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Updates Are Crucial for WordPress Security: Here’s Why!

March 2, 2018

6 Min Read
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Can your website be hacked if you don’t update it? You know, it absolutely can!

In fact, data shows that over 80% websites are hacked because the website owners did not keep their site updated. But what does it mean to keep a WordPress site updated? Let’s figure it out!

Updating WordPress

Updating WordPress

WordPress is the world most popular website building tool. Launched back in 2003, WordPress now powers more than 29.9 websites on the Internet. A large number of people are responsible for keeping the platform safe including volunteers who help detect vulnerabilities that may hamper the security of the websites. As a result, the platform is regularly updated with bug fixes and other necessary upgrades. This is why it’s essential to use secure WordPress hosting with updating WordPress core when the updates are released. It is also recommended that you backup WordPress site before updating it. So if anything goes wrong (we hope not), you can go ahead and restore your website. So if anything goes wrong (we hope not), you can go ahead and restore your website.

Updating Themes & Plugins

Updating Themes & Plugins

But updating a WordPress website is not limited to the platform alone. WordPress does not work in isolation. Plugins and themes are as much responsible for the safekeeping of your website as is the platform on which it is built. It has been well-documented that outdated themes are plugins are a leading cause of websites getting hacked. When developers find a certain vulnerability in their plugins or themes, they immediately set up a fix and release it as an update.

Hackers are constantly searching for a website with outdated plugins/themes. A new update helps them identify vulnerabilities in the themes or plugin so that they can exploit it to break into a website. When you don’t update or postpone updates of themes or plugins of your website, you are really welcoming hackers to breach your website’s security.

Using a WordPress security service can also prove to be helpful in identifying and preventing security breaches. Such a service will also allow you to clean up the site when a hack occurs. There are backup facilities as well so you can restore the WordPress website to its original form.

As you can see how extremely necessary updates are! It is therefore recommended to create WordPress staging site before updating themes and plugins of your website.

Issues You Are Likely to Face When Updating a WordPress Website

1. Your Site Can Break

Your Site Can Break

Whenever developers release a new update for a theme or plugin, they try their best to keep it compatible with the previous version of the plugin/theme. This is done because site owners have built a website surrounding the previous version. If the theme or plugin is incompatible with that previous version, it’ll cause the rest of the website to misbehave. And can lead your site to eventually break.

This particular problem crops up in popular plugins as much as it does in not-so-popular ones. A few years back, WooCommerce releases an update that was incompatible with its previous version. One can only imagine the heartaches it caused for site owners whose website broke because of the incompatibility.

Another major mishap that we’d like to point out is when updates offer security fixes but are incompatible with the previous version. The very popular Revolution Slider suffered from a vulnerability in the past. Developers quickly released an update. But the new version was incompatible with the older one causing sites to misbehave. It’s a dilemma that caused endless problems for several website owners.

2. Plugins/Themes Don’t Have Auto Update Mechanism

Plugins Themes Don’t Have Auto Update Mechanism

To a great extend plugins make WordPress an excellent platform for building a website. Plugins help to design your website as per your vision or/and the need for your visitors. Making modifications are so easy using a plugin. Paid plugins tend to offer a large number of updates and constant support. A beauty of using plugins is that you get notified of updates automatically. WordPress plugin repository checks for updates on a regular basis and notifies the users. On seeing the notification, website owners click on the ‘update now’ button and that’s it. Plugin updated.

Everything seems well and good so far. But you must be wondering, what about the plugins that are are not present in the WP repository? Premium plugins that are not in the repository do have their own way of sending notifications for updates – very much like the plugins in the repository. But there are several paid plugins that don’t offer any easy way of knowing that they have released an updating. You’d have to regularly visit their blogs and follow social media sites just to know if there is a new update available. You’d think that using a premium plugin will make your life easier but it can end up causing you more inconvenience.

3. Managing Updates for Multiple Websites is Not Easy

Managing Updates for Multiple Websites is Not Easy

If you are running multiple WordPress sites and using plugins, updating is a huge task that you need to be invested in every day. We mentioned before, how several premium plugins are not present in the WordPress plugin repository. And many of them don’t have an automated notification functionality for whenever updates are available. They make announcements on their blogs and perhaps on Twitter and Facebook. Keeping a track on blog posts and social media accounts for an announcement on updates every day is going to eat up a lot of your time.

Throughout this post, we have talked a lot about WordPress security issues and ways to fix them. Imagine if you miss a notification of a crucial update, your website will be at a huge risk of becoming a target for a hack. In fact, hackers are constantly looking out for websites that are using outdated themes and plugins.

4. Updates For Paid Plugins Can Be Expensive

Updates For Paid Plugins Can Be Expensive

While running a website, you will very likely end up using a lot of plugins, right? You will come across plugins that offer amazing features and significant updates when you upgrade to their premium plan. And because you require those features, you’ll become a paid user.

These days, most premium plugins are moving from lifetime models to yearly subscription models. So you are basically paying to use the plugin for a certain period of time, like a year. After that period, you’ll have to renew the license to have access to those significant updates, features and constant support. A lot of times, the model is not communicated well enough to website owners. They have no idea they will have to shell out a large amount of money after a year. When they do find that out, it increases the expense of maintaining a website by many folds.

5. Developers Sometimes Abandon Plugins

Developers Sometime Abandon Plugins

Sometimes a plugin or theme runs the course of its life. Developers stop working on them. Let’s take the example of Postman SMTP plugin, which was removed from the WordPress directory because it was not updated for last 18 months. If you keep using those EOL products, you’ll face a lot of issues with nobody to solve them. There won’t be an update to fix WordPress errors or any sort of upgrade.

Often developers lose interest in a plugin or theme that they have created. There could be several reasons behind creating those theme or plugin. But the follow-up process of maintaining the plugin/theme is possible only when you can devote the necessary time and resources. When a product is created as a side-project, it’s possible that the developer has a full-time job that is paying his bills. Therefore, devoting the required time on those themes/plugins developed as a side-hustle is not feasible. Developers then proceed to abandon those themes and plugins.

Over to You!

We come to the conclusion that while updating your website is crucial, you should update with caution. Tell us, if you have any questions surrounding updates on WordPress and its relation to security. We’d be happy to answer.

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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Mansoor Ahmed Khan

Passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing, Mansoor Ahmed Khan is in computing since he knows how to type on a keyboard. His daily life is rocked by his family, projects, and his screen. Probably in this order, he likes to be convinced at least.

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