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10 Common WordPress Security Issues And How to Fix Them

Updated on May 9, 2023

11 Min Read
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As the popularity of WordPress continues to grow, so does the threat of security vulnerabilities. With millions of websites running on WordPress, it has become a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals looking to exploit vulnerabilities.

Whether it’s outdated software, weak passwords, or unsecured file permissions, numerous security issues can put your WordPress site at risk. In this article, I’ll tell you about common WordPress security issues with their fixes.

An Overview of WordPress Security

Despite being so popular, many WordPress users do not know the basics of securing their websites. Worse yet, many users believe in the (very dangerous) misconception that installing an SSL certificate is enough to secure their site.

Dre Armeda, the co-founder of Sucuri, in an interview with Cloudways, mentioned that “People are and will continue to be the biggest security issue with WordPress.”

I also believe that half of WordPress’s security vulnerabilities occur because of negligence. This is an important reason why WordPress sites are an easy target for cybercriminals. Many first-time users simply install WordPress and then trust the default security mechanisms.

Doing so exposes your website to cyber threats. To safeguard your website against malicious traffic and DDoS attacks, you must opt for secure WordPress hosting combined with best security practices.

Why WordPress Security Matters?

Being an open-source platform, WordPress remains vulnerable to security attacks. People with little know-how of WordPress can attempt to hack it, which makes it highly insecure.

WordPress powers almost 43 percent of the websites online. A security breach can result in the loss of sensitive information, including user data, financial information, and login credentials, which may cause serious damage to the business’s reputation and revenue and result in legal consequences.

Check the image below to learn the importance of securing your WordPress site.

importance of securing your WordPress site

Worried about Security threats?

Protect your website with secure WordPress hosting by Cloudways

Who’s Responsible for Security?

Keeping a WordPress site secure is a shared responsibility of the website owner, the hosting provider, and the WordPress community.

Who’s Responsible for Security?

Responsibility of the Website Owner

The primary responsibility of keeping the WordPress site secure falls on the website owner. Here’s a checklist that the website owner must ensure for website security.

  • Updated WordPress Core;
  • Updated themes and plugins;
  • Updated PHP version;
  • Secure WordPress hosting;
  • Strong passwords and 2FA;
  • Installed security plugin;
  • Regular security scans.

Responsibility of the Hosting Provider

A responsible hosting provider must maintain the security of the servers and ensure that they meet industry-standard security requirements. A secure web host will have industry-proven security processes and your back if something goes wrong with your website.

While you have different hosting providers to choose from – but managed cloud hosting is a better option because it manages all aspects of your server, including server-side security, regular patches, and updates.

And regarding security, Cloudways wins the game because of its extensive security features. SafeUpdates for WordPress helps you save time, increase security, and easily automate your website. You can utilize this feature with Cloudways Autonomous also. 

SafeUpdates for WordPress

Source: SafeUpdates for WordPress/Cloudways

These are some security features that Cloudways offers its users. With managed hosting, website owners can take advantage of these security features and focus on growing their online presence while the provider takes care of the technical details.

Also, you may wanna try our Web Hosting Pricing Calculator for seamless server selection tailored to your traffic. It not only informs your hosting choices but also conducts a thorough Cloudways versus competitors analysis.

Responsibility of the WordPress Community

The developers linked with the WordPress Community can also play a role in improving the site’s security. Here’s a checklist that they can follow to keep WordPress secure.

  • Release updates and patches to address vulnerabilities;
  • Keep WordPress themes and plugins up-to-date;
  • Research to improve the security of WordPress Core.

Sources of WordPress Vulnerabilities

Being an open-source platform, WordPress remains vulnerable to security attacks. People with little know-how of WordPress can attempt to hack it, which makes it highly insecure. 

According to WPScan’s WordPress Vulnerability Statistics, outdated or faulty plugins makes the site most vulnerable, while themes and WordPress versions also play a role in making the sites vulnerable to security attacks.

WordPress Vulnerability Statistics

Source: WPScan

Also, the statistics reveal that free themes and plugins make the site less secure than premium themes and plugins.

WordPress Vulnerability Statistics

– Source: WPScan

Common WordPress Security Issues

Here are some common WordPress security issues and their fixes:

Security Issue Fix
1. Outdated WordPress Core Keep your WordPress Core up-to-date.
2. Outdated Themes and Plugins Keep your WordPress themes and plugins up-to-date. Use a security plugin to monitor your website for updates.
3. Malware Infections Keep your website software and plugins updated, run regular scans using a security plugin, and remove any infected files immediately.
4. Credit Card Skimming Use secure payment gateways, regularly monitor your website for suspicious activity, and use a security plugin that provides protection against credit card skimming attacks.
5. Unauthorized Logins Use a security plugin that provides IP blocking and login attempt tracking. Block IP addresses that attempt to brute-force attack your website.
6. SQL Injection Attacks Ensure that your website uses secure coding practices to prevent SQL injection attacks. Use a security plugin that provides a firewall and SQL injection protection.
7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Spam Implement security measures such as regularly updating your software, using a security plugin, monitoring for suspicious activity, and limiting access to your website to trusted sources.
8. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks Keep your plugins and themes updated to avoid vulnerabilities that could lead to XSS attacks. Use a security plugin that provides XSS protection.
9. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) that monitors incoming traffic and filters out malicious requests before they reach your website.
10. File Inclusion Vulnerability Ensure that all file paths are properly sanitized and validated before being used in the code, and limit the permissions of any files that may be included in your website.

1. Outdated WordPress Core

WordPress Core can be one of the major reasons for making WordPress sites vulnerable to security threats.

After every three months, WordPress developers roll out updates for the WordPress sites, and the users are recommended to keep the core updated either manually or automatically. These releases aim to improve WordPress security by bug fixing and error resolving.

Updating the WordPress Core improves your site’s security, performance, and functionality. If you don’t update it, you won’t be able to update your themes and plugins. This will make your site more vulnerable to security threats.

Solution

You can fix this issue by simply updating your WordPress sites. All you need to do is to check your site for updates. You need to follow these steps.

  • Go to your WordPress Dashboard → Updates;
  • Update the latest version whenever available.

Update the latest version

– Source: WordPress Dashboard

💡 Pro Tip: If you want to save yourself from the manual hassles of backing up your site and updating it, you can use the Cloudways SafeUpdates feature.

To automate the WordPress update process and to streamline the maintenance process smoothly, Cloudways has introduced SafeUpdates. It helps you to detect, test, and deploy updates error-free.

SafeUpdates

– Source: Cloudways Platform 

Automate your website’s updates and security with Cloudways SafeUpdates

You can safely update your WordPress, plugins, and themes with a single click without worrying about compatibility issues or data loss.

2. Outdated Themes and Plugins

One of the reasons why WordPress dominates the CMS market is its ability to get customized. The rich plugins and themes library makes it easier for the users to play with the WordPress sites without getting into the manual hassles of adding functionality and design.

But did you know outdated themes and plugins can make sites vulnerable to security threats? 

The themes and plugins must be constantly updated to align with the current version of your WordPress site. The theme and plugin developers often release updates to add an additional layer of functionality and security to the site.

Solution

You can update the themes and plugins from your WordPress Dashboard. You need to follow these steps.

  • Go to your WordPress Dashboard → Updates;
  • Click on Update Plugins.

Update Plugins.

– Source: WordPress Dashboard

  • Click on Update Themes.

Update Themes.

– Source: WordPress Dashboard

3. Malware Infections

Almost every site remains vulnerable to malware.

But with WordPress, the issue becomes serious because gaining unauthorized access to it is easier. Hackers can look for security issues within the plugins and themes and imitate those to attack the websites.

Solution

You can prevent the malware issue by taking the following measures. You need to follow these steps.

  • Carefully check the plugins and themes before installing them;
  • Regular security scans to detect any potential malware residing within your site;
  • You can install plugins for malware detection and removal, such as MalCare, WordFence, Sucuri, etc.

Cloudways hosting also provides Malcare Bot Protection to identify and block malicious traffic and protect from attacks. Check how to activate bot protection to secure your WordPress sites.

4. Credit Card Skimming

Usually, hackers inject malicious JavaScript code into the website to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, expiry dates, and CVV codes. This act is called credit card skimming.

Credit card skimming can cause major financial losses and hurt your business in the long run. If you use WordPress for your websites, you might be most vulnerable to this attack because it is an open-source platform, and hackers have sufficient know-how to delve deeper into details.

Solution

You can prevent this sort of attack by taking the following measures.

  • Install a monitoring tool like Sucuri SiteCheck to scan your website for malicious activities.

Sucuri SiteCheck

– Source: Sucuri

  • Keep the site and its components updated with the latest security patches and software updates.
  • Use security tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and SSL certificates to further protect the sites and sensitive information.

5. Unauthorized Logins

Brute force attacks cause unauthorized logins.

It involves successive repetitive attempts of trying various password combinations to break into a website. Hackers attempt this using the bots that they have installed maliciously in other computers to boost the power required for running such attacks.

There are two main reasons brute force attacks happen so easily.

  1. The default backend login page of the WordPress site is easy to find because it starts with wp. This reduces the guesswork for the hacker.
  2. WordPress site owners keep weak passwords and login credentials.

Solution

You can prevent this issue by taking the following measures.

  • Changing the default wp-admin login URL makes it hard for hackers to launch a brute-force attack on your WordPress site.
  • CAPTCHA is considered one of the best protection against brute force attacks. Read more on how to add Google invisible reCAPTCHA to WordPress.
  • It’s highly recommended to use different yet strong passwords for websites, such as social media and email accounts.
  • To enforce the habit of strong passwords on your site, you should use WP White Security’s MelaPress to enforce strong password policies.

6. Structured Query Language (SQL) Attacks

SQL injections are attacks in which attackers embed SQL commands in different areas of your websites (in particular, the comment box and text areas). These commands can compromise the SQL database and might reveal sensitive information stored in the database.

Modifying the URL by adding PHP statements is another potential threat to WordPress security in which the attackers can trigger attacks on the database and other website components.

Most WordPress sites are hosted on an Apache server with a clever trick to counter these attacks. All Apache servers have a file .htaccess that defines access rules for the website.

Solution

To prevent SQL injection attacks and URL hacking, follow the below steps:

  • Use prepared statements or parameterized queries
  • Validate user input
  • Use least privilege access
  • Update your software and database regularly
  • Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
  • Use encryption.

7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Spam

SEO spam targets the SEO of the website. The hackers inject spammy keywords and pop-up ads on the top-ranking pages and try to sabotage the reputation and revenue of the firm.

These are a few reasons why SEO spam occurs.

  • Outdated plugins and themes;
  • Undefined user roles;
  • Spammy content;
  • Weak security checkups.

Solution

If your WordPress site has been affected by SEO spam, there are several steps you can take to clean it up.

  • Remove any suspicious or unwanted plugins and themes;
  • Delete any spammy content;
  • Update your passwords;
  • Monitor your website regularly;
  • Use security plugins such as Wordfence;
  • Report the issue to Google.

8. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks allow an attacker to inject malicious code into a website, which is then executed by the browser of any user who visits the affected page.

This can result in the loss or misuse of sensitive information, such as login credentials or personal data, and can also be used to carry out other attacks, such as phishing or malware delivery.

Solution

To prevent XSS attacks in WordPress, it’s important to follow best practices such as:

  • Validate and sanitize user input;
  • Keep plugins and themes updated;
  • Keep WordPress Core updated;
  • Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to inspect traffic and prevent unapproved visitors from invading your system.

💡 Pro Tip: If you are using Cloudways, you don’t have to worry about it. All servers launched via Cloudways come with a pre-installed firewall that acts as your website’s first line of defense.

9. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

DDoS attacks happen when an attacker sends traffic to a single target through compromised networks or computers.

The sheer volume of traffic can overwhelm the website’s server, causing it to become unavailable to users. In the case of WordPress, a DDoS attack can result in significant downtime, reduced performance, and lost revenue, as well as damage to the website’s reputation.

Solution

To safeguard your website against malicious traffic and DDoS attacks, you must opt for secure WordPress hosting combined with top-tier security plugins.

  • Use a CDN to distribute incoming traffic load and protect your website from DDoS attacks by absorbing the traffic before it reaches your website.
  • There are several DDoS protection plugins available for WordPress that can help you secure your website against DDoS attacks.
  • Look for a hosting provider that offers DDoS protection and ensures that their servers are equipped to handle high levels of traffic.

💡 Pro Tip: Cloudways offers a Cloudflare Enterprise add-on that mitigates DDoS attacks in under 3 seconds.

Want to experience the ultimate in website performance and security?

Upgrade to Cloudflare Enterprise on Cloudways today and take your website to the next level!

10. File Inclusion Vulnerability

A WordPress installation contains several sensitive files, such as wp-config.php, install.php, and readme.html. These files must be kept hidden from all outside access.

File inclusion vulnerability allows attackers to execute arbitrary code on a website by including malicious files from external sources. It can occur when a website includes a file from an external source without properly validating or sanitizing the file path.

Solution

To resolve this issue, the .htaccess file comes in handy.

You can add the following lines to the file to prevent important files from getting defaced. The following code snippet also prevents access to user directory listings and hides sensitive server and WordPress files from unauthorized access.

Options All -Indexes


<Files .htaccess>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files farhan.php>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files license.txt>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files install.php>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files wp-config.php>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files error_log>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files fantastico_fileslist.txt>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>


<Files fantversion.php>
Order allow,deny
Deny from all
</Files>

Summary

Security is crucial for WordPress websites, and it’s necessary to implement measures to prevent security threats. Keep software and plugins updated, use strong passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and use a security plugin.

Choose a secure hosting provider, use only reputable themes and plugins, and make regular backups. By taking these steps, you can reduce security risks and ensure the safety of your WordPress website.

Also, I strongly recommend users keep a log of what happened on WordPress by using a security audit plugin and the preferred WordPress security plugin, which strengthens WordPress against online threats.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does WordPress have security issues?

Like every platform, WordPress has its share of security issues. However, WordPress security issues can be easily avoided if you follow the WordPress security best practices.

Q. Why is WordPress not secure?

Many WordPress security issues occur because the site admins ignore the standard practices about plugins and themes. In many cases, this could be avoided by conducting a security audit and taking care of the loopholes so that the website remains secure.

Q. Is WordPress easily hacked?

No. The recent versions of WordPress are quite secure. This basic security can be further enhanced by installing WordPress security plugins and choosing themes and plugins from reliable sources.

Q. How can I improve my WordPress Security?

WordPress security can be improved by following basic tips:

  1. Choose a secure hosting solution;
  2. Install an SSL certificate (an essential requirement for business websites);
  3. Set up a reliable WordPress security plugin;
  4. Install login rate limiting through a plugin;
  5. Make sure TFA is active.
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Liza Rajput

Liza Rajput is a Technical Content Producer at Cloudways. Being a software engineer, she loves to play with data and its processes and wishes to grow and excel in Data Science and Big Data Engineering. She has also been an avid reader and exceptional writer, with sufficient experience in technical, research-based, and creative writing.

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