Any security loophole or weakness in your WordPress (WP) website or the CMS platform itself is referred to as a WordPress vulnerability. These WordPress bugs can be used by cybercriminals to:
- Carry out a variety of cyber-attacks.
- Data that they can use or sell is stolen.
- Disseminate malware.
- Bypass the authentication method.
- Change and transact on the website without permission.
- Let your website down.
Hackers exploit WordPress security flaws to gain access to your website. You can face legal repercussions if hackers steal and exploit your users’ personal and financial information. As a result, it’s important for you to identify and patch any WordPress vulnerabilities you may.
The public domain can also be used to identify common vulnerabilities and exposures. MITRE, for example, keeps track of CVEs, and includes many of the most recent WordPress security flaws.
We’ll go through the seven most popular WordPress security flaws and what you can do to fix them in this post.
7 WordPress Security Vulnerabilities & How to Fix Them
Some of these fixes are quick to execute, while others necessitate some programming experience. We’ve also included links to the required resource pages and plugins, making it easier for you to put the advice into practise.
WordPress Vulnerability 1: Vulnerable Login Fields
As previously mentioned, a “WP vulnerability” refers to any flaw in the WordPress platform (including plugins, themes, compromised accounts or databases, and so on) that attackers exploit to gain unauthorised access to your website. The login page fields are one such vulnerable area. Hackers use a variety of strategies on login fields to circumvent the authentication mechanism.
If they’ve gained access to your (admin) account, it’ll be simple for them to instal malware, post offensive material, or steal data from other users. As a result, one of the most serious WP flaws is an unprotected login area.
WP Solution 1. Limit Login Attempts
Installing plugins is one way to deal with this issue (there are many types out there such as Limit Login Attempts, Loginizer, and WPS Limit Login). By default, all WordPress sites allow users to enter their user IDs and passwords as many times as they want before they find the correct combination of credentials.
Despite the fact that this feature makes logging in easier for users who have trouble remembering passwords, hackers use it as one of the WordPress security vulnerabilities that they can exploit with a brute-force assault. A hacker uses a bot to repeatedly enter login credentials into login fields in this attack. This allows the intruder to automatically add a pre-guessed database of apparently infinite user IDs and passwords before a successful login attempt is made.
Limiting the number of login attempts a user can make in a given time is the best way to avoid brute force attacks. The device temporarily blocks the user/IP address after a predetermined number of failed login attempts (usually between three and five).
WP Solution 2. Force Strong Passwords
Install plugins such as Password Policy Manager or Force Strong Passwords to ensure that all of your users, staff, coauthors, and other collaborators use strong passwords (having one uppercase, one lowercase, one digit, and one special character).
WP Solution 3. Two-Factor Authentication
Passwords can be stolen, guessed, or attacked using brute force. To combat this, use two-factor authentication (2FA) tools/plugins like Google Authenticator, Two-Factor Authentication, or WP 2FA to add an extra layer of security to your website. Along with your password, you’ll need to have a one-time password (OTP), secret code, or PIN, which will be sent to your phone or email address. After you’ve allowed 2FA, your login page should look like this:
WP Solution 4. Unique User IDs
If you’re using a generic user ID like “admin” or your own name, change it right away and come up with something new. Brute force attacks can be used to manipulate generic and common user IDs.
WordPress Vulnerability 2: Unchanged URLs and File Names
Using the default structure for URLs, file names, and storage locations is another WordPress security flaw that users often neglect. You’re making it easier for attackers to locate essential pages and files by using default names and locations. To repair this flaw, manually modify these paths and file names.
WP Solution 1. Change Default URL Path for Admin Page
The following URLs are used as the default admin page links in WordPress:
- www.yourdomain.com/wp-login.php, and
Anyone can easily access the admin login page and use bots to launch a brute force attack. However, if your admin URL is special, only the person who knows the exact URL can log in.
Change the URL of your admin page to something special. www.yoursite.com/pinkbird.php or www.yoursite.com/nationalpark, for example.
WP Solution 2. Change the Default Database Table Name
The table name in your WordPress database has the wp- prefix by default. These tables contain all of your login credentials, user information, transaction details, audit logs, and other important data. As a result, these databases are often attacked by hackers. Bots are used by attackers to look for and break into your WordPress database.
WP Solution 3. Change the Location of Your Wp-config.php File
Your website’s essential settings, configurations, WordPress authentication keys, and databases are all stored in the wp-config.php file. The wp-config.php file is located in the root directory by default and can be accessed by a hacker. Transfer the wp-config.php file above the root directory to a folder that isn’t a subdirectory of your public html or WWW folder.
Check out this article about how to change the location of the wp-config file for more detail and guidance.
WordPress Vulnerability 3: A Lack of Data Transmission Encryption
Your users’ data (name, email address, password, payment card details, tax-related information, etc.) is transmitted in plain text when they send it to your website. This means that a hacker can intercept the vulnerable communication channel between a user’s browser and your web server and read the details. Basically, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks would make your website vulnerable.
Visual representation of a WordPress vulnerability: An example of a man-in-the-middle attack in action.
A man-in-the-middle attacker can intercept insecure data exchanges, as seen in this diagram. This emphasises the importance of securing your WordPress site with HTTPS. This helps you to cross off another possible WordPress flaw from your to-do list!
They will use this information to conduct ransomware attacks, commit financial fraud, or steal identities. As a result, unencrypted data exchange channels are viewed as another WordPress flaw.
Install an SSL/TLS certificate on your website to solve this issue. This allows you to use asymmetric encryption to encrypt data in transit between your users’ browsers and your web server. There are both free and commercial SSL certificates available, but paid SSL certificates are usually preferred over free ones. This is due to the fact that commercial SSL certificates come with guarantees and customer service and can be as cheap as $10 a year.
WordPress Vulnerability 4: Lack of Firewalls, Malware & Vulnerability Scanners
Cybersecurity is a phase that never ends. You may not be aware of a cyber attack or malware attack until it is too late if your website is not continuously monitored and secured by a malware scanner and firewall. As a consequence, an unprotected website is known as a significant WordPress risk.
Security scanners and firewalls keep an eye on your website 24 hours a day, detecting and removing malware, blocking suspicious IPs, and stopping a cyberattack in its early stages to prevent further harm.
Just use trusted companies and websites to mount WP security scanners and firewalls. You can also use a website scanner, such as Sectigo’s HackerProof Trust Label, which scans your website for vulnerabilities every day and offers advice for how to repair them.
WordPress Vulnerability 5: Outdated WordPress Components
Hackers, developers, and bug hunters (also known as ethical hackers or white hat hackers) are constantly looking for security flaws in the WordPress code. What distinguishes them is what they do after they’ve located them. The latter two are looking for them so that they can be fixed and developers can release a patched version that fixes the problem. (Hackers want to take advantage of it.)
Information on some of the established WordPress vulnerabilities has also been made public. You can learn about the new WordPress vulnerabilities by visiting the WordPress Vulnerability Database (wpvuldb.com). The MITRE CVE list, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, are some additional tools (NIST).
Hackers search for websites using older, unpatched versions of WordPress to exploit their security vulnerabilities because some of the big WP vulnerabilities are easy to find on the internet. As a result, it’s critical to monitor updates and instal patched versions as soon as they become usable.
WordPress Vulnerability 6: WordPress Plugin Vulnerabilities
Wpvulndb.com claims to have discovered a total of 21,785 vulnerabilities in their database, with 3,882 (or 17.8%) of those being WordPress plugin vulnerabilities.
Since WordPress is an open-source site, anyone can build and publish plugins for it. Some plugin creators might be inexperienced programmers who aren’t as concerned about plugin protection as others. As a consequence, plugins are poorly designed and have weak security postures. Also well-known plugins, however, are vulnerable to security bugs due to human error.
MalCare, for example, states that the following well-known plugins have been exploited or patched in 2020:
- File Manager (WordFence reports that this exploit affected 700,000 WordPress users),
- The Duplicator,
- ThemeGrill Demo Importer,
- Profile Builder,
- Flexible Checkout Fields,
- ThemeREX Addons,
- Modern Events Calendar Lite, and
- 10Web Map Builder for Google Maps.
How to Fix Plugin-Related Issues
Some sections of your website are controlled directly by plugins. So, instead of putting in the effort to find vulnerabilities throughout your entire website, hackers just need to exploit one plugin to gain access to it and hack it! That’s why hackers are still on the lookout for WordPress plugin flaws.
You, as a consumer, are unable to correct the plugin’s flaws. That is the responsibility of the plugin creator. However, if you follow these steps, you will be able to do so.
WP Solution 1: Install Trusted Plugins
Installing plugins from reputable companies or developers is a smart idea. Before you instal them, read the user feedback to make sure you’re not causing any new issues.
WP Solution 2: Report Security Bugs Immediately:
Plugin problems and vulnerabilities are to blame for some of the most common WordPress security flaws. This is why it’s important to report them if you encounter such problems. The faster a developer can find and correct bugs, the safer your website (and others) will be.
So, if you instal a plugin and find something out of the ordinary, such as the following examples, please notify the developer:
- There are new type fields that you didn’t incorporate,
- In your database, form responses are automatically modified.
- Codes or irregular connections appear in form responses.
WP Solution 3: Update Plugins Regularly
The majority of plugin developers are fast to repair security flaws and release patched versions of their products. As soon as new versions of plugins are released, make sure you instal them.
People who use freemium plugins may not be able to get access to new versions unless they pay for them. As a result, jackers are aware that people who use free plugins are unlikely to have the most recent versions. As a result, attackers simply look for common freemium plugins and free users to hack.
When you use a freemium plugin, bear in mind that you will eventually have to “pay for it” — either by purchasing access to updates or by being a victim of a criminal exploiting a loophole for which you failed to apply a fix!
WordPress Vulnerability 7: Unprotected Input Fields
Hackers can place payloads in a variety of input fields, including contact and subscription forms, login fields, comments, and even the search bar on your website. Cross-site scripting (XSS) or SQL injections are possible with the payload. In the comments sections of websites, attackers can put unsolicited advertisements and malicious hyperlinks.
Hackers inject scripts anywhere on the web page, but most commonly in the input fields, in XSS attacks. When users click on these areas, malware is downloaded into their devices, they are redirected to a spammy website, or their personal information is stolen by hackers.
Hackers use SQL injections to insert malicious code into web applications and form input forms in order to exploit vulnerabilities. This enables cybercriminals to circumvent website authentication systems, steal confidential data, and even hijack entire databases through ransomware attacks.
There are some options for protecting your input fields.
- Reduce the number of fields where users could write down information in free form by using scroll-downs, schedules, and checklists. Instead of requiring users to manually enter data for date of birth, have a calendar from which they must pick the DOB.
- Data Validation/Whitelisting: Validation entails ensuring that the data generated by users is in the correct format. For instance, the name field should only accept letters (not digits or special characters). The response to the phone number field must be in the format xxx-xxx-xxxx and contain only digits. Find out more about validation codes and how to use them.
- Sanitize all inputs thoroughly: This is the second stage after validation, in which WordPress checks all input data for malicious codes and eliminates them before storing it in the database.
Spammy Comments Should Be Blocked: To detect and delete spammy and malicious comments, use plugins like Akismet, CleanTalk, or Antispam Bee.
- Update, Update, Update: As stated previously, you can update all of your WordPress components on a regular basis (WordPress version, themes, plugins, and applications).
- Employ Web Application Firewalls and Other Security Measures: Security tools (such as IDS/IPS) and firewalls can search input data and identify vulnerabilities in types. No WordPress website — or any website for that matter — should be without these essential resources.
Final Words on WordPress Security Vulnerabilities
WordPress is used by 44 percent of all websites that use content management systems (CMSs), according to BuiltWith. WordPress publishes 70 million new posts per month. Without a doubt, when a site is extremely popular among the entire tech community as well as businesses of all sizes, hackers and cybercriminals will flock to it. These hackers are actively searching for WordPress bugs in the core software, plugins, themes, and applications.
In fact, your website will never be completely free of WordPress security flaws. Since cybersecurity is an ongoing and changing operation, you must constantly monitor the overall security of your website. It’s all about making yourself as difficult a target for cybercriminals as possible.
You can at least address the well-known WordPress security vulnerabilities and allow your website to flex a robust security posture by following the above-mentioned tips.