A Cybersecurity Guide to WordPress

There's a lot to say about web design cybersecurity, especially since it's often overlooked when building websites

By Larissa Lopes
Updated on February 27, 2024
A Cybersecurity Guide to WordPress

There’s a lot to say about web design cybersecurity, especially since it’s often overlooked when building websites. We all know that websites are a central part of the Internet. Unfortunately, it is impossible to avoid the elephant in the room as far as web design goes. That elephant is the king of CMS (Content Management System) software WordPress. However, the elephant is also a security risk relating to CMS software.

Although there are indeed other CMS environments out there, such as Joomla, Magento, Drupal, WooCommerce, and several others, WordPress owns the game to a large extent. For this reason, we need to understand what WordPress is, look at some statistics, and finally understand how to secure this potentially very risk-averse environment.

WordPress is a huge component of the Internet, particularly with its 60,000+ free plugins. According to W3Techs statistics, WordPress will make up almost 45% of all websites on the entire Internet in 2022, up from 39% in 2021 and on a consistent, steady rise of 12% per year. This equates to at least two out of five websites built with the WordPress CMS system.

An even more impressive number is that 65% of all websites created explicitly with a CMS use the WordPress brand. They have completely monopolized this share of the market, with others such as Wix, Squarespace, and Joomla taking up minuscule amounts of market share by comparison. An even better representation of the power of CMS is that it powers over 36% of the top 1 million websites out there like The New York Times, Bloomberg, and many more. On average, will build a top 10 million website with WordPress every two minutes.

A cybersecurity guide to WordPress

What is WordPress?

So every website you visit on the Internet has to be built, and it has to have code in the “backend” so that all the components of the site work and are displayed. So, to start a website properly means first purchasing a website domain and then building a website with a CMS system. Alternatively (but much less popularly); a website can be scripted (coded); from scratch without the use of CMS software.

Hardly anyone takes this approach nowadays, but some people prefer a custom-built website for various reasons. However, most people or organizations wanting to build a domain will prefer a CMS system’s efficiency and ease of use. For there to be components such as images or text, using a CMS or building code for a website is a must. Otherwise, everything on there would be blank.

How to secure your WordPress environment

What does security have to do with the WordPress environment? Well, people often overlook security when it comes to technology, digital devices, and in this case building websites with security in mind. So, this is like getting in your car without a seatbelt or leaving the airbags deactivated. Why does this happen? Simply because cybersecurity is not a popular topic; nor is it considered entertainment.

Cybersecurity is, for that reason, left to the whim of technicians and “backroom” security departments. As a result, most people have no interest in cybersecurity per se or in learning about cybersecurity. However, in today’s dangerous and complex internet environment, not knowing about cybersecurity is a big mistake. A simple, overlooked human error can cause an organization to lose its business, compromise customers, or worse. On the other hand, a website that does not prepare itself safely can be subject to different types of scams and hacks.

First, it’s important to understand that even WordPress can be vulnerable because it’s the software itself. Therefore, WordPress administrators need to keep the software up to date. Remember, WordPress cannot do all of the security checks and take on a security-minded attitude for you or your organization, as a lot of it is up to the administrator and employee approaches to cybersecurity.

How can a WordPress environment be compromised?

Well, here is a comprehensive list of problems that can face;

  • WordPress hacks such as brute force attacks, CSS attacks, DoS attacks, Pharma attacks, and Backdoor vulnerabilities
  • Access vulnerabilities caused by employees or other individuals using weak password hygiene and/or publicly sharing their credentials
  • Vulnerabilities related to unreliable third-party plugins and themes
  • Problems with encryption
  • Lack of server-level cybersecurity solutions

Furthermore, it is important to “harden” your WordPress environment via the following;

  • Changing the login URL
  • Limiting certain IP addresses
  • Requiring multiple verifications at the login
  • Protecting WP admin directories
  • Disabling PHP file execution
  • Hiding the WP version
  • Disabling XML-RPC

Cybersecurity: Final suggestions

So, it’s also a good idea to keep the database clean and compress the media as much as possible to make the site itself more stable and accessible. Also, instances of “dirty HTML code” must be met. It is also good to use a web application firewall, choose your web host well, and set a logout timer for idle users. Finally, erasing unused installations is yet another best practice to be aware of.

Perhaps most important of all is to regularly back up the data on WordPress CMS and monitor any changes to files, as these practices will save you or your organization awful headaches. It is quite possible to automate a lot of these measures by choosing the proper web host provider for your specific needs.

Reducing security risks in a CMS environment is crucial to protecting customers, visitors, employees, devices, and the website created with the CMS itself. As you can see, there are several factors to consider. So, finally, it is important to remember that cybersecurity should always start from the ground up. This means even before creating a website with CMS software; it is important to secure any routers, firewalls, and additional devices. Particularly important is to keep the network connection that everything runs on clean and free of risks and vulnerabilities. This means using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, as well as adhering to internet best practices at all times.