If you wish to create your own website, you have probably heard of WordPress. Since its release in 2003, WordPress is arguably one of the world’s most highly recommended content management systems (CMS). WordPress is so popular that it has garnered millions of fans and powers over 42.9% of websites worldwide. With that much coverage of the internet, you have probably visited one or two websites powered by WordPress.
WordPress is the ideal platform for building any website, from small personal blogs to big corporate websites. These large corporations include Time Inc., NBC, the New York Post, and Sony. On top of that, WordPress’ core software is free, accessible to any user, and has many customization options. However, despite how popular and almost all-encompassing the software is as a website platform, it certainly has its faults.
With popularity comes attention from all types of users on the internet, primarily cyber criminals and hackers. As with any software in existence, there will always be one or two bugs that slip through the cracks. Sometimes these bugs create vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can use to exploit a website.
This article will cover the common vulnerabilities that hackers habitually exploit in WordPress and how to secure them. That way, site owners can proactively prepare for such vulnerabilities before these cyber criminals can severely damage their sites.
What is WordPress?
In the early days, website creation and development entailed the website owner having coding knowledge and experience. The other alternative was to hire a programmer or web developer to do the coding for them. However, programmers and web developers can be quite expensive depending on the website’s design and functions.
Hiring a web developer can cost $15-$30 per hour on average, which is not ideal for users on tight budgets. That is why website owners at the time usually consisted of experienced programmers, corporations, and wealthy small business owners.
WordPress was a game changer for the future of website creation and development because of the accessibility it provided. WordPress is a free, downloadable, and open-source software that enables even non-technical users to create their own websites. With WordPress, you do not need firsthand experience with coding, and you can launch your site almost immediately.
WordPress also boasts a plethora of plugins and customization options. It is arguably the most flexible and straightforward content management system and website creation platform.
The platform also supports all hosting platforms with My SQL and Php. Additionally, the content management system continually updates with new versions that improve overall performance, new features, and security.
Another part of WordPress that makes it great is its active and helpful online community, including discussions and forums. These communities contain a ton of information on tutorials on almost any topic concerning your website or blog’s development. That makes WordPress even easier to use as a website-building platform.
There are two main websites on the web that represent WordPress. These websites are WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Users often confuse one with the other, but there are significant differences that separate the two websites.
The Differences Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com
WordPress.org is the website where you can download the WordPress core software for free. However, you must manually organize all Webhosting and installations yourself after downloading.
On the other hand, WordPress.com is a paid service version of the WordPress core software. This version is the more user-friendly version of the two because it comprehensively handles installation and hosting for you.
After installing the WordPress platform from WordPress.org, you have complete flexibility and control over almost everything on your website. You can even utilize a WordPress development tool for non-devs to speed up the deployment process.
These can range from the themes you wish to install to the exhaustive plugin list and customization options. That is also why very few content management systems come close to matching the flexibility and scalability of WordPress.
Conversely, when you install WordPress from WordPress.com, you still have many great options; however, they can feel limited for some. That would ultimately depend on the kind of price plan you choose. You will need an expensive business plan if you want to install external plugins and have access to all SEO options.
While it seems counterintuitive to pay for a plan with limited options, some would argue that fewer choices are good. That is because having fewer options, in this case, means that you will have an easier product to utilize. This reasoning is similar to why some people prefer Apple products over Windows or Android products.
There are three main advantages to choosing the WordPress.com version of the platform. The first advantage is that it provides fast and easy installation, hosting, and setup. That way, you can launch a small website with a few clicks.
The second advantage is the ease of website security and maintenance. Protecting and maintaining your website can take up a lot of time that could have been used to create more content. The WordPress.com version handles security and maintenance for your website almost entirely automatically. That way, you have more time to focus on more critical tasks to enhance your website.
The third and last advantage is access to email and live support. For the most part, people who use the WordPress.com version lack technical experience. Access to email and live support makes it easier and faster to resolve website problems without needing outside help.
From a price comparison, it can be a little tricky to decipher. While the WordPress.org version is free, that still does not cover other parts of a website that require payment. These include web hosting, domain name, premium themes, plugins, cybersecurity, and the fees you need to hire a developer. The typical prices for these other website essentials are as follows:
- Webhosting starts at $2.95 monthly
- Domain name starts at $12 yearly
- Themes are typically free but can rack up to $200 in a one-off charge
- Plugins can also be free but can go as high as $1000 from ongoing or one-off charges
- Cybersecurity starts at $50 and can be a one-off or ongoing charge
- Developer fees can go up to $1000 depending on the overall complexity of your website
The WordPress.com version has more streamlined options that take the form of plans. The available paid plans include the following:
- Personal – The personal plan costs $5 per month and lets you choose a domain name.
- Premium – The premium plan costs $8 per month and provides access to paid premium themes.
- Business – The business plan has a giant price spike compared to the previous two plans, with a whopping $25 monthly fee. However, the plan includes live support and access to all plugins.
- Ecommerce – The ecommerce plan is the most expensive, almost double the price of the business plan at $45 monthly. This plan is ideal for users looking to create their own online store.
With the WordPress.org version, you will need to invest more time in setting up everything on your website. The massive advantage behind that is it can be cheaper than the WordPress.com version. However, it may not make sense price-wise if you will end up hiring a developer due to the missing support.
WordPress.com has the advantage of having more predictable fees to pay since it is all laid out on its website. Additionally, the personal or premium plans should be more than enough to power smaller websites.
3 Common Causes of WordPress Vulnerabilities
Now that you understand how WordPress works, you probably already have an idea of how you want to build your website. However, once you have set up a website you are happy with, you will need to know how to protect it.
The only way to ensure a website has absolute security is by taking away the whole point of creating one. That would involve the following steps:
- Putting it on its own server.
- Deleting all copies of it.
- Unplugging the server from the internet.
- Unplugging the server from its power source.
- Storing the server in a locked cabinet where only you have the key.
In other words, a website is never 100% secure from vulnerabilities. Websites will always be vulnerable at some point, and there will always be cyber security threats. However, there are steps website owners can take to keep their sites as secure as possible.
A common question people ask is if WordPress is secure. What people need to understand is that WordPress, at its core, is software. Like every other software ever developed, sometimes it will have bugs that get released.
Some of these bugs can potentially expose new security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. However, bugs like that do not only occur in WordPress. Hundreds of programs come into play every time a user serves even a single web page. A single vulnerability in any of those programs could be precisely what a cybercriminal needs to exploit a site.
WordPress is a top-rated tool for creating and developing websites. Because of its popularity, it is also an extremely popular target for cyber attacks. That does not mean WordPress is a dangerous platform to set up your website. Every other online platform can and will experience cyber attacks at one point or another in some way or form.
Luckily, WordPress also has a healthy and active community that investigates these security threats and creates solutions for them. Here are the top 3 most common vulnerabilities and security threats on WordPress and how to mitigate them.
1. Outdated Core Software
A common issue with websites is the fact that there is an overwhelming number of moving parts behind the scenes. These are not limited to only programs but libraries, which can provide an opening for cybercriminals.
That is why large websites employ entire teams of system administrators or SysAdmins. SysAdmins are responsible for ensuring that everything on a website is patched and running on all the necessary servers.
The outdated core software problem usually occurs with small websites that cannot afford even one full-time system administrator. Luckily, there are two simple solutions to this problem.
The first solution is to schedule routine checks for WordPress core updates and patch them yourself. The second solution is installing a WordPress management software or plugin to patch the updates for you automatically.
2. Outdated Plugins and Themes
As mentioned, every piece of software will get a bug or two. WordPress and its themes and plugins are not exempt from this rule. The usual issue is most users do not know about these bugs until an update or patch is released to fix them.
When software developers detect these bugs, they immediately generate a patch for them and release an update. By that point, the solution to the problem is simply to click the update button.
As the owner of the website, it is your responsibility to install the necessary automatic updating plugins or software. It is ideal to regularly check for updates manually for plugins and themes that do not have an automatic update feature.
Additionally, it does not hurt to set a regular schedule to check for updates on both auto and manual update-type plugins and themes. That way, you cover all bases in case of bugs within the automatic updating software or plugin.
Malware refers to any malicious software that a cybercriminal can strategically place and activate at any time on your site. Inserting malware can be as simple as writing a properly formed comment or as complex as an uploaded executable file. Regardless of how the malware gets into your site, once it is in, it can be a nightmare to have.
In the best-case scenario, it will not cause any severe problems for your website. However, it will display annoying things like ads for other products to your visitors. That is relatively easy to remove and clean up.
The worst-case scenario is when someone inserts something that enables them to run programs on your server. These programs can generate accounts on the WordPress site or, in worse cases, create user accounts in the underlying operating system.
That scenario is significantly more challenging to clean up and may even involve restoring a website from a clean backup. Additionally, you may need to figure out how the hacker did it and how to patch it. Even if you manage all that, you can only hope you cleaned all of it thoroughly.
The ideal solution for this problem is to invest in malware-cleaning services. These services help users by scanning their sites regularly for known malware. When they detect malware, they identify it and either proactively take action or provide the next course of action recommendations.
Protect Your Website Proactively From Cyber Criminals
It is already well-established that, due to its popularity, WordPress is a prime target for cybercriminals to hunt for vulnerabilities. Do yourself a favor and ensure you do not become another cybercrime statistic.
The first line of defense for WordPress websites is always to take a proactive stance when dealing with vulnerabilities. While most website owners only think about cyber security after their launch, it should always be part of the planning process. Before you even think about launching your website, you must already have all possible security measures.