In this blog post, we will go over WordPress security and share seven ways to protect your WordPress site from hackers, comment spammers and malware. These tips are for people who have never had a website before, as well as seasoned veterans in the field of web development. We’ve also noted the skill level required to execute each tip.
What is a “hack?”
A “hacked” website is one that has been compromised by an unauthorized user (a hacker) in some way. WordPress sites can be hacked in many different ways, but the most common type of compromise is when an unauthorized user gains access to your WordPress control panel and installs malware or spammy links on your pages.
When this happens, it’s almost impossible for you to remove these bad things from your website unless you have experience with WordPress development.
What is comment spam?
Comment spam is an unsolicited message sent to WordPress websites. Spammers often comment on WordPress blogs and articles with links back to their website in hopes of driving traffic, earning money from pay-per-click ads or building some cheap link popularity.
Comment spam is dangerous because it can clog up your website’s comment threads, making it difficult for people to have genuine discussions on your blog. It can also lead to malware infections if a spammy link is clicked on by accident.
Perhaps more worrisome, comment spam can lower your website’s authority ranking, as search engines, such as Google, will demote blog posts that contain spammy comments.
What is malware?
Malware (short for malicious software) refers to any type of malware that you don’t want on your computer such as viruses, key-loggers, trojan horses… the list goes on and on. WordPress sites can get infected by malware almost exactly like a personal computer can – usually through an unpatched security vulnerability.
Viruses are a form of malware that can spread to other WordPress sites, much like how the flu virus spreads from one person to another.
Key-loggers are a type of malware that records the keys you press on your keyboard, allowing someone to steal your usernames and passwords.
Trojan horses are a type of malware that disguise themselves as something else (usually a useful program) in order to trick you into installing them on your computer.
Here are seven WordPress security tips you should follow immediately:
Tip #1: Keep WordPress and your plugins up to date (Intermediate Skill)
One of the best ways to protect your WordPress site from potential hackers is by keeping WordPress and your plugins up to date. Hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in WordPress so they can exploit them, but if you keep everything updated then you’re one step ahead of them. In addition, make sure you only use trusted plugins from reputable developers. There have been cases where hackers have taken over legitimate plugins and used them to inject malware into people’s websites.
Tip #2: Use a strong password (Beginner Skill)
Another simple way to help protect your website is by using a strong password. This means using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols, and making it something that isn’t easily guessed. WordPress has a built-in way to help generate secure passwords, so make sure you take advantage of it!
Tip #3: Use Two-Factor Authentication (Intermediate Skill)
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security for your WordPress website. This means that when you log in, not only will WordPress ask for your password but they’ll also require something else before logging you in. For example, this could be by entering the code sent to your phone via SMS or email after typing in your username and password. It’s incredibly easy to set up two-factor authentication on WordPress sites today, so don’t hesitate to do so if possible!
Tip #4: Securing wp-config file with enhanced security (Advanced Skill)
The wp-config.php file contains important information about your WordPress site, such as your database name, username and password. By default, this file is located in the root folder of your WordPress installation. However, you can move it to a different location and protect it with an .htaccess file. This will make it harder for hackers to access, and is definitely something you should consider if you’re running a WordPress site.
Tip #5: Use SSL/HTTPS (Advanced Skill)
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security) is a protocol that helps secure communications between a web server and a browser. When enabled, it will encrypt all data sent between the two parties so that no one can eavesdrop on the conversation. This is especially important when transmitting sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. WordPress offers a free SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt, so there’s no reason not to use it!
Tip #6: Use a Firewall (Advanced Skill)
A firewall helps protect your WordPress site from unwanted traffic and attacks. It essentially acts as a shield between your website and the Internet, blocking any malicious packets before they can reach your server. There are many different firewalls available, both free and paid. If you’re running a WordPress site, I would highly recommend using one!
Tip #7: Back up your WordPress site regularly (Intermediate Skill)
Last but not least, back up your WordPress site regularly! This is probably the most important tip on this list, because when disaster inevitably strikes your WordPress site again if you have a backup then it’s really easy to restore. The easiest way is by backing up your database and files separately so that in the event of something bad happening you only need to restore one or the other depending on what went wrong.
To summarize, here are seven ways to help protect your WordPress site from hackers, spammers and malware:
- Keep WordPress and plugins up to date
- Use a strong password
- Use two-factor authentication (or multi-factor)
- Protect the wp-config.php file
- Enable SSL/HTTPS
- Use a firewall
- Back up your WordPress site regularly
How to know if your WordPress website is infected with malware
If you’re not sure whether your WordPress website has been infected with malware, there are a few telltale signs to look out for. One of the most common is if your site is suddenly slow or unresponsive. This could be because the malware is using all of your server’s resources, preventing your pages from loading properly.
Curious? You can check your website for malware using a variety of free tools. Just enter your web address (domain name) and you’ll receive a report.
Another sign of infection is if that you see strange ads or links on your website that you didn’t put there yourself. Finally, if you receive emails from WordPress about failed login attempts but you haven’t been trying to log in, then it’s likely that someone else is trying to hack into your site.
Think your WordPress website may be infected with malware? Reach out to your web host, developer or contact DecemberPress for a free consultation.