This is a guest post written by Ankit Pahuja, Marketing Lead & Evangelist at Astra Security.
After reading the millions of articles and news pieces on WordPress sites getting hacked, the most natural question is – why always WordPress? As easy as it’s to get yourself up and running on the CMS platform, it’s equally easy to go down as yet another hacking statistic. While all websites are victims to hacking attempts at some point or another, it seems like WordPress captures all the press.
The first reason is simple – the popularity of WordPress. Like you, millions of other site owners equally believe that WordPress is a great platform to get started without too much technical knowledge. This fame has brought about 40% of all websites globally onto this platform for their purposes. Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a double-edged sword as hackers take advantage of this popularity for their own manipulative reasons.
Reasons Hackers Pick on WordPress Sites
Let’s go in deep and check out some of the other reasons why the hacking statistics of WordPress sites keep going up:
1. Weak credentials
This remains one of the most popular reasons – and methods – for hackers who target WordPress sites. It’s one of the pillars of WordPress security and, if set right, works as the first barrier against hacking attempts.
A strong and unique password can make all the difference, along with ensuring that your co-users and/or other admin accounts keep to the same regulations. Passwords are also the key to your site’s admin panel, and if the hacker gains control of this, there’s no limit to the trouble they can unleash.
Here are a couple of passwords that you need to keep an eye out for –
- the WordPress admin account;
- hosting server control panel;
- FTP account;
- MySQL database password, and
- any email accounts used in connection with your WordPress site.
Implement instructions such as using symbols, letters, capital letters, etc. and keep yourself safe from basic hacking methods. By leaving your credentials weak, you’re risking brute force attacks and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, where automated bots try multiple username-password combinations in an attempt to gain access to the site. Without a web application firewall (WAF), you wouldn’t be able to detect and stop such attacks in time, leading to a compromised site.
2. Issues in Web Hosting
You are familiar with the web server that hosts your WordPress site. However, you may not be entirely familiar with the lack of secure hosting on your chosen hosting platform. This makes you particularly vulnerable, so extra efforts need to be taken to make sure that you’re using the safest option available.
By choosing the best and safest option for a WordPress hosting platform, you make sure that they’re able to defend against most hacking attempts. For that extra step of security, you can also use a managed WordPress hosting provider that looks into all the unique aspects of safely hosting a WordPress site.
3. Vulnerable themes and plugins
This is one of the most frequently exploited vulnerabilities of your WordPress site. Listing plugins on WordPress are unfortunately easy, with a very basic level of security screening as parameters of listing. Faulty code, lack of updates, and placing of hidden malware by hackers can make these plugins and themes dangerous for your site’s security.
The vulnerabilities in outdated software and plugins allow hackers to place backdoors that simplify their entry and exit on your WordPress site. Hackers use the assistance of free scanning tools and malicious scripts to detect sites that are vulnerable in this manner. It’s a mass identification program that eventually turns your site into a weapon for attacking other sites and servers.
Therefore, what you need to do before taking up themes, plugins, or other extensions is to verify their trustworthiness, check the third-party source, the frequency of updates, the activity of concerned developers, and others’ reviews.
4. Unaware WordPress site owners
A lot of site owners on WordPress are only concerned about their content, the audience, and their relatability. Unfortunately, many are not aware of the importance of maintaining security or simply don’t care for the extra time and resources such activity takes. Others wrongfully assume that one needs an advanced coding or technical background to keep on top of such matters.
For example, despite the fact that authentication methods like two-factor authentication takes just minutes to implement, many sites lack this double protection. Very few sites utilize the feature of recording the activity of the site and monitoring suspicious IP addresses or unsuccessful login attempts.
Always remember, the core of WordPress security is a simple set of steps that can – and should – be done by anyone.
5. Infrequent updates
Yet another pillar of WordPress security, frequently updating your WordPress sites, plugins, and themes also ensures that you’ve secured any security patches or loopholes. There’s an unexplained fear among site owners that updating may break the site or the plugin. However, not updating and leaving yourself open to security vulnerabilities is a more surefire way of being hacked.
If you’re still concerned, just run a full backup of your site before updating. This will make sure that you don’t lose anything and all coding flaws, misconfigurations, and other security risks are resolved. Make sure to also remove plugins and themes that are no longer used by your sites, or ones that are nulled and no longer updated by its developers.
6. The number of vulnerable WordPress sites
As was mentioned, because of the lack of important steps that need to be taken to ensure security, WordPress sites are left with both visible and hidden vulnerabilities, making them easy targets for hackers. They require the least effort and also allow hackers to utilize multiple sites at once to launch attacks, something that can’t be easily detected.
These are some of the reasons why WordPress sites are frequently preferred – and attacked – by hackers. If you’ve identified that your website is suffering an ongoing attack, read WordPress malware removal guide for step by step malware removal. If you’ve gone through the list but want to find out more ways of increasing security, or if you’ve been hacked and require expertise and high skill levels, do let us know in the comments!
Ankit Pahuja is the Marketing Lead & Evangelist at Astra Security. Ever since his adulthood (literally, he was 20 years old), he began finding vulnerabilities in websites & network infrastructures. Starting his professional career as a software engineer at one of the unicorns enables him in bringing “engineering in marketing” to reality. Ankit is also an avid speaker in the security space and has delivered various talks in top companies, early-age startups, and online events.