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WordPress Security 101 – Internal Monitoring Systems and Web Hosting

Internal Monitoring Systems

Securing your WordPress site requires a lot of adjustments, manual or automated. The “manual” mode relies on a wealth of plugins and little tweaks that give you granular control over what you can do, and how much you wish to invest in it. But manual mode is not perfect.

An excessive number of plugins may slow down your WordPress performance. You also need to keep tabs open on all your plugins and replace outdated or discontinued ones with the up-to-date. Remember that outdated plugins have security holes developers never bothered to fix. In fact, over 50% of WordPress hacks are rooted in plugin vulnerabilities.

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If you let these little things slip, you run the risk of creating more vulnerabilities for your WordPress than you solved by installing plugins in the first place.

Internal Monitoring Systems

If you’re not into fiddling with multiple plugins, however, you can always rely on one of the comprehensive solutions for WordPress – internal monitoring systems. Such complete solutions as Sucuri and Wordfence protect your blog against DDoS and brute force attacks, hacks, and automate a lot of manual work.

#1. Sucuri

Sucuri is one of the leading all-in-one commercial solutions for WordPress security. Jam-packed with robust features, it protects your blog and saves you the hassle of manual setup and administration.

The Sucuri WP Plugin checks the system for signs of tampering; sets up an automatic block of PHP files in the WP-includes directory; deletes the default admin account and lets you customize a new one.

Sucuri features:

  • Sucuri team cleans up a hacked site and restores its content; allows you to reset user passwords and plugins; and trace-back malicious activity.
  • For Google-blacklisted blogs, Sucuri helps re-establish the ratings.
  • Site protection against DDoS and brute force attacks, and known security exploits.
  • Pro plans provide SSL certificates to encrypt data.
  • Sucuri Website Application Firewall will scan, detect, and mitigate brute force and DDoS attacks.
  • Scanning and monitoring against malware and malvertising attacks.
  • Updating WordPress and security keys; securing the uploads directory; checking for data leaks; and restricting access to internal directories.

Sucuri will send you important security notifications and handle the core updates automatically.

#2. Wordfence

Wordfence is a feasible solution if you’re on a budget since it offers many features for free. It lets you enable WordPress firewall, beef up your login security and enable malware scanning.

The free version offers:

  • Web Application Firewall – detects SQL injections, DDoS attacks, and malicious file uploads.
  • Website Scanning – identifies issues in WordPress public configuration, passwords, backups, posts, and comments.

Premium features include:

  • Anti-Spam Protection – the system will vet comments for known spamming sources.
  • Anti-Blacklisting Protection – checks if your blog gets spammed to other sites. This is a known tactic used by hackers and competitors to get a site blacklisted by Google.
  • Rate Limiting – limits high-volume traffic blogs to a set rate that would still allow crawlers to access it without clogging its responsiveness.

On a side note, Wordfence can impact the performance of high-traffic blogs. But its latest versions are addressing the issue by caching and optimizing performance.

#3. WordPress Security

The WordPress Security plugin is great to automate backups and make restoring a tad easier than the manual backup-restore hassle. The catch is it only secures some parts of your blog, which means you can’t rely on it for all things WordPress security.

Jetpack Personal and Jetpack Business include the official WordPress Security plugin complete with a spam filter, daily off-site backups, and one-click restore feature, and tech support. The downside is it doesn’t offer any protection against advanced threats, nor ongoing monitoring.

Security of Your Web Hosting

Secure hosting environment is key to not only security but also uptime and performance of your blog. The moment your hosting account gets compromised, all hell breaks loose for your WordPress site. Below are the tips to help you choose a secure hosting provider and customize things properly to harden your site’s security:

  • Opt for providers experienced with WordPress or catering to WordPress bloggers. Such hosting services usually offer security tailored specifically for WordPress, which translates into better performance and usability.
  • Reputation is king in the world of hosting providers. Well-known services are more likely to offer top-of-the-line security than low-cost firms.
  • Shared hosting has more security vulnerabilities than dedicated servers. With multiple websites hosted on a shared server, attackers can infiltrate your blog using your “neighbors.”
  • Keep an eye open for packages that include auto-backups and monitoring utilities like firewalls and scanners to block incoming intrusions and DDoS attacks, recognize suspicious traffic and deny it. If your host doesn’t offer such external monitoring capability – and budget is tight – consider CloudFlare. It provides DDoS protection, detects potentially malicious traffic, and also speeds up the overall performance of your blog by caching its data. It can manage multiple sites and generate analytics to help you measure site traffic and performance. The good news – it’s completely free.
  • Look for hosting plans that come bundled with an SSL certificate, or let you buy it as an add-on. HTTPS not only provides a layer of protection to your data but also improves your SEO rankings. To add SSL and https to your WordPress, go to your Dashboard → General → change WordPress and Site Address URLs to “https.”
  • By default, WordPress comes with “777” file permissions, and you want to change that to prevent malicious parties from tampering with your directories. Access your directories through FTP → right-click directory → change “777” to “750” or “755.” Also, change wp.config.php file permission to “600,” and the rest of the files in your WordPress directories to “640” or “644.”
  • Disable PHP error reports, a substantial vulnerability since they expose full file paths on your server.

Bonus Tip 1: Access your wp.config.php file in the root directory of your WordPress installation via FTP → at the top of the file below the first line, input:error_reporting(0);

@ini_set(‘display_errors',0);

Bonus Tip 2: If you disable PHP error reports, you’d still receive a blank page whenever an error occurs. You won’t know what exactly went wrong if something fails, but you can always re-enable PHP error reporting. But do it temporarily to troubleshoot the issue.

Wrapping Up

I hope this roundup helped bring awareness on some of the tricky WordPress security issues like hosting and internal monitoring systems. Both aspects play a critical role in securing your WordPress blog, improving your site’s performance and SEO rankings.

Fortunately, the market is ripe with offers on any WordPress security product, be it a plugin, an all-in-one security system, or a hosting provider. Still, do look beyond the price and question every product from the security perspective.

For more tips on WordPress backups, check out this comprehensive guide on WordPress Security by Alex Grant.

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