We live in the digital age where majority of our data is on the cloud. We like to shop online, pay bills electronically and keep internet and mobile banking alive at every step. Naturally with this advancement and major shift in our way of life crimes have also evolved. Like the concept of yin and yang, online banking and stores provide with convenience but are susceptible to cyber crimes as well. Many malicious attacks and vulnerabilities are unearthed every month in the cyber security world which are not only lethal for the corporate and government sector but also harmful for WordPress e-Commerce stores and websites.
WordPress is built for e-commerce in mind which means that the themes made for online shops have the security needs covered. But even with all the careful coding techniques, standards and policies there is room left for loopholes which can lead to critical security risks. These risks can prove to be fatal for your business if you are running an e-Commerce WordPress site, as hackers tend to target exploit them. These gaps in the WordPress security frame can be avoided and eradicated by following the security tips given below:
1. Hosting – Secure it
Hosting is something that you should never compromise over. When establishing an e-Commerce store always go for the hosting provider with a good reputation and secure plans. Always prefer hosting companies that are not only well established but also those with popular plans that include regular site backups and updates. Cheap hosting companies offer shared hosting which makes your estores vulnerable to many cyber attacks because if one site is compromised on a shared server then chances of all the other sites getting infected on that server are extremely high, therefore avoid them at all costs. They can also have their servers go down at odd timings with no backup servers leading to down time for website which in turn is bad for business as potential customers are lost within seconds in the digital world.
Well reputed hosting plans are a bit pricey but the investment is worth it. Some of the most popular and renowned hosting companies are:
2. Update, Update, Update
Updates are the holy grail for WordPress websites’ security. Whether it is the core of WordPress, themes or even plugins, you need keep your store updated at all times. Updates provide with the latest features as well as security patches that are coded in accordance with the latest security threats as they come out. This is why the updates for products are pushed by their respective authors. Hackers know the trend of delaying updates among WordPress users so they target e-Commerce sites after updates are released. If they succeed in taking the site down then the site owners can face severe consequences. Usually the updates are all available under the Updates section present on the Dashboard but some plugins require extra steps in their updates e.g. WooCommerce is one of the most popular e-Commerce plugin for WordPress sites and is updated with the help of WooCommerce Helper Plugin.
Sometimes when we install updates some plugins stop working. In such situations you should look for alternatives instead of rolling back updates. There is always an alternative that is compatible with your updated site.
3. Username and Passwords – Do not keep them generic or easy
Rule of thumb is that just like how keeping your password the first nine digits is not a wise move similarly having ‘admin’ as your username is not sensible as well. By keeping the default username for your e-Commerce site as ‘admin’, there is a high risk of brute force and DDOS attacks. So it is a good approach to use a unique username for the admin account such as your email address as it is quite difficult to guess that followed by a complex password fulfilling all the criterion of a strong password. Dictionary attacks are of no use when faced with a complicated password. Never use names or dictionary words for passwords. Always keep it in alphanumeric format with special characters. You can use Admin Rename Extended plugin for changing the username and WP Email Login plugin for switching username to email address. Automatic password generators or plugins like Force Strong Password can also be used for generating not easily guessable passwords.
4. 2-factor authentication (2FA)
2-factor authentication is a good security practice for WordPress based online stores. In this method the user has two different login credentials that need to be submitted one after another while logging in. These credentials can be a normal password in combination with a secret code, question or even random alpha numerals. Deployment of 2-factor authentication can be facilitated with plugins like the Google Authenticator within a few clicks.
5. Backup and Recovery – Chalk out a plan
Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to exploit your e-Commerce site’s weaknesses. They work really hard to come up with new approaches for taking your site down. You should be vigilant as well in order to counter their vile intentions. Make sure you take and maintain periodic backups of your online store. Once a week is the ideal and perfect duration for taking your site’s backup. This practice helps in keeping the most latest saved version of your site ready for deployment in case there is a malicious attack and your store’s security is compromised. With the previous backup you can easily restore your site to its undamaged state. Plugins like WordPress Backup, WordPress Codex or premium plugins like BackupBuddy and VaultPress can be used for automated frequent backup creation and site restoration.
6. Security plugins – The heavy artillery
WordPress security plugins are the main cavalry that can provide reliable protection against majority of the security related issues. These security plugins come with a package of neat features which can provide 360 degree security coverage. However it should be kept in mind that one security plugin should be active at a time like antiviruses on computers. Some of the best security plugins are listed below:
- WordFence: Provides login security, firewall, security scanning & monitoring and blocking of IP addresses.\
- Sucuri Security: Provides firewall, malware scanning, blacklist maintenance and activity auditing.
- Bulletproof Security: Provides file and malicious activity monitoring, quarantining of infected files and email alerts for all types of user activities.
- All in one WP security and firewall: Provides security scanner, firewall and detection of malicious code.
7. SSL – Enable encryption
If your e-Commerce WordPress site has an SSL certificate then not only is your data going to be transferred securely but it will also establish trust with your customers. SSL or secure socket layer certificate is encrypts sensitive information like customer’s personal data, credit card number, etc. and rules out the possibility of data leak during the transfer. An SSL certificate can be purchased from any recognized certificate authority or even the hosting service providers. Online shops with SSL certificates get higher page ranking in the Google search engine which is a win-win situation for shop owners as higher ranking reels in more customers.
8. Database Security
Database security is essential when it comes to e-Commerce WordPress sites. Change your database’s default wp- table prefix to avoid SQL injection attacks. Use prefix changing plugins like WP-DBManager who get the job done with a single click. Setup a strong password for your database to avoid password related attacks as mentioned before. Keep your database backups, both onsite and offsite, updated regularly via automated solutions such as:
9. File editing restriction
Admin access provides complete freedom to any user who has it which means that all the WordPress files, themes and plugins can be tempered with if a hacker obtains this access. It is therefore recommended that you disallow file editing altogether so that nobody is able to modify any file. This can be done by adding a single line of code at the bottom of wp-config.php file in the editor section.
Line of code for disallowing file editing: define(‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true);
10. Use premium themes and plugins
If you want to establish your online business it is vital that you stay away from free or nulled versions of premium themes and plugins as they have faulty code. It is better to invest in premium e-Commerce themes and plugins to eliminate the possibility of malicious code. These themes and plugins have support teams and roll out regular updates with security patches and latest features. It is a smart investment that pays off well in the long run so it is necessary that you buy them from original developers.
By following the above mentioned security tips you can greatly increase your online store’s security but there is always room for improvement. With the help of a great hosting plan, a tough security plugin and regular updates you can protect your site from getting into the wrong hands while maintaining regular backups of the site and database can help in restoring your online store without any hassle.