Types of Cyber Attacks on WordPress Websites

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WordPress is the most popular site building platform, both for business websites and for personal blogs. Unfortunately, this popularity attracts the attention of hackers as well. Every day, these cyber criminals from all over the world attempt to gain control over a website, out of sheer malice or for monetary gain.

In some cases, sensitive data is held hostage until the website owner pays a ransom. In other cases, the website itself is used for mining cryptocurrency or for other nefarious purposes (ie. sending spam from your domain), damaging the reputation of the site owner beyond repair.

These are the reasons why you need to be aware of the security risks and take all the steps needed to protect your WordPress website against attacks. The effects of a website hack are long lasting: you will have to rebuild your reputation from zero and work hard to win back your customers’ trust.

As always, to protect yourself efficiently you need to know what you are dealing with. This is why we considered it useful to share with you a list of the most common types of cyber attacks on WordPress websites:

1. Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is executed by guesswork. The cyber criminal uses a bot (artificial intelligence entity) to try a huge number of username-password combinations. We are talking about millions of such tries, until the attacker finds the exact combination for a website. Once they log into your admin area), the cyber criminals have free access to the code of your website and it’s database – including your customers’ personal data.

To reduce the risk of such attacks, you should never use passwords that are easy to guess, such as your pet’s name or your birth date. Also, it is recommended to implement two-factor authentication on your website.

2. SQL Injections

All WordPress websites use MySQL databases to work. When attackers gain access directly to your website’s database, they can create a new account with administrator rights. With this account, they will log in to your website and make any changes they want – including removing your own admin account.

Attackers can also create new lines of code which install malware on the computers and smartphones of your website visitors, or add links to phishing websites.

3. Cross-Site Scripting

Also known as XSS, this type of attack is the most frequent on the entire World Wide Web – 84% of all hacks are caused by cross-site scripting attacks. The XSS attack is enabled by various vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins.

Once the attacker exploits this vulnerability, they can create a new JavaScript script which is loaded silently (the website visitor does not notice that it is executed) and steals data from the browser. Fake login or newsletter subscription forms are the most common examples of such malicious scripts.

4. File Inclusion Exploits

A file inclusion exploit seeks vulnerable pieces of code in WordPress websites. Once identified, the hackers can load malicious files which will give them access to your website.  This is  the most frequent type of attack targeting a critical file in a WordPress file, the wp-config.php file.

5. Core WordPress Vulnerabilities

Being an open source site-building platform keeps WordPress free, but it also exposes it to core vulnerabilities because anyone can obtain the source code and perform reverse engineering on it to identify weak points.

This is why there are so many WordPress updates: as honest developers discover such vulnerabilities, they create bug fixes to make the platform more secure. This is one of the key reasons why you should always apply new updates as soon as they are released.

Of course, nothing is 100% secure on the internet, but with diligence you can mitigate the risk of having your WordPress website hacked. The time and cost of securing your website isn’t much compared to the incalculable reputation and financial losses in case cyber criminals gain control of your website. Or contact us at Swish Web Care, as we conduct an internal security audit, and action our security hardening procedure, on all websites that sign up with us (all within the 30 day free trial).

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