Do you know there are nearly 60,000 plug-ins available in the WordPress plug-in repository? Better still, there are still new plug-ins being added daily to this repository. Be it for security or form submission, every WordPress site requires plug-ins. But how can you determine if a WordPress plug-in is safe?
Are all WordPress plug-ins safe? No. According to Wordfence, 55.9% of WordPress plug-ins has reported a high percentage of security-related breaches or vulnerabilities. Most of the popular WordPress plug-ins such as Yoast SEO, Akismet, and Contact Form 7 are safe to use as they are free from any flaws or vulnerabilities. Besides, they have a large team of developers who work hard to fix the flaws before releasing an updated version.
The same cannot be said about every plug-in that you install on your WordPress site. Here are a few warning signs that indicate that your installed plug-in is unsafe:
- It is difficult to find a WordPress plug-in using Google Search. Or, it does not feature among the top search results.
- The plug-in company or its developer is not widely known in the online marketplace.
- The plug-in would be unsafe if you find words like “unsafe” or “hacked” associated with it.
- It is difficult to access or verify the plug-in code.
- It has a limited number of downloads or active installations.
- The plug-in is incompatible with the latest WordPress versions.
- The plug-in has not been updated to a new version recently.
- The plug-in has poor ratings or reviews from other users.
- There is a lack of customer support for the plug-in.
Why should WordPress plug-in security matter? We shall also learn how to check if your WordPress plug-in is safe. So, keep reading.
Why Does WordPress Plug-in Security Matter?
Why should website users focus on WordPress plug-in security testing? WordPress users have a host of free and paid plug-ins to choose from to improve their site functionality. However, untrusted or outdated plug-ins can also be a “gateway” of entry for hackers. Security testing is the best way of finding vulnerabilities in WordPress plug-ins and fixing these issues.
How do hackers exploit vulnerable plug-ins? They can use malware infections to locate any security-related vulnerability in any installed plug-in and exploit them for their advantage. To get rid of vulnerabilities, WordPress plug-in developers apply the right fix and then release a security patch or minor version to their customer base. By simply installing this patch, the plug-in users can fix the vulnerability in their WordPress installation, thus preventing hackers from breaking into their website.
On the other hand, hackers can gain website access through plug-in vulnerabilities in several ways such as:
- Unauthorized logins to user accounts
- Take control of administrator accounts and inflict maximum damage to the website
- Launch a variety of cyber attacks such as SQL injections, ransomware attacks, brute force attacks, and XSS attacks
How to Check if a WordPress Plug-in is Safe?
The best and most effective way to check if a WordPress plug-in is safe is by installing the WPScan WordPress security scanner tool.
This tool uses its own WPScan Vulnerability Database service. Launched in 2014, this service maintains a list of over 21,000 security-related vulnerabilities.
The WPScan security scanner plugin uses the database service to check for any:
- WordPress vulnerabilities
- WordPress plugin vulnerabilities
- WordPress theme vulnerabilities
You can use this security tool to scheduled daily scans automatically – and send the report through email.
Similarly, you can check for plug-in safety using paid services such as “Plug-in vulnerabilities.” After subscribing to this service, you will receive email alerts about any “risky” plug-in that you are planning to install. Besides these services, you also need to regularly scan your WordPress site for any malware infections. You can do this easily using security tools like MalCare that are designed to detect and remove malware variants.
Besides checking for safe plug-ins, there are many best practices that you can implement on your WordPress site. Let’s discuss them next.
Best Practices for WordPress Safety
Here are some best practices that can keep your WordPress site safe from hackers:
1. Choose trusted plug-ins
As a safety practice, always download and install plug-ins from trusted sources or plug-in development companies. For example, the WordPress plug-in repository and third-party plug-in marketplaces such as CodeCanyon have a collection of trusted plug-ins that is tested for any vulnerabilities.
2. Update your plug-ins regularly
Another good practice is to regularly update your installed plug-ins with their latest versions. Outdated plug-ins are among the common reasons why WordPress sites are hacked. For “abandoned” plug-ins, without available updates, it is better to remove the plug-in or replace it with a trusted plug-in with the same functionality.
3. Removed unused plug-ins
To stay safe, it is a good practice to take stock of all the installed plug-ins on your WordPress sites and retain only those that are being used currently. Unused or inactive plug-ins can be exploited by hackers. Therefore, you should remove them completely. Besides, a large number of installed plug-ins can also slow down your website.
For WordPress websites, plug-ins are a great feature that can improve website functionality and make it more appealing to your customers. However, not every WordPress plug-in is safe and free from vulnerabilities, and can adversely affect your brand reputation and revenues. This is why WordPress plug-in security should be important for every website owner.
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