Wordpress websites consist of 40% of all the websites on the internet. On top of that, 95.1% of hacking attempts were made on Wordpress websites. What makes Wordpress websites so vulnerable, why do hackers focus so much on this particular CMS, what scenarios occur when a hacker infiltrates your website and what can you do to protect your business’s website from hackers?
Why is Wordpress so vulnerable to hackers and why do hackers focus their efforts on Wordpress websites?
Wordpress is an open-source CMS that relies on themes and plugins. Like other traditional CMS’s it’s a single system (in other words its frontend and backend are connected as a single code base).
These are big problems for the Wordpress owners and great opportunities for hackers.
Given the reliance of themes and plugins, any vulnerability to a single plugin attached to your Wordpress website (or if you fail to update your theme with perfect diligence) gives the hacker an entry point to access your entire website. With the prevalence of hacker forums, this makes Wordpress a no-brainer for hackers as the path of least resistance for a successful infiltration into your website.
Although this may seem like a rare occurrence, the truth is that in 2020 alone, 90,000 hacking attempts were made on Wordpress websites every minute. Why is the volume so great? Well beyond the sheer prevalence of Wordpress websites, there are also hacker programs available for purchase by bad actors and additionally 97% of hacker attempts are automated making them extremely economically viable for hackers.
On top of plugin and theme vulnerabilities, there are many other avenues for hackers to access Wordpress websites (although plugin infiltrations are the most common). For a full list of ways hackers may attempt to access your website, click here.
What can happen when a hacker infiltrates your website?
Having dealt with business owners that have been hacked and having helped them move quickly to a secure headless website, I can share firsthand a number of scenarios that hackers will impose upon the business owner.
Spam SEO: Hackers can inject spammy content or links into your website to promote their products or services, manipulate search engine rankings, and drive traffic to other malicious sites.
Ransomware: Cybercriminals can encrypt your website's files or databases, demanding a ransom payment in exchange for restoring access to your data.
Defacement: Hackers can alter your website's appearance, replacing your content with their messages, images, or propaganda.
Phishing: Cybercriminals can create fake pages on your website to collect sensitive information from your visitors, such as login credentials or credit card details.
Data theft: Hackers can steal sensitive information from your website's database, including user data, customer information, and intellectual property.
Malware distribution: Cybercriminals can use your website as a distribution platform for malware, infecting your visitors' devices and potentially spreading to other websites.
DDoS attacks: Hackers can use your compromised site as a launchpad for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, targeting other websites or networks and overwhelming them with traffic.
Cryptojacking: Cybercriminals can install crypto-mining scripts on your website, using your visitors' computing resources to mine cryptocurrencies without their knowledge or consent.
Unauthorized redirects: Hackers can redirect your website's visitors to other malicious sites, exposing them to further risks and damaging your reputation.
Privilege escalation: Once inside your website, cybercriminals can escalate their privileges, gaining increased access and control over your website and its resources.
Sale of website access: Hackers may sell access to your compromised website to other cybercriminals, opening the door to additional attacks and malicious activities.
Damage to brand reputation: A hacked website can erode trust in your brand, leading to loss of customers, decreased revenue, and long-term damage to your reputation
Server hijacking: Hackers can take control of your website's server, using it for illegal activities, such as hosting phishing pages, distributing malware, or launching attacks on other servers.
Email spamming: Cybercriminals can access your website's email system and use it to send spam or phishing emails to your contacts, tarnishing your reputation and potentially getting your domain blacklisted.
Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks: Hackers can inject malicious scripts into your website that can execute in your visitors' browsers, potentially stealing their data or hijacking their sessions.
SQL injection attacks: Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities in your website's database to inject malicious SQL queries, allowing them to view, modify, or delete your data.
Social engineering attacks: By impersonating your brand or staff members, hackers can deceive your customers or employees into providing sensitive information or performing actions that benefit the attacker.
Credential stuffing: Hackers can use stolen or leaked credentials from your website to attempt unauthorized access to other websites or services, exploiting users who reuse the same passwords across multiple platforms.
Manipulating website analytics: Cybercriminals can inject fake traffic, clicks, or conversions into your website's analytics data, skewing your metrics and making it difficult to accurately assess your website's performance.
Ad fraud: Hackers can replace or insert unauthorized advertisements on your website, diverting ad revenue to themselves and potentially exposing your visitors to malicious content.
Sabotaging SEO efforts: Cybercriminals can alter your website's structure, content, or metadata in ways that negatively impact your search engine rankings, making it more difficult for potential customers to find you online.
Exposing sensitive internal information: Hackers can access and leak internal communications, documents, or intellectual property, damaging your business operations and giving competitors an advantage.
In our experience, direct ransom of the business owner or spam SEO scenarios (linking your website to nefarious websites such as porn and dark web websites) are the most common scenarios as these are once again the path of least resistance for the hacker to profit from your website.
What can you do to protect your website from hackers?
Wordpress websites unfortunately are a never-ending game of cat and mouse requiring hyper-diligent management of your plugins, themes and security tools. And even security tools can have vulnerabilities which ironically hackers often utilize flaws in these tools to access your Wordpress website. Given the single source nature of the CMS (frontend and backend are connected), any access point into your website allows the hacker to take over your entire website and lock you out.
Headless websites are the future of secure websites. Headless websites consist of a decoupled frontend and backend thus removing the access points from the hacker altogether.
By decoupling these two systems, the vulnerabilities associated with traditional WordPress sites (such as outdated plugins and themes) are significantly mitigated. This separation also allows for stricter access controls and more robust security measures, further protecting your website from cyberattacks.
Headless websites are connected via secure, encrypted APIs. Not only does this eliminate all of the basic hackers (which are 99.9% of hackers), it also isolates any vulnerabilities to a single access point.
Beyond improved security, headless websites are a future-forward solution across the board. The static frontend makes them extremely light with lightning-quick load speed. And with a decoupled CMS (content management system), the control of the website’s content is completely customizable and thereby making site management much more viable for non-technical team members.
The downside of Wordpress is extremely underrepresented in the website conversation and it stands as a huge viability to your business and its reputation. The only reason so many businesses are still on Wordpress is due to lack of understanding and inertia from cheap developers with a single coding skill set.
Headless websites are the future and the future is now.
Discover a Secure Future for Your Website with Mahdlo Executive Advisors. Schedule a call today to learn about headless websites, the future of secure online presence. Protect your business from hackers and vulnerabilities associated with WordPress. Visit our website or contact us. The future is now with Mahdlo Executive Advisors.