Any time you visit a website, there’s about a 50/50 chance it was built on a content management system such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. These platforms make building and maintaining an attractive, engaging website so easy that even complete novices can create masterpieces.
What beginners may not realize, however, is that CMS websites are built using publicly available source code. This makes customization and usability much easier and more efficient, even for someone who doesn’t know how to write code, but it can also create several CMS vulnerabilities that you should be aware of.
For example, the features you add to your CMS site are written as applications, themes, and plug-ins, all of which consist of additional open-source coding. Each of these plug-ins could prove to be a security threat if they aren’t thoroughly vetted and consistently updated. In fact, compromised plug-ins are among the most common gateways for website malware.
Which CMS Is Most Secure?
The open-source nature of a platform’s code is one of the biggest factors in most CMS vulnerabilities. Fortunately, most don’t leave their users to fend for themselves without resources to enhance their website security.
Drupal is not only one of the most popular CMS platforms, but it’s also one of the most secure CMS platforms available today. It’s designed for a more tech-savvy, security-focused community, which is why so many government organizations choose to use it. On the other hand, Joomla has a smaller security team because it’s geared toward more experienced developers. The platform’s core code is secure, and it provides plenty of information to help its users follow cybersecurity best practices.
As the most popular CMS platform — hosting more than 75 million websites — WordPress security issues are also the most common. In 2018, about 90% of all hacked CMS sites were hosted on WordPress, with hackers typically deploying backdoors. Because of WordPress’ size, users are mostly left to find and implement their own website security measures — a daunting task for many novice users.
Fortify Your Site Against CMS Vulnerabilities
The very nature of open-source CMS platforms makes them a common target for hackers and bad actors. You can’t change that, but you can make your site significantly more protected with these CMS security tips:
1. Scan website code for malware. Keeping your website secure means thoroughly checking every app and line of code that you install on it for any signs of malware. You can’t do this manually, but you can scan them all for CMS vulnerabilities using an automated website malware scanner.
To prevent malware, the website scanner should also be able to apply security patches and updates automatically. Like the plug-ins on your site, your security software is only effective if you have the most up-to-date tools.
2. Be picky about plug-ins and apps. The more apps and plug-ins you attach to your site, the higher your chances of being exploited — and the more files you’ll have to scan and update. My company’s research found that websites that are deemed “high risk” are 26 times more likely to be infected than low-risk websites.
Choose your plug-ins and apps wisely, and if you aren’t sure about a certain feature, activate it for a short time to gauge if its value is worth the effort. If you choose to discontinue use, then thoroughly remove it. An unused app will quickly become outdated and less secure. Also, routinely check your site for apps that you no longer use, and deactivate and delete them to remove their files.
3. Interact with the experts. Cybersecurity software and due diligence are essential, but nothing beats experience. WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and most other CMS platforms offer forums for users to engage with each other. Join the conversation and soak up all the knowledge you can.
System users and experts have the most in-depth firsthand experience with optimizing plug-ins and apps on their websites. The open-source community is generally a friendly one, and most forums you enter will be happy to help you secure your site.
Hackers know that most websites’ proprietors aren’t tech geniuses or cybersecurity gurus. They also know that WordPress is the most popular and often most vulnerable of them all. However, these few tips can guide you on how to protect your WordPress site (or any CMS-powered site) like a security pro.
Download my company SiteLock’s “Cybersecurity Trends in 2019: Protecting Websites in the Age of Stealth Attacks” report for more information on trends and risk factors in cybersecurity.