“WordPress is insecure because it is open source.”
This is a common misconception that assumes that open-source software is more vulnerable simply because anyone can see the code and find flaws.
However, this is not the case. Open-source software can be more secure because it has a large and active community of developers and users who can review, test, and improve the code.
WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world, powering over 40% of all websites.
But is WordPress safe to use? How secure is WordPress from hackers and malicious attacks? In this article, we will answer these questions and more.
Is WordPress more or less secure than its alternatives?
One of the common questions that people have when choosing a website platform is whether WordPress is more or less secure than other options such as Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, Webflow, etc. The answer is not straightforward, as each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of security.
Most of the alternatives available in the market are proprietary and don’t offer the same flexibility and freedom as WordPress. There are no updates as such, and everything is managed for you on your behalf.
This means that with these WordPress alternatives, you don’t have to worry about updating your website, installing security plugins, or configuring your web host.
The platform provider takes care of all the security aspects for you and ensures that your website is always running smoothly.
However, this also comes with some drawbacks.
If you are not in charge of securing your website, then it is a huge weight off your shoulders, but at the same time, you may have less control over your website's features, functionality, and design. You may also have to pay more for the services and features that you need, as the platform provider may change their subscription fee anytime in the future.
Moreover, even if the platform provider is responsible for your website's security, it is still possible that you might suffer a breach or an attack.
Using a managed platform might give you an illusion of security. Even though these hacks are few and far between, they do happen, and in such cases, there isn’t much that you, as an individual, can do – besides creating a support ticket and hoping.
WordPress, on the other hand, is an open-source and self-hosted platform that gives you more freedom and flexibility to customize your website as you wish. However, this also means that you have to take care of your website's security yourself, and if your website ever gets hacked, you’ll have to sort that out yourself as well.
Therefore, the security of your website depends largely on how you manage and maintain it, regardless of the platform that you choose.
What are WordPress vulnerabilities? How do they affect your website?
A WordPress vulnerability is a weakness or flaw in a theme, plugin, or WordPress core that can be exploited by a hacker. In other words, WordPress vulnerabilities create a point of entry that a hacker can use to pull off malicious activity.
Some of the malicious activities that hackers can perform on a vulnerable WordPress site include:
- Redirecting visitors to scam or phishing sites
- Injecting malware or spam into your site’s content or database
- Stealing sensitive data such as user credentials, payment information, or personal details
- Using your website resources to launch attacks on other websites
WordPress vulnerabilities can be classified into different types, depending on the nature and severity of the flaw. Some of the most common types of WordPress vulnerabilities are:
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): This occurs when a hacker injects malicious code into your site’s web pages, which then executes in the browser of your visitors or admins. XSS can be used to steal cookies, hijack sessions, or perform actions on behalf of the victim.
- SQL Injection (SQLi): This occurs when a hacker manipulates the SQL queries that your site uses to communicate with its database, allowing them to access, modify, or delete data. SQLi can be used to compromise your site’s integrity, confidentiality, or availability.
- Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF): This occurs when a hacker tricks a user into performing an unwanted action on your site, such as changing their password, deleting their account, or making a purchase. CSRF can be used to abuse your site’s functionality or resources.
To learn more about this topic, refer to our article that covers a lot of popular WordPress vulnerabilities and explains how to protect against them.
How does WordPress handle security updates and patches?
WordPress is not immune to vulnerabilities – as no software ever is. However, WordPress has a strong reputation for being proactive and responsive when it comes to security issues.
It has an active and dedicated team of security experts who constantly monitor and fix any vulnerabilities that are reported or discovered.
WordPress releases regular updates and patches that address any security issues that are found. These updates are categorized into three types:
- Major updates: These are released every couple of years and introduce new features, enhancements, and bug fixes. They also include any security fixes that are needed. Major updates are indicated by a change in the first digit of the WordPress version number, such as 5.9 or 6.0.
- Minor updates: These are released more frequently and focus on fixing security issues and bugs. They also include any compatibility or performance improvements. Minor updates are indicated by a change in the second digit of the WordPress version number, such as 6.1 or 6.3.
- Security updates: These are released as soon as possible when a critical security issue is found.
WordPress updates are usually automatic, meaning that your site will download and install them without any action from you. However, you can also manually update your site if you prefer. You can check the current WordPress version and update the status from your site’s dashboard.
Does having the latest version of WordPress make your site bulletproof?
No! Updating WordPress will only address the vulnerabilities in the WordPress core. It is possible to have a fully updated WordPress website that is not secure. In our State Of WordPress Security report, we found out that only about 0.58% of security vulnerabilities come from the WordPress core.
Updating your WordPress core, plugins, and themes is very important, but it is not enough to protect your site from hackers and malware. Various security flaws can arise even when your website is fully updated, such as:
- Weak passwords and user permissions: If you are using weak passwords or use the same passwords for multiple accounts, you are making it easy for hackers to guess or crack your login credentials.
Similarly, if you give too many users access to your site, or assign them unnecessary privileges, you are increasing the risk of unauthorized changes or malicious actions. You should always use strong and unique passwords, limit the number of users, and assign them the appropriate roles and capabilities.
- Insecure web hosting: Your web host plays a vital role in your site’s security. If your web host is not secure, your site may be vulnerable to attacks from hackers or other malicious users who share the same server.
You should always choose a reputable and secure web host that offers features such as SSL certificates, firewall protection, and DDoS prevention.
- Outdated or unused plugins and themes: You may have outdated or unused plugins and themes installed on your site. These plugins and themes may contain security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain access to your site or inject malicious code.
You should always delete any plugins and themes that you don’t use or need.
- Using nulled themes and plugins: These are often distributed by hackers or unscrupulous websites that modify the original code to insert malware or remove security features.
Therefore, it is advisable to avoid using nulled themes and plugins and instead purchase them from reputable sources or use free alternatives.
Best practices for keeping your WordPress site secure
WordPress security is not the sole responsibility of your hosting provider. While they do provide some essential security features and services, they are not enough to protect your site from all possible threats. You still need to take some proactive and preventive measures to secure your site on your own.
WordPress does a great job of keeping your site secure, but there are also some steps that you can take to enhance your site’s security and prevent any potential attacks.
To secure your WordPress site on your own, you need to follow some of the best practices that we have mentioned in our previous articles, such as updating your WordPress core, themes, and plugins, using strong passwords, enabling 2FA, and installing a security plugin.
You also need to be aware of the common WordPress vulnerabilities and how to prevent them.
We have published a lot of interesting articles that can guide you. To learn more about WordPress security and how to secure your site on your own, you can check out these resources:
- How to Protect Your WordPress Site Against Brute Force Attacks
- How to Block IP Addresses in WordPress
- How to Limit Login Attempts in WordPress
- How to Secure Your WordPress Login URL
- The Complete Guide to WordPress Security
WordPress is a secure and reliable platform that powers millions of websites around the world. However, no software is perfect, and WordPress can still face security challenges and threats from hackers and malicious actors.
That’s why you need to take responsibility for your own site’s security and follow the best practices and tips that we have shared in this article.
By keeping your WordPress core, themes, and plugins updated, using strong passwords and 2FA, installing a security plugin, and following the other best practices, you can significantly reduce the risk of getting hacked or compromised, and enjoy a safe and smooth WordPress experience.
If you want to learn more about WordPress security, we highly recommend you read our whitepaper, WordPress Security Stats. It contains valuable insights and data on the state of WordPress security, the most common types of vulnerabilities, the most vulnerable plugins and themes, and more.
Patchstack maintains a real-time database that tracks and monitors all WordPress vulnerabilities that are reported or discovered.
You can search, filter, and sort the vulnerabilities by various criteria. By using Patchstack, you can also get notified 48 hours before a vulnerability is publicly disclosed, giving you enough time to update or patch your site.
Patchstack is trusted by leading security experts in the WordPress community. You can try Patchstack for free and see for yourself how it can improve your WordPress security.