6 Most Common WordPress Attacks & The Ways To Prevent Them

By Mohit Surati WordPress March 20, 2019 16 min read 709 Views

“For every lock, there is someone out there trying to pick it or break in.”

The above quote beautifully explains how hard it has become to achieve security measures in the modern era. In today’s day & age, the battleground of security has shifted from traditional attacks to the cyber attacks which are giving sleepless nights to the website owners.

As per the survey carried out by W3Techs, WordPress now powers 32% of the web. It means that most of the website owners nowadays are building the website on WordPress.

Now, according to research conducted by WpWhiteSecurity, 70% of the most popular WordPress installations are vulnerable to the hacker attacks. From this statistic, it was evident that WordPress website owners need to be aware of most Common WordPress Security Vulnerabilities. Without knowing that, you won’t be able to secure your website.

Do you want to know How To Secure WordPress Website From Hackers? Then, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to ride on a rollercoaster, as today we’re going to provide you with an in-depth guide on Most Common WordPress Attacks Of 2018 & the ways to prevent them.

So, let’s get the things underway.

1.  SQL Injection

SQL-InjectionAs you all know that, WordPress is a basically a CMS (Content Management System) and therefore, it heavily relies on the database engine which not only stores the metadata information but also stores the administrative data. A typical SQL-based database will comprise user information, content information, and site configuration data.

Now, when any hacker carries out an SQL injection, they usually request a parameter through an input field or an URL to run a customized database command. A “SELECT” query allows the hacker to view the information from the database, while an “UPDATE” query allows them to modify/change the data as per their need.

In 2011, a well-known IT Security Company named as Barracuda Networks became the victim of SQL Injection Attacks. The hackers ran a series of commands right through the website and found a vulnerable page which they utilized as a portal to the company’s primary database. It is one of the most significant SQL Injection attacks which took place to date.

Ways To Prevent SQL Injection Attacks In WordPress

A. Scan The WordPress Regularly

One of the best ways to prevent SQL Injection attacks on your WordPress website is to scan it on a frequent interval. For that purpose, you can utilize any of the security scan tools. You have to enter the URL of your website & the tool will conduct the scan for your site.

Tools For Website Scan

B. Update The WordPress Core Frequently

As per the official WordPress Stats, only 42.3% of the WordPress websites are using the latest version. Rest of them are still using the old WordPress Core which provides the hackers with a way to enter into your site and exploit its vulnerability. Therefore, to prevent SQL Injection attacks, you should always use the latest WordPress version.

C. Change The Database Prefix

When you install the WordPress, by default, your database table prefix is ‘wp_.’ Most of the WordPress users utilize this default setting which makes it very easy for hackers to guess the database tables and perform the SQL Injection. Therefore, you should change your database prefix at the time of installing WordPress.

To know more about it, Click here.

D. Hide WordPress Version

If you’re someone who is working in a WordPress Development Company, then you must be knowing that most of the industry experts suggest you not to display the WordPress version. To hide the WordPress version, you need to add the following line of code into the functions.php file of your active theme.

remove_action('wp_head', 'wp_generator');
E. Take Regular Backups

Backup is not directly related to the SQL Injection, but it can help you to recover a hacked site. There are mainly two ways to store the WordPress backups – Local Backup & Offsite Backup.

Local Backup: The system generates this type of backup automatically and manually, and it is on your hosting provider. If you’ve opted for shared hosting, then you shouldn’t choose for the local backup. However, if your hosting services are fantastic, then you can take this chance.

Offsite Backup: Here, the system will generate the automated and manual backups & sent to the desired off-site storage location like Google Drive, Amazon S3, Dropbox, etc.

2.  Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting attack which is also known as the XSS is very similar to the SQL Injection. However, the difference between the two is that XSS targets the JavaScript elements on the webpage instead of the database. Success in this type of attack could compromise your website’s private information.

What happens in a XSS attack is that the hacker adds JavaScript code to the website by any comment field or text input. Now, this script will run when the other users visit your site. The script will typically redirect the users to a fraud website that will steal their password or any additional private information.

The top-rated E-Commerce website eBay faced XSS vulnerability in 2017 which affected their reputation in the market and cost them millions as well. It is one of the most Common WordPress Vulnerabilities Of 2018 by experts around the globe.

Ways To Prevent Cross-Site Scripting Attacks In WordPress

A. Disable JavaScript In Browser

One of the most common ways to prevent Cross-Site Scripting Attacks in WordPress is to disable the JavaScript in your browser. If you do this kind of thing correctly, then the DOM-based XSS will not be able to execute any malicious function. There are many browsers nowadays where it’s possible to activate Add-ons against XSS attack.

B. Check The Incoming & Outgoing Data

To prevent your web application from becoming the target of XSS attacks, you need to be aware of the incoming & outgoing data to and from your website. The safest method would be to opt for NoScript Add-on in the browser which will help you to create a whitelist of pages which are the most trusted pages of your website.

By doing this, you can examine every entry into the web page, and only the reliable contents will be allowed to move further. Similar to the incoming data, you should also check the outgoing data. It is necessary to replace the problematic HTML metacharacters with the textual references so that one can read them as the text & there is no chance of malicious code.

C. Sanitize The Data

WordPress has lots of great features which can assist you in cleaning up unreliable user entries. If you’re a developer who is serious about dealing with XSS attack, then you should always think about sanitizing the data using the various function calls as per your requirements. Sanitizing the user input will work really on the websites that use lots of HTML markups.

D. Validate The Data

Validating the data is the process of ensuring that the application is rendering the correct data and preventing malicious data from harming site, database & users. While people this method for the SQL Injection attacks, it can also be an excellent option for the XSS attacks.

E. Escape The Data

Escaping the data means taking the information which is received by the application and ensuring that it’s safe enough to use before it reaches the end-user. By avoiding the user input, the principal characters in the data which is received by the web app will prevent from being interpreted maliciously.

If your webpage doesn’t allow the users to add any code to the website, then you should escape all the HTML, URL & JavaScript entities. However, if your web page allows the user to add any code to the site, then you can choose which HTML entities to escape and which not to.

3.  Command Injection

As you all know that, the WordPress platform operates on three major layers – web server, application server, and database server. Each of these servers is running on hardware which comprises of a specific OS like Windows, Unix, Linux, etc. This OS area represents an opportunity for hackers to attack the system.

What generally happens in a Command Injection attack is that a hacker enters a malicious input in a text field or a URL. It is very similar to SQL Injection, however here the code will contain a command that only the OS can recognize. So, if  you can execute this attack perfectly, it can force the OS to display any private system information.

Ways To Prevent Command Injection Attacks In WordPress

A. Avoid Calling OS Command Directly

One of the most common ways to prevent the Command Injection attack is to avoid calling the OS command directly. Instead of a direct call, you can opt for the built-in library functions as they will be complicated to manipulate for the hackers.

For example, using mkdir() would be a better option compared to a system(“mkdir/ dir_name”).

B. Validate Untrusted Inputs

Input validation is one of the most common as well as useful ways to prevent any security attacks. The same applies to the case of Command Injection where if you can validate the input before it reaches the end-user, you can prevent this attack.

Input validation can be the validation of inputs such as:

  • Character Set
  • Minimum & Maximum Length
  • Numeric Bounds
  • Date Bounds
  • Match To A Regular Expression Pattern
  • Membership In A Discrete Set
C. Neutralize Meta-Characters

For Windows: Precede these ( ) < > & * ‘ | = ? ; [ ] ^ ~ ! . ” % @ / : + , ` characters with ‘^’ in order to escape it and neutralize its meaning to the command-line interpreter.

For Unix/Linux: Precede these ( ) < > & * ‘ | = ? ; [ ] ^ ~ ! . ” % @ / : + , ` characters with ‘’ in order to escape it and neutralize its meaning to the command-line interpreter. 

 D. Implement Least Privilege

This type of strategy won’t be helping you to prevent the Command Injection attacks. However, it will surely help you to minimize the potential damage.

If you’re facing any trouble in implementing least privilege, then you should Hire WordPress Developer. He/She should be able to guide you on this subject.

4.  File Inclusion

Common web coding languages such as PHP and Java allow the programmers to refer to the external files as well as scripts within the code. For that purpose, “include” command is used on most of the occasions. However, this freedom can be an open invitation for hackers.

Ways To Prevent File Inclusion Attacks In WordPress

A. Avoid Dynamic File Inclusion

Whether you want to prevent the Local File Inclusion (LFI) attacks or Remote File Inclusion (RFI) attacks, you should try to avoid the dynamic file inclusion on the user inputs.

B. Maintain A Whitelist Of Files

If you’re not able to follow the first option, then you should try to maintain a whitelist of files that can be included to minimize the attacker’s control over the whole proceedings.

C. Restrict User Privileges

Always save the file paths in the database and assign the ID to each of the paths. In this manner, you will allow the user only to see the ID and restrict them to view or change the path.

D. Not Execute Files In A Specific Directory

You should instruct the server to automatically send download headers and not execute the files in a specific directory like /downloads. By doing this, you’re directing the user straight to a particular file on the server without writing any additional code for download.

5.  Brute-Force Attack

Brute Force Attack In WordPress is one of the most common security attacks that anyone can come across. The whole offense takes its basis on the fundamental of strong guessing. Here, the attacker who is usually a bot nowadays will try many username-password combinations to breach the website security. Once they get access, they can cause a lot of damage as per their wish.

Now, let’s analyze How To Stop Brute Force Attack In WordPress.

Ways To Prevent Brute-Force Attacks In WordPress

A. Hide WordPress Login Area

One of the things that you can consider to stop the Brute-Force attack is to hide the WordPress login area. By default, the WordPress login page is available as:

  • wp-login.php
  • /login
  • /wp-admin
  • /admin

The hacker knows this, and therefore, he/she can easily break the website. So, you should hide your WordPress login area, and for that purpose, you can utilize any of the following plugins.

B. Implement 2-Factor Authentication

The 2-Factor Authentication adds an extra layer of security to your WordPress website. Here, you need to supply the One-Time Password (OTP) along with your regular credentials. So, by implementing this tactic, you will make it difficult for the hackers to guess the username-password combination for your WordPress website.

To implement the 2-Factor Authentication in your WordPress website, you can utilize one of the following plugins.

C. Change Default WordPress Username

By default, the WordPress username and password value is “admin.” Now, most of the WordPress website owners don’t give importance to changing these credentials which cost them in the end. You should never have the “admin” username or password for your WordPress website. Always set a unique and very difficult to guess username for your WordPress website.

D. Use A Very Complex Password

Always use a very complex password for your WordPress website. To make the password secure, try to avoid your details in the password formation. Make effective use of special characters and numbers in addition to the alphabets.

However, if you’re not able to form a complex password by yourself or if you’ve too many accounts to manage, then you can utilize one of the password managers as listed below.

E. Limit Login Attempts

One of the most common ways to deal with the Brute-Force Attack is to limit the login attempts for your WordPress website. By doing this, you’re making it difficult for the hacker to try various username-password combinations which then help you to secure your site.

To limit login attempts, you can utilize one of the following plugins.

Read also: 5 Ways To Fix Establishing A Database Connection Error In WordPress

6.  Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) which is also known as “sea-surfs” is an attack where hakcer tricks a user into performing a specific action as per his/her desire. To understand this type of offense in a better way, you can consider how simple requests work.

There are mainly two types of the requests that comes to your web server: GET & POST. GET is a request for a particular page, while you need to use POST when you send the data to the server. Consider an example where you’re searching for WordPress in Google. What actually happens is that, Google will initiate a GET response and searching for WordPress will become a POST.

A CSRF is a situation when the above scenario takes place without the permission of the user. The most popular video sharing website YouTube has been found vulnerable to CSRF attack. So, you can imagine how dangerous this attack can be for a common WordPress website.

Ways To Prevent Cross-Site Request Forgery Attacks In WordPress

A. Make Use Of Nonce

Using Nonce (Number used Once) is one of the best ways to protect your WordPress website against Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) attacks. Nonces are used on the requests to prevent the unauthorized access by assigning a secret key & checking it every time you use this code.

As per the WordPress Codex, the nonce is used to validate the contents which are coming from the current site or somewhere else. Therefore, by using a nonce, you will be able to protect your WordPress websites from the CSRF attacks.

B. Using Anti-CSRF Tokens

The most popular implementation to prevent CSRF attacks is to make use of Anti-CSRF Token which is associated with a particular user and you can find it as a hidden value in every stage change of your web app. This token works as follows:

Step 1: Web server generates a token.

Step 2: Set the token as a hidden input on the protected form.

Step 3: The user submits form.

Step 4: System includes the Token in the POST data.

Step 5: Web app compares the token generated by a web app with the token which came through request. If token matches, the request is valid. Otherwise, the request is illegal.

By applying this technique, you will be forcing the hacker to guess Anti-CSRF Token which is not easy to do in the ordinary circumstances.

C. Verification Question Before Submission

A straightforward way to tackle the CSRF attacks is to make a user type a verification question before you send the POST request to the server. This way, even if the hacker can fool the request, he/she still has to answer the verification question. Here, they will be also be alerted about the potential threats of giving the wrong information.

If you don’t want to opt for security questions, you can implement CAPTCHA which ensures that a human is sitting in front of the computer and authorizing the request.

Summing Up Things…

Security attacks are one of the things that give sleepless nights to any Custom WordPress Development company.No one has been able to stack the claim of having a 100% secure site on the WordPress platform.

Keeping in mind the seriousness of this issue, here we have tried to provide you with six most common WordPress attacks and the ways to prevent them which will be helpful to you.

If you’ve any query or suggestion regarding this blog, then feel free to ask them in our comment section. We will try to respond to each of your queries. Thank You.!

Disclaimer: We at eSparkBiz Technologies have created this blog with all the consideration and utmost care. We always strive for excellence in each of our blog posts and for that purpose, we ensure that all the information written in the blog is complete, correct, comprehensible, accurate and up-to-date. However, we can’t always guarantee that the information written in the blog correct, accurate or up-to-date. Therefore, we always advise our valuable readers not to take any kind of decisions based on the information as well as the views shared by our authors. The readers should always conduct an in-depth research before making the final decision. In addition to these, all the logos, 3rd part trademarks and screenshots of websites & mobile apps are the property of the individual owners. We’re not associated with any of them.

Mohit Surati

Mohit Surati

A post-graduate in Computer Engineering. Passionate about innovative writing & Content Marketing. A rich vein of experience in writing articles related to WordPress right from plugins, themes, customization, security, WooCommerce & Gutenberg. Pens down his thoughts for eSparkBiz @Custom WordPress Development Company where you can Hire WordPress Developer as per your requirements.


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