WordPress is the most used and most vulnerable CMS available on the web; therefore, it becomes essential to audit your WordPress installation correctly.
A reliable WordPress Security Audit requires you to think and act like a hacker.
Security audits assess your site’s security policies and existing potential threats that may lead to unauthorized access.
Generally, attackers use automated tools and scripts that can hack vulnerable WordPress sites by exploiting security issues. You must, therefore, perform a WordPress security audit before the worst can happen.
We will take you through the nitty-gritty of a WordPress security audit in this blog post. We have broken the complete process into 7 easy steps.
1. Assessing for Core WordPress and WordPress Plugin Vulnerabilities
No matter how securely you configure your WordPress site, it can still be hacked if you don’t scan and fix core vulnerabilities. Now in order to perform a WordPress security audit on these vulnerabilities, wpscan is a great tool.
Wpscan is an automated tool used by attackers to find exploits available for your WordPress version or it’s plugins. They use these openly available exploits to gain unauthorized access to your site.
Then to install this tool on your Linux host with the following commands.
sudo apt install ruby-dev gem install wpscan
Now to run Wpscan on your site, run the following command from your terminal. The scan will give your few vulnerabilities, enumerated user information and other attack vectors.
wpscan --url https://your-site.com
Wpscan is great for finding and common vulnerabilities and version based exploits on your WordPress installation.
2. Backing Up Your Site
While performing a WordPress security audit, you might forget the importance of backing up your site’s resources. No security audit is complete before assessing the integrity of your backup mechanism as it will help you get your site up and running in case it gets hacked.
Using WordPress plugins for backups can make your life easier, UpdraftPlus is one such plugin. With this, you can take a full backup of your site and can store it on the Cloud or locally.
Like other plugins, you can install updraft plus and create a backup following these steps:-
1. Add New plugin
2. Then find and Install the Updraft Plus Plugin
3. Thus Go to Updraft Backups -> Backup Now to create a backup right now.
With these steps, you can easily create a backup of your WordPress site and its resources and thus secure your WordPress Installation.
3. The Complexity of Usernames and Password
Your WordPress security is only as strong as its weakest link. Brute forcing or guessing the admin password is the easiest way to gain unauthorized access to your site. Therefore, using a good password policy is always a good idea.
The Recommended practice is to use a password manager and generate 32 bit or longer random keys with the help of a password manager for passwords. Also, it is recommended to avoid using generic usernames such as admin as root users on your WordPress site.
BitWarden is the recommended Password Manager. It stores your password on the cloud and can be used via simple browser extension to fill and generate complex passwords.
4. Remove Slack
Slack is all the unused themes, plugins and other things that you don’t require anymore. Keeping WordPress plugins updated and secure is difficult, therefore it is recommended to remove the plugins that are not used by your WordPress site right away.
It is an essential step of WordPress security audit as these plugins don’t receive security updates much frequently and there is quite a real possibility that an attacker will exploit them to gain unauthorized access to your site.
To uninstall those plugins follow these steps:
1. Login in to the admin dashboard
2. Then click on Themes and Plugins tab
3. Then to Deactivate plugins that you don’t require anymore.
Once you have uninstalled those plugins make sure they don’t leave any files or configurations files behind as its always better to run resource lite site.
5. Fix Attack Common Vectors
You should be aware and have knowledge of common attack vectors that the hackers employ to attack your site. These are some common attack vectors:
- SQL Injection
- XSS or Cross-Site Scripting
- CSFR or Cross-Site Request Forgery
- Remote Code Execution
- LFI/RFI or File Inclusion
These common attack vectors that the attacker may follow, thus it becomes essential for you to fix them during the WordPress security audit. Thus, to remove them you can find the guide here.
6. Brute Force Prevention Mechanism
Brute Forcing the login form on your WordPress site is the simplest method an attacker can attack your site for unauthorized access. Thus, it becomes important for you to re-evaluate brute force protection mechanisms during the WordPress Security Audit.
You can go through this WordPress security guide to find and implement various mechanisms to protect your WordPress site against brute force attacks.
7. Remove Inactive User Sessions
Once the hacker has gained low privilege access to your site, these inactive user sessions will serve as his/her gateway to higher privileges. Inactive user sessions with high privileges are commonly exploited by hackers to have admin-level access to your site.
It becomes important for you to remove them during the WordPress security audit. The best way to prevent this type of privilege escalation is to configure your WordPress installation to log out idle users automatically.
Logout is the recommended plugin for this use it will automatically remove idle user sessions and thus will protect your WordPress sites.
After you have completed the full WordPress Security Audit, the next sane step remains – fixing the vulnerabilities found. Where the code vulnerabilities might require professional help, many you can fix on your own or with the help of a plugin like the WP Hardening Plugin.
With this plugin, you can fix more than 12 security areas (including directory listing, XMLRPC, changing admin URL, User Enumeration, and more) with just a click of a button.
Unaudited WordPress site can be hacked within a few minutes, even by script kiddies. Therefore, it is important for you to perform a WordPress security audit to harden its security against attackers.
The internet can be a hostile place we discussed basic steps to perform security audits on your site but it is recommended that install the Astra Security Suite to protect your sites from advanced security bugs.
Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed by Guest Authors are their own.