How to Protect WordPress Websites from SQL Injection

If you are one of the many who are using WordPress as a content management system (CMS) for your website, it’s important to be aware of SQL injection threats that could take down your business.

SQL injection is a common threat, as SQL is the most widely used language for the database in the web development. In addition, the WordPress—the most popular CMS—uses SQL for the database.

This post will give you an insight about SQL injection, how it works and the ways to minimize the threat.

What is SQL Injection?

SQL (Structured Query Language) injection happens due to the lacking backend code. Through placing the snippets of code in the input tag of an HTML document, the SQL injections infect the database associated with that document.

With the alterations in input fields, a hacker could easily run SQL commands and can construct, retrieve, update or even delete the data in the database.

SQL injections are easy to execute because of the direct ways and various entry points in almost all the WordPress websites. Here are some possible SQL injections entry points:

  • Signup forms
  • Contact forms
  • Search fields within the site
  • Login forms
  • Feedback fields
  • Shopping carts

How a SQL Injection Attack is Executed

Many site owners put some criteria according to which a visitor/user could fill empty fields in a form. These restrictions are depending on the field requirement. For instance, a contact form with a phone number requirement most likely restricts the numbers entry with a proper format.

However, developers who are unaware of the input validations might set this field as plain text, which enables anyone with bad intentions to inject any string, even malicious code. By using some transformed SQL queries, an attacker can request the username and password.

Ways to Protect WordPress Site From SQL Injections

There are ways to minimize the WordPress threat for those looking for maximum security against attackers. Similarly, there are steps you could follow to mitigate the SQL injection risk:

Scan for Malware and SQL Injection Vulnerabilities

You can scan your WordPress website through various tools. WordPress itself has many security extensions that are top-rated and could efficiently detect any vulnerability. You just need to download the plugin, enter your website’s URL and start the scanning.

Some of the popular WordPress security plugins are Wordfence, WP Antivirus Site Protection and Sucuri Security. These plugins highlight the areas with security loopholes and have different advance security features.

Prepare Security Measures Before It’s Too Late

There are many WordPress plugins and themes that can enable a non-technical person to operate and create WordPress websites easily. However, the inexperienced individuals are an easy target to a malicious attack.

WordPress websites managed by small businesses or freelancers are not up-to-date and they overlook many security procedures. For instance, the official WordPress stats show that only 42.3% of WordPress sites are using the latest version 4.9.x.

In addition, PHP is the backend of the WordPress, and it regularly updates to eradicate the security loopholes in previous versions. However, more than 40% of WordPress site owners are using an older version PHP 5.6, which could be a significant factor of SQL injection and other potential website attacks such as DNS hijacking, as reported by many studies.

Therefore, the simplest of all these security recommendations is to update your website as soon as a new version is released.

Use Active Plugins and Themes

An abundance of WordPress plugins and themes have provided many advanced options to websites owners, but not every tool is worth selecting. Many of the vulnerabilities including SQL injection are present in WordPress themes and plugins that are not updated regularly.

Therefore, you need to keep a close eye on the themes and plugins you have downloaded, and if they continue with the same version for an extended period, consider moving to a more a trusted tool.

A plugin could be a making or breaking element for your website. For instance, an extension can help in inserting an important and professional element such as registration forms, login forms, contact us forms and many such features. But a malware or vulnerability in any of this category could hurt your blog/business as well as your reader/customer data. Select a trusted plugin or theme by doing a proper search and review of the performance from other users.

Closely Monitor Your SQL Server

A SQL injection often initiates through a programming error unknown to the website owner or developer. Therefore, you need to focus on the SQL server from the beginning of your WordPress website development.

Hackers could exploit vulnerabilities and can inject SQL malware using your underlying software (database and operating system). Thus, it’s better to monitor your SQL server continuously and promptly react if any issues are found.

Keep Your WordPress Version Undisclosed

For WordPress security, it is recommended to keep your WP version hidden. With a disclosed version, hackers could easily judge the vulnerabilities in it and could simply exploit them.

You can hide WordPress version via pasting the code, remove_action(‘wp_head’, ‘wp_generator’); into the function.php file of your active theme.

Change Database Prefix and Disable Unnecessary Functionalities

Database tables can also aid the hacker to inject SQL malware when many of us ignore the default WordPress database prefix ‘wp.’ You must change it when you are installing WordPress, but if you have installed WordPress already, there is still a chance to change WP database prefix.

Moreover, there are many unnecessary or irrelevant database functionalities you don’t need for your website. If there are, you need to disable or remove the features you are not using, especially the unused sheets that are a significant gateway for hackers to carry out an SQL injection.

Store Website Database Separately for Easy Backup

Some WordPress website owners rely entirely on the hosting company for site backup. However, this could contribute to data loss after a cyberattack, as most hosting companies don’t provide 100% website backup service.

It is better, therefore, to store your website database separately with the help of third-party tools and plugins. That way you can quickly retrieve website data after an SQL attack.

Final Words

Regardless of whether you’re new to WordPress or an experienced developer, being aware of the threat of SQL injections can help keep your site safe. However, to avoid SQL injection and other website threats, one core security principle is to update, update, update.

Zehra Ali