Security vulnerabilities that harm your WordPress

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), used by over 60% of websites with a CMS and 43.2% of all websites (

However, this popularity has also made it a prime target for cyber-attacks, with over 95.6% of all hacked CMS websites being WordPress sites. In 2022 alone, there were 90,000 attacks per minute on WordPress sites, and the cost of data breaches is expected to reach $150 million.

In this article, we will discuss the top vulnerabilities that threaten WordPress security and how to protect against them.

WordPress website vulnerabilities infographic

1. Credential Stuffing

Credential stuffing is a type of cyber-attack where hackers use automated tools to try out large numbers of stolen usernames and passwords from one website on other websites to gain unauthorized access.

In 2022, Wordfence blocked 159 billion credential stuffing attacks from over 78 million distinct IP addresses. About 800,000 IP addresses were actively engaged in credential stuffing attacks daily in 2022.

To protect yourself from such attacks, use unique, strong passwords for each online account, and enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.

WordPress website owners can prevent these attacks by implementing strong password policies, monitoring login attempts for suspicious activity, and using bot detection tools to detect and block automated attacks.

2. Webshell Attacks

Webshell attacks are common cyber-attacks where an attacker gains unauthorized access to a web server by uploading a malicious script or software application.

In 2022, over 23 billion webshell attacks occurred, with almost daily attacks on over half of the 4 million sites secured by Wordfence.

The attacker then uses this webshell to execute commands and take control of the server, with the goal of stealing sensitive information or launching further attacks.

Such attacks can be difficult to detect, but regular monitoring of server activity can help. To protect against webshell attacks, regularly update server software and plugins, use strong passwords, and restrict access to the server only to authorized users.

3. Malware

Malware is malicious software designed to harm, disrupt, or gain unauthorized access to a computer system. It can take various forms, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, and spyware.

In 2022, 210,000 WordPress sites that were infected at the beginning of the year remained infected at the end, indicating a 60% increase from 2020. Malware can be spread through infected email attachments, malicious downloads, or vulnerabilities in software or operating systems.

To protect against malware, use reputable antivirus software, keep software and operating systems up to date with the latest security patches, and practice safe browsing habits such as avoiding suspicious downloads and email attachments.

4. Outdated Core Software

Outdated core software refers to software programs that have not been updated with the latest security patches or versions.

Such versions can contain vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access to a computer system or network. According to Sucuri’s database, 50.3% of infected WordPress websites were outdated.

Regularly updating software programs and operating systems to their latest versions can help prevent security risks associated with outdated core software.

5. Credit Card Skimming

Credit card skimming is a type of cybercrime where attackers steal credit card information from unsuspecting users.

This is often accomplished by inserting malicious code into websites, payment gateways, or point-of-sale systems, allowing the attacker to capture and transmit credit card details to their servers.

During the first five months of 2022, credit card skimming malware detections indicated that WordPress websites made up 61% of the affected websites.

The stolen information can then be used to make unauthorized purchases or sold on the black market. Credit card skimming can be difficult to detect, as the malicious code can remain hidden for long periods.

To prevent credit card skimming, it is important to regularly monitor your bank statements, use reputable payment gateways, and avoid using public Wi-Fi for sensitive transactions.

6. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS Exploit)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a type of cyber-attack where attackers inject malicious code into a website or web application with the goal of stealing user data or hijacking user sessions.

An XSS vulnerability was the most highly (54.4%) discovered security vulnerability of WordPress in 2021. This is typically achieved by tricking users into clicking on a malicious link or opening a malicious email attachment.

Once the code is executed, it can steal sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card details, or personal data.

To prevent XSS attacks, website owners should implement strict input validation, sanitize user inputs, and use security headers like Content Security Policy (CSP) to block malicious scripts.

Users should also be cautious when clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources.

7. Plugin Vulnerabilities

Plugin vulnerabilities refer to security weaknesses in third-party software components, such as plugins or add-ons, that are used to extend the functionality of websites or web applications.

Outdated plugins are responsible for 52% of all WordPress vulnerabilities, with over 4,000 websites being infected by fake SEO plugins.

These vulnerabilities can allow attackers to execute malicious code, steal sensitive information, or gain unauthorized access to the system. This can be especially dangerous if the plugin has high-level privileges or access to sensitive data.

To prevent plugin vulnerabilities, it is important to use reputable plugins from trusted sources, keep plugins up to date with the latest security patches, and regularly scan for potential vulnerabilities.

8. Brute Force Attack

A Brute Force Attack is a type of cyber-attack where attackers attempt to crack passwords or encryption keys by trying a large number of possible combinations until the correct one is found.

“123456” is a frequently used weak password by internet users that is often targeted by brute force attacks, causing 8% of WordPress sites to be hacked.

This can be done using automated tools that rapidly generate and test different passwords until the right one is discovered. Brute Force Attacks can be very effective against weak or easy-to-guess passwords, but can take a long time to succeed against more complex passwords.

To prevent Brute Force Attacks, it is important to use strong passwords or long and complex phrases, enable two-factor authentication, and limit login attempts to prevent repeated login attempts.

9. SQL Injections

SQL Injection is a type of cyber-attack in which attackers exploit vulnerabilities in web applications to inject malicious SQL statements into the application’s database.

This can allow attackers to steal sensitive data, modify or delete data, or gain unauthorized access to the system.

According to the iThemes 2022 WordPress Vulnerability Report, SQL Injections represent 8% of all WordPress threat vectors.

SQL Injection attacks typically target web applications that use user input to construct SQL statements, such as search fields or login forms.

To prevent SQL Injection attacks, web application developers should use parameterized queries, input validation, and restrict user privileges to minimize the attack surface.

Regular security audits and penetration testing can also help identify and fix potential vulnerabilities.

Summary: WordPress Security Vulnerabilities

In conclusion, WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world, but its widespread usage has made it a popular target for cybercriminals.

The top vulnerabilities threatening WordPress websites include outdated core software, plugin vulnerabilities, SQL injection, brute force attacks, webshell attacks, and credit card skimming.

Website owners must prioritize security measures such as using strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, keeping core software and plugins up-to-date, and conducting regular security audits.

With proper security practices and vigilance, website owners can protect their sites and their users from these ever-evolving security threats.

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How to Protect WordPress Website Security with 13 Smart Tips

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