In 2017, hackers used a WordPress vulnerability to deface over 1.5 million pages. Early in 2018, two catastrophic security threats (that goes by the name of Meltdown and Spectre) were discovered. It’s thought to have potentially affected nearly every computer chip manufactured in the last 20 years. Such security breaches in the past are undeniable. And it has led many you to question: is WordPress secure for creating websites? We’ll try and answer that here.
Being the world’s most high-profile and open-source CMS, WordPress has been, unfortunately, the target of numerous security exploits. While there is an army of people working to keep WordPress secure, the platform does not work in isolation. Various themes and plugins that you use on your website can leave your website vulnerable to malicious attacks from hackers and spammers. The ecosystem designed for your website to thrive in may instead cause security concerns. Therefore, security in WordPress is not absolute and there is no definite “yes” or “no,” to the question in the title of this post.
As we just mentioned, the security of WordPress sites transcends the platform itself and revolves around the people, budget and time involved in maintaining WordPress and its ecosystem. Moving forward, let us look at how exactly those factors affect the security of your website.
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People involved in creating WordPress, building websites, and the corresponding ecosystem
Whether it’s WordPress or the themes or plugins that you use, developers are responsible for keeping their product safe. Any kind of vulnerability will provide hackers a gateway into your site which, needless to say, will be a disaster.
The WordPress Core Team
Developers of WordPress Core offers you the first line of defense against a malware attack. They are responsible for following the best cyber practices, develop new technologies and help reduce the risk of a security threat. Given that WordPress powers more than a quarter of all websites around the world, they have the world’s leading workforce as their core team along with a host of developers and contributors. It’s worth mentioning that becoming a part of WordPress is no cakewalk. They have a diligent hiring process where the final candidates find themselves spending weeks on projects before becoming part of the company.
Theme and Plugin Developers
There are numerous plugins and themes available. Some free and some paid. Monetizing a plugin or theme helps the creator devote time and effort to improve the product. On the other hand, free plugins or themes are developed as a hobby or to hone one’s skill. Here, improvements like issuing updates and vulnerability patches take a back seat, compromising the security of the product. We urge website admin/owner, to remove plugins that are not updated regularly. And do your best to select plugins that have been updated recently if you want your WordPress site secured from external threats.
It’s not uncommon to think that when you are paying for a service, you will never have to face a security problem. But security is about keeping the risk reduced to a minimum. The risk is never zero. While there are dedicated teams (like WordPress’ security team) to keep your site from vulnerabilities, you can’t just create a site and then forget about it for years. Your site will be in ruins if you don’t keep an eye out for the sudden changes through WordPress Audit Log plugin. By being vigilant, site owners reduce the chance of a compromise.
Budget dictates the quality of the service
In most cases, finance dictates the output of a work. When people are getting paid to maintain a service that they are providing, they will also follow up to the best of their ability. On the other hand, free services are sometimes crappy and without any follow-up. This leads to vulnerabilities that can be exploited to hack into your website.
Since WordPress is an open-source platform (with notable clients like CNN, BBC, SONY), it receives funding of millions of dollars from investors to ensure the growth of the business, expansion of employee base among other things. In other words, WordPress has enough money to hire the best talents who’ll guarantee the best services. Currently, it supports over 60 million websites and is dedicated to making the platform safe for users.
Themes and Plugins
While WordPress may be a pioneer in its field, themes and plugins (especially the free ones) are not always as good. Like we mentioned earlier, the paid products have a dedicated team and receive the funding necessary in buying resources required to make the product better. For instance, if you want to protect your site from malicious security threats, you can use premium WordPress security plugin. Paid services have the finance necessary to run a team of developers who will ensure regular check up against hacks and spams.
On the other hand, free products lack the fund required to offer the same rigorous effort. Naturally, the quality of the free products suffers leaving the whole website vulnerable to an attack.
With the advent of shared hosting, which is cheaper and easier than ever to create a WordPress site. Unfortunately, it helps site owners get into a mindset where they are reluctant to use paid themes or plugins. Especially when there are numerous free alternatives readily available. They might be ready to compromise on the quality as long as their website isn’t hacked. Once the website is hacked, they begin wondering whether WordPress isn’t a secure enough platform. They don’t know that the vulnerability lies in the theme or the plugin that lead to the hack.
As we have discussed earlier, money matters for reducing the risk of a security compromise. Cheap products, seemingly well-working often lacks quality assurance. That becomes a ground for serious cyber security issues. Folks recommend to use secure WordPress hosting which make it difficult for hacker to break it.
It takes time to develop and maintain a secure service
There is no denying that building a great product or offering a great service requires both time and effort. A product build as a side hustle often lags behind in quality.
We have mentioned earlier how WordPress has an army of some of the best people in the business, taking care of the platform 24/7. There are people to ensure that the security of a website is not compromised. For this, they host a planned calendar for maintenance and security releases (there are details worth checking out in their news blog) along with reviews, beta releases that span for months on end.
Themes and Plugins
Building a great product is anything but instantaneous. It takes time. But to stay on top of the ladder, developers are often forced to bring in more and more features in the shortest possible time. The result? Quality control processes are often overlooked, leaving the product vulnerable to malicious attacks and your site’s security is compromised. Besides, if the theme/plugin is not a paid product, the developers are unlikely to have enough time to dedicate to the maintenance of the product. And maintenance is important to make the plugin or theme secure enough for websites to use them.
The time required to build a site is often dedicated to the budget. When consumers want affordable but fast ways of building a website, the time required to build up a site is not nearly enough to offer all-around security. Limited resources mean the site does not undergo necessary analysis to make the site secure. Quick results come at the cost of quality, leaving the website itself at risk. So, when disaster strikes, WordPress isn’t the only one responsible.
Given the knowledge, we have now, it’s safe to assume that WordPress is not completely secure. Although it offers a safe environment but needs managing. The risk of a breach cannot be eliminated, but it can be reduced to a minimum. It’s well-documented that keeping WordPress, along with the themes and plugins updated are the stepping stones to keeping your WordPress website secure. We recommend you use a WordPress backup plugin that will help you restore your website when disaster strikes.
If you have more questions regarding: is WordPress security? Leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org