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Do You Need a WordPress Security Plugin?

This entry was posted in General Security, Wordfence, WordPress Security on January 25, 2017 by Mark Maunder   14 Replies

At Wordfence we are a big team these days with millions of customers, and we think about security all day long. Sometimes we can get deep down the proverbial rabbit hole and forget about the basics.

I recently overheard someone asking “Do I really need a WordPress security plugin?” and I realized this is a perfectly valid question. If you are not in the security industry, you might ask it.

I know that many of you are well versed in security already – and WordPress security in particular. Perhaps that is why you are reading this post or subscribe to our mailing list. What I would like to provide you with in this post is a way to answer the question of “Do I need a WordPress security plugin?” to friends, family and colleagues that is both enlightening and easy to understand.

If you are new to WordPress, I hope this post helps increase your understanding of WordPress security.

Physical Security compared to WordPress Security

Many people think about WordPress security in the same way that they think about physical security in the real world. In the physical world, we might build a facility like a bank that needs to be secured. We build barriers to entry and access controls as part of the construction project.

Once the project is complete, we have a secure facility with walls, gates, secure entry and exit, cameras, access controls and human personnel to implement security procedures as people enter and exit. The physical construction does not change much over time, once the project is completed.

You are unlikely to discover that the concrete you used to build a wall for your bank is now vulnerable and needs to be replaced. A wall is still difficult to penetrate and a locked gate with a guard is going to still be quite effective a few months from now.

It is easy to make the mistake of thinking about WordPress security in the same way. If you install software that is secure to power your WordPress website and you implement good security policy and controls, one might think a website would behave in the same way. In other words, one might think a secure website today should be secure a few months from now if it doesn’t change.

That is not the case and I’m going to explain why. If you build a website using the newest software that has been verified to be secure and you implement good security policy, your website does not change, but the environment it is operating in changes. Attackers continually research the software that powers your website and vulnerabilities are eventually discovered in most popular online software.

Therefore the problem is that, while your website software starts off secure, it almost always ends up being insecure without anything changing on your website. It’s not your fault or the fault of the person who created your website. It is just the way of the online world. This differs from our building metaphor above in that a secure building doesn’t usually end up insecure a couple of months after being built without anything in the building changing. But a website does.

In fact, this is an ongoing cycle. Vulnerabilities are discovered, attackers start using them and ultimately if you are a responsible WordPress site owner, you upgrade your site regularly to fix those vulnerabilities. Then new vulnerabilities are discovered in new versions and the cycle repeats.

The Time Gap Between Vulnerability Knowledge and Installation of a Security Fix

You might build a new website with the latest secure versions of WordPress and all of the relevant plugins and a theme. As time passes, vulnerabilities are discovered in your plugins, theme and the version of WordPress core you are using. Those vulnerabilities (or security holes) become public knowledge at some point.

There is usually a delay between when the vulnerability becomes public knowledge and when you get around to installing a fix. Even when a fix is automatically released by the WordPress security team, the vulnerability may have been public knowledge for some time. This was the case with the recent PHPMailer vulnerability, which took several weeks for a patch to appear in WordPress core and be automatically deployed.

A WordPress security plugin provides many valuable functions, but at its most basic, a WordPress security plugin protects your website from attacks during the time it is vulnerable.

We do this in two ways. Wordfence provides a firewall that has rules that are constantly updated. At Wordfence, when we learn about a new security hole in software that you might use, we release a firewall rule to your site that allows Wordfence to block hackers from exploiting that security hole.

The second way we protect you is by providing a malware scan. Wordfence detects thousands of malware variants. If the worst happens and somehow a hacker does manage to penetrate your website, Wordfence alerts you to the presence of malware on your website and even helps you find it and remove it. Our malware signatures are also continually updated.

As many of you know, our Threat Defense Feed is what distributes new firewall rules and malware signatures to your Wordfence security plugin. Our Premium customers receive these in real-time. Free customers are delayed by 30 days.

Protecting You When You’re Vulnerable is What We Do

Wordfence provides many other security functions including two factor authentication, country blocking, brute force protection, rate limiting and more. But the most important function we provide is this: Wordfence protects your WordPress website once vulnerabilities are discovered in your previously secure website and before you have installed a fix.

Most websites are hacked as a result of an attacker gaining entry by exploiting a vulnerability in the website software. By using an effective WordPress firewall like Wordfence with a real-time Threat Defense Feed, you are protected, even if your website suffers from a vulnerability.

I hope this has helped provide a fundamental understanding of the most important reason you or someone you know needs a WordPress security plugin like Wordfence. As always I welcome your feedback in the comments below.

Stay safe!

Mark Maunder – Wordfence Founder/CEO.

Thanks to Dan Moen for editing this post. 

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14 Comments on "Do You Need a WordPress Security Plugin?"

Jason G January 25, 2017 at 9:23 am

Great comparison on physical vs electronic (websites) with regards to security! The online world is constantly changing so having a real-time Threat Defense Feed is really helpful. I have been using Wordfence on all my sites. Will definitely be continuing with it as well! Thanks for your article!

Gabriel P. January 25, 2017 at 9:28 am

Very didactically explained to people without any idea about website security. Congratulations!

Ronny Geenen January 25, 2017 at 9:33 am

Does an owner of a website created by WordPress.com also needs to upload the WordPress security?

Craig January 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

Great post again Mark.
I make it an absoute must have with all my clients sites and all have WF as standard.

My way i explain to them is lets say you have a window in your house its good it works and does its job . but lets say you go away and leave your window open a little and lets say some one walking past that sees this may later one want to attempt to break in ( like an non updated plugin or core etc ). They may get in but if you have a system to alert you or act that moment your fairly safe.

seems to work for me with my clients anyway.

Jeff Sararas January 25, 2017 at 12:18 pm

Mark, I expect an invoice from you for all the copywriting you've saved me by publishing this post :) What you've done is considered website ownership from the perspective of the non-technical website owner (ie my customers). Something which, amazingly, continues to be very rare in the myriad attempts at 'beginner' or DIY info out there. Expect a ton of reads on this one.

Mark Maunder January 26, 2017 at 12:52 am

Thanks Jeff.

Steve Hicks January 25, 2017 at 12:37 pm

In reply to the post title: yes.

Mike Bourke January 25, 2017 at 11:15 pm

@Craig: A slightly better analogy might be to have the window stick open just a little bit more each day, getting worse as weather gets in until it reaches the point of being stuck open all the time and anyone can climb straight through.

@Mark - great post!

Mark Maunder January 26, 2017 at 12:53 am

Thanks Mike.

stepherd February 1, 2017 at 1:19 am

What you have written in this post is exactly what I have experience when I first started my blog.I’m happy that I came across with your site this article is on point,thanks again and have a great day.Keep update more information.

Jack February 4, 2017 at 11:08 am

Same here, I make it an absoute must have with all my sites and all have WF as standard.
i m renamed also the wp-admin dir whit a good plugin.

Jack February 4, 2017 at 11:11 am

all fleas and bugs are automatically blocked by the firewall

Good work :)

Bashir Ahmed February 4, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Hi Mark,

YES, we need security plugin on our WordPress sites. And, the Wordfence plugin is working very well on my sites. It is protecting our blogs from hackers and Brute force attacks.

I'm compiling a list post of WordPress security plugins and Wordfence will be in top of the list because of it's features.

Thank you so much for the great plugin!

Suanlian Tangpua May 28, 2017 at 11:50 pm

I am new to WordPress, my friend suggested me to install wordfence security plugin. After reading all review and Comparision I am good to go with this plugin. Thanks for the share.

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