If you’re running a website, sooner or later someone malicious will try to ‘brute force’ their way in. Even small sites have to deal with this hassle, whether it comes from bots or human hackers. That’s why brute force attack prevention is essential if you want to keep your site secure.
Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent WordPress brute force attempts. Most of these methods are quite straightforward, which means there’s no excuse not to protect your website. A little work now can save you a lot of headaches down the road.
In this guide, we’ll explain what brute force attacks are and discuss whether your site is at risk. Then we’ll talk about your options for protecting your site, both manually and via plugins. Let’s get to work!
What Are Brute Force Attacks?
Imagine that there’s a stranger outside your home, and they have access to an almost infinite number of keys. They want to get inside, so they try key after key in the hopes that they’ll find a match. Their odds of success are pretty slim, but if you let them keep trying unimpeded and they have enough time, they might eventually force their way in.
If you replace those keys with usernames and passwords, you have a brute force attack. The good news is that landing on the right ‘key’ (or login credentials) by chance is almost impossible for a human, and very time consuming even for a machine. However, if the attacker knows at least one vital piece of data, such as your username, the process becomes easier.
WordPress is a very secure platform, but it’s so popular that websites using it tend to be targeted for brute force attacks. That means you’ll need to follow strong security practices, or you risk letting the wrong people in.
What Are the Risks of a Brute Force Attack?
If someone gains access to your WordPress dashboard using an account with administrative privileges, they can do a lot of damage. Here are some examples of what a hacker could accomplish after a successful brute force attack:
- Steal private user information, such as names and email addresses
- Add malicious files or links to your pages
- Deface your website, to affect its popularity or search rankings
- Take down your site altogether
To put it another way, if someone is trying to force their way into your home, they probably don’t have the best intentions. It’s also worth keeping in mind that not only popular websites are targets for brute force attacks. If you run any kind of website, large or small, you’ll need to consider implementing brute force protection techniques.
Simple Steps to Prevent WordPress Hacks
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a security expert to prevent hacking attempts. In fact, just following some basic best practices can do a lot to mitigate the risks. Let’s talk about four of the best techniques!
Step 1: Use Complex Passwords
Passwords are your primary line of defense against brute force attacks. The longer and more complex your password is, the harder it will be to crack.
Here are a few tips to use passwords more effectively:
- Set up unique passwords for each of your accounts.
- The longer your password is, the better. It’s also smart to add in some special characters.
- Try using a password manager to keep all of your credentials safe.
In our experience, password managers in particular can solve a lot of problems. They store all your passwords securely, and you can synchronize them across most devices.
Step 2: Update Your Username
By default, WordPress assigns the admin username to your administrator account. This is easy to remember, but it also gives away important information to potential attackers.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t enable you to change your username from the dashboard once it’s set up. If you’re already using something a unique username, then you’re fine. If you aren’t, there are two ways you can go about changing your username:
- Modifying your database.
- Creating a new account with admin privileges (and a unique username), and switching over to it.
If you use the second method, remember to delete your original account. That way, attackers can’t use it to force their way in.
Step 3: Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
A basic password-and-username login system is a one-step authentication processes. Adding a second set of credentials to that process makes it even harder for attackers to get in, which is excellent news for you.
With Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), when you try to log into your account, you’ll receive a one-time code sent to your email address or cell phone. You’ll need to enter that code before you can get in. That way, attackers won’t be able to access your site unless they have your credentials and access to your phone or email.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t offer 2FA functionality out of the box. However, you can add it to your website in minutes by using the right plugin.
Step 4: Scan Your Site Periodically
In some cases, attackers might gain access to your website before you even realize it’s happened. That’s why it’s smart to periodically scan your website for vulnerabilities or logins you don’t recognize.
There are a lot of tools you can use to check your site for malicious files, such as the Sucuri SiteCheck service. Plus, you can always set up a plugin to keep logs of who accesses your site and when, so you can spot any unauthorized entries.
WordPress Brute Force Prevention Plugins
Along with the manual methods we introduced above, there are also several plugins you can use to prevent WordPress hacks. Before we wrap up, we’ll check out three of the top options.
Plugin 1: WPS Hide Login
By default, WordPress uses a single URL for your login page. That makes attackers’ lives easier, because they know exactly where your front door is. What WPS Hide Login does is enable you to change that URL, which can help prevent brute force attacks from happening.
Plugin 2: Google Captcha
Most of the time, bots do all the hard work on a brute force attempt. One simple way to stop them in their tracks is to implement a CAPTCHA system into your login page. That’s something Google Captcha can help you with, and is a useful addition to any website.
Plugin 3: Brute Force Login Protection
In most cases, it doesn’t take someone dozens of attempts to log into a website unless they’re not supposed to be there. That means it can be smart to limit the number of login attempts users can make in a row. Brute Force Login Protection enables you to implement that functionality, and block repeated entry attempts from the same IP address.
Prevent WordPress Hacks with WP Engine
One of the best ways to keep your website safe is to use a web host that takes security seriously. With WP Engine, you get access to a very secure platform that’s used by a wide range of WordPress site owners.
We take care of protecting your website using automated threat detection and blocking, and we keep an eye out for vulnerable plugins. If you sign up for any of our plans, you’ll get access to these and other security features!