9 Ways WordPress Websites Can Be Hacked & How to Prevent Them.

1. Outdated software.

How to prevent outdated software.

Regular Updates

Compatibility Check

2. Weak passwords.

Using weak passwords like “123456” or “password” can compromise your site’s security, making it easy for cybercriminals to gain access using automated tools.

How to prevent weak passwords.

Strong Passwords

Use complex passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special character

Unique Passwords

Avoid using the same password across multiple sites.

3. Brute force attacks.

Brute force attacks involve automated software repeatedly guessing passwords until the correct one is found.

How to prevent brute force attacks.

Strong Passwords.

Use strong, unique passwords.

Limit Login Attempts.

Use plugins like ‘Limit Login Attempts’ to block IP addresses after multiple failed attempts.

Two-Factor Authentication.

Implement a second form of verification beyond just a password.

4. SQL injection.

SQL injection attacks exploit vulnerabilities in a website’s code to execute unauthorised SQL commands, potentially accessing sensitive data or taking control of the site.

What is SQL?

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a standardized programming language specifically designed for managing and manipulating relational databases. It is used to perform a wide range of operations on data stored in a database, including querying, updating, inserting, and deleting data. SQL is essential for interacting with databases, allowing users to retrieve specific information, perform complex calculations, and ensure data integrity.

Key Functions of SQL.

Data Querying.

SQL allows users to retrieve data from databases using commands like SELECT, which can filter and sort data to meet specific requirements.

Data Modification.

Commands such as INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE enable users to add, change, or remove data within a database.

Data Definition.

SQL provides commands like CREATE, ALTER, and DROP to define and modify the structure of database objects such as tables and indexes.

Data Control.

SQL includes commands for controlling access to data, ensuring security and integrity, such as GRANT and REVOKE for permissions management.

SQL is a powerful tool that forms the backbone of most relational database management systems (RDBMS), including popular platforms like WordPress, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and Oracle Database. Its ability to handle large volumes of data efficiently and its widespread use in various applications make SQL a critical skill for database administrators, developers, and data analysts.

How to prevent SQL Injection.

Security Plugins.

Use plugins like Malcare, Wordfence, Sucuri, or iThemes Security for monitoring and protection.

Prepared Statements.

Ensure all database interactions use prepared statements to separate SQL code from user input.

Validate and Sanitise Inputs.

5. Cross-site scripting (XSS).

XSS attacks involve injecting malicious code into a web page, which is then executed in the browser of unsuspecting users.

An example of XSS.

An example of how the lack of proper sanitisation and validation of user input can lead to a Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attack is through a comment section on a blog post. Suppose a hacker inputs a malicious script in the comment section, such as a script that steals the user’s cookies or redirects them to another site. In that case, the script can be executed on the user’s browser when they load the page and view the comment.

How XSS can be used.

An XSS attack can also be used to redirect users to other websites controlled by the hacker. This can be especially dangerous if the redirected website is a phishing site designed to trick users into entering sensitive information or downloading malware.

What they can take with XSS.

This type of attack can allow a hacker to steal sensitive user data, such as login credentials or financial information, by capturing the data as users enter it into the affected web page. The stolen data can then be transmitted to the hacker’s server for later use or sale on the dark web.

How to prevent XSS.

Input Validation and Sanitisation

Content Security Policy (CSP)

Comment Moderation

6. Malware.

Malware can infect a website, giving hackers access to sensitive information or control over the site.

How they can infect your website with malware.

There are several ways in which a website can be infected with malware. One common method is through the exploitation of vulnerabilities in the website’s code or through a third-party plugin. Hackers can use these vulnerabilities to inject malicious code into the website, which can then be used to infect visitors’ computers or steal sensitive data.

What they can get with malware.

Malware infections can have serious consequences for both website owners and their users. For example, a malware infection can result in the loss of sensitive data, such as user login credentials, financial information or personal information. In some cases, a malware infection can also cause a website to become unresponsive or display inappropriate content, which can damage the website’s reputation.

How to prevent malware attacks.

Regular Scans

Use security tools to scan for vulnerabilities and malware.

Strong Authentication

Implement two-factor authentication and strong passwords.

Sucuri Scanner

7. File inclusion vulnerabilities.

These vulnerabilities allow attackers to upload malicious files or execute arbitrary code on the server.

How they exploit file inclusion vulernabilities.

Hackers can exploit this vulnerability in various ways, such as by modifying the URL parameters or by injecting code into a vulnerable script. Once the attacker gains access to the server, they can upload malicious files, modify existing files, or execute arbitrary code. This can result in various security threats, such as stealing sensitive data, defacing the website, or even taking full control of the server.

How to avoid file inclusion vulernabilities.

WordPress websites can be vulnerable to file inclusion vulnerabilities if they use outdated software, plugins, or themes that contain security vulnerabilities. Therefore, it is crucial to keep all software and plugins up to date and ensure that only trusted and secure plugins are installed. Additionally, website owners can also implement security measures such as web application firewalls, server hardening, and file integrity monitoring to prevent file inclusion attacks.

Web application firewalls (WAF).

Use WAF to filter and block malicious traffic.

File integrity monitoring.

Monitor files for unauthorised changes.

Security audits.

Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities.

8. Distributed denial of service attack (DDoS).

DDoS attacks overwhelm a website with traffic from multiple sources, rendering it unusable.

Why is a DDoS attack worse for WordPress.

When it comes to WordPress, DDoS attacks can cause significant harm. Because WordPress websites typically require more resources to load, so they don’t need as much traffic to be overloaded. They also rely on an additional server (the WordPress server), which makes them especially vulnerable. Such attacks can impede legitimate users from accessing your website, resulting in negative consequences such as damage to your website’s reputation and lost revenue. This is especially concerning for e-commerce sites or those that rely on advertising revenue.

How DDoS attacks work.

DDoS attacks work by using a network of compromised devices, known as a botnet, to flood the target website with traffic. These compromised devices are typically infected with malware that allows the attacker to control them remotely, without the owner’s knowledge.

What they can do with DDoS attack.

Once the attacker has control of the botnet, they can instruct the compromised devices to send a large amount of traffic to the target website. This flood of traffic overwhelms the website’s servers, making it difficult or impossible for legitimate users to access the site.

How to defend against DDoS attacks.

Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Use a CDN to distribute traffic across multiple servers.

DDoS Protection Services.

Choose a hosting provider with DDoS protection.

Monitor Traffic.

Use tools like Google Analytics to detect unusual spikes in traffic.

Increase Bandwidth.

Upgrade to a hosting plan with unlimited bandwidth.

9. Social engineering.

Social engineering attacks use psychological manipulation to trick users into divulging sensitive information.

Examples of social engineering.

Phishing.

One common social engineering tactic used by attackers is phishing, where they send an email or message that appears to be from a trusted source, such as a bank or a social media platform. The message typically includes a link that directs the user to a fake website that looks like the legitimate site, but is actually controlled by the attacker. The user is then prompted to enter sensitive information, such as login credentials, which are captured by the attacker and used to gain access to the victim’s accounts.

Pretexting.

Another common social engineering tactic is pretexting, where attackers impersonate someone else in order to gain access to sensitive information. For example, an attacker may call a company’s help desk and pretend to be an employee in order to get access to sensitive data or credentials.

Baiting.

Other social engineering tactics include baiting, where attackers offer a reward or incentive in exchange for sensitive information, and quid pro quo, where attackers offer a service or assistance in exchange for information or access.

How to protect against social engineering attacks.

User Education.

Train users to recognise phishing emails and other social engineering tactics.

Two-Factor Authentication.

Implement two-factor authentication to protect sensitive accounts.

Activity Monitoring.

Regularly monitor logs and website activity for suspicious behavior.

So what is the best protection against web attacks?

While having a CMS like WordPress is beneficial for frequent content updates, if your website content doesn’t change often, removing the CMS can solve many security issues.

What is a CMS?

A CMS, or Content Management System, is software that allows people to create and manage digital content, such as text, images, and multimedia, for a website without requiring knowledge of programming languages like HTML or CSS. It is made up of a database and two interfaces, the back-end and the front-end, which allow users to add, modify, and delete content, and display the content on the website. Popular examples of CMS platforms are WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, which are widely used for websites of all sizes.

Benefits of Removing CMS.

No Outdated Software.

Eliminates the need for updates, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities.

No Weak Passwords or Brute Force Attacks.

Without a login page or backend interface, there are no passwords to protect.

No SQL Injections.

Static websites don’t use databases, removing SQL injection risks.

No Malware.

Static sites don’t use server-side scripting, reducing malware risks.

Reduced XSS and DDoS.

Static sites are faster and more efficient, making them harder to overwhelm with traffic.

Fewer Social Engineering Opportunities.

Static sites provide fewer opportunities for attackers to engage with users.

Conclusion.

Protecting your WordPress website from various types of attacks is crucial. By following best practices and considering whether a CMS is necessary for your site, you can significantly reduce the risk of a security breach. Taking proactive steps today can save you from the headaches and costs associated with dealing with cyber attacks.

Web recovery & web security services.