WordPress is a free and open source content management system. Running a website on WordPress is very easy but protecting it from different attacks and security vulnerabilities is a challenging task. Programmers can secure their website frequently updating code, detecting and solving security breaches without installing a plugin. If you are a beginner or a non-developer guy, there are various best WordPress security plugins to help you.
In this blog post, I have listed top 10 essential security plugins that will help you to add different security features, scan malware and vulnerabilities in your WordPress website.
Why should you install WordPress security plugins?
Hackers always try to steal data by making different attacks on your website. Such attacks can affect your brand, data, and even trust too.
Fixing your hacked WordPress website and restoring the data can be costly.
There is a very popular quote, “Prevention is better than Cure”. That’s why installing a best security plugin can help your WordPress site to fight against various attacks.
Here are some benefits that you will get after installing a security plugin on your WordPress site.
- Frequent malware scanning.
- Tracking of everything that happens on your site including last login, changes in a file, failed login attempts.
- Protect your website against SQL injections, brute force attacks.
- You will receive email alerts for security vulnerabilities in your WordPress theme or plugins.
- Limit the failed login attempts and block the IP address.
- Site backup.
4 Most Common WordPress Security Attacks
Before jumping to the list of security plugins, let me elaborate about different attacks. Here are the 4 most common security attacks on WordPress websites you should know.
Vulnerable Theme & Plugins:
Your WordPress website is made of 3 elements – the core software, themes, and plugins. The WordPress core software is maintained and updated frequently that’s why there are not any security vulnerabilities.
However, the themes and plugins installed on your WordPress website are developed and maintained by third-party developers. In the case of themes and plugins also, an updated version is released after fixing any vulnerability. If a theme or plugin is not releasing an updated version for a long time then you should know that vulnerabilities exist.
Brute Force Attacks:
WordPress provides a built-in admin login URL and page where you need to enter your login credentials i.e., username and password. Some website owners make their login credentials easy to remember but such login credentials will help attackers to get access on your site dashboard.
Many people use default username ‘admin’ and common password that matches with their name.
Hackers create a database of commonly used usernames and passwords then program their bots to target the login page of your WordPress site and attempt different combinations present in their database.
If your login credentials are weak, bots can easily guess it and break your site too. This is known as ‘Brute Force Attacks’.
SQL Injection Attacks:
Every website has some input fields like a contact form, search bar, comment section that allow users to enter data. The data sent from those input fields are sent to the database for processing and storage.
While developing themes or plugins, developers add client side or server side code to validate & sanitize data before it is sent to the database. This will ensure only valid data is accepted.
If the input fields of your website lack these validation codes, hackers may enter malicious scripts to exploit your database.
DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attacks disrupt the normal traffic by sending a large volume of requests to the server. It can also crash the server.
Best Security Plugins for WordPress in 2021
Here is the list of 10 best security plugins that I have selected after doing some research.
1. Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Security Hardening
Sucuri is one of the best security plugins for WordPress websites available in both free & premium version. The free version helps you in hardening WordPress security and scan your website frequently to detect common threats.
Here are the security features that comes with free version of Sucuri security plugin:
- Malware Scanning
- Monitor all the security related activities in your WordPress website
- Security File Integrity Monitoring
- Blacklist Monitoring
- Show last login details including list of users that are currently logged-in and failed login attempts
But there are many other security features in paid plans such as Firewall, SSL support, advanced DDoS mitigation, and more. A website firewall helps you block brute force and malicious attacks. It also filters out bad traffic that can help your site to protect from DDoS attacks.
Not only security features but also the premium Sucuri version will help you to boost the performance of the website by serving static content from its own CDN servers.
Wordfence is one of the most popular freemium WordPress security plugins. It provides you the most powerful protection tools, amazing security features, security incident recovery tools. The main advantage of installing Wordfence is it provides an insight into overall traffic status and hack attempts.
It monitors the plugins installed on your site and informs you if they have been removed from WordPress plugins repository.
It also monitors the security-related traffic by giving you details such as locations, page visited, time, IP Address, hostname, and response. It also blocks the IP address if any malicious activity is found.
Check the image above, you can see the red and yellow icon. Red icon symbolizes the blocked IP address whereas the yellow icon symbolizes warning.
Here are the security features that comes with free version of Wordfence security plugin:
- Web Application Firewall (WAF) that blocks malicious traffic
- Malware scanning to check files, plugins, and themes before they’re uploaded
- Two-factor authentication (2FA)
- Login limits to prevent brute force attacks
- Force user and admin to use a strong password
But there are many other security features in paid plans such as frequent scans, spam protection, country blocking, real-time firewall rule & malware signature updates, and more.
3. iThemes Security
iThemes security is one of the most trusted WP security plugins that provides more than 30 ways to protect your site from attacks. But the interface of this plugin is not good as 2 previous plugins.
Here are the security features that comes with free version of iThemes security plugin:
- Block specific IP address and user agents from accessing site
- File Change Detection
- Database Backups
- Local & Network Brute Force Protection
- Force users to use strong passwords
- WordPress tweaks by changing default WordPress behaviour
- Reduce Spam Comment
But there are many other security features in paid plans such as malware scan scheduling, reCAPTCHA, 2FA, version management, and more. The premium version of the iThemes Security plugin also allows security checks of every user on your website.
4. MalCare Security
MalCare is a free malware scanner, protection and security plugin for WordPress sites. It is the fastest malware detection and removal plugin.
MalCare detects complex malware. It allows you to remove such malware in one click before search engines blacklist your site.
Here are the security features that comes with free version of MalCare security plugin:
- Cloud-based malware scanning to detect complex malware
- Web-Application firewall
- Security related traffic status
- Login protection
But there are many other security features in paid plans such as auto malware cleaning, Geo-blocking, on-demand scans, and more.
5. All In One WP Security & Firewall
All In One WP Security is a 100% free WordPress security plugin that provides an easy interface and customer support for free. You can access most of the paid security features of previous plugins for free. It enforces some good security practices on your WordPress website.
All In One WP Security plugin has implemented the latest security practices and techniques recommended by WordPress.
It measures and shows the security strength of your website in a highly visual graph based on the security features you have activated.
Here is a list of security features offered by this plugin.
- Login lockdown feature to prevent brute force attacks
- Detect if your site’s admins are using default “admin” username and enforce to change the username
- Block spam bots from posting comments
- You can add Captcha on login, comment and forgot password form
- Firewall protection
- File change detection
- File protection including editings, backups, and restoration
- File system and database security
Defender is another freemium security plugin for WordPress websites which offers less but key features in the free version.
The key features offered by Defender WordPress security plugin in free version are:
- Two-factor authentication
- WordPress core file scanning
- Malware scanning
- IP address blacklisting
- 404 detection to track the IP address that repeatedly requests on pages that don’t exist on your site
Check the image above, this is the malware scanning report. With the free version, this plugin scans and detects issues in WordPress core file only.
There are many other security features in paid plans such as advanced full code scanning, plugins & theme file scanning, audit logging, WAF, and more.
7. WP Security Audit Log
WP Security Audit Log is a freemium WordPress activity log and security plugin. It is a highly rated security plugin with 100, 000+ active installations.
It is easy to use and keeps an activity log of everything that happens on your WP site. It also monitors various changes on your website. Some of them are:
- Posts, Page & Custom Post Type changes
- Tags & Categories changes
- Widgets and Menus changes
- User Activity
- WordPress Core, Database and Settings changes
- Plugins and Themes changes
The real fun of this plugin is with premium plans. You can access some exciting features such as real-time user session management, audit log database & integration tools, email notifications, SMS alerts.
8. WP Security Ninja
WP Security Ninja is a handy WordPress security plugin that helps detect any holes or weakness in your website. It is a powerful tool to keep track of any security problems.
It also scans files including themes and plugins installed on your website to discover vulnerabilities.
Security Ninja gives you full control and doesn’t make any change itself.
With the free version of this plugin you can determine the security strength of your WordPress site with 50+ security tests in one click.
Some of the key security tests you can access in free version are:
- Check if the PHP & MySQL version, WordPress core, themes and plugins are up-to-date.
- Check if the user with username “admin” exists.
- Test file accessibility.
- Database configuration tests.
- Debug and auto-update mode tests.
The real fun of this plugin is with the premium version. You can access some exciting security features such as firewall protection, spam protection, auto security issues fixer, malicious IP blocking, and more.
Audit log feature is available only in premium plans, you can install the free WP Activity Log plugin to know who did what change on your website.
9. Google Authenticator – WordPress Two Factor Authentication
Google Authenticator is a free authentication plugin for WordPress that hardens your login and registration security. The main two advantages of installing this plugin are it prevents account sharing between users and brute force attack prevention.
The free version of this plugin comes with a variety of authentication methods such as Google, security questions, OTP over SMS & Email, QR code, push notification.
The premium version of the Google Authentication plugin offers more authentication options and multiple login options.
10. BBQ: Block Bad Queries
BBQ is a best bad query blocker plugin that protects your website against malicious URL requests and SQL injection. It checks all the incoming traffic and quietly blocks traffic that sends malicious queries in request.
It is super-fast, easy to use plugin and offer various awesome features such as:
- Blocks directory traversal attacks
- Blocks SQL injection attacks
- Blocks executable file uploads
The free version is enough to protect your website from different security attacks. You can access more advanced security features such as user-ID phishing prevention, XML-RPC exploits prevention, IP address blocking in BBQ Pro.
Most of the plugins offer common security features such as malware scanning, vulnerabilities detection in themes & plugin, and malicious IP address blocking. If you are confused while choosing the best one, you can go with an all-in-one plugin like Sucuri security or Wordfence.
If you don’t have money to purchase a premium security plugin, you can go with All in One WP Security & Firewall plugin.
If you are searching for the best security plugin to harden the login and registration process, you can go with Google Authenticator or WP Security Audit Log.
Other best security practices to protect your WordPress website:
*Have a strong password:
Include case-sensitive alphabets, punctuation, and numbers to make your password strong. Never use alphabets in your password that match with your username.
Update WordPress to the latest version because WordPress releases a new version by solving all the vulnerabilities of the previous version.
*Update PHP version:
Updating the PHP version not only improves security but also improves the site performance.
*Restrict access to sensitive core files:
WordPress comes with several sensitive core files, such as wp-config.php, error log, PHP.ini files. .You need to protect such files from unauthorized access. You can set rules in .htaccess file to restrict access.
*Update Theme & Plugins:
Always keep your theme and plugins up-to-date. Installing a security plugin isn’t enough; you have to update it regularly.