WordPress is among the most famous publishing platforms, running more than 24 percent of all websites globally. WordPress is open source, which means it is visible and discernible to every user—and is a regular target for various hackers/attackers.
The most recent version of WordPress, version 5.0.1 repaired seven security vulnerabilities and weakness. However, it also pointed some serious privacy leaks.
The famous Yoast SEO plugin was found to have the most severe flaw in WordPress. The fault is a bug that enables the WordPress user activation screen to be seen and indexed by Google and other search engines, which could lead to public exposure of WordPress usernames and PIN codes.
For users who has an admin role or does not change their default passwords, this flaw in particular could have devastating impact.
Identifying the Attacker: Who is Attacking?
There are three types of bodies that attack WordPress sites:
- Humans: People who sit at a keyboard manually and probe and attack websites.
- Bots: Single automated programs or script that a hacker uses to attack numerous websites automatically.
- Botnets: Chains of machines that runs a program coordinated from a central command and control server to automatically attack various sites.
The Purpose Behind the Attacks
The prime objective of the attacker is to have complete control over the victim’s WordPress site at an administrative and structural level. To do that, the attacker must be able to read all critical data in the database available on the site. Once they have control, they can make any changes in the files and data in the database, as well as alter the way the site works and performs. The primary purposes are:
- Send junk mails: To be competent in sending spam or junk emails from your websites.
- Host malevolent content and evade filters: Hackers want to host content such as pornography or various repulsive and violent content. By using a platform that has a positive reputation, hackers can evade spam and other types of filters.
- Steal data from the website: Some want to get access to and steal data such as client and member names and email addresses. Stealing hundreds of email addresses of site members provides hackers with other new targets to which they can send spam and malicious emails. Hackers also attack sites to get some other data such as personal member information, which is useful for identity theft, and other malicious activities.
- Attack other sites: A hacker might use a hijacked site to run bot attacks that hack other websites. In this way, the website becomes part of a group of machines commonly known as botnets, a vast cluster of machines used for malicious activities.
- Spamvertizing: hackers might also attack a site to redirect and transmit traffic to other malicious or spam sites. They will include the malicious sites in spam emails, which otherwise would land those emails in the junk folder. However, by making the sender of the emails the “good” website, they evade spam filters. The when someone clicks on a link in the spam email to the website, they are redirected to the malicious site.
How Hackers Attack WordPress Sites
There are various types of attacks a hacker uses to attack any WordPress site. Some of these attacks include:
During this stage, an attacker wants to learn all the useful information regarding the WordPress site. By this, they discover all the vulnerabilities that might exist and they can exploit. A hacker wants to learn two important things: the kind of software running on the site and the version of that software.
Hackers aim to collect as much information about the target site before attacking it. The type of software used and the version are especially important to ensure hackers can use the same themes and plugins.
WordPress sites frequently host additional software to help in database administration, which also make great targets for hackers if they aren’t updated with the latest security fixes.
SQL injections are one of the most common types of WordPress attacks used by a hacker, targeting database-driven sites and web applications. In a SQL injection, hackers send individual SQL inquiries to the target site, thereby attacking the site’s security measures to alter or delete the entire database. Hackers also create a new admin account that includes links to malicious or spam sites.
Brute Force Attacks
In this method of attacks, hackers try any number of combinations of login IDs and passwords to gain access. The brute force attack can either be a directory attack or even reverse brute force attack. These attacks are used most often by bots, as there are no limits to the number of login attempts in WordPress.
Web Server and OS Attacks
There are specific security vulnerabilities within web server and operating system environments, including the well-known Shell-Shock or Heartbleed vulnerabilities. These security threats are the result of mistakes written on OpenSSL, which make it possible for hackers to gain vast databases and essential information from a site.
Malware can disturb and damage a secure system to gain some severe and critical access to the system or database. This invasive software can take up the form of executable scripts and codes that penetrate without alerting users of their existence.
Preventive Measures and Protection
WordPress is designed to keep your site safe and secure. However, individuals can do more to protect their site. Many of the security issues in WordPress are caused by external factors.
As most of the security risks are avoidable, here are some ways to reduce your security risks:
Update Your IP Address and Firewall
Brute force attacks and OS attacks occur when a hacker uses automatic software to send a large number of requests to the targeted system. Each time, the software attempts to figure out PIN codes and passwords to access the site. Hackers also can disguise themselves by using various IP address and locations. All this makes it difficult for a targeted system to recognize and block such activities. However, users can update their firewall and their IP address.
Use a Strong Password
A unique and robust password is your site’s first stage of defense against cyberattacks and threats. Weak passwords make it easy for a hacker to use software and to spam your site’s login automatically.
WordPress now featuring a password generator that creates an iron-clad password consisting of almost two dozen random characters. Instead of using an easy word or phrase for your password, you can choose the generated password. You can also create a password that consists of four random words, with or without spaces.
Limit the Number of Login Attempts
WordPress does not confine the number of times you attempt to log in. That means attackers can make an infinite number of login attempts, which creates a high-security risk for your site. Experts advise using a plugin to limit the numbers of login attempts allowed, then locking out the potential attacker after a certain number of attempts or a certain time period.
It is essential to educate yourself as much to gain a complete understanding of how WordPress works and functions. It is one of the best ways to ensure your site is safe and secure.