In 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).
(WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS making it a frequent target for hacking attacks)
In March 2014, technology sites like Cnet.com reported that 162,000 legitimate WordPress-powered web sites had been hacked.
(Over 160,000 WordPress sites were attacked in a massive DDoS attack in early 2014. Image source: BlogDefender.com)
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 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, an open community of developers around the world is responsible for keeping the core application updated. Image source: make.wordpress.org)
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 …
(WordPress is built and maintained by a large community of experienced web developers. Screenshot: WordPress.org)
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 a huge community community of developers and users. Image source: make.wordpress.org)
The WordPress community support system, therefore, is quite formidable and anybody can contribute to the process of addressing security issues.
- If you find bugs and a security weakness, you can report these by emailing email@example.com.
- If you find issues in a WP plugin, you can report these by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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 – 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 …
(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 …
(WordPress is more secure than other CMS platforms. Screenshot source: BlogDefender.com)
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 know how their sites got hacked. Screenshot source: StopBadware.org)
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 security issues come from sites running an outdated WordPress version. Image: Sucuri.net)
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 …
(WP Security Issues. Source: WebDesign.org)
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.
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
For more information on the above, refer to the sites below:
- National Vulnerability Database
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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