While built-in WordPress security is said to be adequate, it is still essential for website owners to consider additional security measures.
WordPress is a very popular platform today, and hackers are well aware of its potential vulnerabilities, enabling infiltration from unexpected angles.
Unfortunately, this popularity comes with drawbacks as potential attackers can easily identify common weak points and know exactly how and where to launch an attack. It is strongly advised to take proactive security measures in order to prevent issues before they arise.
In this blog post, we'll look at five best security plugins that address common WordPress dangers like lack of malware scanning, file change detection, suspicious traffic monitoring and missing backups. Let's explore which one might work best for your needs!
Some examples of WordPress infection
For those unfamiliar with the dangers of WordPress infections, sharing real-world case studies can help illustrate why website security is so important. So, I would like to share a few examples of WordPress infections security experts have deal with:
- One client came to me in a panic after discovering their site had been infected by a virus. When I inspected the site, I was surprised to find over 26,000 spam posts published under one of the site authors accounts. The database size had ballooned to a massive 1.2 GB due to all the junk files and content added by the virus.
- In recent months, viruses have been seen exploiting REST APIs to remotely control hacked WordPress sites. In one case, a client's WooCommerce store was impacted this way. Even after removing the virus from all files and databases, backdoor access was found to have been created using WooCommerce REST API settings.
- One customer's WordPress site once suffered an infection from a virus that targeted a file not typically expected to be at risk. The attack specifically infiltrated the certificate authority bundle file located at /wp-includes/certificates/ca-bundle.crt. By manipulating this crucial cryptographic file, the virus likely aimed to compromise SSL certificate validation and ultimately undermine the site's security.
Hosting security needs to come before all else
Before introducing the best security plugins, hosting security should always take top priority above all other considerations.
Compromised security at the hosting level puts your entire website at risk. Even minor host vulnerabilities could expose your site, data and services to malicious infiltration—regardless of any security plugins installed.
This is because plugins only secure the website itself, not the full hosting infrastructure. A securely configured host is essential as the foundation before employing other security tools on the site. When choosing a host, ensure they prioritize robust security practices and strong data protection measures.
At Earth Girl Hosting, we deeply value these critical aspects of security. In this regard, we offer different types of SSL certificates plus SiteLock website security and free daily backups to avoid data loss in critical situations.
Recommended WordPress plugins to enhance security
In this section, we will suggest 5 security plugins that aim to prevent issues and help automate best practices to strengthen your existing website defenses.
The recommended plugins have a proven track record of keeping websites secure without disrupting your workflow. Most options are free and maintained by trusted developers. Adding even one plugin can evidently reduce vulnerabilities!
Ready to help make your website safer? It's time to up your defenses with the best security plugins!
1. Wordfence Security
Wordfence is the most popular WordPress security plugin worldwide with over 4+ million active installations, as of 2023!
It comes with a firewall that guards your website directly, a scanner to check for malware, two-factor authentication for admin login, and real-time traffic monitoring capabilities. One key feature is that when corruption or infiltration has already occurred, Wordfence can remedy damaged areas by replacing them with untouched original versions.
The firewall identifies and blocks common exploits, bot attacks, and other malicious traffic. The malware scanner checks all files, plugins, themes, posts, and comments for known viruses and malware. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to admin logins. And with live traffic monitoring, you gain visibility into who is accessing your site and from where.
The free version already offers strong protection, but if you need country blocking features, more frequent scans and spam checks, then upgrading to the premium version is recommended.
Fortunately, Wordfence does not cause your website to perform slowly and utilizes techniques like cache settings to prevent database lookups on each scan.
2. All-In-One Security (AIOS)
AIOS plugin is another popular security plugin with login security tools, a web application firewall (WAF), and content protection features.
Beyond login protection, the plugin safeguards sites from malware and hacking attempts through its automatically-updating web application firewall. This firewall monitors traffic and blocks malicious requests based on a database of known exploits.
For extra peace of mind, the All-in-One Security plugin also secures files and prevents unwanted changes through file scanning. It gives site owners visibility into plugin and theme updates through detailed audit logs.
Whether using the free version or upgrading to premium, this plugin provides a comprehensive security solution for keeping your WordPress site safe from online threats.
Through the AIOS dashboard, you are presented with a graphical score gauge to assess your WordPress security strength at a glance. This gauge employs a scored system to represent your current security level. By examining the breakdown, you can pinpoint any modules with features that are not enabled but could increase the score, if activated.
3. Shield Security
Shield Security focuses on intrusion prevention through bot detection. It is equipped with a set of security features including:
- Firewall security rules
- Admin access security restriction
- Bad bot detection
- Automatic bot & IP blocking
- Brute Force protection and login attempts limitation
- File security scanner (scan & repair WordPress core files)
- File changes detection
- Anti spam security system
Shield Security aims to prevent threats from ever accessing your site in the first place. It implements an anti-bot detection engine to analyze numerous signals from site visitors, including failed logins, invalid usernames, XML-RPC access attempts, and abnormal website request patterns.
Through this intelligent screening process, Shield is able to block malicious bots before they can initiate attacks or exploits. Once identified, harmful bots and their associated IP addresses are then scored and selectively firewalled to restrict harmful traffic.
Shield security will check your website security grade and guide you to improve your total security score.
The plugin also rolls out automatic updates to its bot definitions dataset through the ShieldNET intelligence network, allowing it to continuously improve threat identification over time.
Combined with features like two-factor authentication, activity logging, and file integrity monitoring, the Shield Security plugin forms a comprehensive security solution.
Another crucial aspect of WordPress security is maintaining daily backups of your website. What would you do if your entire database was permanently lost due to a cyber attack or hardware failure?
That's why I strongly advise relying not only on backups from hosting services, but also maintaining your own personal backups.
This is where the significance of using a plugin that automatically backs up your website on a daily basis becomes evident.
UpdraftPlus is one of the most popular backup plugins for WordPress with over 3+ million active installations, as of 2023.
With UpdraftPlus, you can schedule automatic off-site backups on a recurring basis. Backups can be stored on your Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3 accounts, and elsewhere. This off-site backup storage gives an extra layer of protection in case of server-side hacks.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of UpdraftPlus is its simple restoration process. With just a few clicks, you can restore your entire site or selectively restore individual items like plugins, themes, files or the database.
While primarily a backup plugin rather than a security tool, UpdraftPlus also effectively serves as a form of security through restoration. Just as Ctrl + Z (CMD + Z) undoes a mistake, UpdraftPlus allows rolling back changes via restoration of a previous backup in the event of an issue like a security breach or other failure impacting the site.
5. WP Hide
As its name implies, the WP Hide plugin enables users to conceal essential WordPress components from plain view. It effectively masks the presence of WordPress by hiding core files, the default login page URL, and theme and plugin folder paths — all without altering URLs or folder structures.
Hackers often target these things to find problems they can use. By hiding clues about what system the site uses, the plugin makes it harder to see what WordPress versions are installed. Without this info, attackers have fewer known issues to use.
Hackers often target these clues to find vulnerabilities they can exploit. By hiding indications of the underlying system, the plugin makes it harder to discern installed WordPress versions. Without this information, attackers have fewer known aspects to leverage.
The plugin also thwarts bot programs that scan websites searching for admin logins and file upload areas. By removing the WordPress "fingerprint," the risk of unwanted access or hacks is reduced significantly.
Beyond hiding sensitive information, the plugin has no adverse effects on search engine optimization (SEO). Changes are confined to frontend display via rules and filters, leaving actual page content untouched.
The plugin also integrates seamlessly with popular caching plugins, ensuring optimized performance even with its rules running behind the scenes. This one might meet your expectations.
While WordPress has built-in security measures, dedicated plugins fill gaps and form an essential part of a multi-layered security strategy focused on finding the best security plugins.
The five best security plugins we suggested in this post — Wordfence, All-in-One Security, Shield Security, UpdraftPlus, and WP Hide — provide a good foundation for fortifying your site against both known and unknown threats. There are many other plugins that offer security-hardening features such as WP Activity Log, Sucuri Security, Solid Security (previously iThemes Security), and Loginizer (simple yet lightweight and effective brute force protection), and it's recommended to use at least one of the security plugins alongside UpdraftPlus to enhance your WordPress security in line with best practices.
But, always remember that the first line of defense starts with securing your hosting environment.