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Prevention is Better Than the Cure: Securing Your Sites With WP Engine

Taking steps to prevent cyber attacks is the best course of action in today’s growing landscape of evolving threats.

The security of your website is critical to your business, and in today’s fast-paced digital world, failure to employ a robust security strategy (or neglecting it for too long) will almost certainly result in some type of security incident.

While mitigating a cyber attack involves many factors, putting the right measures in place to prevent one from happening is a far more favorable path. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to focus on prevention in a world full of evolving cyber threats.  

In this ebook, we’ll help you sort the noise with more detail on the specific types of attacks that websites—including WordPress sites— face today, the measures required to recover from an attack, and the techniques you can use to prevent attacks from happening in the first place. 

Download the ebook to find out more, or read on for a closer look at the areas we cover, including:

Today’s Cybersecurity Landscape

Today’s cybersecurity landscape isn’t lacking in challenges. An increasing threat environment coupled with an expanding attack surface have made it harder than ever to stay ahead of what can feel like a never-ending, high-stakes race.

This is due in part to the widespread availability of tools and technology used for cyber attacks today, as well as the proliferation of remote work, unsecured networks, and sophisticated malware and phishing techniques that continue to evolve—and succeed.   

While successful cyber attacks come in different shapes and sizes, the global average cost of a data breach is around $4.35M, according to a 2022 IBM report, meaning a company stands to lose that amount (or more) if its systems are compromised in an attack. 

While proactive measures are effective at preventing attacks from succeeding, security remains a moving target for many businesses, and requires exhaustive diligence and regular evaluation (i.e. time and resources) to maintain. 

Growing Challenges Require New Solutions 

In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic and the changes and challenges that have come with rapid digital acceleration, today’s evolving slate of cyber attacks includes a rogue’s gallery of threats both new and old:

Ransomware and the rise of “Big Game Hunting” 

While small-and-medium-sized businesses (and even individuals) remain in the crosshairs of cyber criminals, there has also been a documented increase in large businesses being targeted in ransomware attacks, specifically because they are viewed as more likely to pay a higher ransom to resolve the attack. 

Leading security firm CrowdStrike observed an 82% increase in ransomware-related data leaks from 2020 to 2021, noting in its 2022 Global Threat Report, “the growth and impact of big game hunting in 2021 was a palpable force felt across all sectors and in nearly every region of the world.” 

Geopolitical Disruptors

In addition to more inventive and aspirational attacks, recent years have also seen an increase in nefarious cyber activity as a direct or indirect result of global instability.  

The war between Russia and Ukraine, for example, has not only been tied to an increase in malicious cyber attacks from nation-state actors, individuals and non-state actors have also reportedly used the conflict as a distraction from their own online criminal activity. 

At the same time, escalating tensions between China and Taiwan have led to growing concerns of a significant increase in cyber attacks, affecting everything from individual companies to the global supply chain. 

Seemingly-endless Exploits and Vulnerabilities 

While keeping systems and software up to date is now a basic security requirement for even the smallest digital footprint, incessant, exploitable vulnerabilities continue to plague millions of websites every year. 

While vulnerabilities can be exploited across many types of software, sites built with WordPress are specifically bolstered by updates to its core software, as well as its individual plugins and themes. But other vulnerabilities extend beyond the codebase of a specific CMS, affecting web applications using many different systems and solutions. 

​​The most high-profile vulnerability in 2021, for example, was Log4Shell, which exploited Apache’s widely-used Log4j2 logging library. Log4Shell can be exploited by remote attackers to inject arbitrary Java code into affected services, which could result in unauthorized system access, the delivery of malware, or the acquisition of sensitive data.

A Hurdle for Digital Transformation

While even the most robust security solutions face a myriad of challenges today, an ineffective security strategy stands little chance against the current landscape of persistent threats.  

In addition to providing weak defenses against attacks themselves, an ineffective security strategy can drain budgets and digital projects with costly rabbit holes—including the management of individual security solutions as well as the need to integrate those solutions with existing systems. 

Security can also derail larger plans for digital transformation. When faced with the continued use of out-of-date, legacy systems, many businesses choose to remain tied to ineffective digital solutions due to a belief that they are more secure than other, more agile choices. 

As an example, businesses in need of flexible solutions that will allow them to go to market faster may overlook viable options such as WordPress and other open source software due to outdated concerns regarding their inherent security. 

That’s unfortunate, as open source software and WordPress specifically have not only matured significantly in recent years, but also offer perfectly secure foundations on which some of the largest digital projects are being built. 

With the right managed hosting partner, large-scale enterprises as well as small-and-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are meeting their most rigorous security and compliance benchmarks while leveraging open source agility to build fast, modern digital experiences that reach audiences around the globe. 

Find out more about WP Engine’s powerful WordPress security solutions here

Proactive Prevention: The Key to Secure WordPress Sites

While a proactive security posture will benefit any website regardless of its tech stack, keeping WordPress sites secure is closely intertwined with keeping them up-to-date. 

WordPress core has greatly matured over its nearly two decades of existence, and in addition to WordPress’ Bug Bounty Program, the global community of WordPress core contributors, as well as individual plugin and theme authors, all play an active role in flagging bugs and vulnerabilities as they’re discovered, and working to patch them.   

Professional plugin and theme authors will also regularly update their software, and provide patches when a bug or security vulnerability has been discovered. This allows users to update their software and secure their sites before they are affected.

But updates are only effective if and when they’re put to use, which is why a strategy for keeping things like WordPress core, plugins, and themes up to date is essential for overall WordPress security.  

Even then, no business should have to defend its digital properties alone. Extensive website security should also be available with any type of web hosting service, managed WordPress hosting included.

Failure to address security issues at the organizational level and with your hosting provider can be an unhealthy choice, leading to significant site health issues down the road.

The Most Common Types of Attacks: Causes, Cures, and How to Prevent

While the types of threats facing any type of website continue to evolve, there are also many types of attacks that remain persistent, evolving in sophistication and creating headaches for businesses the world over. 

Distributed Denial-Of-Service (DDoS) Attack

What is it and what’s the cause?

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a harmful attempt to disrupt normal traffic of a network or server by overwhelming the infrastructure with a massive flood of traffic. It’s designed to overwhelm the resources of a system so that it becomes unable to respond to legitimate server requests. 

The desired outcome of a DDoS attack is to stop your business from running effectively, either disrupting or completely halting your website’s ability to operate. As DDoS attacks become more advanced, more forceful, and more prevalent in today’s digital world, DDoS mitigation has become a critical element of any security strategy. 

How to cure a DDoS attack

If your site experiences a DDoS attack you may need to quickly employ defensive measures such as complicated DNS configurations or using a proxy network to absorb and mitigate the attack. While proxy network strategies can be easy to implement, they are less so while a DDoS attack is occurring—especially if your email service is also unusable due to the ongoing attack on your domain.  

How to prevent a DDoS attack

One of the best ways to safeguard your site from DDoS attacks is to use a service like Cloudflare’s Global Anycast network, which absorbs highly distributed attack traffic to keep you online. Origin infrastructure is protected by detecting and dropping attacks at the edge, and shared intelligence across 10 million websites helps block known bad signatures. 

WP Engine’s advanced network includes Cloudflare CDN and layer 3 & 4 DDoS protection for all customers, at no additional cost. Additionally, WP Engine offers Global Edge Security for advanced security solutions, including a managed Web Application Firewall (WAF) that blocks attacks at the edge, and DDoS protection at the network, transport, and application layers.

Download the ebook to find out more about the most common types of cyber attacks, including malware and privilege escalation attacks, adversary-in-the-middle attacks, and the best ways to defend against them.

Keeping WordPress plugins and themes up to date is critical for the security of your sites. WP Engine’s Smart Plugin Manager automates WordPress plugin updates so your environment stays safe and secure, giving you the time (and peace of mind) to focus on driving your business forward.

The Cost of Security Incidents

The true cost of a security incident includes many factors, and can change significantly based on the size of the business affected and the motivations of the attacker. 

When it comes to the monetary cost of a security issue, that number has risen every year, with no sign of slowing down. According to a 2022 IBM report, the global average cost of a data breach is around $4.35M.

In addition to financial losses, cyber incidents often leave a major mark on a company’s brand and reputation, and can manifest beyond the incident itself. Read on for more detail about the specific costs of a security incident.  

Lost time and engineering expenses

If your site has experienced a security incident, you will need to enact “remediation and recovery” measures, which essentially entails discovering how the attack took place, fixing the vulnerability that led to the attack, and recovering any lost data or systems from the attack (if possible). 

This could require hiring expensive outside consultants or services to help with these measures, or, it will take time from your own web development, executive, and operational teams in order to address. This not only presents an economic impact, but it also affects your team’s larger roadmap as they focus on recovering from the security incident instead of optimizing your website to drive further company growth. 

Lost sales due to outages

During a security incident, you may find that your website experiences a high amount of downtime, especially as you work to remedy the issues at play. In the case of a DDoS attack, your site cannot handle the volume of requests and completely shuts down. 

Either way, increased downtime almost always has a negative impact on a business’ performance and overall bottom line—especially if your website is where your customers purchase your products and services. If your customers can’t reach you, sales will take a hit, and the odds of losing customers to your competitors increases. 

Legislation and regulatory fines

In some countries and industries, security incidents can also come with heavy financial penalties. GDPR for example, which applies to anyone processing or collecting customer data for people and businesses residing in the EU and UK, includes severe fines and penalties for businesses that fail to properly secure their websites (and experience a security breach as a result). 

In addition to remedying the issues affecting your business, a security breach that violates GDPR would also require you to focus on responding to government oversight, not to mention legal action from customers for liability of financial and personal damages due to the security incident in question. 

Customer trust and loyalty

One of the biggest costs to a business after a security incident is the loss of trust and loyalty that comes from even the most supportive customers. Even if the incident didn’t result in the disclosure or theft of any customer data, the optics of a security breach alone will cause customers to lose faith and trust in your business. From a customers’ perspective, it’s better to cut ties and find a more reputable solution than to wait and see, and potentially deal with the consequences of having their data stolen.

Loss of information and data

Another loss that may not be considered first when thinking about the cost of a security incident is the loss of information and data that occurs when it’s deleted or corrupted. This could set your business back years in terms of resources and time, only to get back to operating at the level you were before the security incident occurred. You may not have the information or data you once did and this could cause disparity between systems if the information is unrecoverable.

Want to find out more about securing your WordPress sites? Download the ebook for a closer look at specific preventive measures—including a preventative security checklist—you can use to harden your security posture and strengthen the defenses of your digital properties.

Increase Your Website Security With WP Engine

When you choose managed WordPress hosting with WP Engine, you not only gain access to essential developer tools and resources, you gain access to our WordPress-optimized platform and the security practices we’ve set in place to keep it secure. add an entire security team to your organization, with the needed expertise to keep your WordPress sites secure. Learn More

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