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Best WordPress Security Checklist

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For your website, you’ll need a WordPress security checklist.

Take it from us: there’s no such thing as being too concerned about the protection of your website. Every 60 seconds, according to our estimates, 90,000+ hack attempts are made on WordPress websites.

Oh, no! Are you starting to feel uneasy?

We understand exactly what you’re saying. You probably believe that your website is too small for a hacker to be interested in.

Big websites, in fact, have extremely secure properties. Hackers need a lot of computing power to break into these websites. That’s why they break into a vast network of small sites and use their computing resources to break into a larger site. They even kill the company in the process.

Whether or not your site is “large enough,” the harsh reality is that you must take security precautions.

There are hundreds of security practises you can put in place on your website, but the time and effort aren’t worth it. Many hackers would ignore your site and move on to less secure sites if you cover all of your bases.

We understand that testing and trying any protection measure under the sun in the hopes of stumbling upon the most successful ones is a bad idea. So, instead of you having to do the dumb stuff, we went ahead and did them ourselves!

That’s right! To help secure your website from hackers and malware, we created a WordPress security checklist that includes the most effective security practises.

Does this sound appealing to you? Let’s get started.

How Hackers Exploit A WordPress Website?

Hackers are still on the lookout for a website to take advantage of. Since WordPress has more websites than any other outlet, they prefer to target WordPress pages.

For example, WordPress is currently used by over 60 million websites, including blogs, online retailers, membership pages, forums, and more.

We stated earlier that small website owners believe their pages would never be hacked. This is untrue, as studies show that hackers tend to target small websites because they are easier to break into.

The hackers are after the website’s finances, not the size of your site or the amount of traffic it receives, contrary to popular belief.

When a hacker gains access to your website, they can use it for a variety of purposes, including storing illegal information, sending spam emails, redirecting your visitors to their own malicious websites, launching attacks on other websites, and even stealing your data.

But how do hackers gain access to a website?

On WordPress websites, there are three bugs that are often discovered. These are the ones:

  • Plugins and themes that are no longer supported
  • Insufficient qualifications
  • Admin users who aren’t trustworthy

Hackers take advantage of each of these flaws (which we’ll go through in more detail in the next section) to gain access to your site and conduct malicious activities.

Malicious behaviour will have a significant effect on your website. The use of resources, for example, will slow down the website. Visitors are spending less time on your site because they are being diverted to the hacker’s website, which has an impact on search engine ranking. Your sales will suffer if your rankings fall.

Things could get even worse, with Google blacklisting your domain and your hosting company suspending it.

Recovering a hacked website is a time-consuming and expensive process. As a result, it’s preferable to be healthy than sorry.

You can defend your website from hack attacks by implementing successful website protection measures.

Maintaining the security of your website is a never-ending job. This means that even though you have a few security measures in place, you must continue to protect your site on a regular basis.

We’ll walk you through the exact steps you need to take to secure your site in the checklist below.

The Ultimate WordPress Security Checklist

When it comes to your WordPress website’s protection, there is no magic bullet that will solve all of your problems.

You’ll have to deal with security problems on several fronts, but not all at the same time. Not all security precautions must be implemented on a regular basis.

As a result, we’ve split our checklist into sections for regular, weekly, monthly, and annual security checks to help you stay organised.

The following are the security precautions you can implement on your WordPress site:

  • Daily Checklist for Website Security
  • Weekly Checklist for Website Security
  • Monthly Checklist for Website Security
  • Annual Checklist for Website Security

1. Daily Checklist for Website Security

You must take the following steps on a regular basis –

i. Run Website Security Scan

ii. Take Complete Website Backup

i. Run Website Security Scan

We previously addressed the consequences of a website being hacked. How does it impact the website’s pace, SEO rating, traffic, and revenue collection?

This is why it’s important to search the website for malware on a regular basis. The sooner you hear about a malware infection, the sooner you can take action to clean up your site and prevent the problem from getting worse.

To ensure that your website is not tainted with malware, you must search it every day without fail.

MalCare’s Malware Scanner is recommended. It checks the website on a regular basis once it’s been mounted.

ii. Take Complete Website Backup

Some WordPress pages have a lot of movement. Every day, new material is introduced to these websites, and they attract a large number of visitors on a daily basis. Consider what would happen if your website went down due to a hack or a mistake you made when tweaking it.

It will take some time for you to find out what is causing the error on your website. And then would you be able to take action to correct the situation.

Meanwhile, visitors to your site are dissatisfied and quickly move on to a competitor’s website. This is particularly damaging to e-commerce sites.

However, if you had a backup, you could easily restore your site.

Taking backups on a daily basis is critical for dynamic websites where new content is constantly being added. Regular backups, on the other hand, are insufficient for e-commerce sites. They need real-time backups so that they don’t miss a single order placed by customers.

Weekly backups are recommended for websites built solely for online presence or for those that don’t require frequent changes.

We recommend BlogVault Backup Services, which creates a full backup of your website and allows you to restore it easily. Many backup plugins don’t have a safe way to restore backups, which is surprising.

Not only that, but BlogVault also provides a special type of backup for e-commerce websites that guarantees that no orders from your customers are lost. Learn more about WooCommerce website backups.

2. Weekly Checklist for Website Security

You must take the following steps on a weekly basis:

i. Keep Core, Plugins & Themes Updated

ii. Check Activity Log For Suspicious Activities

iii. Check for Google Blacklisting

i. Update Core, Plugins and Themes

Three components of a WordPress website should be revised on a regular basis. On your website, you have WordPress heart, themes, and plugins enabled.

You get a new version of the app when you upgrade it. New releases are released not only to add new functionality and enhancements, but also to assist in the resolution of problems that have arisen in the programme.

WordPress publishes two or three big updates every year. The remaining updates are slight tweaks. There haven’t been any big problems with WordPress in years. However, it’s important to keep it updated so that plugins and themes based on the latest core version continue to function properly.

It’s also important to keep plugins and themes up to date, since 80 percent of hacks are caused by outdated apps. Hackers gain access to a website by exploiting obsolete software that is vulnerable.

Since it is difficult to update all of your websites on a regular basis if you have a large number of them, we recommend setting aside some time every week to do so.

If MalCare is built on your websites, you can use the MalCare dashboard to see all of your website updates. This allows you to make changes to all of your websites from a single location.

We recommend reading our guide on How to Update WordPress Websites Safely before uploading.

ii. Check Activity Log For Suspicious Activities

Keeping an eye on what’s going on with your website will help you spot suspicious activity. You can take precautions to protect your website if you detect them early on.

Consider the case where your website has been hacked. You should look at your activity log to see if there are any unusual activities. You can discover a rogue user or a hacker installing a malicious plugin so that he or she can gain access to your website without being detected.

The WP Security Audit Log Plugin can be used to track activity on your WordPress website. We recommend that you read our review on the subject.

iii. Check for Google Blacklisting

It’s no secret that Google is the most trusted search engine on the planet.

Naturally, Google aims to keep its users secure by stopping them from visiting websites that sell illicit goods, redirect users to malicious websites, or display offensive advertisements, among other things.

It’s best to keep a close eye on whether or not your website has been added to Google’s blacklist.

You will find out if your website is blacklisted in a variety of ways. These are the ones:

  • Pick Security Issues from the left-hand menu of your Google Search Console account. Your site will be listed on the Security Issues page if it is blacklisted.
  • Go to Google Safe Browsing and type in your website’s URL to see if it’s been blacklisted.
  • If you have MalCare or BlogVault enabled, you’ll be notified if your site has been blacklisted.

3. Monthly Checklist for Website Security

You must take the following steps on a monthly basis:

i. Remove Unused & Pirated Plugins & Themes

ii. Change Weak Username & Password

iii. Evaluate & Enforce Strong Username & Passwords

iv. Re-evaluate User Roles

v. Remove Inactive Users

vi. Implement IP & Geo-blocking On Malicious Visitors

vii. Test Backups

i. Remove Unused & Pirated Plugins & Themes

Plugins and themes are used on almost every WordPress website to improve the site’s appearance and functionality.

There are several WordPress plugins and themes to choose from. If you’re anything like us, you’ll experiment with a variety of plugins and themes before you find one that works for you.

Themes and plugins that we try out but don’t use always remain unused on our websites. Inactive themes and plugins, like the active apps on our web, develop vulnerabilities and require regular updates. However, since they have no purpose on our website, we prefer to ignore them.

Your websites can be compromised if you use outdated, disabled themes and plugins. It’s best to uninstall them if you’re certain you’ll never use them.

You can get premium apps for free by using pirated themes and plugins. But did you know that the majority of pirated software comes with malware pre-installed?

When you instal pirated software on your website, you’re also installing malware, which allows hackers to gain access to and exploit your site.

The pirated software is unsafe even though it is not infected with malware. Pirated software does not receive updates, which ensures that as bugs arise, the website will be vulnerable to attacks sooner or later.

Delete all pirated themes and plugins and vow not to use pirated apps again.

ii. Change Weak Username & Password

Another big flaw that allows hackers to access your site, in addition to pirated and obsolete software, is the use of poor login credentials.

Hackers attempt to guess the username and password on the WordPress login page in order to gain access to your website (recommended read – Brute force attacks). They can easily access your site if you use an easy-to-guess username and password. As a result, replace any certificates that aren’t up to par.

Things to consider when choosing a strong username:

  • Using a username that does not include the word “admin.”
  • Since common names like John, David, and Will are quick to guess, avoid them.
  • Do not use your website’s name as your username.
  • Make sure your username isn’t mentioned anywhere on the net. It should not appear under the author’s name, in the about us section, or on the page of a team member.

Things to consider when choosing a strong password:

  • In your username, do not include the word “password.”
  • Popular terms like Star Wars, football, and other sports are easy to guess.
  • Do not use information that are well recognised, such as your website’s name or your business’s location.
  • Be sure to mix uppercase, lowercase, and special characters in your message.
  • Make a password that is at least 10 to 15 characters long.

iii. Evaluate & Enforce Strong Username & Passwords

A WordPress website may have a large number of users, but retaining them is difficult. Many of them could be using passwords that aren’t safe.

We’ve already covered how hackers use poor credentials to gain access to a website in brute force attacks. As a result, all WordPress users must use strong passwords.

What we strongly advise you to do is:

  • Determine can users are using insecure credentials.
  • Instill in them the value of strong usernames and passwords.
  • Request that unique usernames and strong passwords be created.
  • Then implement secure passwords to ensure that no one on your website ever uses easy-to-guess passwords again. How to Enforce Strong Password on WordPress is a tutorial that will assist you in doing so.

iv. Re-evaluate User Roles

Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, Subscriber, and Superadmin are the six different user roles that WordPress allows you to delegate.

Each user’s function comes with its own set of abilities. The site is fully under the control of the Administrator and Superadmin. You can only give them to people you trust.

We strongly advise you to reconsider the roles you’ve assigned to your users, especially those with administrative privileges. Is it really necessary for them to have admin access to your website?

Hackers try to guess your username and password to gain access to your website, as we described earlier. You can mitigate this risk by only granting admin access to those who really need it.

If you want to change a user’s position, follow these steps:

  • Select Users > All Users from your WordPress dashboard.
  • Select the user profile you want to edit, then press the Edit button.
  • Select the new user role from the Role menu.
  • Then scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and choose Update User.

That’s all there is to it, folks.

v. Remove Inactive Users

A large number of people could be involved in the operation of a WordPress website.

Designers, for example, would be required to upload photos to your pages and blogs. You can need the services of an SEO expert to optimise your posts. You may have a half-dozen authors uploading their work. Your website is accessible to all of these users.

Any of these users will be forced to close their accounts. A freelance writer, for example, could upload a few articles before moving on to another client. Every account on your web provides hackers with a new way to break into your system. As a result, you can delete all inactive accounts from your website.

You will reduce the chances of a breach by removing inactive users from your website.

You must take the following steps to uninstall inactive users:

  • Select Users > All Users from your WordPress dashboard.
  • Select the profiles that are no longer running.
  • Then go to Bulk Action and choose Delete, then Apply.

That’s what there is to it.

4. Annual Checklist for Website Security

You must take the following steps on an annual basis –

i. Renew SSL Certificate

ii. Renew Hosting Plans

i. Renew SSL Certificate

You can use an SSL certificate to convert your WordPress account from HTTP to HTTPS. It aids in the security of your website for tourists. Furthermore, SSL certificates are now required by Google.

SSL currently has a two-year validity period. Most SSL licences, however, expire after one year.

Limited-length certificates are required to ensure that your SSL certificates are renewed and that you are using the most up-to-date SSL technologies to protect your guests.

However, if you wait too long to renew the certificate, your visitors will be vulnerable to a hack attack.

When your SSL certificate is about to expire, you will usually receive an email alert. If you don’t receive the email and the expiration date has passed, visitors to your site will see the message “The site’s security certificate has expired.”

This is why it’s important to keep your SSL certificate current.

To renew your SSL licence, you must contact the vendor from whom you purchased it. If you bought it from your hosting company, for example, you’ll need to log into your account and renew it there.

ii. Renew Hosting Plans

Your website’s hosting is the foundation. Your website goes down when your hosting contract expires.

When your hosting contract is about to expire, your hosting company will usually give you a reminder to renew it. Your hosting contract will expire and your website will be taken down if you skip some emails and fail to renew.

There are two ways to prevent this from happening:

  • You can set up a monthly charge, which ensures that when your hosting contract expires, the amount to renew it will be automatically deducted from your bank account. By signing into your hosting account, you can set up recurring payments.
  • You can use your calendar to set a reminder and make sure your alerts are switched on.

This brings us to the conclusion of the WordPress security checklist.

If you follow the guidelines in this checklist, we are assured that your website will be secure from hackers and bots.

IMPORTANT: This is not an all-inclusive list of WordPress security issues. There are a few security precautions that you must take in order to keep your website secure. These actions aren’t on the checklist because they don’t need to be done on a regular basis. You just need to set them up once and then leave them to guard your website. There is no need for manual intervention.

We’ll go through those steps in more detail in the next section, and we strongly advise you to put them in place on your website.

Set & Forget WordPress Security Measures

You don’t have to take those security precautions on a daily basis, but it’s necessary to make sure they’re in place.

1. Block Bad Traffic With Firewall

Hackers won’t be able to attack your WordPress account if they can’t get into it. A WordPress Firewall protects the website by preventing unauthorised users from accessing it.

2. Limit Login Attempts

The firewall may have difficulty identifying certain malicious visitors. In this case, you can secure your website’s login page by restricting the number of login attempts made by hacker bots attempting to guess your credentials in order to gain access to your website (recommended read – Brute force attacks).

3. Implement HTTP Authentication & Two-Factor Authentication

Adding a layer of security to your login page is another way to make it more stable. Install HTTP authentication and two-factor authentication to accomplish this.

4. Hide Display Name

The names that appear on your website (such as the author name) are often the same as your usernames. To prevent hackers from discovering your show name and using it to break into your website, you must hide it.

Open our WordPress security guide and hop to Change Your Display Name to learn how to mask display names.

5. Disable XML-RPC

XML-RPC is a WordPress feature that can be used to retrieve user information such as a username. As a result, we recommend that you turn off XML-RPC on your website.

6. Disable Directory Browsing

Many files make up a WordPress website. The list of directories can be shown on the website if there is a misconfiguration. This can result in information being exposed and exploited. Disable directory browsing on your WordPress website to avoid this.

7. Restrict File Permissions

A WordPress website, as previously said, is made up of numerous directories. Each directory will contain a number of files and directories that will aid in the operation of your website. File permissions may be restricted to ensure that only a few people have access to them, reducing the risk of exploitation.

8. Change the WordPress Database Prefix

Since hackers are aware that the default WordPress database prefix is ‘wp_,’ they may perform malicious operations on your database. If you change the prefix, hackers will be unable to find these tables, preventing them from being hacked.

9. Hide wp-config Files

One of the most popular WordPress files is WP-Config. You will lose control of your website if hackers gain access to the code. We strongly advise you to keep the wp-config file hidden.

10. Disabling PHP Execution in Specific Folders

On a WordPress website, PHP execution is a tool for running commands. If hackers gain access to sensitive files and directories, they can insert commands that perform malicious actions. Disabling PHP execution on specific files would prevent this from occurring.

With that, we’ve covered all of the WordPress security measures you’ll need to put in place on your blog.

Last Thoughts

We’re sure that this checklist will provide you with more than enough information to handle the protection of your website on your own. And, indeed, we appreciate how stressful and daunting it can be to complete the entire checklist of security measures.

That is why we strongly advise you to use the tools outlined in this article to automate your security measures in a matter of minutes.

MalCare, for example, is a robust security suite that can search your website regularly, manage your visitors, update your themes and plugins, restrict login attempts, set up a firewall, block malicious PHP execution, and a slew of other security features in a flash.

You can monitor the security of your entire site from a simple, user-friendly dashboard, making the WordPress security checklist much easier to manage!