No one could argue today that WordPress is the one and only leader of the content management systems (CMS) market. It has been for 7 years in a row, and according to some estimates, its share of the market ranges between 50% and 60%. Almost 30% of the entire internet's content is run by the WordPress platform. That being said, WordPress security is not a trivial matter.
As any online platform grows, it attracts more hackers and malicious actors who try and find their way around its barriers. With that much content being held by WordPress, you better realize that it's a holy grail for hackers. That's why if you're running a WordPress website, for business or personal purposes, a security plugin is an essential tool for the sake of protecting your content and your overall online identity.
Lucky for you, there is no shortage of security plugins for WordPress. The white-hat hackers have got your back. So, in this article, we'll run you through the top 5 WordPress security plugins, listing their key features and how you can benefit from installing each.
iThemes Security (formerly named Better WP Security)
- Prices: iThemes Security (Free) iThemes Pro ($80 – $150 per year) vs. iThemes Gold ($197/year)
This is considered by many to be the top WP security plugin for the number of functions it provides. For starters, iThemes offers protection against brute force attacks, which are hacks attempted by running a series of random password combinations until the login is successful. However, iThemes does this differently from most WP security plugins.
IThemes has a brute force attack protection network that records the IP addresses of users who have made similar attacks on other websites. That enables it to protect you more efficiently. It similarly records users with too many failed login attempts and blocks those too for enough time to ensure your website's safety. It also enforces strong password standards on any account that plays even a minor role on your website.
iThemes has a scanner that aims at detecting any discrepancies in your website, and if any are found, it fixes them instantaneously. Such scans are done on both the front-end and the back-end, enabling similar repairs for your server's security. It also detects bots or any sources of danger to your database or any unauthorized changes to your file system. Its regular database backups allow you to get back on track as soon as possible whenever an attack emerges.
While you're logged in as an admin, iThemes changes all the URLs to your dashboard, the IDs, the database table prefix, and every sort of information that could be used for malicious purposes from any source. Because your dashboard URL is usually standardized, for example, someone who knows as little as your username can attempt to access your account. For more assurance, any capability for applying changes to your themes and plugins is blocked from anyone without permission to change them. For SEO purposes, you are notified of any bad URLs or broken images so that you can fix them right away.
There are a bunch of other features that come with iThemes PRO that won't be covered here, like two-factor authentication, WordPress salts & keys, malware scan scheduling, etc. You can read more extensively about these features through that link.
There are two final things that you should know about iThemes. The first is that it allows you to integrate more than one WordPress account through its Sync feature, letting you keep all the themes and plugins managed from one dashboard that it provides you with. The second is that it forces SSL on all of your website's pages, which builds trust with your viewers with regards to your website's authenticity and reliability.
All In One WP Security & Firewall
If you want a generic but comprehensive plugin for ensuring your security on WordPress, this is the one you should probably go with. As obvious in its name, All in One provides you with an easy-to-use platform from which you can manage your website's security.
It's as simple as this. When you download All in One, there is a tab called “WP Security” that appears on your WordPress dashboard. Here are a few things that you find inside the tab.
First of all, you are given Security Strength Meter. Based on the security features you have activated this meter shows you the security score you currently hold out of the total achievable points.
Secondly, the features that you can apply to your blog or website are classified on the WP Security scale from basic to advanced, which is decided based on the level of interference with your website's performance and functionality that a certain security feature could cause. For example, the “basic” features have little to no effect on the performance, while the “advanced” security features might put down some of your website's other features or at least cause them to slow down.
Before talking about any specific security features that you “can” apply, there are a few that you “must” apply so that your website is not exposed to any severe threats. The “Critical Feature Status” box shows you a few security features, like the Admin Username and the Login Lockdown, which are a bit basic but pretty essential to any safe WordPress experience.
[WP Security photo]
Besides informing you about any need to change your login information for more security, the plugin includes more advanced features for securing your WordPress database and your file system. The latter is particularly concerned with the file and directory permissions. Speaking of which, All in One allows easy restore and backup for your database, both scheduled and manual.
One of the decent functions provided by All in One is the spammer identifier. Spammers are a pain for any WordPress user trying to keep their comments section cleared up for the meaningful comments, which can be covered up by all the spamming activity. All in One allows you to identify the IP addresses causing that activity and to block them (WholS Lookup function). You also get to monitor any failed login attempts in case something looks a bit suspicious. Added to all of that, the plugin itself comes with an assortment of Firewall Protection Mechanisms.
- Prices: Wordfence (Free) vs. Wordfence Premium ($29.86 – $99/year)
This here is one of the security plugins recommended by WordPress itself. It comes with both an endpoint firewall and a malware scanner. They're both kept updated by the “Threat Defense Feed” feature which gathers data about any new threats that were previously unanticipated and automatically runs the updates necessary in real-time. That's for the premium package, though. The free version has a 30-day delay on the updates.
Let's start with the firewall. Firstly, the plugin's Web Application Firewall keeps an eye on any dangerous traffic on your website and immediately blocks it. Premium users get an extra feature in this area. When an IP address is detected for malicious activity, it is kept in the IP Blacklist, whereby it is blocked and at the same time reduces the load by not having to watch out for this address anymore.
This firewall provides your website with endpoint security in a way that prevents any data leakage, and it cannot be encrypted or bypassed. It also requires strong password combinations and sets a limit to the login attempts to offer protection from any brute force attacks (when someone attempts to hack an account by trying a lot of different combinations).
The malware scanner included in the plugin takes on from here. Besides checking your core files and themes for malware, it also runs scans for any bad links or SEO spams. To secure you on both ends, too, the malware scanner searches for any malicious redirects (pieces of code that if activated, would redirect a user to another website) or code injections in general.
After the scanner goes through your core files and themes and then through the WordPress repository, it compares them together, and it informs you if they had been changed in any way. It can even run repairs on your files if the changes are minor. The scanner also covers security vulnerabilities, both actual and potential (in case you closed a certain plugin, for example). If you're a premium user, your site or IP are even checked so that you can know if you had been blacklisted for any of the things above on another website.
- Prices: Sucuri (Free) vs Sucuri Premium ($199.99 – $499.99/year)
Coming from Sucuri, Inc., the Sucuri WP plugin is viewed with respect. That is because the company behind it is a robust player in the field of web security in general, so its WordPress plugin is the product of some serious collective expertise.
The thing about Sucuri, though, is that it was not meant to operate alone. You should have it as a complementary plugin to your existing WP security plugin, and you can guarantee this way that it will do away with any loopholes in your security system. It supplements the features already existing in your security plugin, and if there are voids it can fill them.
Sucuri's main features include monitoring, notifying, and strengthening. It monitors file integrity and blacklists, and it scans different types of remote malware, sending notifications in the case of any approaching danger. It also runs a full audit of your security activity, which can be a perfect tool for the evaluation of the plugin you currently use, and to be informed if you need to go with another one. Not everybody is an expert on WordPress security, so this feature would probably benefit many people.
Besides that, the Sucuri premium package comes with a website firewall. If you're going to consider going premium, you should know that the premium prices change depending on the time interval between the scans. For example, the basic package costing $199.99/year gets you a scan every 12 hours, while the $499.99/year business package allows you a scan every 4 hours. The more the scans, of course, the faster you can respond to any security threats.
What makes BulletProof popular is mostly its simplicity. With only a single click you can have it set up. And with that simplicity, you get a decent security package. Firstly, BP offers a malware scanner that has your protected from any intervention with your website's database or malicious activity of any sort. It covers injections done in XSS, CRLF, SQL, and several other methods of code injection hacking.
In terms of login security, BP keeps your login activity closely monitored and secured, and it forces logouts from idle sessions for extra protection. Database security is where BP is a real champion. It provides constant monitoring of your website's database, and it enables full and partial database backups, both manually and scheduled. BP also makes backups for your e-mail, and using Cron, it allows you to schedule the deletion of backups that you mark as old. There is a maintenance mode that you can activate, and the maintenance is performed on both the front- and the back-end.
Since BP is the popular kid among the other security plugins, besides its cool name BP offers three different user-friendly theme skins that you get to choose from. These not only give your website more swagger, they make it easier to walk through for your viewers. Some websites might have the best content in the world, but the theme could turn off the viewers before they even get to look at the content. If you feel that your website has that problem, a feature like this might be your remedy.
This one too has a pro version, and the pro features include a more advanced prevention system against intrusions, real-time file monitoring, higher database monitoring capabilities, a robust firewall, and many other things. You can read about them in detail in the link above.
Hopefully, this article will be of help for you. Now it's time to choose your plugin, so, choose wisely and stay safe!
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