Saturday, March 25, 2017

Preventing WordPress From Brute Force Attacks

WP SecurityWhen you are the world’s leading CMS platform and the online publishing platform of choice used by millions of websites and loved by thousands of web developers and website designers, it’s inevitable that at some point in time, WordPress will come under attack from hackers wanting to score a “big win”.

In 2013, WordPress installations around the world were subjected to large-scale brute force attacks.

These attacks were caused by botnets (networks of infected computers programmed to attack other vulnerable computers).

Brute-Force Attacks

A brute-force attack is a technique used to break an encryption or authentication system by trying all possibilities.

(Source: Chinese University Of Hong Kong)

One of the many ways hackers use to try and break into WordPress sites is by trying to guess the site admin’s login username and password. This is achieved with software tools that can guess hundreds of login combinations in minutes.

If you’re using obvious login details, your website could be easily hacked by repeated attempts to guess your site’s login details.

This is called a “brute-force” attack.


A botnet is a number of Internet-connected computers communicating with other similar machines in an effort to complete repetitive tasks and objectives. This can be as mundane as keeping control of an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, or it could be used to send spam email or participate in distributed denial-of-service attacks. The word botnet is a combination of the words robot and network.

(Source: Wikipedia/botnet)

“Botnets” are networks of private computers that have been infected with malicious code, which are then controlled remotely as a group, often without the unsuspecting computer owners even being aware that this is going on.

Botnets are regularly used to send mass spam emails.

Below is a screenshot taken from an online security monitoring site showing the locations of the command centers of ZeuS – a botnet that has been actively infecting computer networks all around the globe since 2009 …

The Zeus botnet has been actively compromising computer networks all around the globe since 2009.

(ZeuS is a botnet that has been actively compromising computer networks all around the world since 2009. Screenshot:

These were well organized and highly distributed attacks. Over 90,000 IP addresses were identified by several hosting companies just in the initial attack, when the web was flooded with millions of attempts to force their way into WordPress user administration areas. The worldwide brute force attacks then continued, with over 30,000 WordPress blogs being hacked each day.

Coverage of this mass brute-force attack was reported by all of the major webhosting companiesand leading technology publications, such as Forbes, TechNews Daily, BBC News, PC Magazine, Tech Crunch, and even on the official website of the US Department of Homeland Security …

WordPress is often the target of malicious attacks by hackers, due to its popularity

(Being the world’s most used CMS makes WordPress an obvious target for hacker attacks)

Does This Mean We Should Stop Using WordPress?

No. In fact, there are lots of very good reasons why you should choose WordPress if you are concerned at all about the security of your online presence.

To learn what makes WordPress a very secure web platform, read this article: Are Open Source CMS Platforms Like WordPress Secure?


It’s important to understand that, in the case of the brute force attack described above, no specific WordPress vulnerability was being exploited (the same script was also targeting sites built using other web applications like Joomla).

Mike Little, one of the co-founders of WordPress, said this about the botnet attacks:

It is a “simple” script that attempts to login using the admin login and a generated password. So if your password is too short or based on dictionary words it will be guessed and then the script can login legitimately and do whatever it wants including installing scripts (as plugins) or editing files. The attack tries to guess your password, if it succeeds, the most secure site in the world is wide open because they have your password.


How To Protect Your WordPress Blog From Being Brute-Force Attacked – 10 Security Measures

You may think that your site has nothing to offer to hackers, but the reality is that every website has value to a malicious user.

If a hacker can find a software security flaw, your web site can then be used as part of a larger network of “bots” to target larger and more valued sites.

Additional undesirable consequences of having your site hacked include being blacklisted by search engines, having stealthy spam links advertising things like viagra, cheap offers on brand names, etc. in your content, malicious redirects to phishing sites, drive-by downloads (adding malicious software on your visitors’ computers), and lots of other nasties.

The reality is that software-driven bots are most likely trying to break into your website at this very moment. Whether they will break in or not, depends on how challenging you have made things for them to keep trying until they can work out a way to get access, or give up and go look for a less protected target.

How Much Information Are You Broadcasting To Hackers About Your WordPress Site?

Does your website run on WordPress? If so visit and run your site through their WordPress security scan …

Hackertarget - WordPress Security Check

(WP Security Check Image source:

You will see that the scan will display a number of results and information about your website setup …

Hackertarget - WordPress Security Check

(WP security scan results. Screenshot source:

It should be obvious after using the tool shown above that if you are able to see all of this information, then so can hackers.

Hackertarget - WordPress Security Check

(Product image: BlogDefender website)

The ability to see what version of WordPress you are using, which plugins and themes you have installed, and which files have been uploaded to certain directories in your site are all valuable information to hackers, as this can inform them about any potential holes or weaknesses, especially where site owners haven’t updated their software versions.

If your website is powered by WordPress and you’re not preventive steps to bolster the security of your site, then it’s practically guaranteed that, at some point in time, your site will be hacked, or at least targeted by bots, because these brute force attacks are systematically targeting WordPress sites worldwide!

When a website or blog gets broken into, blog owners can discover much to their dismay that they have been “locked out” of their own site, or notice that their files have been altered or even that their content has been entirely wiped out. Typically, sites will be infected with malicious software or viruses without the owner even being aware that a breach has taken place.

To help avoid the heartache (and significant financial loss) of discovering that your web site has been hacked into, below are ten simple, yet essential and effective security checks that will help to protect your WordPress site from being brute force attacked.


Note: Some of the recommended measures shown below need some technical understanding of how to modify core WordPress and/or server files. If you have no web skills, or don’t want to mess around with file code, then contact us, or ask your web host or a professional WordPress service provider for help.


Security Measure #1 – Get In Touch With Your Webhosting Service Provider

Get in touch with your hosting company and ask them exactly what security measures have been put in place to protect your site from brute force attacks, and what they do to ensure that your files and data get regularly backed up.

Check that your host backs up your server files and that, if disaster strikes, you can quickly and easily get your site back.

Security Measure #2 – Perform Complete WordPress Backups And Keep Your Site Frequently Updated

Never rely on your host for site backups. Instead, learn how to manage your WordPress site or get this service done for you and develop a habit of performing a complete site maintenance routine frequently (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly, etc …)

A full WordPress maintenance routine ensures that:

  • All unnecessary data and files are deleted,
  • All WordPress data and files are free of errors, optimized and backed up,
  • All WordPress software, plugins and themes are up-to-date,
  • etc …

A complete WordPress maintenance routine looks like this …

Maintaining your WP website or blog completely backed up and up-to-date is vitally important for WordPress security.

(Maintaining your WordPress website frequently backed up and up-to-date is vitally important for WordPress security. Source:

Again, we cannot stress enough how important maintaining your WP website or blog frequently backed up and up-to-date is. WordPress site maintenance is not hard or time-consuming, but it must be done to ensure the security of your website or blog. If you don’t want to learn how to do WordPress site maintenance yourself, get someone else to do it but make sure this gets done. Backing up your website is the second most important thing you must do after making sure that your heart is still beating!

If you don’t want to back up your data manually, there are many WordPress plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here: Backup, Duplicate And Keep Your WordPress Websites Protected With Backup Creator WP Plugin

Security Measure #3 – Do Not Use “Admin” As Your Admin Username

The large scale brute-force attack on WordPress is mostly attempting to compromise site admin panels and gain access to sites by exploiting WP installations that used “admin” as the account name.

For reasons of website security, never set up sites with the username admin. This is the first area of potential vulnerability hackers will test. If your site’s user name is admin, then make sure you change it immediately.

For a detailed step-by-step tutorial created especially for WordPress admin users that shows you how to change your username, go here: How To Change Your Admin User Name In WordPress

Security Measure #4 – Use Strong Passwords

A “brute force” attack occurs when a malicious script persistently hits a username and password field with different strings of characters trying to guess the right login combination that will unlock your site.

Unless you put some measure in place to prevent the brute force attack (see further below for a couple of effective suggestions for doing this), the “bot” will just persist in attacking your site until it eventually gets access.

Weak passwords, therefore, become really easy targets for botnets. Make sure that you change your password to something that is at least eight or nine characters long, and that includes upper and lowercase letters, combined with “special” characters (e.g. %, $, *, etc).

Useful Tip

Roboform is a password management program you can use to help you generate different secure login passwords …

Roboform is a password management tool you can use to generate secure passwords

(Roboform is a password software that lets you create different strong login passwords)

For a simple step-by-step tutorial created especially for WordPress users on how to change your login password, go here: How To Change WordPress Passwords

Security Measure #5 – Deny Access To Your WP Config File

The wp-config.php file allows WordPress to communicate with the database to store and retrieve data and is used to define advanced options for WordPress.


(wp-config.php file)

If hackers break into your WordPress site, they will search for the wp-config.php file, because this is the file that contains your WordPress database information, security keys, etc. Getting access to this information would allow someone to change anything in your database, create a user account, upload files and take control of your site.

To protect your WordPress site from attacks and even being used as part of a bot net, therefore, prevent people from being able to easily find your wp-config.php file. This requires knowing how to edit database information, move files around in your server and changing access permissions.

Security Measure #6 – Delete Or Rename Unnecessary Website Installation Files

Rename or delete the install.php, upgrade.php and readme.html files from your server.

These files are not required after installation and can be removed. If you don’t want to delete these files, just rename them.

Security Measure #7 – Keep Your WordPress Files, Themes And Plugins Up-To-Date

Hackers are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities in earlier versions of WordPress that can be exploited, including outdated versions of themes and plugins.

Ensure that all of your software files, plugins, themes, etc. are always up to date.

Security Measure #8 – Disable Your WordPress Theme Editor

WordPress installations come with a built-in editor feature that lets the administrator edit plugin and theme files inside the dashboard area.

In WordPress, you can access your WordPress Theme Editor by selecting Appearance > Editor from the dashboard menu …

WP Theme Editor Menu

(The WordPress theme editor is accessible via the dashboard menu)

The WordPress theme editor lets anyone accessing your blog view and change your theme templates, and create mayhem on your site.

If you want to prevent unauthorized people from being able to access the WordPress Theme editor, you will need to disable it. This can be done by editing your wp-config.php file.

Security Measure #9 – Protect The Site’s Uploads Folder

The WordPress “uploads” folder contains all the media files that get uploaded to your WordPress site.

Normally, this folder is visible to anyone online. All a person needs to do to view all of the contents in the “uploads” folder is visit the directory using their web browser …

(WordPress has an uploads folder where media content is stored)

(WordPress uploads directory)

If any directories in your website have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious users, anyone could upload unauthorized file types or compromise the security of your website.

Protecting your directories will prevent online users from viewing your ‘uploads’ folder and other important directories. This can be done using plugins, setting file permissions, adding a blank index.php file (this is literally an empty file called “index.php”) to your uploads directory, and so on. Again, it’s best to ask for assistance from someone with experience if you are unsure about what to do.

Security Measure #10 – WordPress Security Plugins

Some great security plugins for WordPress are available that specifically address common security issues WordPress website owners face, such as preventing hackers from gaining access to vital areas of your site, protecting your website from malicious software, preventing unauthorized file uploads, etc.

Many WordPress plugins address some but not all areas of WordPress security. One security plugin that seems to do a comprehensive job of scanning, fixing and preventing issues that could lead to hackers accessing your files and damaging your site is SecureScanPro.

SecureScanPro - WordPress security plugin

(SecureScanPro – total security software for WordPress)

SecureScanPro is easy to install and easy to use, and fixes most of the security issues that WordPress users need to address.

Another great plugin you may want to look at using is BlogDefender.

Blog Defender WordPress Security Plugin

Blog Defender

(Blog Defender Security Suite)

Blog Defender is a package of WordPress security video tutorials, WordPress plugins and tools, plus WordPress security documentation in PDF and DOC formats.

BlogDefender shows you where potential security holes in your web site are …

Blog Defender WordPress Security Plugin

And lets you easily fix these …

Blog Defender Security Product Suite For WordPress Websites & Blogs

If you don’t want to buy a security plugin like SecureScanPro or BlogDefender, you can use various free plugins, such as Limit Login Attempts

Limit Login Attempts - WordPress Security Plugin

WordPress is a very secure web platform, but neglecting essential maintenance tasks like keeping your WordPress software, plugins and WordPress themes up-to-date, tightening file and data security and taking other necessary precautions can expose your website to malicious by hackers and bots.

Regardless of the type of business you run or plan to run online and how small you think your web presence is, you cannot afford to ignore the importance of securing your sites.

As a final reminder, below is the advice given by a website security expert to all WordPress users following the large-scale brute-force attacks by botnets on WordPress in 2013 …

Owners of websites based on WordPress CMS must improve at least basic security settings and implement best practices such as the use of robust passwords and the accurate management of “admin” accounts.

Pierluigi Paganini, Chief Information Security Officer, Security Affairs


As you can see, WordPress security is of the utmost importance if you run a WordPress site. Hopefully this information will help prevent brute-force attacks on your WordPress site. If you need any further help or assistance with WordPress security, please contact us or consult a professional WordPress security specialist.

Also, do yourself a favor and subscribe to this site to receive notifications via email whenever we publish new information on WordPress security and reviews about WordPress security plugins.

The post Preventing WordPress From Brute Force Attacks appeared first on Quick Click Hosting.

Is WordPress A Secure Website Platform?

WP Security OverviewIn April 2013 a global brute-force attack struck WordPress installations across almost every WP hosting server in existence around the world.

These attacks were caused by botnets (networks of infected computers programmed to attack other sites with security vulnerabilities).

Powering millions of sites around the world makes WordPress a target for hacker attacks

(WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS making it a frequent target for hacking attacks)

In March 2014, technology sites like reported that 162,000 legitimate WordPress-powered web sites had been hacked.

Thousands of websites and blogs are attacked every year! Will yours be one of them?

(Over 160,000 WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in early 2014. Image source:

According to the Cnet report,

“With some old-fashioned trickery, hackers were able to get more than 162,000 legitimate WordPress-powered Web sites to mount a distributed-denial-of-service attack against another Web site.”


According to leading security firm Sucuri, hackers had leveraged a flaw to attack unsuspecting WordPress websites and direct a distributed-denial-of-service cyberattack (DDoS) towards another popular website.

When attacks on WordPress sites take place on a worldwide scale, it’s natural for people to start asking if WordPress really is a secure software for building and running their sites.

WordPress often is targeted by hackers, due to its global popularity. But should you be concerned about WordPress as a secure web platform?

In this article you will learn some of the main reasons why you should consider using WordPress if you are at all concerned about website security.

Let’s start by looking at some facts …

Thousands of websites are hacked every year … not just WordPress sites!

The scale of attacks on websites and blogs worldwide is rising, and it’s getting worse.

It’s safe to assume that if your website or blog hasn’t been hacked yet, then it’s inevitable that at some point in time someone will attempt to hack into your site … regardless of the web platform your website has been built with!

Since it’s no longer a matter of if, but when before your website is targeted by hackers, are there any advantages that WordPress can offer you in terms of security?

“Isn’t Open Source Software Highly Vulnerable?”

Many people will often try and argue that WordPress is not a safe platform for building and running a website or blog because having open source code means that anyone can view how the software runs.

Open-source CMS platforms like WordPress, Drupal and Joomla are free to use and anyone has access to the underlying code.

The argument against using WordPress, then, goes something like this: If anyone can examine the Open Source code for WordPress, then hackers can easily download the code and go through it in detail, searching for vulnerabilities in the code that can be exploited …

It's not a matter of if, but a matter of when before your website is targeted by malicious hackers ... WordPress or no WordPress!

(It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when before your website will be targeted by hackers … WordPress or no WordPress!)

While it’s true that WordPress is a free program and hackers can easily go through the code searching for holes and weaknesses they can exploit (hackers can do the same with any software program), the fact that WordPress is a free, open-source application actually makes it more secure in several ways.

The reason for this is that WordPress is supported by a community of hundreds of software programmers, plugin developers and theme designers who are constantly working to help improve the software and make WordPress more secure …

With WordPress, a volunteer community of web developers is responsible for keeping the platform code maintained and updated.

(With WordPress, an open community of developers around the world is responsible for keeping the core application updated. Image source:

WordPress evolves through the effort of a global volunteer community working around the clock to fix any issues detected by users. Everyone benefits from hundreds of web developers, designers and users who, at any one time, are focused on improving the software, fixing bugs and making WordPress safer for every user …

The WordPress core software is built by a global community of volunteer web developers

(WordPress is built and maintained by a large community of experienced web developers. Screenshot:

The moment that a security hole is identified by developers or users, these are reported in user forums and addressed by the WordPress developers …

WordPress is continually being improved upon by an open community of web developers and users

(WordPress is continually being improved upon by a huge community community of developers and users. Image source:

The WordPress community support system, therefore, is quite formidable and anybody can contribute to the process of addressing security issues.

For example:

  • If you find bugs and a security weakness, you can report these by emailing
  • If you find issues in a WP plugin, you can report these by sending an email to

This is why the WordPress community is constantly releasing new security updates, and why you need to keep your WordPress sites and blogs regularly up-to-date …

WordPress frequently releases new updates to plug security vulnerabilities

(WordPress frequently releases new version updates to address security holes)

WordPress CMS Vs Proprietary CMS Platforms

Contrast what we have just discussed above with proprietary CMS technologies where often the responsibility for maintaining software security, fixing bugs, etc. falls to a small team of developers with limited resources and you will quickly understand the value of using WordPress to power your website or blog on a secure platform.

The WordPress CMS is free to download, use and modify, and thousands of volunteers and expert developers are continually working to improve the software. Can a proprietary technology company afford to employ as many developers and programmers and still deliver you a free CMS platform that you can download, use and modify as you wish?

WordPress Vs Other Open Source CMS Platforms

CMS Platforms

(CMS Platforms – WordPress, Joomla and Drupal)

Whilst on the topic of Open Source content management systems, there is valid research showing that the WordPress CMS is actually safer than other Open Source CMS platforms such as Drupal and Joomla.

For example, the chart below shows how many security vulnerabilities were discovered in each of these open source CMS platforms …

National Vulnerability Database - Security Vulnerabilities IN CMS Applications

(WordPress experiences less security vulnerabilities than other CMS applications. Screenshot source: National Vulnerability Database)

Other studies show that, because WordPress is quite easy to use and to update, when sites using different CMS platforms were tested for security issues, sites run on WordPress had a significant degree of less exposure to risk … - CMS Tests

(WordPress is more secure than other CMS platforms. Screenshot source:

WordPress Should Not Be Blamed

When WordPress sites are attacked en masse, don’t be too quick to blame WordPress.

According to a nonprofit organization that helps webmasters identify, remediate and prevent website compromises called StopBadware and security vendor Commtouch in a published report entitled “Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective“, most website owners have no idea about the security threats their websites are exposed to, how to secure a website, or how to deal with compromised web security.

In fact, over 60% of webmasters surveyed in this report didn’t even know how their websites had been compromised after an attack …

Many webmasters don't even know how their sites get hacked.

(Many webmasters don’t know how their sites got hacked. Screenshot source:

Of more immediate concern for WordPress users, however, is the fact that many security-related issues result from users running sites with an outdated version of WordPress …

Many WordPress users have not upgraded their sites.

(Many security issues come from sites running an outdated WordPress version. Image:

When WordPress security issues were looked at in more detail, it was found that only around between 25% – 30% per cent of vulnerabilities discovered in 3rd-party code are found in the WordPress core software, while most security issues are found in plug-ins and extensions created by 3rd-party developers …

WordPress Security Issues

(WP Security Issues. Source:

Like all robust software platforms, WordPress is regularly updated to address new security problems that can arise. Improving security is always a concern, and to that end, you should always keep your WordPress site, plugins and themes up-to-date.

WordPress Is Used By Many Security-Conscious Businesses!

The amount of misinformation online about WordPress security has even led the co-founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, to chime in and reply to posts online.

In an article entitled “A Bank Website on WordPress” posted on April 15, 2015 in his own blog, Matt wrote the following about WordPress security …

There’s a thread on Quora asking “I am powering a bank’s website using WordPress. What security measures should I take?” The answers have mostly been ignorant junk along the lines of “Oh NOES WP is INSECURE! let me take my money out of that bank”, so I wrote one myself, which I’ve copied below.

I agree there’s probably not a ton of benefit to having the online banking / billpay / etc portion of a bank’s website on WordPress, however there is no reason you couldn’t run the front-end and marketing side of the site on WordPress, and in fact you’d be leveraging WordPress’ strength as a content management platform that is flexible, customizable, and easy to update and maintain.

Matt then goes on to provide a couple of security tips, before stating the following …

For an example of a beautiful, responsive banking website built on WordPress, check out Gateway Bank of Mesa AZ. WordPress is also trusted to run sites for some of the largest and most security-conscious organizations in the world, including Facebook, SAP, Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, eBay, McAfee, Sophos, GNOME, Mozilla, MIT, Reuters, CNN, Google Ventures, NASA, and literally hundreds more.

As the most widely used CMS in the world, many people use and deploy the open source version of WordPress in a sub-optimal and insecure way, but the same could be said of Linux, Apache, MySQL, Node, Rails, Java, or any widely-used software. It is possible and actually not that hard to run WordPress in a way that is secure enough for a bank, government site, media site, or anything.

Millions of businesses, including banks, global corporations and e-commerce sites use WordPress to build their web presence, not just bloggers..

Other Areas That Can Affect WP Security

Other factors that can affect site security include things such as:

  • No platform is completely protected from hacking. As many as 90% of all websites across all platforms are vulnerable to attack, mostly due to using outdated software.
  • The biggest vulnerability in all content management systems seem to be the users themselves. An example of this is users ignoring good password security recommendations.
  • Lack of constant monitoring. Security systems need to be regularly monitored, tested, updated and improved.
  • Server setup. For example, websites on shared webhosting are only as safe as the least secure website on the hosting grid, so if someone else on your shared server gets their site hacked into, then every site on the shared server becomes vulnerable.

There’s No Reason To Avoid Using WordPress

As this article has hopefully shown, WordPress is as secure as most of the leading web platforms being used by businesses to build their presence online. As long as you implement basic web security measures and keep your WordPress software (and themes, plugins, etc.) updated, there’s really no reason not to use WordPress.

Useful Tip

WordPress Security – Tips

To learn about ways to protect your WordPress site from brute-force attacks see this article: 10 Security Measures That Can Help To Prevent Brute-Force Attacks On WordPress

A vulnerable web site provides hackers with a valuable resource for launching distributed attacks, spreading malware and as a source of information theft. Blog Defender WordPress Security Plugin makes your WordPress site invisible to hackers and botnets. Go here to learn more: Secure Your WP Blog From Bots And Hackers

If you are currently using an outdated version of WordPress make sure you back up everything before updating your software to benefit from the latest security updates. This way, if something goes wrong, you can always restore things back to their previous state.

If you don’t want to perform manual backups, there are a number of WordPress plugins you can use. Learn about a WordPress backup plugin that can automate your site backups here: Back Up, Copy & Protect Your WP Websites With Backup Creator Plugin For WP


Article References

For more information on the above, refer to the sites below:

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of problems that can affect your website and how WordPress can help you get better results online. To learn more about the security benefits of using WordPress please click on links to visit our related posts section or subscribe to receive updates and notifications when new articles or tutorials are published.

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The post Is WordPress A Secure Website Platform? appeared first on Quick Click Hosting.