Your website’s security is vital to your company. If you leave even one small door open for hackers, your entire company could be compromised. Your customers could have their data, including credit card numbers, stolen. You could lose proprietary information or have your website taken down from the inside out. There’s no end to the grief hackers could cause once they get in the door.
When it comes to dealing with website security, though, you may feel like you’re out of your league. It is a complex field, and people spend years learning how to secure code fully. However, while some aspects of security can be quite detailed and require a deep understanding of how the internet works, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your online defenses. You don’t even need to know how to write any code to implement these fixes, either. Here are three simple steps that will help protect your data today.
WordPress has been updated many times since it was created. Some of these updates bring additional features or fix bugs that caused users several issues. Some of those bugs were related to security, plus some updates included patches that closed vulnerabilities or prevented hackers from using exploits. All of these updates are to what is known as the WordPress Core. This group of files make up the base WordPress installation before you add plugins, themes, and other extras. The Core drives your website, so it must always be updated.
Updates to the Core come in a few different forms. There are minor updates that are typically bug fixes or add small features; security updates that patch out vulnerabilities or improve protection for your data; and major new releases that include large updates and changes. Major releases are usually fairly far and few between. You can tell if something is a major release because it will change either the number before the decimal or the number right after it. Updating from WordPress 5.7.1 to 5.7.2 was a minor or security update, while going from 5.7 to 5.9 was a major update.
Fortunately, WordPress makes updating its Core files very easy. In WordPress 3.7, developers added the option to enable automatic background updates. This means any minor or security update will be automatically applied when released. It is highly recommended that you enable automatic updates. You’ll never have to worry about installing any of these patches again, and your website will remain safe and secure.
With major updates, things are a little different. Some older plugins and other add-ons aren’t always compatible with the new changes. If your website relies on these plugins and WordPress automatically updates without you knowing about it, everything could break. You could lose thousands of dollars before becoming aware of the problem.
It’s still easy to update to a major version—just go into the WordPress backend and click update to the new version. That’s it. However, you should always do a little research on the plugins you’re using to make certain they’re compatible. You don’t want to update just to watch your whole site crash and burn.
If you’re having issues with the one-click easy update, there is a way to install a major update manually. You can find the instructions on WordPress’s website. Note that this requires you to understand FTP and how to use it to manually replace files on your server. While the instructions are very clear, this may be something you’re more comfortable leaving to the experts.
Plugins are small extra pieces of software that work with WordPress to provide additional functionality. They’re like apps on a smartphone, and the options they add can range from analytics and information-gathering to online shopping carts and media galleries. Sometimes, you may know exactly what you want your website to look like but can’t get that vision to come to life using basic WordPress. That’s where plugins can help. You can even have custom plugins developed just for your website.
Plugins, like WordPress itself, also need to be updated regularly. Because third parties can develop these plugins, their quality can vary. That’s why you always want to make certain the developer creating your plugins fully understands WordPress and its security. However, even the best plugin developers may inadvertently leave some vulnerabilities in their plugins. Once discovered, they should release a new version or a patch for the current plugin that will fix these issues and improve your website security.
When WordPress updates to a new version, it’s possible the changes included in that version will not be fully compatible with some or even all of your plugins. While these issues may not prevent the plugins from working or your site from displaying correctly, they can open up backdoors and other security holes that hackers can take advantage of. This is why you always want to make certain your plugins are compatible with the version of WordPress you’re using.
Because of this, some website experts do recommend waiting until your plugins are updated or are fully tested and deemed compatible with the newest version of WordPress before you update to it. Fortunately, WordPress does offer a setting to update plugins when new versions are released automatically. This should work for all plugins, but you may still want to check the ones you have installed from time to time just to make certain you have the latest version. WordPress will check your plugins for updates two times a day by default.
Themes determine how your WordPress site looks and what layouts are available. Each theme is made up of several different files that dictate things such as layout, colors, fonts, and more. Some themes are designed for a specific function, such as eCommerce or blogging. You’ll find many themes out there to use, but you can also create a custom theme if you want your website to look a very specific way. While apps are more about adding functionality, themes are all about how the site looks and is laid out.
However, just like with the WordPress Core files and plugins, it’s possible for the files used in a theme to create holes in your website security. This means you’ll also want to make certain that your theme is always secure.
There are so many free WordPress themes out there that it can be hard to tell which ones are secure and which ones are not. Some of these free themes are very buggy and no longer work with newer versions of WordPress. Here are the things you want to look for in a theme:
Any theme you choose needs to be fully compatible with the version of WordPress you are using. There should be no compatibility errors. You also want to make sure the theme doesn’t contain any recognized vulnerabilities or security concerns. Themes that meet WordPress’s coding standards do not have these issues. Finally, look for themes that have been updated regularly, especially after new security patches or major updates were rolled out. Any custom theme you purchase should be developed by experts who understand WordPress, have experience in theme development and provide support for their products.
Fortunately, WordPress has made it very easy to keep your themes updated. There is a feature you can enable to update themes automatically. Go into your WordPress control panel and make certain that it’s been enabled. You will need to enable this feature for each theme you use. As with plugins, WordPress checks for theme updates twice a day. Also, when you do a manual check to make certain your plugins are up to date, be sure to do the same with your themes. It’s always best to manually check just to be safe.
Keeping your website secure should be one of your top priorities. Even if you don’t have any customer data or proprietary information there, your website is still a vital component in your marketing plans. It’s your main online presence, and it’s often the first impression potential customers have of your business. If it gets taken down or vandalized, it can cost you sales and damage your reputation. Becoming known as a company with lax security that has lost people’s information can ruin your business.
That’s why it’s vital to find the right partner for your website design, development, maintenance, and security. When you work with a company with years of WordPress experience, you know your website will be built to be secure from the ground up. State Creative is ready to put our skills, knowledge, and experience to work for you. Whether you need an entirely new website built from scratch, need a current site updated, or need help locking down your website, we’re here. Reach out to State Creative today to learn more about what we can do for you.