidable and anyone can help contribute to the process of fixing security issues.

For example:

This is the reason why the WordPress community releases new version updates so frequently, and why you need to keep your sites and blogs regularly up-to-date …

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

WordPress Vs Proprietary CMS Applications

Contrast what we have just discussed above with proprietary CMS 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 very quickly understand the security benefits of using WordPress to run your 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 platform. Can a proprietary CMS company afford to employ as many developers and programmers and still deliver users a free CMS platform that they can download, use and modify as they wish?

WordPress CMS Vs Other Open Source Applications

(CMS Platforms - WordPress, Joomla and Drupal)

Whilst on the topic of Open Source content management systems, research shows that WordPress is 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 platforms during a given period …

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

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

(WordPress is more secure than other CMS applications. Screenshot image: BlogDefender.com)

WordPress Is Not Always To Blame

Whenever WordPress sites get attacked, you shouldn’t be 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, most webmasters have no idea about the security 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 know how their sites had been compromised after an attack …

(Most webmasters don’t even know how their sites get hacked. Image source: StopBadware.org)

Of more immediate concern for WordPress users, is the fact that many security-related problems come from website owners not upgrading their CMS software to a newer version …

(Many WordPress sites are running on outdated versions. Image source: 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 actually found in the WordPress core software, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and developed externally for WordPress …

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

Like all robust software platforms, WordPress is updated regularly to address new security issues that could arise. Improving security is an ongoing concern, and to that end, you should always keep up to date with the latest version of WordPress.

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 into the online discussion.

In a post 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 choose WordPress to build their presence online, including banks, large organizations, and e-commerce sites, not just bloggers.

Other Areas Affecting Security

Other areas that can affect blog security include factors such as:

There Is No Reason Not To Use 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 themes, plugins, etc.) up-to-date, there’s really no reason not to use WordPress for your web site or blog.

WordPress Security – Practical Tips

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

A vulnerable blog presents hackers with a resource for launching denial of service attacks, spreading malware and as a source of information theft. Blog Defender Security Plugin for WordPress Websites makes your WordPress site invisible to botnets and hackers. Learn more about this plugin here:

If you are currently using an outdated WordPress version remember to back up your WordPress website fully before updating your software to benefit from the latest security updates. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore things back to their previous settings.

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

References

The facts quoted above were sourced from the following sites:

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of problems that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you get better business results online. To learn more about using the WP content management platform please click on links to visit other articles published on this site or subscribe to receive updates and notifications when new articles or tutorials are published.

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