9 Tips For Wordpress Security

9 Tips For Wordpress Security

WordPress security refers to the measures and practices implemented to protect a WordPress website from potential threats, vulnerabilities, and attacks. As the most popular Content Management System (CMS) globally, WordPress sites are often targeted by hackers due to their widespread use. 

To ensure the safety of your website and its visitors, it's essential to take comprehensive security precautions. Here's an explanation of the key aspects of WordPress security:

1. Keep WordPress Updated

Keeping WordPress updated is one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a secure website. This means regularly updating the core WordPress software, themes, and plugins to the latest versions provided by their developers. Here's an expanded explanation of why this is so important:

Security Patches

WordPress is an open-source platform, which means its source code is accessible to everyone. While this promotes innovation and collaboration, it also means that potential vulnerabilities are visible to malicious actors. 

The WordPress development team is actively working to identify and address security issues. When they discover a vulnerability, they release updates with security patches to fix the problem. By keeping WordPress updated, you ensure that your website is protected against known vulnerabilities.

Bug Fixes and Enhancements

Apart from security patches, WordPress updates often include bug fixes and enhancements. Bugs can sometimes lead to unintended behaviors or issues on your website, affecting its functionality and user experience. 

Updates also bring new features and improvements that can enhance the performance and usability of your site. By staying up to date, you can take advantage of the latest improvements and provide a better experience for your visitors.

Plugin and Theme Compatibility

As WordPress evolves, plugins and themes need to adapt to the changes to remain compatible. If you don't update WordPress regularly, you might encounter compatibility issues with outdated themes and plugins, leading to broken features or even site crashes. Regular updates ensure that all components of your website work harmoniously and securely.

Protection Against Exploits

Hackers often exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated versions of WordPress, themes, and plugins. If you fail to update, your site becomes an easy target for malicious attacks, such as hacking attempts, malware injection, or data breaches. Keeping everything up to date reduces the risk of falling victim to these attacks.

Maintaining Performance

In addition to security concerns, outdated versions of WordPress and associated software might be less optimized and efficient. This can lead to slower page loading times and reduced website performance. Upgrading to newer versions can bring performance improvements that benefit both your visitors and search engine rankings.

Automatic Updates (When Applicable)

WordPress introduced automatic updates for minor releases (such as security and maintenance updates) by default, starting from version 3.7. This means your site can automatically apply minor updates without manual intervention. While major updates are not automatically applied, you can enable automatic updates for major versions if you're confident in your website's compatibility and want to ensure maximum security.

Remember to always take a backup of your website before performing updates, especially for major updates or updates to critical components. This way, if anything unexpected happens during the update process, you can easily revert to a working version of your site. Overall, maintaining an updated WordPress website is crucial for ensuring its security, performance, and longevity.

2. Update Themes and Plugins

Updating themes and plugins is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a secure and well-functioning WordPress website. Themes control the visual appearance and layout of your site, while plugins add specific functionalities. Here's an expanded explanation of why updating themes and plugins is so important:

Security Vulnerabilities

Like the core WordPress software, themes, and plugins are also developed by third-party developers, and they might contain security vulnerabilities. Hackers actively search for such vulnerabilities to exploit websites. 

When developers discover these vulnerabilities, they release updates with security patches to fix them. By updating your themes and plugins promptly, you ensure that your site is protected against known vulnerabilities and reduce the risk of security breaches.

Compatibility with WordPress

WordPress is continuously evolving, with new features and improvements introduced in each major release. Themes and plugins need to stay compatible with these changes to ensure seamless integration and proper functioning. 

If you use outdated themes or plugins, they might not work correctly with the latest version of WordPress, leading to visual glitches, broken features, or even website crashes. Regular updates help ensure that your site remains compatible and functions smoothly with the most recent version of WordPress.

Bug Fixes and Enhancements

Updates to themes and plugins often include bug fixes that address issues reported by users or discovered during development. Bugs can cause various problems on your site, impacting its performance and user experience. Additionally, updates may bring new features, improvements, or optimizations that enhance the functionality and performance of your website.

Improved Performance

Themes and plugins might receive updates that optimize code, reduce loading times, and enhance overall performance. Faster loading pages result in better user experiences and can positively impact your site's search engine rankings.

New Features and Functionality

Updates can introduce new features and functionalities to your themes and plugins. By keeping them up to date, you can take advantage of the latest capabilities and offer your visitors an improved experience. This can be especially important for maintaining a competitive edge if your site relies on specific functionalities.

Staying Supported

Developers of themes and plugins may stop supporting older versions over time. They may focus their efforts on maintaining compatibility and support for the latest releases. If you're using outdated versions, you may miss out on critical support, including bug fixes and assistance from the developers in case of issues.

Security for Users

If your website involves user accounts or sensitive data, updating themes and plugins is crucial for protecting your users' information. A security breach caused by outdated software could lead to compromised user data and damage to your website's reputation.

To ensure a smooth updating process, follow these best practices:

  • Backup: Always back up your website before performing updates. This allows you to revert to a previous version if something goes wrong during the update process.
  • Test Updates in Staging: If your website is complex or heavily customized, consider setting up a staging environment where you can test updates before applying them to your live site. This helps identify any compatibility issues or conflicts with other components.
  • Check Compatibility: Before updating, check the compatibility of themes and plugins with the latest version of WordPress. Visit the developer's website or support forums for any potential issues.
  • Update One at a Time: To minimize risks, update themes and plugins one at a time rather than all at once. This way, if a problem arises, it's easier to identify the source.

By regularly updating your themes and plugins, you ensure that your WordPress website remains secure, stable, and equipped with the latest features to provide an optimal user experience.

3. Limit Login Attempts

Limiting login attempts is an effective security measure to protect your WordPress website from brute-force attacks. Brute-force attacks are a common hacking technique where attackers try multiple combinations of usernames and passwords to gain unauthorized access to a site. 

By limiting login attempts, you can significantly reduce the chances of such attacks being successful. Here's an expanded explanation of how this security measure works and why it is essential:

Brute-Force Attack Protection

In a brute-force attack, hackers use automated scripts or bots to repeatedly try different username and password combinations until they find the correct one. By limiting the number of login attempts, you prevent attackers from making an unlimited number of guesses within a short period. This makes it much more challenging for them to crack the login credentials.

Enhancing Security

Many users tend to use weak or easily guessable passwords. Limiting login attempts adds an extra layer of security and encourages users to choose strong, complex passwords. It also discourages the use of common passwords that are more susceptible to brute-force attacks.

Preserving Server Resources

Brute-force attacks can put a strain on your server's resources. When an attacker bombards your site with login attempts, it can cause a high server load and slow down your website for legitimate users. By limiting login attempts, you reduce the impact of such attacks on your server.

User Account Protection

For websites with user accounts, limiting login attempts helps protect user accounts from being compromised. Even if an attacker targets a specific user account, the limited login attempts make it significantly more difficult for them to gain unauthorized access.

IP Blocking

Some security plugins that offer login attempt limiting also provide IP blocking functionality. After a certain number of failed attempts from a specific IP address, the plugin can automatically block that IP, further thwarting the attacker's efforts.

Reducing Log Clutter

Brute-force attacks can generate a large number of failed login attempts, filling up your server logs with unnecessary entries. Limiting login attempts helps keep your logs cleaner and makes it easier to identify genuine security threats.

When implementing login attempt limiting, consider the following best practices:

  • Choose the Right Plugin: There are several security plugins available for WordPress that offer login attempt limiting features. Research and select a reputable and frequently updated plugin with positive reviews.
  • Set a Reasonable Limit: Set the login attempt limit to a reasonable number. Too few attempts might inconvenience legitimate users, while too many attempts could still allow brute-force attacks to be successful. A common value is 3-5 attempts before temporary blocking.
  • Notify Users: Inform users about the login attempt limit and provide guidance on creating strong passwords. Educating users about security best practices is essential for overall site security.
  • Combine with Other Security Measures: Limiting login attempts is just one part of a comprehensive security strategy. Implement other security measures, such as two-factor authentication, regular updates, and using SSL certificates, to bolster your site's protection.

By incorporating login attempt limiting into your WordPress security measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of successful brute-force attacks and enhance the overall security of your website and user accounts.

4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is an essential security measure that adds an extra layer of protection to your WordPress website. It requires users to provide two forms of identification before they can log in successfully. This significantly enhances the security of user accounts and the overall website. Here's an expanded explanation of how 2FA works and why it is crucial for WordPress security:

Authentication Factors

2FA combines two different authentication factors to verify a user's identity. These factors typically fall into three categories:

  • Knowledge Factor: Something the user knows, such as a password.
  • Possession Factor: Something the user possesses, such as a smartphone or a hardware token.
  • Inherence Factor: Something inherent to the user, such as a fingerprint or facial recognition.

Reducing Password Vulnerabilities

Passwords alone can be vulnerable to various attacks, such as brute force attacks, dictionary attacks, and phishing attempts. By adding an additional factor like a one-time code generated by a smartphone app or a hardware token, the security of user accounts is significantly increased. Even if an attacker manages to obtain a user's password, they would still need the second factor to gain access.

Protecting Against Credential Stuffing

Many users reuse passwords across different websites. When one website is breached, attackers may attempt to use the same credentials on other platforms. 2FA mitigates this risk because even if the password is known, the second factor is unique to each website or service.

Enhancing User Account Security

For websites with user accounts, enabling 2FA helps protect user data and sensitive information. It assures users that their accounts are well-secured, which fosters trust in your website.

Compatibility and Convenience

There are various 2FA methods available, ranging from time-based one-time passwords (TOTPs) generated by apps like Google Authenticator or Authy, to SMS-based codes, hardware tokens, and biometric authentication. This variety allows users to choose the most convenient method for their needs.

Administrator Security

Enabling 2FA for administrator accounts is especially critical. As administrators have elevated privileges on the website, securing their accounts becomes a top priority. This prevents unauthorized access to critical settings and content.

Plugin Support

WordPress has a wide range of 2FA plugins available, making it easy to implement this security feature on your website. Some popular 2FA plugins include "Two Factor Authentication," "Google Authenticator," and "Duo Two-Factor Authentication."

User-Friendly Setup

The setup process for 2FA is typically user-friendly and straightforward. Once enabled, users will need to follow a one-time setup to link their account with the chosen authentication method. After that, they will be prompted to enter the second factor during the login process.

Additional Security Layers

2FA complements other security measures, such as strong password policies, SSL encryption, and regular updates. Implementing multiple layers of security significantly reduces the risk of successful attacks.

Security for Remote Access

For users who log in from various locations or use public networks, 2FA adds an extra level of security, making it more challenging for attackers to intercept login credentials.

In conclusion, enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is an effective way to bolster the security of your WordPress website and user accounts. By requiring users to provide an additional form of authentication beyond passwords, you create a stronger defense against various cyber threats, ensuring the safety of your website and its users.

5. Secure File Permissions

Securing file permissions is a crucial aspect of WordPress security. File permissions determine who can read, write, and execute files on your server. Setting the appropriate permissions ensures that sensitive files are not accessible to unauthorized users or scripts, reducing the risk of security breaches. Here's an expanded explanation of why secure file permissions are essential and how to manage them effectively:

File Security

In a shared hosting environment, multiple users might have accounts on the same server. Setting secure file permissions helps prevent one user from accessing another user's files and vice versa. It also safeguards sensitive data, configuration files, and other critical elements of your WordPress installation from unauthorized access.

Protection Against Unauthorized Changes

Incorrect file permissions can potentially allow malicious scripts or hackers to modify essential files. By configuring file permissions correctly, you reduce the risk of unauthorized changes that could lead to website defacement or loss of data.

Preventing Exploits

Some exploits target vulnerable file permissions to inject malicious code or gain unauthorized access to your website's files. Properly configured permissions make it harder for attackers to exploit these vulnerabilities.

Understanding File Permissions

In the Linux-based server environment, file permissions are represented by three-digit numbers (e.g., 644 or 755). Each digit corresponds to a specific permission level: read (4), write (2), and execute (1). These digits are assigned to three categories of users: the owner, the group, and others.

Directories vs. Files

File permissions for directories (folders) and files should be set differently. For directories, the execute permission is essential to allow users to access its contents. For files, execute permission usually doesn't apply.

Correct Permission Levels

Some general recommendations for secure file permissions in a typical WordPress installation are:

  • Directories: 755 (drwxr-xr-x)
  • Files: 644 (-rw-r--r--)


The wp-config.php file contains sensitive information, such as database credentials. To protect this file, set its permission to 400 (-r--------). This restricts access to the owner only.

Uploads Directory

The wp-content/uploads directory should have more permissive permissions to allow WordPress to upload media files. Set its permission to 755 (drwxr-xr-x) and consider using security measures like disabling PHP execution within this directory.

Avoid 777 Permissions

Never set files or directories to 777 (world-writable) unless it's absolutely necessary. This permission level allows anyone to read, write, and execute, making your website vulnerable to attacks.

Security Plugins

Some security plugins can help you audit and manage file permissions effectively. They can automatically detect and correct insecure permissions on your WordPress installation.

Regular Auditing

Periodically audit your file permissions to ensure they remain secure. After making significant changes to your website or server configuration, verify that the file permissions are still appropriately set.

Remember that the specific file permissions needed may vary depending on your server configuration, hosting environment, and WordPress setup. Always consult your hosting provider or server administrator if you are unsure about the appropriate permissions for your particular setup.

By securing file permissions on your WordPress site, you create a robust security foundation, protecting your data, files, and website from unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

6. Encrypt Data with SSL

Encrypting data with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a fundamental security measure that ensures sensitive information transmitted between a user's browser and the web server remains secure and confidential. 

SSL has been succeeded by TLS (Transport Layer Security), but the term SSL is still commonly used to refer to the security protocol. Here's an expanded explanation of how SSL encryption works and why it's crucial for website security:

Data Encryption

SSL uses encryption algorithms to encode data during transmission, making it unreadable to anyone trying to intercept the information. When a user visits an SSL-secured website, their browser and the server establish an encrypted connection, creating a secure "tunnel" through which data can travel safely.

Data Integrity

SSL not only encrypts data but also ensures its integrity. This means that the data cannot be altered or tampered with during transmission. If any modification to the data occurs, the SSL connection is terminated, and the user is alerted, protecting against man-in-the-middle attacks.


SSL certificates are issued by trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs) and act as digital certificates that verify the identity of the website's owner. This authentication process establishes trust between the user and the website, assuring users that they are connecting to the legitimate and secure site they intended to visit.

HTTPS Protocol

When SSL is active on a website, it enables the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol instead of the standard HTTP. The "S" in HTTPS stands for "Secure," indicating that the website is using SSL encryption.

Sensitive Data Protection

SSL is particularly critical when handling sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal details, and payment data. Without SSL encryption, this data would be transmitted in plain text, making it vulnerable to interception by malicious actors.

Boosting SEO

Search engines, like Google, prioritize secure websites by giving them a slight ranking boost in search results. Having SSL encryption in place can positively impact your website's search engine visibility and overall SEO efforts.

PCI DSS Compliance

If your website processes online payments, it is essential to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). SSL encryption is one of the requirements for PCI DSS compliance to protect cardholder data.

Types of SSL Certificates

There are different types of SSL certificates available based on the level of validation and coverage. These include Domain Validated (DV), Organization Validated (OV), and Extended Validation (EV) certificates. Each offers a different level of assurance and visual indicators in web browsers.

Mixed Content Warning

Without SSL, if your website loads some elements over a secure HTTPS connection and others over an insecure HTTP connection, modern web browsers may display a "Mixed Content" warning to users, which can deter them from continuing to your site.

Obtaining an SSL Certificate

SSL certificates can be obtained from reputable Certificate Authorities, some of which offer free SSL certificates (e.g., Let's Encrypt). Hosting providers often provide easy integration and installation of SSL certificates through their control panels.

Renewal and Maintenance

SSL certificates have expiration dates and require regular renewal. Keep track of your certificate's expiration date and ensure it's renewed in a timely manner to maintain uninterrupted security.

By encrypting data with SSL, you protect the privacy of your users, gain their trust, and safeguard sensitive information from potential threats. It is a crucial step towards establishing a secure and reputable online presence for your website.

7. Disable Directory Indexing

Disabling directory indexing is an essential security measure to protect sensitive information on your web server from being exposed to the public. Directory indexing occurs when a web server displays the contents of a directory (folder) if no default index file (like index.html or index.php) is found. 

This could inadvertently reveal files, scripts, or data that you may not intend to be accessible to the public. Here's an expanded explanation of why disabling directory indexing is crucial for web server security:

Preventing Information Leakage

If directory indexing is enabled and no default index file is present, the web server may list all the files and directories in that folder. This can inadvertently disclose the directory structure of your website, exposing sensitive files or configuration files that should not be accessible to the public.

Securing Backup Files

Sometimes, backup files or temporary files are stored in directories. If directory indexing is enabled, these files could be visible to anyone, potentially exposing sensitive data or sensitive information about your website's infrastructure.

Protecting Configuration Files

Configuration files often contain sensitive data, such as database credentials or API keys. If directory indexing is enabled, an attacker could discover these files and gain unauthorized access to your website or server.

Preventing Information Gathering

Disabling directory indexing makes it harder for attackers to gather information about your website's file structure. They won't be able to easily identify potential points of entry or vulnerabilities.

Improving Website Security

Directory indexing can be an unintended security vulnerability. Disabling it helps reduce the attack surface of your website, making it more difficult for attackers to find potential weaknesses.

To disable directory indexing, you can take the following measures:

  • Add an Index File: The simplest way to prevent directory indexing is to include a default index file (e.g., index.html or index.php) in every directory of your website. The web server will automatically display this file instead of listing the directory's contents.
  • Configure Server Settings: If you have access to your server's configuration files, you can explicitly disable directory indexing in the server settings. This process may vary depending on the web server software you are using (e.g., Apache, Nginx, IIS).
  • Use Security Plugins: If you're using a content management system like WordPress, there are security plugins available that can help you manage and enforce various security settings, including disabling directory indexing.
  • Add .htaccess Rules: For servers running Apache, you can add specific rules to your .htaccess file to disable directory indexing. For example, adding the following line to your .htaccess file will disable indexing:
Options -Indexes

Always double-check that directory indexing is successfully disabled by verifying that directories without index files do not reveal their contents. Regularly review your server's configuration and security settings to ensure that directory indexing remains disabled and your sensitive information is protected.

8. Implement Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Implementing a Web Application Firewall (WAF) is an essential security measure that provides an additional layer of protection for your web application, including your WordPress website. A WAF sits between your website visitors and the web server, analyzing incoming traffic and filtering out potential threats before they can reach your application. 

Here's an expanded explanation of how a Web Application Firewall works and why it is crucial for enhancing website security:

Understanding WAF

A Web Application Firewall is a security solution designed to monitor, filter, and block incoming web traffic based on predefined security rules. Unlike a traditional firewall that operates at the network level, a WAF operates at the application layer, allowing it to inspect HTTP/HTTPS requests and responses in more detail.

Protection Against Web Application Attacks

WAFs are specifically designed to protect web applications from a wide range of attacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and other common web vulnerabilities. By identifying and blocking malicious requests, a WAF significantly reduces the risk of successful attacks.

Virtual Patching

WAFs can provide virtual patching, which means they can temporarily mitigate vulnerabilities in your web application until you can apply the official patches. This is especially helpful in situations where immediate patching is not possible or when vulnerabilities are discovered after an attack has been detected.

Bot and Scraping Protection

WAFs can detect and block malicious bots and scrapers that may attempt to scrape your content or perform automated tasks that put a strain on your server's resources.

IP Reputation and Blacklisting

Some WAFs maintain databases of known malicious IP addresses and use this information to block traffic from those sources. This helps prevent access from known malicious actors and attackers.

Rate Limiting

A WAF can enforce rate limits on requests from a specific IP address or user, preventing brute-force attacks and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks.

User-Agent Blocking

WAFs can block requests from suspicious or malicious User-Agent strings, which are commonly used by certain types of attacks.

Content Delivery Network (CDN) Integration

Many WAFs are integrated with Content Delivery Networks, providing an additional layer of caching and distributing traffic across multiple servers, which can help improve website performance and resilience against DDoS attacks.

Log Analysis and Monitoring

WAFs typically generate logs that can be analyzed to identify patterns of potential attacks or abnormal traffic behavior. This allows for proactive security monitoring and incident response.

Ease of Configuration

Modern WAF solutions often come with user-friendly interfaces and pre-configured security rules, making it easier for website owners to implement and manage the WAF effectively.

Complementing Other Security Measures

While a WAF is a powerful security tool, it should not be considered a replacement for other security measures, such as regular updates, strong passwords, and secure coding practices. Instead, it complements these measures to provide a comprehensive security strategy.

When choosing a WAF solution, consider factors such as ease of integration with your web server or Content Management System (CMS), performance impact, and the level of security rule customization available. Regularly review WAF logs and adjust rules as needed to ensure your WAF remains effective in protecting your web application from emerging threats.

9. Disable XML-RPC

Disabling XML-RPC is a security measure used to protect WordPress websites from potential vulnerabilities and attacks. XML-RPC is a remote procedure call protocol that allows communication between different systems over HTTP. While it can be useful for certain functionalities, it has also been targeted by attackers in the past. Disabling XML-RPC helps reduce the attack surface and minimize potential risks. Here's an expanded explanation of why disabling XML-RPC is important and how to do it:

  • Reducing Attack Surface: XML-RPC is a potential entry point for attackers to perform brute-force attacks on your WordPress website. By disabling it, you eliminate a possible attack vector and reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your site.
  • Obsolete Technology: XML-RPC was introduced in earlier versions of WordPress to facilitate remote access to the website. However, modern web technologies and APIs have replaced its functionality in many cases. If you're not actively using XML-RPC, it's best to disable it.
  • Brute-Force Protection: XML-RPC can be abused for brute-force attacks, where attackers attempt to guess the login credentials of your site through multiple authentication attempts. Disabling XML-RPC helps prevent this type of attack.
  • DDoS Protection: Attackers can exploit XML-RPC to perform DDoS attacks by sending a large number of pingback or trackback requests, potentially overwhelming your server resources. Disabling XML-RPC helps mitigate this risk.
  • Pingback and Trackback Spam: XML-RPC is also used for pingbacks and trackbacks, which can be abused by spammers to create backlinks to their websites without your consent. Since pingbacks and trackbacks are rarely used nowadays, disabling XML-RPC can help prevent spam.
  • Compatibility: While disabling XML-RPC can improve security, it's essential to check if any of your plugins or third-party applications depend on XML-RPC functionality. Some plugins or external services might rely on it for specific features. In such cases, disabling XML-RPC might affect the functionality of those plugins or services.

To disable XML-RPC, you have a few options:

  • Using a Security Plugin: Many security plugins, such as Wordfence, iThemes Security, and Sucuri Security, include options to disable XML-RPC with a single click.
  • Using a Custom Plugin: Create a custom plugin with the code to disable XML-RPC and activate the plugin. This way, you can keep your customizations separate from the theme.
  • .htaccess Rules: You can also add specific rules to your .htaccess file to block access to the xmlrpc.php file, where XML-RPC functionality is located. However, this approach might not work on all hosting environments.
  • Editing Functions.php: You can add the following code to your theme's functions.php file to disable XML-RPC:
add_filter('xmlrpc_enabled', '__return_false');

Before disabling XML-RPC, ensure that it won't impact any critical functionalities on your website. Regularly review your website's logs and security measures to stay informed about potential threats and make necessary adjustments to maintain a secure WordPress site.

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