Perform a WordPress Security Audit Guide

Let’s start by saying that WordPress is quite secure. However, if you believe that there’s something suspicious with your website, you’ll want to perform a WordPress security audit. The truth is that, unfortunately, most websites experience some kind of security issue, sooner or later. And it puts not only your website at risk, but it puts the potentially sensitive users’information at risk too. In order to prevent them, let’s go over the main steps of conducting a WordPress security audit of your website.

Why it’s important to regularly perform a WordPress security audit on your website

Many website owners don’t really think about the security od the website until it’s already compromised. You want to make sure you do what’s in your power to prevent a potential security breach. When you’re conducting WordPress security audits, you’re making reviewing your policies and strengthening them. It would be good to perform security audits at least annually, or more regularly, depending on the size of your website and type of user information. However, even in the case you’ve performed the audit recently, you’ll want to repeat it in these situations:

  • You find suspicious accounts on your website or suspicious login attempts
  • If you experience a sudden drop in traffic
  • Your website has become slow all of a sudden
  • You can see suspicious links

How to conduct a website security audit

If you want to go deeper, security audits can include many more steps. However, a comprehensive security audit needs to include these main steps:

  • Make sure WordPress, plugins, and themes are up to date
  • Remove files, themes, and plugins you don’t need
  • Ensure your backup solution is working
  • Analyze the user accounts
  • Make your password security stronger
Perform WordPress audit properly and regularly

Updates are crucial

Making sure your WordPress core software is up to date is very important, just like making sure you update the plugins and themes regularly. And it’s not just the matter of the stability of your website, but also security. In any software, vulnerabilities can appear, and developers fix them by releasing an update that contains a security patch. The process is simple, you need to visit the Dashboard and choose the Updates page.

Remove themes and plugins you no longer use

We all love themes and plugins. But how many plugins is one too many? And what about the plugins that we’ve installed, only to find that we don’t really like them? Sometimes, we’ll just deactivate them and let them stay on the server. But, what you really you should uninstall them. Old theme files and plugins can lead to security issues on your website, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t prevent that. The solution is quite simple – go to Themes and Plugins tabs and decide which of them you need. If some of them have not been active for some time, there’s a good chance you don’t really need them. Also, once you uninstall them, ensure there’re no files left behind.

WordPress plugins.
Before you install more plugins, remove those you don’t use

Set up and test your WordPress backup

The important part of the WordPress security audit is making sure you have the backup of your website, in case anything goes wrong. However, a lot of beginners forget about the backup plug after they set it up. The first backup might take some time since your whole website is being copied. The next backups will be much faster since only the changes will be copied. But, after a while, backup plugins might stop working, so you should ensure that your plugin is still saving your backupsTest your backup from time to time, to make sure everything is in order. That way, if something happens, you’ll be able to restore your backup and your site will return back to normal.

Two types of websites

By clicking on Users and All Users page, you can see all the user accounts. In the first case, if your site requires a registration, you’ ll be able to see many user accounts here. In case you win a business website or a blog, and your website doesn’t require registration, you might only find one or a few user accounts on this page. With these websites, you want to go to Settings and make sure that on the General page, the option “Anyone can register” is unchecked. In both of these cases, if you find a suspicious or inactive user account you might want to delete it.

Analyze the user accounts

You should also know that WordPress allows six different roles you can assign to your users:  Subscriber, Contributor, Author, Editor, Administrator, and Super Admin. Make sure that you assign these roles properly, as not every user needs to have the same level of permission. Analyze the user accounts by:

  • Checking how many of the users have admin access
  • When you perform WordPress security audit is making sure the appropriate roles are assigned to users
  • Ensuring you recognize the users on the page, and delete users who seem suspicious
  • Making sure the admins are not using the username “admin” as hackers might exploit this
A WordPress writer, a role who won't perform a WordPress security audit.
Writers, and other roles, don’t need to have a full privilege

You can notice that the obvious username is not the best idea. In order to change it, you’ll need to delete the account and set up a new account with the same granted privileges. As this is a long process, check to see if a plugin can help you change your username without it. When it comes to your password, a complex password is always preferred, and keep in mind that the two-factor authorization will make your password stronger. If you don’t know how to change your WordPress username and password, you’ll find this article useful.

There are more steps involved if you want to perform a WordPress security audit that’s even more thorough. However, these are the main steps you should always include in your website security practices. If you put in a couple of hours every time you perform the audit, you’ll protect your website more efficiently and prevent certain security issues.