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WordPress Security Explained

In 2013 a worldwide brute-force attack struck WordPress installations across virtually every web host in existence around the world.

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

(WordPress is often the target of malicious attacks by hackers)

In March 2014, many leading technology sites began reporting that 162,000 legitimate WordPress sites had been hacked.

(160,000+ WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in early 2014. Source: 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 described by security firm Sucuri, hackers had leveraged a well-known flaw to attack unsuspecting WordPress websites 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 ask just how secure WordPress is as a platform for running their sites.

WordPress often comes under attack by hackers. But do you really need to be concerned about WordPress as being a secure web platform?

In this article, you will learn some of the main reasons why you should consider using WordPress if you are 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 sheer number of attacks on websites and blogs worldwide is increasing on a daily basis, and the situation is only going to get worse.

It’s probably 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 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?

Are “Open Source” Applications Really Safe?

Some people will often argue that WordPress is not a secure platform for building and running web sites because it’s an “open source” and freely available application.

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

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

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

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

The reason for this is that WordPress is supported by a volunteer community consisting of hundreds 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 community of thousands of developers around the world is responsible for keeping the software code maintained and updated. Source: make.wordpress.org)

WordPress continually evolves largely through the effort of thousands of committed individuals working around the clock to fix issues. Everyone benefits from hundreds of minds committed to improving the code and making the WordPress platform safer for every user …

(The WordPress core software is built and maintained by a global community of volunteer web developers. Image source: make.wordpress.org)

As soon as security holes are identified by developers or users, the WordPress developers are then notified …

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

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

For example:

This is one of the reasons why WordPress releases new security updates so frequently, and why you continually need to keep your WordPress sites and blogs regularly updated …

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

WordPress Vs Proprietary CMS Applications

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

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

WordPress CMS Vs Other Open Source CMS Platforms

(CMS Platforms)

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

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

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

Other research indicates that, because WordPress is easy to use and to keep updated, when sites using different CMS platforms were tested for security issues, WordPress sites had fewer exposure to risk …

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

It’s Not WordPress’ Fault

If someone hacks into your WordPress site, don’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 properly secure a website, or deal with compromised web security.

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

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

Of immediate concern, however, is the fact that most security-related issues come from site owners forgetting to upgrade their WordPress software to a newer version …

(Many WordPress sites use outdated versions. Screenshot image: Sucuri.net)

When WordPress security issues were looked at in more detail, it was found that only between 25% – 30% percent of vulnerabilities discovered in 3rd-party code are found in the WordPress CMS core, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and extensions …

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

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

WordPress … Secure Enough For Banks To Use!

The amount of misinformation about how secure WordPress is has even led Matt Mullenweg, the co-founder of WordPress, to chime into the debate.

In an article entitled “A Bank Website on WordPress” published 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 choose WordPress to build their web presence, including banks, large organizations, and e-commerce sites, not just bloggers.

Other Issues That Can Affect WordPress Security

Other factors that can affect WP blog security include things like:

There Is No Reason To Avoid Using WordPress

As you can see, WordPress is as secure as most of the leading web platforms being used by businesses of all sizes to build their presence online. As long as you continue to implement basic security measures and keep your WordPress software (and themes, plugins, etc.) updated, there’s really no reason not to choose WordPress.

WordPress Security – Tips

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

A compromised site provides hackers with a valuable platform for distributed attacks, spreading malware and engaging in information theft. Blog Defender Security Plugin makes your WordPress site invisible to hackers and botnets. 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 threats. This way, if things don’t go as planned, you can always restore.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can fully automate your site backups here: Back Up, Copy And Keep Your WP Site Protected With Backup Creator WP Plugin

References Used In This Article

The above statistics were referenced from various online sources, including those listed below:

Hopefully, this post has given you a better understanding of problems that can affect your web site and how WordPress can help you get better business results online. To learn more about using WordPress please see our related posts section or subscribe to receive updates and notifications when new articles are published.

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