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How do I make my WordPress site more secure?

WordPress is one of the most popular tools used to create blogs and websites; not just among our customers but the world over. It is unfortunately also a popular target for hackers and anyone running a WordPress website needs to be aware of this and ensure they take steps to harden the security of their WordPress installation and site.

These are just some of the key areas covered in WordPress own security guide:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Hardening_WordPress

We advise the following to increase the security of your WordPress installation:


VULNERABILITIES IN WORDPRESS

Like many modern software packages, WordPress is updated regularly to address new security issues that may arise. Improving software security is always an ongoing concern, and to that end you should always keep up to date with the latest version of WordPress. Older versions of WordPress are not maintained with security updates.
Updating WordPress

http://codex.wordpress.org/Updating_WordPress

The latest version of WordPress is always available from the main WordPress website at http://wordpress.org. Official releases are not available from other sites -- never download or install WordPress from any website other than http://wordpress.org.

Since version 3.7, WordPress has featured automatic updates. Use this functionality to ease the process of keeping up to date. You can also use the WordPress Dashboard to keep informed about updates. Read the entry in the Dashboard or the WordPress Developer Blog to determine what steps you must take to update and remain secure.

If a vulnerability is discovered in WordPress and a new version is released to address the issue, the information required to exploit the vulnerability is almost certainly in the public domain. This makes old versions more open to attack, and is one of the primary reasons you should always keep WordPress up to date.



PASSWORDS

Many potential vulnerabilities can be avoided with good security habits. A strong password is an important aspect of this.

The goal with your password is to make it hard for other people to guess and hard for a brute force attack to succeed. Many automatic password generators are available that can be used to create secure passwords.

WordPress also features a password strength meter which is shown when changing your password in WordPress. Use this when changing your password to ensure its strength is adequate.

Things to avoid when choosing a password:

- Any permutation of your own real name, username, company name, or name of your website.
- A word from a dictionary, in any language.
- A short password.
- Any numeric-only or alphabetic-only password (a mixture of both is best).

A strong password is necessary not just to protect your blog content. A hacker who gains access to your administrator account is able to install malicious scripts that can potentially compromise your entire server.

In addition to using a strong password, it's a good idea to enable two-step authentication as an additional security measure:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Two_Step_Authentication



SECURING WP-ADMIN

Adding server-side password protection (such as BasicAuth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_access_authentication) to /wp-admin/ adds a second layer of protection around your blog's admin area, the login screen, and your files. This forces an attacker or bot to attack this second layer of protection instead of your actual admin files. Many WordPress attacks are carried out autonomously by malicious software bots.

Simply securing the wp-admin/ directory might also break some WordPress functionality, such as the AJAX handler at wp-admin/admin-ajax.php. See the Resources section for more documentation on how to password protect your wp-admin/ directory properly.

The most common attacks against a WordPress blog usually fall into two categories.

1) Sending specially-crafted HTTP requests to your server with specific exploit payloads for specific vulnerabilities. These include old/outdated plugins and software.
2) Attempting to gain access to your blog by using "brute-force" password guessing.

The ultimate implementation of this "second layer" password protection is to require an HTTPS SSL encrypted connection for administration, so that all communication and sensitive data is encrypted.



FILE PERMISSIONS

Some neat features of WordPress come from allowing various files to be writable by the web server. However, allowing write access to your files is potentially dangerous, particularly in a shared hosting environment.

It is best to lock down your file permissions as much as possible and to loosen those restrictions on the occasions that you need to allow write access, or to create specific folders with less restrictions for the purpose of doing things like uploading files.

Here is one possible permission scheme.

All files should be owned by your user account, and should be writable by you. Any file that needs write access from WordPress should be writable by the web server, if your hosting set up requires it, that may mean those files need to be group-owned by the user account used by the web server process.

/
The root WordPress directory: all files should be writable only by your user account, except .htaccess if you want WordPress to automatically generate rewrite rules for you.

/wp-admin/
The WordPress administration area: all files should be writable only by your user account.

/wp-includes/
The bulk of WordPress application logic: all files should be writable only by your user account.

/wp-content/
User-supplied content: intended to be writable by your user account and the web server process.

Within /wp-content/ you will find:

/wp-content/themes/
Theme files. If you want to use the built-in theme editor, all files need to be writable by the web server process. If you do not want to use the built-in theme editor, all files can be writable only by your user account.

/wp-content/plugins/
Plugin files: all files should be writable only by your user account.

Other directories that may be present with /wp-content/ should be documented by whichever plugin or theme requires them. Permissions may vary.

PLUGINS

First of all, make sure your plugins are always updated. Also, if you are not using a specific plugin, delete it from the system.

Plugins that need write access

If a plugin wants write access to your WordPress files and directories, please read the code to make sure it is legitimate or check with someone you trust. Possible places to check are the Support Forums and IRC Channel.

Code execution plugins

As we said, part of the goal of hardening WordPress is containing the damage done if there is a successful attack. Plugins which allow arbitrary PHP or other code to execute from entries in a database effectively magnify the possibility of damage in the event of a successful attack.

A way to avoid using such a plugin is to use custom page templates (http://codex.wordpress.org/Pages#Creating_your_own_Page_Templates) that call the function. Part of the security this affords is active only when you disallow file editing within WordPress.

DATA BACKUPS

Back up your data regularly, including your MySQL databases. See the main article: Backing Up Your Database (http://codex.wordpress.org/Backing_Up_Your_Database).

Data integrity is critical for trusted backups. Encrypting the backup, keeping an independent record of MD5 hashes for each backup file, and/or placing backups on read-only media increases your confidence that your data has not been tampered with.

A sound backup strategy could include keeping a set of regularly-timed snapshots of your entire WordPress installation (including WordPress core files and your database) in a trusted location. Imagine a site that makes weekly snapshots. Such a strategy means that if a site is compromised on May 1st but the compromise is not detected until May 12th, the site owner will have pre-compromise backups that can help in rebuilding the site and possibly even post-compromise backups which will aid in determining how the site was compromised.