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What Role Does Backup Have in WordPress Security? Let’s Learn!

Updated on  6th March

6 Min Read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Losing a website can be a harrowing experience. It is only after losing valuable data that most of us wake up to the need for preservation of our websites. WordPress backup plugins help restore the site back to normal in an event of data loss. And yet some sites owners hesitate in using the service. We get it! You don’t want to deal with another service when you can spend that time being creative and productive with your website instead. But what if you lose your site tomorrow? Then there’ll be nothing left to work on!

What Role Does Backup Have in WordPress Security

Backups plugins are like a life insurance for your WordPress site. It ensures that you get your website data back in an event of a mishap. You can lose your site as a result of human error or hacking campaigns or failure to maintain WordPress, such as keeping the plugins and the WordPress core up to date. To play it safe, we recommend our readers to back up their WordPress sites.

Why Are Backups Important?

An open-source content management system as popular as WordPress is a target of thousands of malicious attacks round the clock. And given its demand, WordPress is surely a secure platform, right? The answer is both yes and no. WordPress core is quite secure but the CMS works in a complex environment. While the platform is heavily monitored by the core team and scores of volunteers from across the world, keeping your site safe is sometimes beyond these people. Time and again, experts in the industry have found that a leading cause of hacked WordPress sites is outdated plugins. Plugins are the biggest source of vulnerabilities in websites built on WordPress. Hackers typically exploit the vulnerability in one of the plugins that you use to get inside your website. In occasions like these, backups are your disaster recovery plan.

WordPress recommends having at least three backups at any given time, preferably in remote places like a hard drive or file hosting services such as Dropbox. If something happens to one backup, the two other will save your day.

What Is the Role of Backups in WordPress Security?

Security for WordPress is a continuous process. The landscape is constantly evolving and therefore what you are doing now to keep your site safe might not work tomorrow. Small website owner tends to take their site security lightly. There are two kinds of flawed mindsets working here: One, security is absolute and static. And two: My website is too small, too insignificant to become a target. It’s this lenient frame of mind and lack of an understanding of the landscape that makes small to medium websites an easy target. Contrary to what many people believe, it’s not the size that matters, hackers hack your site to abuse your website resources to pull off some shady campaigns you wouldn’t know about. Hence, WordPress security issues is a valid concern for websites of all size and shapes.

The Dreaded Red Flag

The dreaded red flag

As a result of WordPress security breach, posts from your website will be deleted, files will be corrupted or worst – you could be locked out of your own site. In situations like these, you have to act fast. You will first need to restore your website back to normal so that you can sustain your daily visitors. And you can do that only when you have a backup of all your essential data ready for restoration. Depending on how severe the damage is, you can get your site up-and-running within a few hours or perhaps a couple of days. Later a thorough analysis, followed by cleaning up of the site can be done. In some cases, hackers could push malware in every part of your website making the situation even more complicated. In such cases, restoring backups can be your only option.

Backups Are Not a Replacement for Cleanup

In the event of a hack, malware is generally inserted into WordPress database. In such occasions, trying to clean the website by restoring the backup is not always a good idea. Let us illustrate why:

  1. The Backup Could Be Infected
  2. Some Infected Files Are Not Deleted After Restoration
  3. Restoration from Clean Backup Could Lead to Data Loss

1. The Backup Could Be Infected

Unless you are regularly monitoring and investigation changes recorded in your WordPress site, it’s hard to know that your site has been hacked. If the intention of the hackers is to use your website’s resources, they’ll do their best to make sure that you are unaware of the security breach. And by the time you realize that the hack has happened, it’s too late. Moreover, you won’t know when it took place. It could have been that morning or six months back.

If it was six months back, then it’s likely that the backups since then contain the malware too. Finding out whether a backup is infected or clean is not easy. And therefore, if you restore a backup without being completely sure, you risk restoring an infected backup.

2. Some Infected Files Are Not Deleted After Restoration

After hacking your site, hackers commonly create new files or backdoors to your site. Like we mentioned earlier, they try to be sneaky about using your resources for as long as possible. Hackers are aware that when a security breach is discovered, you will try to restore your website from a backup. During the process, the infected existing files will be overwritten but the new ones created by the hackers remain. These files are not typically deleted. So even after restoring a clean backup, hackers will have a gateway to access your website.

3. Restoration from Clean Backup Could Lead to Data Loss

Earlier we pointed how weeks or even months could have passed before you find out that your WordPress site has been hacked. But suppose you managed to know the exact date of the hack. Then you can extract a clean backup for the purpose of restoring your website back to normal. But for websites that publish posts quite regularly, this could cause them to lose new posts. Hence, for active websites, restorations may not be an option. The situation worsens for WooCommerce sites. Restoring from way back could mean losing orders and product related information. This could harm their business and reputation.

Ensure That You Are Restoring Clean Backups on a Clean Site

The general rule of thumb is to be sure that the backup that you are about to restore is completely clean, free of corruption. Another thing that you should consider before restoration is that the website is free of infection and all existing data or files have removed. If you can ensure these two then, you’ll have a malware free website, and a chance for your site to return to its normal state. Failing either would mean seeing history repeating itself, which will undoubtedly be a very unpleasant experience.

Find the Actual Vulnerability and Weed It Out

Although now you have a clean site there is still one more thing that remains to be done. Remember the vulnerability that allowed the hackers to undermine your WordPress website’s security in the first place? You need to identify it. Because if you don’t fix it, you are leaving the door open for hackers to sneak in again. And sneak in – they will. You can be sure of that.

Find out how hackers entered your WordPress site

Find out how hackers entered your WordPress site

Plugins being the biggest cause of WordPress sites being compromised, see if there are any plugin updates available. If a plugin or theme caused the security problem, then developers have probably recognized it and might have released a patch. This is why keeping all your plugins as well as the WordPress core updated is said to be a good practice. WordPress Malware Removal solutions like MalCare, Sucuri etc. can provide a layer of security that websites need today. They’ll regularly scan your site and take preventive measures on occasion of an attack. You should also go the extra mile and backup your website to an external drive or online file saving services that you can easily access for when the time comes.

Hackers are always searching for ways to undermine a website’s security. You can’t prevent your website from being a target, but you can choose to be smart and defect attacks.

Over to You!

Tell us what’s your favorite backup service? A discussion could help some of your fellow readers choose a decent backup plugin for their own websites.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Abigail Murphy from BlogVault and MalCare. The opinions and ideas expressed herein are author’s own, and in no way reflect Cloudways position.

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Mustaasam Saleem

Mustaasam is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WordPress Hosting Platform, where he actively works and loves sharing his knowledge with the WordPress Community. When he is not working, you can find him playing squash with his friends, or defending in Football, and listening to music. You can email him at mustaasam.saleem@cloudways.com

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