WordPress Vulnerabilities and how to fix them

WordPress journey started as a blogging platform in 2003. Over the years, with the dedicated work of WordPress community developers, it has evolved as the top CMS platform used today for every activity, be it a blog, a business website, an online store or a news site. Its popularity is the result of its flexibility and ease to use because it is open source. So, anyone can make a website with WordPress using various themes and plugins available in its repository, and I mean anyone. If someone wants to make a custom site, that too is possible because of its open-source nature. You can play with its code if you know how to and make whatever you want.

Its user base is increasing every day. About 2 out of 5 websites are built on WordPress. According to research done by W3Techs, WordPress is used by 43.2 % of the websites on the Internet today, which has been 39.5 % in 2021.

13.1% of websites in 2011 used WordPress. According to W3Techs, WordPress usage has climbed 12% annually on average, reaching 43.2% in 2022. According to data from BuiltWith, WordPress powers over 36% of the top 1 million websites, including Bloomberg, Nike, and The New York Times. The “TOP” websites are determined by traffic.

59,825 free plugins are available right now in the official WordPress plugin directory. There are presently 9,124 free themes available in the official WordPress theme library. A Scepter study found about 31,010 WordPress themes available for download or purchase.

This is why WordPress is so popular and in demand today. But with popularity comes risks as well. WordPress sites are the primary target of hackers too and this is because of its popularity and use.

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Some Notable Stats About Cyber-Attacks on WordPress

  • According to Sucuri, 90% of the hacking attempts on CMS platforms were on WordPress in 2018.
  • WordPress experiences 90,000 attacks on average every minute, according to Arishi.
  • WPManageNinja reports that weak passwords account for 8% of all WordPress site hacks.
  • Kinsta reports that 500+ WordPress sites are compromised daily. That’s equivalent to more than 3,500 websites being compromised per week.
  • Verisign found that outdated plugins were to blame for 52% of all WordPress vulnerabilities in their State of the Internet report.
  • Malwarebytes found that more than 4,000 WordPress sites were affected by malicious SEO plugins.
  • In 2011, the worst security breaches ever recorded for WordPress occurred, as reported by Kinsta. More than 18 million users were affected by the hack.
  • TimThumb, Gravity Forms, and Revslider are the top three most hacked WordPress plugins (those with the most vulnerabilities or potential security holes). These three plugins are also among the most popular on WordPress, so it’s no surprise that hackers use them to gain control of WordPress sites.

So, it is evident from the above stats that WordPress has witnessed its share of cyberattacks, and the numbers are pretty intimidating.

In this article, we will discuss the common WordPress vulnerabilities and how to fix them so that you can keep hackers at bay and enjoy the features of WordPress with peace of mind.

Common WordPress Vulnerability issues and how to fix them.

Outdated WordPress Core (Most Threatening WordPress Vulnerability)

WordPress developers roll out new version of WordPress frequently to add new features and enhancements, but more importantly, they do it to fix critical security issues in the current version. So, it is essential to keep your WordPress updated. You can do it manually, and the auto-update feature is also available in WordPress, but despite that, Sucuri reported that around 50.3% of infected WordPress sites are outdated.

Outdated versions make your site vulnerable because updates are mainly done to fix critical security issues. Additionally, you won’t be able to update the themes and plugins of your website if your WordPress core is outdated because it may cause compatibility issues, and out date themes and plugins also raise the risk. We will discuss about them too later in this article.

Keep your site updated and perform a WordPress core update as soon as a new version is released. It can be done by setting up an automatic update option too. This simple step ensure that your site remains secure.

Outdated Themes and Plugins

WordPress is highly customisable. It is the most significant appeal of WordPress. A wide range of themes and plugins to choose from and use makes WordPress so popular and easy to use. One doesn’t have so many options on any other CMS platform. However, similar to WordPress core, new version of plugins and themes are rolled out frequently too, and any negligence in updating them makes your site vulnerable. Outdated themes and plugins are far more significant risk factors.

  • According to WPScan data, plugins and themes account for around 97% of vulnerabilities in their database, while core software accounts for only 4%.
  • Further, WPScan found 602 new vulnerabilities in WordPress plugins, themes, and core between January and June 2021. This is more than the total number of vulnerabilities reported for 2020.

So, you must also keep up these plugins and themes up to date to make your site secure. There are plugins, too, that automates the process of updating.

Another thing to be worth mentioning is that a few of the themes and plugin developers don’t update their products either out of negligence or because they don’t care about it anymore, so it must be your responsibility to uninstall such types of themes and plugins. Suppose a new security patch for WordPress has been released; however, a developer has yet to update their theme to comply with the current edition. A hacker may use this flaw in the theme to take over a website and exploit it.

So, you should always pay attention to updates, be it a core, theme or plugin update. You should perform these updates earnestly. Keeping your WordPress theme and plugins up-to-date will strengthen your site’s security and keep your website safe.

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Weak Passwords

Having a weak password is the biggest mistake in current times. If your password is simple to guess, hackers will easily break into your website.

  • In the first half of 2021, the popular firewall service Wordfence stopped over 86 billion password attacks.

Brute-force attack, to give one example, is among the most popular forms of cyberattack. This attack involves agents and bots trying out various password combinations until they gain entry. They find a way to enter your site by using a vulnerability in the login process such as a weak password.

That’s why making each user on your WordPress site set a strong password is essential.

Use a password generator like the one that comes with WordPress user pages.

Users should change passwords often and enable limited login attempts and two-factor authentication. WordPress doesn’t provide you with these options by default. However, The Loginizer plugin for WordPress makes it simple to implement these safeguards.

Malware (Most Common WordPress Vulnerability)

Malware, as the name suggests, is an acronym for malicious software. It is malicious software that hackers can employ to infiltrate your website with malicious code and steal private information.

  • Of the websites cleaned up and added to Sucuri’s database in 2021, 61.65% had malware.

Unauthorised and out-of-date plugins and themes are a common entry point for malware on WordPress sites.

Hackers take advantage of security weaknesses in plugins and themes, replicate existing ones, or even create new add-ons to insert destructive code into your site.

When using WordPress, users have limitations in the types of files they can upload to the media library. Your file upload will fail, and an error message will be displayed if you try to upload a file that isn’t supported. The administrator can find a way around this restriction, but it is one measure WordPress takes to prevent malware.

Moreover, while installing themes and plugins, check them properly and use the ones having good ratings and reviews. Don’t add any theme or plugin just for the sake of features. Careful inspection is the key. Prevention is always better than cure. You can find tons of useful WordPress Plugins for your Business Website.

You should constantly monitor your site’s health and perform security scans to find malware infections.

There are numerous plugins, too, which can be used. Many powerful security plugins can detect malware and repair corrupted files.

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks

DDoS is an improved form of DoS (Denial of Service) in which many requests are sent to a web server, causing it to become overloaded and eventually crash.

DoS attacks come from a single location, while DDoS attacks are coordinated and come from computers all over the world. It’s estimated that millions of dollars are lost each year due to this infamous cyberattack on websites.

Choosing the right hosting platform is the best way to prevent your site from DDoS attacks. You’ll need to find a dependable hosting company that matches your business’ demands and maintains a reputation for taking security seriously.

Structured Query Language (SQL) Injections

SQL is a programming language that is used to communicate with the database. WordPress websites use MySQL databases to function.

After a successful breach, a hacker manipulates the MySQL database, potentially gaining access to your WordPress admin or changing its credentials to cause more damage.

SQL injections commonly enter through submission, contact, and payment forms.

To avoid this, it is critical to place restrictions and limitations on your form submissions. You can also use ReCAPTCHA to give an extra degree of security to form submissions.

Additionally you can use a plugin to determine whether or not your site has been hacked. You may check this with WPScan or Sucuri SiteCheck.

Also, update WordPress and any themes or plugins you suspect that is causing problems.

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

An XSS attack occurs when an attacker injects malicious code into the source code of a targeted website. While XSS attacks, like database injections, aim to place executable code in your files, their focus is instead on the functioning of your website. Hackers who get access to your front-end display may attempt to harm visitors by providing a masked link to a malicious website or showing a bogus contact form to collect user information.

Websites with outdated core, themes or plugins are the primary target.

If a hacker discovers a plugin you haven’t kept up-to-date, they can use it to get control of your website’s front-end files. It’s the same with WordPress themes.

The most common type of vulnerability found in WordPress plugins is Cross-Site Scripting (XSS).

  • WPScan found 216 XSS vulnerabilities in the first half of 2021.
  • 84% of all security vulnerabilities on the Internet are the result of cross-site scripting or XSS attacks.
  • 39% of WordPress vulnerabilities are because of cross-site scripting (XSS), exploitations of the WordPress core cause 37%, and 11% of attacks are caused by WordPress themes.

WordPress Core, plugins, and themes should always be kept up to date.

A web application firewall (WAF) is another valuable tool for warding off XSS attacks since it monitors network traffic and blocks unauthorised users from connecting via the Internet.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Spam

Many WordPress site administrators place a premium on high SEO rankings. Unfortunately, similar to SQL injections, hackers can target your most prominent pages to inject spammy keywords and false advertisements. Users may be misled to visit harmful or dubious sites due to these factors.

Brute-force attacks and security holes in out-of-date themes and plugins make SEO spam easy for hackers to implement. SEO spam poses a significant threat because it may be difficult to spot.

Adhering to the aforementioned security procedures, such as installing updates on time and establishing clear user roles, is an excellent place to start.

However, using Wordfence or Sucuri to check for malware would be best. As an added precaution, keep an eye on your analytics. If you see a significant increase in traffic or a significant movement in where you appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs), you should investigate the cause of the change.


WordPress phishing breach is when hackers deceive unsuspecting users into giving up their personal and financial data by appearing as a reputed brand that the victim trusts.

Email and text messages are the most common ways to carry out phishing attacks.

Two main types of phishing can occur on WordPress sites, each corresponding to a different phase of fraud.

In the first scenario, a phishing email claims that a database update is necessary for a WordPress site, tricking the administrator into revealing sensitive information.

Secondly, hackers can create phoney content using your site. Website administrators have often found irrelevant brand logos on their website, such as those for online banks and shopping sites. These are deceptive tools and are used to trick people into revealing their important details.

Phishing scams, and the websites that host them, are met with swift action from Google. Damage to your website’s credibility and reputation from being blacklisted and labelled a “phishing website” might occur. The fact that you’re innocent doesn’t change the fact that your website is being used to host fraudulent activities. You must remove this infection immediately and begin mitigating the damage it may have caused.

Usual safeguards, such as installing updates routinely, keeping tabs on on-site activity, and using strong passwords, should be implemented to protect against phishing. To keep spammy phishing bots from accessing your site, you should install extra security measures like ReCAPTCHA.

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Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

A CSRF relies on some deceptive social engineering to get a high-level website user with administrative privileges to take some action, like clicking a link.

Any actions taken by the administrator resulting from this flaw could compromise the entire site.

Website visitors can also be affected, making it possible for hackers to change their login email address or withdraw money.

WordPress sites using some of the most popular plugins are particularly vulnerable to CSRF attacks. Specifically, CSRF attacks can be made against plugins like WP Fastest Cache that use the check_url() method.

  • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) accounted for 16% of plugin vulnerabilities.

By keeping a watch on your site’s plugins, you can protect it from CSRF attacks. Plugins serve a vital purpose, but you shouldn’t put your faith in any plugin. Installing a solid WordPress security plugin is the best way to prevent cross-site request forgery. You can also prevent this attack by implementing two-factor authentication and disabling file editors and PHP execution in untrusted folders on your website.

Privilege Escalation Attack      

A Privilege Escalation Attack is a type of cyberattack in which an intruder has more access to a system’s resources than was initially intended by the application’s creator due to a failure in the system’s setup, a bug in the software, or an error in the design of the system. Due to this WordPress security hole, an attacker can take absolute control of the affected system.

Verifying the various roles and permissions provided by the application and setting Correct file permissions for WordPress is the first line of defence against this critical attack.

Dormant User Accounts ( A WordPress Vulnerability most overlooked)

Alterations are continually being made to the website’s user base. If, for example, you manage a blog that has numerous authors and editors, there is a reasonable probability that new writers are added to the website frequently while older writers depart.

Inactive user accounts pose the same risks as compromised passwords; therefore, removing any accounts not currently being used is vital. The issue is that outdated user accounts that aren’t deleted as quickly as possible become a WordPress security risk over time. Because the accounts exist, but the passwords are not constantly updated, and hence they are susceptible to attack.

In addition to this, it is essential that you have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what on your website. Users’ unusual activities are an early warning indicator of hacked accounts and you should an eye on that.

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Website is on HTTP not HTTPS.

A green lock symbolises security and is commonly seen next to the address bar on many websites. For the benefit of site visitors, this badge indicates that Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption is in use. The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol is a security measure used to encrypt data sent to and from a website.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encodes the information transferred to and from a website so that it cannot be intercepted and misused by a third party.

Having SSL ensures that your site is secure and is not vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Additionally, Google also gives preference to sites with SSL certification in the search engine results. This small step helps in gaining users’ trust as well because they know that this site is safe.

SSL certificates are now commonly offered as part of a hosting package.

Also, certificate authorities (CAs) like Let’s Encrypt make it possible to acquire SSL certificates.

Final Thoughts

WordPress is the most widely used content management system because it provides a solid foundation upon which to construct and manage your website. To keep it running well, you need to be well-versed in WordPress’s most prevalent security vulnerabilities. Then you can take preventative measures to safeguard your website.

We learned about the many WordPress security flaws and how to fix them. The importance of updates in maintaining WordPress’s security cannot be overstated.

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