How to secure WordPress websites for free?

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Protecting Content Management Systems (CMS) installed on a hosting server is crucial in today’s growing world, but how do I protect my WordPress website on a tight budget?

There are tons of options available on this front, but it can be difficult to make the right decision when it comes to website protection that fits your budget. In this article, however, we will cover the basics of securing your WordPress website effectively and for free.

Malware and vulnerability scanners

Finding the right scanner for your website can seem a bit overwhelming at first given the number of options available. In one of our recent articles, we discuss how to choose a suitable security plugin for your website. The bells and whistles of scanners available on the web vary, so it should be beneficial to cover the basics first. You should at least schedule regular scans to complete and alert you to any suspicious behavior.

With our free WordPress Analyzer, for example, you will be able to program a specific period of execution of these scanners. Consider the amount of resources these scans produce as well.

When it comes to vulnerability scans, it’s important to make sure a scanner has optimal detection when it comes to outdated themes, plugins, and software. Ensuring that updates occur regularly is crucial for website security. Updating a plugin can cause problems for a site if it is not tested locally first.

However, the creation backups will be useful in case something goes south.

Login Protection

Protecting your admin login panel remains imperative for any website. The number one mistake new website users make is using the same weak passwords across multiple platforms. Sure, it’s simple to remember, but let’s say one of those many sites you signed up to has an infamous data breach. Your password is now published in the wild for any hacker to get.

Strong generated passwords will help limit the chances of any of these hackers using these weaker, recurring passwords, preventing any risk of phishing campaigns, impersonation, social engineering, etc. . Tracking a bunch of generated passwords can be tedious to do by hand.

Installing a password manager and storing the master key somewhere safe and private will be your best friend, though.

Setting up IP addresses under allow/block lists for your login panel will help prevent questionable IP addresses from accessing your admin dashboard. The default admin dashboard is /wp-admin however, which hackers will usually attempt to Brute force first. Changing your WordPress login URL to something more specific to your brand will help avoid these attempts.

Depending on the privilege level of the WordPress user, adding 2FA to these accounts will ensure that no one tries to login as their identity. Adding security questions is also helpful. The primary admin should not use “admin” as the default username, as hackers usually predict this when brute force attacks occur.

Limiting login attempts also helps prevent these attacks. Make sure that additional users only need absolutely necessary privileges and remove unused ones.

Setting up a CAPTCHA for sections of the site that include forms and login panels will ensure that bots do not inject malicious code. Make sure that all installed CAPTCHA plugins are reliable and trustworthy like any other plugin, theme or extension.

Keeping a backup before installing these extras is also helpful, of course. Make sure these facilities are kept to a minimum though, you don’t want to use too many resources which can slow a site down exponentially.

SSL certificates

Protecting data in transit to your site remains imperative for any e-commerce site. Installing an SSL certificate can be quite simple actually, as we provide the steps in our article How to add SSL and move WordPress from HTTP to HTTPS. In fact, an SSL certificate has been so crucial in today’s online environment that a site’s SEO ranking can be affected by using only HTTP instead.

User activity monitoring

It’s important to keep tabs on user activity on your website regularly, and there are plenty of free options that will do this for you and send alerts if they suspect anything. Of course, monitoring is only the first step. If you notice malicious traffic associated with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) or brute force attack, investing in a firewall protection service.

Hosting Reviews

We’ve now covered the basics of analyzing the site, protecting the login section, ensuring transmitted data is encrypted, and monitoring user activity. Although there are still adjustments on the back-end that can be made. Here is a list of some of the following recommended revisions:

  • Avoid vulnerable JS libraries
  • Disable PHP reports
  • Disable file editing
  • Limit access to .htaccess
  • Revise the wp_ prefix in the database
  • Disable XML-RPC
  • Hide WordPress Version
  • Manage file permissions
  • Disable indexing and directory browsing

In conclusion

These suggestions and tips provided should hopefully give you a better general overview of the basics of website security, before you dig into your wallet. It is important to remember that nothing is 100% certain. Zero-day exploits appear from time to time, but it will be useful to stay on top of bug fixes and alerts that arise.

You can also check out our guide to basic WordPress hardening for more options to secure your website, for free!

If you are currently experiencing an attack that needs to be corrected, feel free to let us take care of it for you.

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