WordPress Security Checklist: 21 Best Ways to Secure WordPress Site

WordPress security is a big concern for all website owners. Every day, Google blacklists 10,000+ websites for malware, and every week, it blacklists 50,000 for phishing.

If you worry about the security of your website, you should follow the WordPress security best practices.

In this post, we’ll go over all of the best WordPress security ways to help you secure your website from hackers and malware.

While the WordPress core software is quite secure, and hundreds of developers regularly audit it, there is still a lot you can do to keep your site safe.

You can do several things as a website owner to improve WordPress security.

There are a couple of actionable steps you can take to secure your WordPress website against security vulnerabilities.

Let’s get started.

Why is WordPress Website Security Important?

A hacked WordPress website may significantly harm your business earnings and reputation. Hackers can steal user information passwords, install harmful software, and even infect your users with malware.

Worst, you may be forced to pay ransomware to hackers in order to recover access to your website.

Google announced in March 2016 that more than 50 million internet visitors had been notified that a website they visited might contain malware or steal information.

Furthermore, each day, Google blacklists around 10,000+ websites for malware and approximately 50,000 websites for phishing.

If you’re running a business website, you’ll want to pay special attention to WordPress security.

Most Common WordPress Security Issues

The most common WordPress security vulnerabilities happen before or shortly after your site is hacked. A hacker aims to get unauthorized administrator access to your WordPress site, either through the frontend (your WordPress dashboard) or from the server-side (inserting scripts or malicious files).

The following are the top five WordPress security issues you should be aware of:

1. Brute Force Attacks

WordPress brute force attacks refer to the process of repeatedly inputting different username and password combinations until a successful combination is found. The brute force attack approach takes advantage of the easiest way to access your website: your WordPress login page.

WordPress does not limit login attempts by default. Therefore, bots can use the brute force attack method to assault your WordPress login page. Even if a brute force assault fails, it may still cause havoc on your server by overloading your system and slowing down your website.

2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks account for 54.4% of all WordPress security vulnerabilities revealed in 2021. The most common vulnerability discovered in WordPress plugins is cross-site scripting.

The basic method of cross-site scripting is as follows: an attacker finds a way to convince a victim to load vulnerable javascript scripts into their web pages. These scripts are loaded without the visitor’s knowledge and then exploited to steal information from their browsers. A hijacked form that seems to be on your website is an example of a cross-site scripting attack. If a user fills out the form, XSS will take their information.

3. File Inclusion Exploits

After brute-force attacks, the most common security vulnerability exploited by attackers is weaknesses in your WordPress website’s PHP code.

File inclusion vulnerabilities occur when vulnerable code is used to load external files, allowing attackers to gain access to your website. File inclusion assaults are one of the most popular ways for an attacker to obtain access to your WordPress website’s wp-config.php file, which is one of the most crucial files in your WordPress installation.

4. SQL Injections

A MySQL database is used to run your WordPress website. SQL injections happen when an attacker acquires access to your WordPress database as well as all of the data on your website.

An attacker may be able to establish a new admin-level user account via SQL injection, which may then be used to login and gain complete control of your WordPress website. SQL injections can also use to enter new data, such as links to malicious or spam websites, into your database.

5. Malware

Malware is a code used to gain unauthorized access to a website to collect sensitive information. A hacked WordPress site typically indicates malware has been put into your website’s files; therefore, check recently changed files if you suspect malware on your site.

Although there are different types of malware attacks on the internet, WordPress is not vulnerable to all of them. The following are the four most common WordPress malware infections:

  • Backdoors
  • Drive-by downloads
  • Pharma hacks
  • Malicious redirects

Each of these forms of malware may be readily identified and removed by uninstalling the malicious file manually, installing a new version of WordPress, or restoring your WordPress site from a previous, non-infected backup.

WordPress Security Checklist

Implementing only one or two WordPress security measures will not be enough to ensure the safety of your WordPress website. Here are some best ways to secure WordPress websites.

1. Update WordPress Version Regularly

WordPress provides software updates on a regular basis in order to enhance speed and security. These upgrades also help to keep your site safe from cyber-attacks.

One of the simplest methods to increase WordPress security is to update your WordPress version. However, over half of all WordPress sites are using an older version of the software, making them more vulnerable.

To see if you have the most recent WordPress version, go to Dashboard » Updates on the left menu panel of your WordPress admin area. If it shows that your version is out of date, we suggest that you update it as soon as possible.

WordPress Updates

We also recommend updating the themes and plugins installed on your WordPress site. Outdated themes and plugins may conflict with the recently upgraded WordPress core software, resulting in issues and vulnerability to security concerns.

2. Use a Strong Password

One of the most basic mistakes users make is using usernames that are easy to guess, such as “admin,” “administrator,” or “test.” As a result, your site is more vulnerable to brute-force attacks. Additionally, attackers use this method to target WordPress sites with weak passwords.

As a result, we recommend making your username and password more complicated and unique.

If you need help creating a strong password, use online tools such as LastPass and 1Password. Their password management services may also be used to store strong passwords securely. You won’t have to remember them this way.

It’s also crucial to check the network before signing in to ensure the security of your site. If you’ve mistakenly linked to a Hotspot Honeypot, a hacker-run network, you risk exposing your login details to the operators.

Even public networks, such as school libraries’ WiFi, may not be as safe as they look. Hackers can intercept your connection and steal data that isn’t encrypted, such as login passwords.

As a result, whenever you connect to a public network, we recommend using a VPN. It encrypts the connection, making it more difficult to intercept data and safeguard your online activity.

3. Invest in Secure WordPress Hosting

Your WordPress hosting service is the most important aspect of your WordPress site’s security. A great shared hosting service, such as Bluehost or Hostinger, will go above and beyond to secure its servers from common threats.

Here’s how a good web hosting provider protects your websites and data in the background.

  • They keep an eye on their network for any suspicious activity.
  • All good hosting companies have systems in place to prevent large-scale DDOS assaults.
  • To prevent hackers from exploiting a known security weakness in an older version, they maintain their server software, PHP versions, and hardware up to date.
  • They have disaster recovery and accident plans that are ready to deploy, allowing them to secure your data in the case of a major accident.

When you choose a shared hosting plan, you’ll be sharing server resources with a lot of other people. This increases the risk of cross-site contamination, which occurs when a hacker uses a nearby site to attack your website.

Using a managed WordPress hosting provider ensures that your website is more secure. Managed WordPress hosting companies include automated backups, automatic WordPress upgrades, and more enhanced security setups to secure your website.

4. Back Up WordPress Regularly

Backups are your first line of safety in the case of a WordPress attack.

Backups enable you to easily recover your WordPress site if something goes wrong.

There are lots of free and premium backup plugins for WordPress available that you can use. The most important thing to remember about backups is that you must regularly save full-site backups to a remote place (not your hosting account).

We recommend using a cloud provider such as Amazon, Dropbox, or private clouds like Stash to store it.

Depending on how often you update your website, the ideal setting might be either once a day or real-time backups.

Thankfully, plugins like UpdraftPlus make this simple. It is also an essential plugin for WordPress websites. UpdraftPlus is reliable and, most importantly, simple to use (no coding needed).

5. Use WordPress Security Plugins

Malware attacks on WordPress sites are quite common. If you do not manually monitor the source code of your website, you may not even be aware that your code is infected.

Unfortunately, you’ll need to know how to code to figure this out. However, there is a better and more straightforward method. WordPress security plugins are meant to detect and remove harmful code and viruses from your website.

The best part is that they operate around the clock, and you won’t have to do anything.

6. Enable Web Application Firewall (WAF)

The best way to secure your site and feel safe about your WordPress security is by using a web application firewall (WAF).

A website firewall blocks all harmful traffic before it reaches your website.

DNS Level Website Firewall – This firewall filters your website traffic through cloud proxy servers. As a result, they can only deliver genuine traffic to your web server.

Application Level Firewall – These firewall plugins inspect traffic once it reaches your server, but before most WordPress scripts are loaded. In terms of minimizing server load, this solution is not as effective as the DNS-level firewall.

For this, you can use Sucuri as the best web application firewall for WordPress.

The best feature of Sucuri’s firewall is that it includes a malware cleanup and blacklist removal guarantee. Basically, if your website is hacked while they are monitoring it, they guarantee that they will fix it.

7. Install SSL Certificate

SSL is a data transfer protocol that encrypts data sent between a website and its visitors, making it difficult for hackers to steal sensitive information.

SSL certificates also improve a website’s search engine optimization (SEO), which helps it attract more visitors.

Websites with an SSL certificate will use HTTPS instead of HTTP, making them simple to identify.

Starting to use SSL for all of your WordPress websites is now easier than ever. Many hosting companies now provide a free SSL certificate for your WordPress website.

8. Change the Default “admin” Username

The default username in WordPress is admin, and many website owners never bother to change it.

As a result, when hackers start an attack against your website, the first username they will try is admin. If that name is known, all they have to do now is guess the password only.

As a result, you should avoid using that username for your WordPress site.

9. Limit Login Attempts

WordPress allows users to try an infinite number of times to log in to the site. However, this is a good sign for hackers to brute force their way into the system by trying multiple password combinations until they hit the correct one.

To avoid such attacks on the website, it’s critical to set a restriction on failed login attempts. Limiting failed attempts can also help in the detection of any suspicious activity on your website.

Most users just require a single try or a few failed tries; therefore, suspicious IP addresses that hit the attempt limit should be avoided.

Using a plugin is one method of limiting login attempts and thereby increasing WordPress security. You can use the Login lockDown WordPress plugin for this.

10. Disable File Editing

WordPress has a built-in code editor that lets you change your theme and plugin files directly from the WordPress admin area. This feature can be a security concern in the wrong hands, which is why we recommend turning it off.

You may do this by inserting the following code into your wp-config.php file. // Disallow file edit define( 'DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true );

11. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

The two-factor authentication method requires that users log in using a two-step authentication process.

The first step is to enter your username and password, and the second is to authenticate using a different device or app.

Most top online platforms, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter, let you activate it for your accounts. You can include the same feature in your WordPress site by using a free WordPress plugin such as Defender.

12. Change the Default WordPress Database Prefix

The WordPress database contains and keeps all of the information necessary for your website to function.

As a result, hackers commonly use SQL injection attacks to target the database. This method injects malware into the database, allowing attackers to bypass WordPress security and obtain database content.

SQL injection is used in about half of all cyberattacks, making it one of the most critical threats.

Hackers perform this hack because many users fail to change the default database prefix wp_. This is why we recommend changing it.

13. Disable Directory Indexing and Browsing

Hackers can use directory browsing to see whether you have any files with known vulnerabilities and then exploit these files to obtain access.

Directory browsing can also be used by the user to look at your files, copy images, find out your directory structure, and get some other information.

As a result, it is strongly advised that you disable directory indexing and browsing.

You must connect to your website through FTP or the file manager in cPanel. Then, in the root directory of your website, look for the .htaccess file.

Then, at the bottom of the .htaccess file, add the following line:

Options -Indexes

Don’t forget to Save and Upload the .htaccess file back to your site.

14. Disable XML-RPC

XML-RPC is enabled by default in WordPress 3.5 since it helps in the connection of your WordPress site with web and mobile applications.

Because of its powerful nature, XML-RPC may greatly increase brute-force attacks.

For example, if a hacker wanted to try 100 different passwords on your website, they would have to make 100 distinct login attempts, which the login lockdown plugin would catch and reject.

However, with XML-RPC, a hacker may use the system.multicall function to try thousands of different passwords with just 20 or 50 requests.

15. Log Idle Users Out Automatically

Many people forget to log out of the website, and their sessions continue to run.

As a result, someone else who uses the same device will be able to access their user accounts and maybe misuse personal information. This is especially for those people who use public computers in places like internet cafés or libraries.

Therefore, it’s critical to set up your WordPress website such that inactive users are immediately logged out.

Most banking websites use this strategy to prevent unwanted users from accessing their sites, ensuring that their client’s information is kept safe.

One of the simplest methods to automatically log out inactive user accounts is to use a WordPress security plugin like Inactive Logout. In addition to terminating inactive users, this plugin may send a custom message to notify idle users that their website session is about to expire.

16. Change the WordPress Login Page URL

To take a step further to secure your WordPress website from brute force attacks, consider changing the login page’s URL.

The default WordPress login URL for all websites is yourdomain.com/wp-admin. Hackers can easily target your login page if you use the default login URL.

Plugins like WPS Hide Login and Change wp-admin Login enable custom login URL settings.

17. Hide the WordPress Version

Hide your WordPress version brings up the topic of WordPress security through obscurity once more. The fewer individuals who know about your WordPress site’s setup, the better. If hackers see that you have an out-of-date WordPress installation, that might be a welcoming indication.

The WordPress version is shown in the header of your site’s source code by default. Again, we recommend keeping your WordPress installation up to date at all times so you don’t have to worry about it.

You can use the following code to remove the WordPress version. Simply add it to your WordPress theme’s functions.php file. function hide_wp_version() { return ''; } add_filter('the_generator', 'hide_wp_version');

18. Update to the Latest Version of PHP

Updating to the latest version of PHP is one of the most crucial things you can do to keep your WordPress website secure.

When an upgrade is ready, WordPress will tell you through your dashboard. It will then redirect you to your hosting account, where you may upgrade to the most recent PHP version.

If you don’t know how to upgrade your hosting account, contact your web developer.

19. Perform Regular Security Scans

If you use a WordPress security plugin, it will scan your site for malware and signals of security breaches on a regular basis.

However, if you see a massive decrease in website traffic or search rankings, you should manually perform a scan. You can use your WordPress security plugin or use some online tools like Sucuri SiteCheck or IsItWP Security Scanner for this.

Running these online scan tools is straightforward. Simply enter your website URLs, and their crawlers will go through your website looking for known viruses and harmful code.

Remember that most WordPress security scanners can only scan your site. They are unable to remove malware or clean up a hacked WordPress site.

20. Remove Unused WordPress Plugins and Themes

Having unused plugins and themes on your site might be dangerous, especially if they haven’t been updated.

Hackers can use outdated plugins and themes to get access to your site, increasing the risk of cyberattacks.

21. Use Secure WordPress Theme

Nulled WordPress themes are illegal copies of the original premium themes. Most of the time, these themes are sold at a lower price in order to attract users. However, they sometimes have several security issues.

Since nulled themes are released illegally, their users receive no help from the developer. This means if your site has any problems, you’ll have to find out how to solve them and secure your WordPress website yourself.

To avoid becoming a hacker target, we suggest using a WordPress theme from the official repository or from a reputable developer. Alternatively, you may look for third-party themes on official theme marketplaces like ThemeForest, which has hundreds of premium WordPress themes.

Final Thought on WordPress Security

WordPress is a popular and robust content management system that makes it simple for anybody to create a website. However, because it is widely used, it has become a popular target for hackers.

Fortunately, there are several WordPress security tips and best practices that you can use to secure your WordPress site. However, keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything listed above. If you follow the basic best practices, you’ll be far ahead of the competition.

After that, do what you can and feel capable of doing. Security is an ongoing effort, not a one-time event. You can always do more, but getting started is the essential thing.

That’s all; we hope our post helped you learn the best WordPress security tips to secure your WordPress website.

For more, check out these other helpful resources:

Lastly, if you like this article, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is WordPress Secure?

WordPress is secure if you take website security seriously and follow best security practices. Best practices include using good plugins and themes, using security plugins to monitor your site, and updating regularly.

Does WordPress Need a Firewall?

Setting up a website firewall is essential because it protects your WordPress site from hacking attempts or other types of cyberattacks by blocking unauthorized traffic. While WordPress lacks a built-in website firewall, you can install one by downloading a plugin like Sucuri.

Is WordPress Easily Hacked?

WordPress, as a platform, is secure and safe to use. WordPress security involves not only technology but also human factors. No matter how secure the platform is, your site might be easily hacked if other security measures are not taken.

Is Security Plugin Necessary for WordPress?

Yes, using a security plugin like Sucuri can help protect your site in the long run. Remember to only install the necessary ones, as having too many plugins can break your site.

How Can I Protect My WordPress Site Without Using Plugins?

Start by using a secure web host. Then, configure your site for greater WordPress security by managing file permissions, disabling PHP error reporting and XML-RPC, restricting access to wp-config.php, and blocking hotlinking from other websites.

What Is the Best WordPress Security Plugin?

We recommend Sucuri or Wordfence as the best WordPress security plugins. Both offer malware protection, a WordPress scanner, a web application firewall, and traffic monitoring. However, Sucuri is a great option if you run an online store, but Wordfence is a great option if you want a free plugin.

Check out our hand-picked list of the best WordPress security plugins.