WordPress Site Security

It’s important to understand that there is no “set it and forget it” solution for security. With the freedom to use a wide variety of custom code in the form of themes and plugins, also comes a great responsibility. Security is a partnership WP Engine shares with our customers. With that in mind, there are a number of best practices we recommend for all WordPress websites.

Stay Up to Date

The most critical and yet simplest way to keep a WordPress website secure is by keeping all components up-to-date. There are three main components to focus on for maintaining your site’s security:

  1. WordPress Core: Keeping WordPress core up-to-date is crucial to your site’s security. At WP Engine, we handle core upgrades for you automatically, but they can be perform manually as well. Read more about WP Engine’s WordPress automatic core update process here.
  2. Plugins and Themes: A simple oversight in updating your plugins or theme can be a big deal. Plugin vulnerabilities represent 55.9% of the known entry points for attacks. Keeping your plugins and themes up to date is easily the most important step to maintaining a fast and secure WordPress website.
    • Plugins and themes can be updated by logging in to your WordPress admin and clicking Updates in the main menu (/wp-admin/update-core.php).
    • If keeping plugins up to date is too time-consuming or often causes your site to break, we offer the Smart Plugin Manager. This service keeps your plugins up to date, creates backup checkpoints and runs visual checks to ensure no updates are pushed that will break you site. Check out Smart Plugin Manager here
  3. PHP: WordPress runs on PHP and it can have a huge impact on the security and performance of your website. As a managed host, WP Engine helps automate this process as PHP versions reach end-of-life. However, updating your WordPress site’s PHP version can (and should) be done before automatic upgrades occur. Learn more here.

Choose Plugin/Themes Carefully

It is important to have a discerning eye when it comes to choosing the theme and plugins your site will use. Each addition to your site contributes more code, which translates to more potential security flaws as well as extra pieces to maintain and update.
For similar reasons, you should also be certain to always fully delete any plugins or themes you are not actively using.

A good first step is to ensure you download your plugins and themes through the WordPress.org repository, since these are subject to their stringent approval process.

Look for plugins and themes that:

  • Are actively maintained
  • Have been recently updated
  • Have a wide and happy user base
  • Provide user help in the Support section

Not only are you more likely to have success with these plugins and themes overall, but these are also the most likely to respond quickly should a vulnerability be discovered.

Enforce Additional Login Authentication

Your administrator accounts are the gateway to the backend controls of your website. A simple way to double-down on security for your users to use two-factor authentication (2FA), multi-factor authentication (MFA), or offload logins to a specialized system entirely with single sign-on (SSO). These security options require your users to verify their identity with a second method, beyond a simple username and password.

For example, two-factor authentication might require you to enter an additional rotating code from an app on your phone. An attacker might be able to brute force your username and password, but they still would be unable to access your site’s administration area if they didn’t guess the right code at the exact interval.

With SSO, your corporate identity provider can be configured with the WP Engine User Portal to ensure all employees are logging in via SSO. Learn more about SSO for the User Portal here. Using a corporate identity provider allows login credentials to be managed by a specialized login software that can be customized to your businesses security needs.

WP Engine offers Two-Factor Authentication for the User Portal, or there are several plugins to help with this on your WordPress site:

Adhere to the “Least Privilege” Principle

The “Least Privilege” principle means users should only be given the access level they need to perform their core role and nothing more.

If you are an Administrator on a WordPress site, the responsibility of determining the access level of other users falls to you. Be extremely strict with users who publish content, and especially with other Administrators. Ask yourself: does this user truly need this level of access in order to perform their core role?
Learn more about WordPress user roles here.

If you are a developer on a website, your responsibility is to ensure your code is adhering to WordPress Coding Standards and using core WordPress APIs where possible.

Proactive Security Through Monitoring

Both uptime monitoring and file integrity monitoring are proactive strategies to keep your site secure and available. For example, WP Engine offers our Site Monitoring add-on, which can alert you should your site experience an outage.

File integrity monitoring keeps you aware of any file changes made to site code. Plugins like Sucuri Security, Wordfence and Stream can monitor file changes on your site.

Uptime monitoring services like Pingdom and UptimeRobot will notify you if your your site is not behaving as expected.
Increasing awareness allows your team to respond as quickly as possible if the unthinkable happens.

Tools like Google Search Console help by monitoring your site’s reputation and health, to notify you if your site ends up on any blocklists.


WP Engine monitors basic server health of all websites and backs up your site nightly, making it easy to restore your site if needed.

Employ Network-level Security

At WP Engine we prioritize stable and secure websites. While many of these changes happen behind the scenes, the most recent network advancements have been made available to you as opt-in upgrades. The network upgrades route your website at a DNS level through additional security and performance layers at Cloudflare, all managed by WP Engine.

The advanced network utilizes our custom blend of Cloudflare features to improve the speed, scalability, and security of your website. Best of all, the advanced network upgrade is provided at no charge for all WP Engine hosting plans.

Learn more about the advanced network here.

Global Edge Security (GES) is an Enterprise-grade performance and security add-on available for purchase on all WP Engine plans. With the GES add-on you will receive several features powered by Cloudflare: managed Web Application Firewall (WAF)advanced DDOS MitigationCloudflare CDN, and automatic SSL Installation.

Learn more about Global Edge Security here.

To learn more about all of our network types, see our network comparison guide.

NEXT STEP: Add an SSL to encrypt information sent through your site

Automatically update plugins

WP Engine's Smart Plugin Manager keeps your site secure by updating plugins for you. It also uses visual regression to automatically revert to a backup if an update causes issues.