Whether you’re a hands-on business website owner, or a fully fledged developer, it’s never been more vital to run regular, structured security checks in order to keep your WordPress-based website safe from online threats.
Since hackers and fraudsters are constantly hunting for vulnerable websites to target and exploit, it therefore goes without saying that the decision to neglect essential security maintenance could wind up rolling out the welcome mat to intruders.
Why Perform WordPress Security Maintenance?
For starters, WordPress is one of the most popular open-source CMS (content management system) platforms on the planet, powering around 35% of websites. Unfortunately, when it comes to massive, widespread platforms such as this, they will always attract attention from the worst kind of audience: Cyber Criminals.
If WordPress security measures aren’t addressed and carried out – due to time constraints or for whatever reason – a website will be inherently much more vulnerable to a malicious attack that could result in damages including defacement, stolen sensitive/client data, and malware injection.
But the real damages could be a great deal more serious and harder to resolve; in the event of an attack rendering a website unsafe to use, and or dysfunctional, the downtime and disruption could quickly impact brand reputation, search engine rankings, and ultimately sales.
WordPress Security Maintenance: Top 5 Tasks
We’ve now clearly established that WordPress security is not something that should be considered optional; it is a priority item to be implemented into business strategies and operation schedules.
The following list covers several of the most important procedures to be carried out as part of a maintenance defense routine (note that this list is not exhaustive, and mainly focuses on fundamental threat prevention steps only).
1. Update Everything, Remove the Inactive
Just as with your computer’s operating system and apps, it’s also vital that you update everything that makes the cogs of your WordPress website turn, including WP core files, themes and plugins.
Most updates released by developers include security fixes and patches – so if you avoid taking advantage of these latest versions, then, well, you’re just opening the door wider and wider to threats.
The simplest way to stay clear of danger is by updating everything in the ‘Updates’ section of the WP Admin dashboard; this page will provide a full roundup of any possible updates currently available.
Lastly, because the coding quality of plugins and themes varies – depending on the company/individual that created it – it’s best to minimize the risk of being hacked; organizing these site performance/functionality-boosting tools can be highly beneficial.
By deactivating and deleting any unused plugins and themes, your website should theoretically become more secure; it should also run faster (which is a nice added bonus for you and your visitors).
2. Perform Regular Website Backups
If you own a website, you really should be backing it up, and on a regular basis, too. Much of what you’ll be reading on this list concerns preventing hackers from breaking into your site and doing untold damages – but what if, despite your best efforts, you were to wind up getting hacked anyway?
While it’s true that developers can clean up malware, repair vandalism, and even rebuild a website from scratch, this isn’t exactly the ideal solution. All of the above can require much time and work, plus there are no guarantees – meanwhile, the prolonged downtime will be hurting your brand’s reputation and profits.
With a recent, securely stored backup ready to be used, however, the restoration of your WordPress website will be a whole lot simpler, cheaper and faster, resulting in reduced downtime, losses, and all-around stress for you and your staff.
3. Implement Strong Passwords (Create/Reset)
When you run through your WordPress website security checks, don’t forget that your password – and those of any admins – should also be scrutinized. Ideally, passwords should have already been created with strength in mind; if not, now is the time to reset/change them, for the simple fact that weak passwords are more likely to be hacked.
You can further bolster your cyber security strategy by scheduling in a company password reset day (on the first of every month, for example). Remember, strong passwords are typically considered to be no less than eight characters long, built using a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, punctuation, symbols and numbers.
4. Install an (https) SSL Certificate
There are several great reasons for your WordPress website to have an SSL certificate. Having one installed will offer greater security for your visitors, encrypting their data and protecting them from online threats; furthermore, your website could rank higher with search engines including Google.
With an ‘https’ protocol (typically accompanied by a padlock symbol) displayed in the address bar, your visitors will be more at ease while browsing your products/services, and far less concerned about issues regarding data privacy and theft at the checkout.
With increased website and customer security, along with higher rankings and the potential for significantly more sales, there’s a great deal to like about SSL encryption.
5. Install Website Security & Captcha Plugins
WordPress website security plugins work in essentially the same way as antivirus apps do for computers, tablets and smartphones. They can scan for malware, among other potentially harmful files, and can also provide your website with firewall features for added protection.
It should be noted, however, that website security plugins need to be carefully chosen and monitored thereafter – especially in the wake of being installed and configured – as they are not all one and the same.
Features can vary across providers, with some plugins asking more of your website on a performance level than others, impacting processing power and memory resources; remember, if your website’s usability decreases, your visitors may become frustrated and impatient, causing them to bounce over to competitors.
Finally, be sure to further boost your website’s security by installing a Captcha plugin and applying it to your contact forms and admin accounts. Captcha is a challenge-response test that defends against incoming threats, including messages (spam and phishing) and brute force attacks, which, left unguarded, could lead to malware infections and site vandalism.
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