WordPress is a powerhouse content management system with over 24% of websites globally using the platform, making it a massive target for hackers and malicious malware. Word Press is open-source, which also means its code is visible to anyone. This makes the platform prone to hackers who want to infect websites, insert malicious code and take control of them. You need to understand first who, why, and how they are attacking your WordPress site before you choose an adequate WordPress security solution.
In this article will give you the insight to keep your WordPress site safe and secure from threats. I am also going to provide you with the security vocabulary to help you communicate with system admins and security experts.
With WordPress, hackers continuously try to find security holes through software used to run each website. This way, they can corrupt as many sites as possible using automated attacks. Most hackers look for what is called “zero-day” security holes in WordPress. A Zero-Day vulnerability refers to the days when a vendor tries to find out what a threat is before taking any action.
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Who wants to attack your WordPress site?
Generally, attackers who prey on your WordPress site consist of any of the following:
- Humans – This refers to the individuals sending attacks to targeted websites.
- A single bot – This is an automated bot program used by the hacker to execute malicious attacks on a large scale.
- A Botnet – When a group of machines running programs coordinate from a central server, sending attacks automatically, which is referred to as a botnet.
Hackers have changed their tactics, and they rarely attack websites manually. Contrary to everyone’s thinking, general websites are not that special for anyone to attack them manually. However, the level of sophistication in a human attack is far greater than attacks from single bot or botnet. With human attacks, one can control and speed up the infection process without being detected.
Human attackers can often fly under the radar and cause more significant damage than bots without raising any substantial alarm to the website’s owner. Usually, human attackers target important sites with sensitive information or those that are financially lucrative to invade.
Bots and botnets
Professional hackers write bots programs that target websites with vulnerabilities. Hackers prefer bots because they can quickly spread infections to many sites. This helps them save time instead of visiting every website looking for security holes to hack into during WordPress maintenance. Individual programs that run a single machine are called bots while botnet is a network of bots with multiple versions trying to hack numerous sites.
Most WordPress attacks are carried out by robots which are more aggressive and less sophisticated than human attacks, making them easy to detect. Unfortunately, the bots pry on zero-day vulnerabilities to spread their infection to other WordPress websites.
Why attack WordPress sites?
A hacker’s goal is to gain access to your WordPress site at the administrative level to read files and data in your website’s database. They can also manipulate the database and modify files to their convenience. They want access so that they can:
- Send spam–Hackers want to gain access to your website so that they can send spam emails from your site to target addresses.
- Avoid Filters by Hosting Malicious Content–Many of these hackers use corrupted WordPress sites to host explicit content, spam, or illegal drug sales. Hosting this malicious content on a reputable website allows hackers to avoid spam and online filters.
- Steal your Website Data–Hackers access your data so that that they can harvest it. This includes your client’s email addresses, names, and other private information. By stealing this sensitive information, hackers create new targets to spread their malicious content and spam. They can also use it for identity theft in committing cybercrimes.
- Spam & Ad fraud–This term refers to using infected websites to redirect traffic to other targeted websites, spreading malicious content to other unsuspecting websites. Using your WordPress website address as bait is beneficial to them since they can avoid spam filters. This will result in redirects to their malicious site when they click on your link. It can also include various types of ad fraud, and you can end up losing your ad network accounts.
How do they attack WordPress sites?
Hackers usually use two strategic stages to launch an attack on any website.
- The first stage, called reconnaissance, is where the human or bot attacker gathers information on that target website.
- The second stage of the attack is called exploitation, where information gathered is used to try to access your website. During Reconnaissance or ‘recon,’ the attacker learns useful information about a particular website they plan to invade. They use this information to find existing vulnerabilities which can be used to exploit the site. There are two important things they want to find out: the software type and its version. Older versions are more easily manipulated than newer versions of WordPress. Gathering the list of themes and plugins used helps them determine what kind of vulnerabilities to expect.
The act of getting into your website is called exploitation. There are many database vulnerabilities and technical details listed online, making it easy to exploit a site. Attackers use several entry points during exploitation. These are:
- Your login page– One entry point that hackers commonly target is your WordPress login page. They can do this through a brute force attack, using bots that repeatedly try to guess your password.
- PHP code on your site– This is another entry point that is commonly used by hackers. Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in your website’s PHP code. These include WordPress core, themes, plugins, and other running apps.
- Old, outdated web applications–As much as you trying to keep your website safe, there are other venues attackers seek to exploit. If you are using old, outdated, unmaintained apps, attackers will take advantage of this due to their vulnerabilities.
How to protect your WordPress website
One of the best ways to protect your WordPress website is to do frequent updates. It is also advisable to be up to date with new vulnerabilities that occur every day. Here are a few safety precautions that will help you.
- Use different and strong passwords in each user accounts.
- Choose a reliable hosting provider that observe a high standard of security, especially on shared servers.
- Always update your themes, WordPress core, and plugins.
- Get rid of all old, unmaintained web applications such as old backups since they are vulnerable.
- Remove sensitive files and data hosted on your website.
- Consider hiring a reliable WordPress maintenance service provider who can help you assess risk and improve security.
As a publisher, your website is a critical part of your business. Any hacks can cause serious damages to your business, brand, ad revenues, and ad network accounts!
Be sure to take all possible precautions to ensure that your data and files are protected. Attacks are carried out every day, and they keep on changing. By taking precautions and using the latest security plugins and firewalls, you will be protecting all your investments.
Also, don’t forget about ad fraud and invalid traffic. Invalid traffic and bot traffic sent to your site can result in you losing your ad network accounts. Once you’ve lost your ad network accounts, most of the time, there’s no getting them back. Protect your ad network accounts and ad revenues by signing up to Traffic Cop today!
Naman Modi is a Professional Blogger, SEO Expert & Guest blogger at NamanModi.com, He is an Award-Winning Freelancer & Web Entrepreneur helping new entrepreneurs launch their first successful online business.