How to Keep Your Website Secure: Website Vulnerabilities, WordPress Security Plugins, and More

Published June 1, 2020 by Bryan Miller

No matter the type of website you own and manage, it’s essential that you keep your website secure. Website security involves any application that you install or action you take to make sure that your website data is secure from all cyber threats. If you want to protect customer data and keep hackers from getting a hold of this data, you will need to bolster the security of your website to better detect and get rid of these threats.

In the event that you avoid enhancing the security of your website, there’s a high likelihood that your website would eventually be breached, which could cause other individuals or entities to steal important site or customer data. Hackers are individuals who attempt to gain access to site data. While some hackers are more skilled than others, even less talented hackers could enter your website if the site isn’t secure. Once you lose customer data, you will almost certainly experience a worse brand reputation.

Your core audience likely won’t trust your website anymore, which can lead to you losing substantial amounts of revenue and customers. While it’s possible to fix this type of situation and eventually bring back the customers you’ve lost, it will likely take a significant amount of time and money to correct this type of problem. This article provides a comprehensive look at what it takes to keep a website secure from the more common vulnerabilities.

5 Common Website Vulnerabilities

man in dark on computer coding

While there is a myriad of different website vulnerabilities that you should attempt to safeguard against, your website security efforts should mainly focus on five of the more common vulnerabilities that could affect your website.

SQL Injections

SQL injections are vulnerabilities that involve a hacker attempting to use certain application code to corrupt or access the content in your database, which would allow the hacker to create new data, alter this data, delete important data, and read data that’s stored within your back-end database.

This is among the most common types of security vulnerabilities for web applications, which is why it’s essential that you take steps to safeguard against this issue. The information that’s revealed from your database could include private customer data, which might lead to the hacker being able to access the bank accounts and other personal information of your customers.

Cross Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross site scripting is an issue that results in the users of a web application being targeted via an injection of code into an output of the web application. This code is usually a client-side script, the primary of which is JavaScript. The goal of XSS is to alter client-side scripts so that these scripts can perform the way that the hacker wants them to when being sent to the website.

This website vulnerability allows hackers to execute various scripts within the user’s browser for the purpose of sending the user to a harmful website, defacing a website, or hijacking the user session altogether. These particular vulnerabilities can be difficult to safeguard against and may cause users who experience them to start using other websites that aren’t affected by this issue.

Broken Authentication and Session Management

Broken authentication and session management issues are weaknesses that can encompass a variety of different vulnerabilities, which include everything from passwords being sent over connections that aren’t encrypted to user authentication credentials being unprotected when stored. Likely the most common vulnerability related to broken authentication and session management involves the user having predictable login information, which could provide the hacker with easy access to the website.

These security issues open up the possibility that a hacker will learn about the identity of a specific user and eventually assume the identity of this user. This is an easy way for hackers to gain access to a user’s account, which may provide them with payment information and other details that are stored on your website. If this occurred, the user would likely find it difficult to use your website again because of this vulnerability.

Directory Traversal

Directory traversal is a common HTTP exploit that’s used by hackers to gain access to website files and directories that are otherwise restricted. This is a highly dangerous software error that uses standard web server software to get through poor security mechanisms. Once the hacker gains access to your files and directories, the entirety of your web server could be compromised, which would allow the hacker to damage your website while also obtaining sensitive user data.

If the attacker is able to get access to this information, they could get into user’s bank accounts and create other problems that the user would need to deal with. In the meantime, your brand reputation would be damaged. The two methods that attackers can use to reach the webserver include Access Control Lists and the root directory, which are typically only available to the administrator of the site.

Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration is a problem that involves several different types of website vulnerabilities, all of which can occur when you don’t properly maintain the configuration of your web application. The configuration will need to be fully defined and deployed to the application and web servers, the application itself, any frameworks, the database server, and the platform.

If not properly configured, the hacker would likely gain access to private user data, which could include any payment information that’s stored on your website. The URL of your website as well as any form fields on your site are the areas that are most vulnerable to security misconfiguration.

WordPress Security Plugins for 2020

html, php, javascript code

There is a wide range of fantastic security plugins that you can install into your WordPress website, each of which can enhance the security of your site and lessen the possibility that the aforementioned vulnerabilities occur.

#1 Sucuri Security

Sucuri WordPress security

Sucuri Security is an impressive and highly popular security plugin that you can use for your WordPress website. The majority of the security features that this plugin provides are entirely free to use. However, you have an option to select a premium plan that will provide you with a firewall for your website. The primary features that this plugin offers include security notifications, security activity auditing, security hardening, remote malware scanning, monitoring for file integrity, security actions following a hack, and blacklist monitoring. These features can protect your site from failed login attempts, unauthorized file changes, and all notable vulnerabilities.

#2 WordFence Security

Wordfence WordPress security

WordFence Security is a spectacular security plugin that’s considered to be the most popular firewall and malware scanner on WordPress. As with the other plugins in this article, WordFence Security is free with paid premium plans that you can select for additional features. For instance, the premium plan for this plugin will provide site owners with a real-time IP blacklist that protects against malicious IPs.

The Threat Defense Feed that’s available through WordFence Security is outfitted with the latest firewall rules, malicious IP addresses, and malware signatures, which allow for enhanced security. Additional features include the ability to check the integrity of your themes and plugins, the ability to scan posts and content for suspicious content, and two-factor authentication.

#3 iThemes Security

Ithemes WordPress Security

The iThemes Security plugin is a robust security plugin for WordPress that can protect your website from nearly all potential vulnerabilities. This particular plugin provides site owners with more than 30 ways to protect and secure their sites. The focus of this security plugin is to get rid of old software, weak passwords, and plugin vulnerabilities.

The features that are available through this plugin are separated into protect, detect, obscure, and recover features. While some components of this security plugin are free, the best features are available through premium plans. If you select the premium plan, you’ll also be provided with features like two-factor authentication, user action logs, regular malware scans, file comparisons, password security, security keys for WordPress, and dashboard widgets.

#4 All In One WP Security & Firewall

All in One WP Security

The All In One WP Security & Firewall plugin is a highly rated security plugin that’s packed with free features. In fact, the entirety of this plugin is free to use and add to your website. One notable element of this plugin is that it will provide you with scheduled reports that explain every facet of your site security and areas that should be improved.

Every security feature available through this plugin is separated into basic, intermediate, and advanced categories. You can control the functions of the plugin to make sure that it doesn’t cause slowdown for your website. Once all vulnerabilities have been detected, this plugin will provide you with recommendations on how to bolster your security so that these vulnerabilities never again occur.

#5 BlogVault

BlogVault is a useful WordPress backup plugin that provides site owners with the ability to back up their websites on a cloud. This plugin is 100% free and can prove beneficial if ever a security vulnerability presents itself. If you lose your website or find that the website has been improperly accessed, you can recover your site from the cloud through BlogVault before plugging the vulnerability. This plugin is easy to install and should give you peace of mind that your website data is always safe.

What Is the Difference Between HTTPS and HTTP?


A key aspect of website security involves understanding the difference between HTTPS and HTTP, the former of which is considered to be much more secure than the latter. HTTP is an application protocol that allows for communication between various types of systems. The most common use of HTTP is to transfer data to a web browser from a server. However, HTTP lacks security, which can create vulnerabilities with these connections. HTTPS is merely the secure version of HTTP that adds a layer of protection to the protocol.

While many websites use HTTP, Google has recommended since 2014 that websites switch over to HTTPS. To make sure that as many websites make this switch as possible, Google ranks pages higher on search results when the website is outfitted with HTTPS. The HTTPS protocol uses an SSL certificate to make sure that the connection between the browser and server is secure and connected. Modern internet users are much more likely to visit a website that has an HTTPS URL when compared to websites that lack this layer of protection. If you require users to enter passwords to access an account or to provide credit card information before a purchase, it’s essential that you use HTTPS with your website.

Use Tools to Detect Your Website Vulnerabilities

person's hand on keyboard

If you don’t know what types of security measures should be taken with your website, you should first run some tests to determine where your website is weak when it comes to security. By reading through this link, you’ll find seven reputable and effective online tools that you can use to scan your website for vulnerabilities. For instance, Detectify can scan for over 1,000 vulnerabilities in moments.

The report that you’re provided with at the end of the scan can be used to identify areas of improvement for site security. Other notable scanning tools that you should consider include Mozilla Observatory, Qualys FreeScan, and UpGuard Web Scan.

Website security is paramount if you want to make sure that customer data is never stolen and that you never lose access to your website. Even small vulnerabilities can cause your site to be hacked, which is why it’s highly recommended that you use one or more of the security plugins mentioned previously with your WordPress website. With these plugins installed, you should be able to protect against SQL injections, security misconfiguration, and cross site scripting.

Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller

Bryt Designs

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web tech enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. Bryan is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine and continues to pursue tools and technologies to find success for clients across a varieties of industries.

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