Scanning Your WordPress Site for Security Holes

Your WordPress site is a hotbed for sensitive information and digital assets, and that makes the possibility of it being attacked, almost a guarantee. Which is why scanning it for possible vulnerabilities and keeping dangerous hackers at bay has now become a necessity.

Examining your site for security holes is essential. It tells you how the site is exposed to hackers for attacks so that you can make your move, and take adequate measures, to patch any possible holes in your site’s security.

There is no rocket science behind it! Fortunately, there are many fantastic plugins and tools available nowadays that make the site scanning process a lot easier. Hence, in this article, we will be discussing some of these excellent tools to help you keep the attackers at bay, and ensure the security of your WordPress site at all times. ​

These plugins/tools are also pretty easy to install and they automate the entire scanning process, making it way simpler to keep your site’s security in check.

Is Your site even vulnerable to such attacks?

Many people like to believe, and that too, without taking any adequate measure, that their sites are secured, and they need no scanning tool to keep them safe from hackers. After all, why would any hacker notice an insignificant part of the worldwide web network – your site, especially when your site does not even contain any personal or identifiable information. But to be honest, assuming your WordPress site to be safe, and not being vulnerable is a high-security risk. No site is entirely secure or considered to be safe without taking proper actions for its safety.

Similarly, if your site contains some personal information, the attacker may easily use that for identity theft or may hack into other accounts that you have, especially if you keep the same passwords for all sites. These accounts include bank accounts, social media accounts, and others. Nevertheless, a single vulnerability in the WordPress site will make you compromise your whole life.

Worst case scenarios

Your site gets cut off by the hosting company and becomes unavailable. Now to recover your site, you will have to go through many red tapes along with convincing your hosting company that you can bring the site back into shape. And this may take up to more than a month in some cases. 

Here are some ways your site may still be open to hackers :

  • Using ‘administrator’ or ‘admin’ as the username
  • Weak passwords
  • Vulnerable themes and plugins
  • Naming database prefixes using defaults
  • Improper file permissions
  • Enabled theme editor and plugin
  • Insecure computer or server
  • Necessary files are left open, without any password protection

To be honest, this only scratches the surface indeed. There are still many ways out there which make your site vulnerable to hackers.
While almost 73 percent of WordPress’s most famous sites are vulnerable, your site has a pretty good chance as well. Hence, the best option you have is to start looking for security holes. So how will you ensure that your WordPress site is not vulnerable? The only way to be sure about this is to check and scan your site.

Scanning Your Server and WordPress Site

There are free tools out there which are great to scan your WordPress site online. Below listed are some useful websites which offer this great feature of online security scans. All you need to do is to enter the URL of your site and click a button to get started with scanning for vulnerabilities:

  • Sucuri Site CheckWill check your site for blacklisting status, known malware, errors or if the site is out-of-date.
  • WordPress Security Scan: It checks for common vulnerabilities in the site. But with a premium upgrade, you can also get advanced scans.
  • AcunetixOffers free registration to avail trial for 14 days. Scans for network related vulnerabilities and is not specific to WordPress.
  • Scan My Server: You need to Sign up and get the detailed report of possible vulnerabilities for your site. It also provides a back link on the site for ownership verification, i.e. you are not an attacker.
  • WPScanIs a self-hosted, and free vulnerability scanner for personal usage. For commercial use, you will need a business license though.
  • Unmask Parasites​​​​Helps in providing information if the site is already hacked, or attacked with spam or malware.
  • Norton Safe WebIs similar to the website mentioned above and helps in checking if your site is already compromised.
These sites will help you see exactly where your site needs improvement for security protocols .

These scanners are not only free to use but provide a reasonably clear overview, except for a few of them. However, to avail premium services, you would need to sign up for an account. With a premium account, you can have detailed insight regarding where the site must undergo significant improvements. No doubt, these scanners are suitable as a starting point, but to get the complete insight of your site’s vulnerabilities, you must go with some other improved tools too.

Plugins that are Best for Detailed Scans

To perform a more detailed scan of your website, it is also advisable to install a plugin that lets you know what vulnerabilities your site is exposed to. These plugins work just fine on single WordPress installs and get updated frequently, but they also need to work well on multi-site networks when activated on site-by-site basis. Let’s look at a selected few of these:

Total security checks your website and provides detailed reporting on discovered vulnerabilities. It notifies you straight away so you can fix it up and allows you to change your site’s login page URL for added security. In addition, it monitors the WordPress core and your site’s files for any issues. The downside though, is that you aren’t able to apply several important vulnerability fixes. But Total security is still a brilliant scanner with in depth reports.

Vulnerable Plugin checker automatically checks installed plugins for vulnerabilities and security concerns. It also provides optional email alerts to notify you if issues are detected. However, it doesn’t scan your site’s files or themes and you also won’t be able to fix anything with this plugin. There is automated checking and it is performed twice daily though, which increases the likeliness of catching threats early.

This is yet another plugin that merely scans the plugins you’ve already installed for vulnerabilities. But these scans are detailed and can locate deprecated WordPress functions, known security vulnerabilities and some unsafe PHP functions, which are used by hackers to compromise your site. How this plugin works is by checking the WPScan Vulnerability Database for any issue previously reported. In case there turns out to be a match between code used in one of your plugins and the database, you are notified so as to fix it.  However, this plugin too doesn’t resolve issues for you.

Using this plugin is a quick way of adding multiple layers of protection to your WordPress site. iThemes security pro is easy to use and offers a variety of interesting features. Apart from limited login attempts, strong password enforcement and 404 error detection, it includes special features like the “away” mode that allows you to make your admin inaccessible for when you don’t use it. You get notified through email if a user is locked out or if any of your files are removed or changed.

There is an option for scheduled database backups and you can also have your backups emailed to you for you to download and save them as per your own convenience. Some other notable features include a hide login page, hide admin page and a bot blacklist.  However, like most security plugins currently available in the market, this too doesn’t work well with a few hosting platforms like a lot of VPS and shared hosting plans.

All in all, these plugins are highly useful in detecting and letting you know where security patches are required by your site so that you can fix the issues and maintain the security of your WordPress site at all times.

To Patch-up Security Holes

Once you scan your site with any of the above-listed plugin or tool and know the vulnerability areas, you can easily start fixing the security holes. Start with working on the problems which must be treated urgently – working down the list of possible vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, do not worry about the notices which are typically labeled as informational as they are just there to inform you about essential bits of information. Initially, you might find this process a bit tricky, daunting or time-consuming to do all by yourself. However, the best way to work around this is to get the security plugins which will fix the issues automatically and hire an expert for proper configuration and maintaining security protocols. While there are many such plugins available out there, use the one that best suits your WordPress site’s security needs.

October 19, 2017

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