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WordPress powers over 40% of all websites on the internet and is the most popular CMS in the world. However, as the number of WordPress sites grow, so does the risk of vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit. WordPress sites often face constant threats from hackers trying to steal sensitive data, spread malware or take over sites to use for malicious purposes. As a WordPress site owner or developer, it is critical to implement proper security measures to protect your site and its users from threats. This article covers the top security best practices that every WordPress site owner should follow to enhance the protection of their website.

Securing Your WordPress Files and Directories
When setting up a WordPress site, it is important to secure the main installation files and directories to prevent unauthorized access. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Change File Permissions – Set file permissions for WordPress core files and directories to 0644 or 0555 so that they cannot be edited or executed by unauthorized users.
  • Disable Directory Listing – Directory listings provide hackers a view of all files in a folder which can reveal sensitive information. Disable directory listings in .htaccess to prevent this.
  • Restrict Access to Sensitive Files – Files like wp-config.php, .htaccess contain sensitive credentials that should not be publicly accessible. Move them one folder above the document root or restrict their access.
  • Remove Unused Scripts/Files – Delete any default files that are not needed like install.php, license.txt etc. as they may contain leftovers from previous versions.
  • Use Strong Passwords – Use strong, unique passwords for admin accounts as well as FTP/database credentials that are changed regularly. Password managers can help generate and secure passwords.
  • Lock Down wp-admin – Restrict wp-login.php, wp-admin and other backend pages to trusted IP addresses using .htaccess rules to block unauthorized access attempts.

Secure Your Website with SSL/TLS Encryption
Using HTTPS encryption secured by SSL/TLS certificates is critical for protecting users and the integrity of your website. Some key benefits of enabling SSL include:

  • Data Privacy and Integrity – HTTPS encrypts all data transferred between the user’s browser and your website preventing snooping and tampering of sensitive information.
  • SEO Boost – Google gives a ranking boost to HTTPS sites and marks HTTP sites as “not secure” which impacts user experience and conversions.
  • User Trust – The green lock and “HTTPS” in the address bar builds trust that the site cares about security and privacy of its users.

Ideally, you want a valid SSL certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA) like Let’s Encrypt, GeoTrust etc. But even a self-signed certificate is better than no SSL. Be sure to enforce HTTPS sitewide using redirect rules to ensure all pages load over encrypted HTTPS.

Hardening WordPress with Security Plugins
Core WordPress comes with some security but plugins can add many advanced protections. Here are some top-rated security plugins to enhance your WordPress site:

  • Wordfence: A powerful all-in-one plugin for firewall, malware scanning, hack backtool and other defenses. It has caught millions of attacks.
  • iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security): Comprehensive security with features like 2FA, malware scanning, file change monitoring and more.
  • BulletProof Security: Highly optimized for performance with features for HSTP protection, brute force login attacks and more.

-WP Cerber: Web application firewall for advanced protection from XSS, SQLi and other vulnerabilities along with 2FA support.

  • Loginizer: Helps lock down your admin area with features like logincaptcha, 2FA, IP blocking, access sessions control.
  • Securi: Scans files, thwarts malware, and hardens security with features like 2FA, IP blocking, secure admin notices.

Implement Strong Password Policy
Having a strong password policy is critical as passwords are the first line of defense. Here are some effective ways to enforce password security:

  • Minimum Length – Set the minimum password length requirement to at least 12-15 characters.
  • Complexity Requirements – Require passwords to include a mix of lowercase, uppercase, numbers and symbols.
  • Password Age – Force password change every 90 days to mitigate impacts of any breaches.
  • Login Attempt Limits – Lockout accounts after 5-6 failed attempts to curb brute force hacking.
  • Two-Factor Authentication – Add an extra layer of security with 2FA using authenticator apps like Google Authenticator.
  • Unique Passwords – Never re-use passwords across different services in case one gets exposed.
  • Password Manager – Use a reputed password manager like Dashlane, LastPass to generate and store unique secure passwords.
  • Monitor Login Log – Regularly check the login log to detect any suspicious or failed login attempts from unknown sources.

Keep WordPress and Plugins Updated
Outdated and vulnerable versions of WordPress and plugins are like leaving doors unlocked for hackers. Make sure to:

  • Automatic Core Updates – Turn on automatic background updates in the Dashboard to always keep WordPress core updated.
  • Timely Manual Plugin Updates – Check for and apply all available plugin updates regularly using the Updates screen.
  • Disable Inactive Plugins – Delete or deactivate any unnecessary and inactive plugins as they could be potential security risks.
  • Monitor Release Notes – Check changelog for security fixes in new releases and update promptly. Unsecure plugins should also be uninstalled.
  • Hardening Options – Use plugins like Sucuri Website Firewall that can automatically update plugins and themes too.

Setup Security Monitoring with Logs
Comprehensively monitoring login/security events, system activity logs and changes can help detect compromises early. Some logging tips:

  • Access Logs – Enable access logs in .htaccess to track login attempts, page views and audit changes.
  • Login Logs – Regularly review detailed login logs in the Dashboard to detect anomalies.
  • Activity Logging – Use plugins like Statpress to track activity logs across the site.
  • File Change Detection – Set up file integrity monitoring with a plugin to get alerts on unexpected changes.
  • Install Sucuri – Their malware scanner also provides log analysis and alerts for hacking attempts.

Logging and monitoring helps identify vulnerabilities, trace exploits and take prompt actions to lock down security loopholes. Logs are crucial evidence for any security audit or resolution of incidents.

Regular Website Security Audits
A wordpress site is always under threat of evolving hacking techniques. Subjecting the site to manual security audits periodically can uncover vulnerabilities that may have been otherwise missed. Some audit practices include:

  • Technical Vulnerability Scanning – Use tools like Acunetix, Netsparker to scan for common technical issues like outdates, XSS flaws etc.
  • Penetration Testing – Engage ethical hackers to conduct penetration tests under different attack scenarios like social engineering.
  • Configuration Review – Check .htaccess rules, plugins, WP version, password security etc are as per best practices.
  • Malware Scanning – Use virus and malware scanners like ClamAV, Eset Online Scanner suit to detect any infected files.
  • Admin Area Review – Audit backend access, activity logs and ensure admin interface is well protected.
  • Policy Compliance – Check if all privacy and security policies defined are being strictly followed.

Quarterly or bi-annual formal audits ensure no stealth weaknesses creep in and the site security posture keeps enhancing over time. It also satisfies compliance needs for sensitive sites.

Educating Users About Cyber Security
While technology plays a vital role, the human element is equally important. Educating both internal teams and site visitors about basic cyber hygiene raises awareness:

  • Staff Training – Train content creators and administrators about securely handling credentials, updating plugins regularly etc.
  • Visitor Guidelines – Clearly publish security, privacy policies and guidelines visitors should follow like avoiding suspicious links.
  • Newsletter Alerts – Send periodic newsletters highlighting current cyber threats like phishing scams to remain cautious of.
  • Security FAQs – Maintain an FAQ section to help users learn about securing accounts, enabling 2FA, avoiding malware infections and more.
  • Contact Support – Provide easy ways to report suspected issues so they can be quickly looked into and addressed.


A well-rounded defense combining technology safeguards, updates, monitoring, user awareness and prudent processes comprehensively protects against emerging cyber risks to any WordPress site. Regularly reviewing practices ensures continuous improvement of overall website security posture. With cyber criminals adapting new techniques daily, vigilance should always be the key approach.