WordPress is a popular and capable CMS (Content Management System) that offers web publishing and hosting. The platform is not only free to use but also the first choice for bloggers. As such, it powers almost 40% of all the websites on the net. However, it isn’t a flawless platform. Despite being an open-source initiative, WordPress has and often poses severe security threats. And since the service is so commonly used, it is amongst the favorite targets of hackers and malicious entities. The following article highlights some common WordPress vulnerabilities.
What is WordPress?
Let us start by introducing WordPress. The well-known web hosting and CMS platform is a free-to-use service that is an open-source initiative written in the hypertext preprocessor language and paired with a MySQL/MariaDB database. The platform also supports HTTPS. But most importantly, the service provides a plugin architecture and a template system known as “Themes” within the WordPress environment. WordPress is licensed under GPLv2.
Hence, users are free to modify the software itself. And as a CMS, users can actively control the content on their websites without actually knowing any programming know-how. Ultimately, WordPress makes web building accessible to the masses for free.
List of known WordPress Vulnerabilities
There are a few known and common security issues with WordPress which we will be shedding light on in the following article.
1. Malware Infestation
Malware is malicious software that a hacker uses to infect a website to steal data. And anyone visiting the infected website has a chance to get infected as well. Although there are different types of malware, some common ones that affect WordPress are malicious redirects, drive-by downloads, and backdoor attacks. As for how hackers gain access to the WordPress website? Simple, they do it through any infected theme, plugin, or script.
The infection will not only steal your data but also insert malicious content on the website. And chances are it might go unnoticed due to the discreet nature of the attack itself. Hence, these malware attacks can cause mild to serious damage to a website. In severe cases, the whole website needs to be taken apart and re-installed. Furthermore, it can add to your hosting costs as the malware can use your website to transmit data.
The best and easiest way to prevent such an issue is to use a good WordPress security plugin.
2. Cross Site Scripting
3. Brute Force Login Attempt
A brute force login attempt, as the name suggests, involves a multiple trial and error approach. It entails using a combination of hundreds of guesses for the correct username and password. The attempt is further helped by powerful algorithms and dictionaries that try to guess a password within a context. Although such attacks are difficult to execute, they still remain one of the popular attack methods involving WordPress. Why?
Because WordPress doesn’t prevent a user from trying multiple fail attempts, allowing bots to try thousands of combinations per second. A brute force attack, even when unsuccessful, severely slows down your website, and when it succeeds it provides the hacker total control over your content.
You can prevent this by putting IP restriction to the WP Admin section.
4. SQL Injection
SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a programming language used to communicate with a database. WordPress utilizes MySQL databases to function. Thus, when an SQL injection happens, it allows hackers to gain unauthorized access to your database and your site data. And once such entities gain direct access, they can control your database and make any changes wantonly.
We previously covered an article on how WordPress websites get hacked and tips to prevent it. It will help you to safeguard your website from such attempts.
5. DDoS Attack
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is an enhanced version of a DoS attack where the hacker aims to block the site admins and visitors from accessing the website. The mechanics behind the attack are pretty simple, as the hacker diverts so much traffic to the server that it crashes, resulting in website downtime.
Although the server and the websites hosted on it would be restored to normal, it is the loss of time and reputation that hurts the owner. And do not forget all those missed economic transactions resulting in a loss. Hackers mostly use IoT devices or Botnets to perform a DDoS attack. WordPress doesn’t offer monitoring tools. Hence, making it a perfect target for such attacks.
6. Outdated platform
WordPress is mostly favored because it allows anyone to build a website using available tools. And the developers also ensure security by rolling out updates every quarter or so. But those using an older version of WordPress are truly at risk as they lack bug fixes, improvements, and other fixes for security vulnerabilities.
The same holds true for software plugins and themes. Thus, staying on top of updates is the only way to prevent security issues from popping up, as a recent study has shown that the majority of the infected WordPress websites were outdated.
7. SEO Spam
As a CMS, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) lies at the core of WordPress websites. But hackers can also use the same tactics and target top-ranking sites with SEO Spam. Such spams include fake keywords and malicious ads. SEO Spam is initiated via brute force attacks or by using loopholes in outdated plugins and themes. And the sad part is that SEO spam is that much harder to predict.
Phishing is an infamous method of luring victims into disclosing vital data. The act gets its name from actual fishing, where one has to cast out a line in hopes of luring the target by placing juicy bait at the end. Phishing works in the same way. Hackers can promise lucrative deals or products and fool users into providing substantial data. It can be done as a form or over an email. WordPress is also a soft target for Phishing activities. If detected, your website can be blacklisted and lose traffic.
9. Privilege Escalation Attack
A privilege escalation is a web attack involving network intrusion. Such an intrusion is a result of configuration failure to your OS or system software, programming errors, or design flaws. Hence, granting hackers elevated access to the application network, data, and other valuable information.
Hotlinking is a bane for content creators. It is the process where others use your work for their own without any permission or credit. In such cases, another website embeds content from the target website, saving resources of its own. It is a poor internet practice, and in cases where the target content is licensed and restricted, it is also illegal.