Cybercriminals commonly target not only WordPress sites but all other websites. WordPress is targeted more frequently because of its immense popularity and a huge number of users from all around the world. This makes it easy for hackers to find vulnerable WordPress sites and launch cyberattacks to compromise these websites’ security and manipulate their resources.
Some try to attack insecure sites just to check their skills, but most of them do this to access the details of the users on the site, resources, etc., to fulfill their malicious plans.
Table of Contents
Why WordPress Sites Get Hacked?
Keeping your WordPress site safe from hackers needs to be a priority. With all this in mind, let us explore the reasons why WordPress websites get hacked by attackers and what you can do to stop those attacks.
1. Insecure web hosting
WordPress is hosted on a web host, much like every other website. Sadly, most website owners do not give sufficient importance to the webserver they pick and go with the most inexpensive one they can get their hands on or even go with free WordPress hosting.
There are many affordable WordPress hosting providers. For instance, it is fairly cheap to host your site on a shared hosting network – one that shares its server facilities with several other websites.
In a shared hosting system, a successful security breach into any site on this server will leave your domain vulnerable to attackers. A single compromised site can use the maximum server bandwidth and affect all the other websites’ performance.
This can be prevented by simply choosing the right WordPress hosting service for your domain. Make sure that your website is hosted on a stable hosting network. Fully secured servers can block almost all the known threats to WordPress sites.
2. Using weak passwords
Feeble passwords are one of the main reasons behind the brute-force attacks on WordPress sites. Even with the increased risk of cyberattacks nowadays, people still use poor passwords like “mypassword” or “012345”. If you are using any “simple to guess” passwords like these, then you can easily become a victim of a hacker that can conveniently crack your password by using various hacking tools.
You can effortlessly overcome this issue by using strong passwords that cannot be guessed by anyone. A password with a combination of alphabets, numerals, and special characters improves its strength.
3. Insecure access to the WordPress admin directory
The WordPress admin section allows a person to access your WordPress account to perform various activities. It is also the region of a WordPress platform that is often targeted.
Leaving it vulnerable enables hackers to crack the website using various methods. You can make it challenging for them by including layers of verification to your WordPress admin directory.
You must first secure your WordPress admin field with a strong password. This adds an additional safety layer, and anyone attempting to enter the WordPress admin would have to give an extra password.
If you are running a WordPress multi-author or multi-user site, then you must implement secure passwords on your site for all individuals. To make it even more complicated for attackers to access your WordPress admin, you can leverage the two-factor authentication method.
4. Outdated WordPress version
Expired software is one of the most likely causes why sites get compromised. While WordPress is free and many website owners update to the current version as soon as it comes out, most users postpone upgrading to the newest edition because they fear that the new version can cause issues on their site. Issues during updates can arise, so it is a good idea to wait with updates. But don’t wait too long.
Errors and security flaws in previous editions are addressed in the new version of the WordPress software. If you are not upgrading the WordPress site, then you are deliberately leaving it unprotected.
If you are worried about your website being broken by an upgrade, you can create a full WordPress backup before launching an update or test everything on the staging site. This approach helps you quickly return to the earlier edition if anything does not perform properly after the software upgrade.
5. Outdated WordPress plugins & themes
Similar to the earlier case, attackers also reap the benefits of obsolete, disabled, or outdated plugins and themes installed on sites. It is easy to download a plugin or theme from the long list of downloadable themes and plugins available on various sites.
Security vulnerabilities and faults are frequently found in WordPress plugins and themes. Theme and plugin developers generally do not take much time to fix these errors. They quickly launch a new update that covers the security flaws found in the earlier version. However, if the web owners do not upgrade their theme or plugin, developers can’t do anything about it.
6. Using FTP instead of SFTP
File transfer protocol (FTP) is used to upload files to your site. An FTP client (desktop app like FileZilla) is used to do this work. Almost all web hosts allow FTP connections utilizing various protocols.
If you connect using a plain FTP, then your files are transmitted insecurely to the server. In this case, anyone who intercepts the transmission would be able to read the data. Therefore, to protect your site from any security threats, you should always use a secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) or SSH. This ensures that all your data is sent in a safe manner, and no one can manipulate it for their own benefit.
7. Easy to guess admin usernames
In addition to feeble passwords, people also use simple usernames, which are easy to guess. This involves typical usernames such as “admin,” “adminA,” or “admin123” for admin users. Commonly used admin usernames make life simple for cybercriminals to get into admin profiles and monitor backend files.
If you are using such usernames or any other that hackers can easily predict, you must change those usernames to unique and complicated ones. WordPress has six separate permission-limited user roles. Give the admin access only to people who truly need it to complete their tasks.
8. Not installing an SSL certificate
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates protect the data sent to and received by the users. If your WordPress site does not have a valid SSL Certificate, then it can easily be compromised by cybercriminals. They can intercept and read the information that is being transferred in plaintext form. Installing an SSL certificate on your WordPress site helps you safeguard your data through encryption.
SSL certificates not only secure your site from malicious actors but also boost its SEO rankings, increase user trust, and improve traffic rate on your site.
To acquire an SSL certificate, you can contact your hosting provider or can buy it from any authentic SSL providers. If you want to acquire an unpaid SSL certificate, there are some good ones out there, like Let’s Encrypt. You can check my guide on how to add an SSL certificate to the WordPress site for free.
9. Not using a firewall
Another obvious answer to why fraudsters can circumvent website protection mechanisms and penetrate back-end services is the absence of firewall software. Firewalls are the last layer of protection against attackers and operate like your home’s mounted safety alarm.
Firewalls track web queries coming from different IP addresses. When firewalls encounter any suspicious request, they immediately stop that process and show a warning message about that software or link.
They can detect and ban queries that are considered to be fraudulent in the past, thus blocking hackers from accessing your website. Various threats, like brute force attacks, cross-site scripting, and SQL injections, can be stopped by firewall applications.
10. Using nulled themes & plugins
Many websites are distributing paid WordPress plugins and themes for free. It is no anomaly that many of the website owners get attracted to these luring offers and use those nulled plugins and themes on their websites.
But it is extremely risky to install WordPress themes and plugins from undependable websites. They not only cause threats to your website’s protection but can also be exploited to capture confidential data. Later, this information can be used to perform malicious tasks.
Don’t use nulled WordPress themes and plugins. WordPress plugins and themes must only be downloaded from reputable sites or official channels, like the plugin/theme creator website or official WordPress repository.
If you cannot buy or do not wish to purchase a paid plugin or theme, then there are many free equivalents available. These free extensions may not be as effective as their premium variants, but they will do the work for you and, above all, ensure the security of your website.
11. Unprotected wp-config.php file
The wp-config.php WordPress configuration file holds the login details for your WordPress site. If it is hacked, it will expose data that could offer an attacker full access to your WordPress website. You can include an extra layer of security by refusing access to the wp-config file using .htaccess.
How To Prevent Sites Getting Hacked Conclusion
WordPress is a powerful platform for developing amazing websites to do the business of every kind. Its attractive features, plugins, and themes with an easy user interface make it one of the world’s most widely used platforms.
But this platform is also in the eyes of cybercriminals that keep trying new techniques to harm the security of your WordPress website. Knowing why WordPress websites get hacked is first step to make necessary security implementations. If vulnerabilities are present, you must remove them immediately to protect the website from being compromised.
Also, don’t be fooled by many WordPress security myths. The best way to protect your site is by using a security plugin. Check iThemes Security review, MalCare review, or Hide My WP review and choose the plugin that best fits your needs.
Dan Radak is a web hosting security professional with ten years of experience. He is currently working with a number of companies in the field of online security, closely collaborating with a couple of e-commerce companies.
DISCLOSURE: Posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I might get a small commission, without any extra cost to you. Read more about it here.