WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT ONLINE PRIVACY

 – Namecheap

Data breaches and violations of our privacy seem to be a daily occurrence.

From Edward Snowden’s bombshell that the American government tracks its citizens to Cambridge Analytica collecting Facebook data from millions of people to allegedly influence the 2016 US presidential election, it’s clear that a lot of our personal information is out there. And it’s not always being used in the most transparent, ethical, or even legal ways.

It seems as if every aspect of our private lives can be dissected and scrutinized by corporate and government interests—or by other parties that mean to do us harm.

It’s a difficult topic, but awareness is the first step in protecting yourself. So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways others access our personal data and examine ways in which you can protect your privacy.

Hackers Want Your Personal Data

The most obvious issue that comes to mind when thinking about privacy violations is hacking and other criminal activity. There are people out there who will stop at nothing to try to grab your information and break into your private accounts. Here are a few ways they do it.

  • Data breaches. The Equifax breach that may have leaked millions of people’s data, including Social Security numbers, was just one of many examples where hackers gained access to a vast database of information that could be used for identity theft. These things happen more often than most of us realize, so it’s important to remain vigilant and regularly update your passwords.
  • Webcams. Do you cover the webcam on your computer when you’re not using it? Maybe you should. The camera on your laptop or computer monitor can be hacked to give strangers access to what’s going on inside your house.
  • Web browsing and email. When you’re on the Internet, it’s way too easy for other people to get information about you. Beyond social media and shopping behavior, just surfing the web and checking your email can get you into trouble. Innocent-looking emails might send you to fraudulent banking or other websites that try to capture your login details, a process called phishing. Other websites might track your online behavior by placing nefarious cookies in your browser that send your data places you might not want it to be.
  • Social Engineering. Often it’s just small bits of data that hackers are after. Your date of birth, along with your email or mailing address (perhaps listed on your website or Whois information on your domain) could provide a key that a criminal can use to reset your account passwords or gain access to important accounts. For example, back in 2012, hackers compromised Wired staff writer Mat Honan’s digital accounts and deleted all of his computer files just by having critical bits of information about him.

These are just a few ways hackers can disrupt your life. Security experts warn that with more of us connecting additional devices to the Internet (things like our thermostats, digital assistants like the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and home security systems) that’s just exposing even more of our lives to potential hacking.

It’s More than Just Hacking

Beyond the illegal activities, there are dozens of ways people gain legitimate access to your data on a daily basis, often with your explicit consent. It’s worth considering how often your activities are being monitored and what kinds of information you willingly provide to corporations and the government. Here are just a handful of examples to consider:

dna strand

  • DNA records. In the past few years, companies like 23andMe and Ancestry.com have started offering genetic mapping and profiling services: you simply mail in a cheek swab and, in return, the company sends you the results and stores your DNA records in their databases. But have you ever considered how this data might be used in the future? As we recently saw with the apprehension of the Golden State Killer in California using a genetic database at the genealogy service Ysearch.org, you never know how your DNA records might be used. Today it might be solving a murder, but in the future, who knows? Your genetic profile could be used to determine health coverage or other purposes you didn’t expect.
  • Ride sharing. Go ahead and call a Lyft or Uber. You’ll give that company data on where you live, who else lives there, and your entertainment habits. Uber even got caught tracking their customersafter they dropped them off.
  • Pokémon Go and other mobile games. It’s just a game, right? By using GPS data to provide location-based entertainment, this addictive mobile app also keeps a close eye on where you–or your kids–are throughout the day.
  • Amazon and other retail apps. If you’re like many people, you turn to Amazon for much of your online purchases and household services. You might use the Starbucks or Target apps on your phone to order in advance or get discounts. And each time you buy online from major retailers or use their apps, you’re giving them rich data for future use.
  • Cell phones. This may be a no-brainer, but every mobile device has a GPS chip that locates the phone even when it’s turned off. This allows emergency services to locate you when you need help—but the question is, who else has access to that data?
  • Video surveillance/closed-circuit television (CCTV). From ATMs to ‘eye in the sky’ cameras at department stores, cameras are always watching you when you’re out on public streets. Red light cameras and cameras on toll roads snap your car’s license plate to send you violation notices or fee invoices. Any time you leave your home in most urban centers in the US and Europe (and in major cities across the world), someone knows what you’re doing.

This is a long list of ways companies can compromise your privacy, all in the name of day-to-day business. When you think about it, it’s almost enough to make you want to throw your hands up and surrender, right?

Don’t despair! While some things are out of your control, there are still things you can do to protect your information.

Simple Steps to Protect Your Privacy Online

Let’s face it: if you’re online, a lot of your information is out there.

You might not care if companies know your purchase history or where you go on the weekends. And you might not worry about the government tracking you because you think you have nothing to hide. What’s more, there are benefits to sharing our data to take advantage of everything our modern society enables us to do. It’s nice to be able to use Google Maps to find a new restaurant or chat with your friends on Facebook.

So unless you pursue an off-the-grid lifestyle out in the country, modern convenience requires surrendering a certain amount of your privacy.

password graphic

That being said, there are some ways you can minimize the impact of potential privacy violations and prevent people from gaining access to information that can compromise your safety and well-being.

  • Provide the bare minimum. Many times companies will ask for personal information that they don’t need. Challenge anyone who asks for your Social Security number or email address. Don’t put your address on your resume or job search websites, and if you have a home business, consider getting a P. O. Box to avoid giving out your personal address.
  • Protect your email address. Everyone wants your email, which can be flattering depending on who’s asking for it. But it can also be a ticket to spam as well as a possible gateway for phishing or hackers to access your account. If you find yourself giving out your email often, consider creating a disposable email address using a free Gmail or Yahoo account. Then, whenever you enter a sweepstakes or join a mailing list, enter that address rather than your personal one. You can still receive messages at that address if you want by forwarding it to your real address and filtering it into a separate folder.
  • Avoid giving your information to unknown parties. Don’t play games on Facebook that require you to connect your profile. Use privacy settings to lock down your social media profiles so only your friends can see what you’re posting.
  • Cover your webcam. You can use a post-it note, masking tape, or removable sticker. Also, consider disabling the front-facing camera on your mobile devices. For more ideas, check out this Mashable article.
  • Regularly check your credit reports. In the US, you can order a report for free once a year through each credit reporting agency or by going to AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Be smart with passwords. Don’t use the same password for different websites, and change your most important passwords regularly. If a site gets hacked, don’t hand the hacker the keys to all of your other accounts. And never give out a password to anyone over the phone or email. Customer support professionals have secure ways of accessing your account (if necessary) without having to ask for your password.
  • Beware of public Wi-Fi. As we described in a previous article, it’s far too easy for hackers to gain access to your login data. If you frequently use the Wi-Fi in coffee shops or restaurants, consider investing in an inexpensive VPN solution.
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) everywhere. Many major websites—including blogging platforms, banks, and even online games—offer 2FA protection, which is a second step of authentication that’s difficult for a hacker to replicate. Often, 2FA will require you to enter a code texted to your mobile device or sent via a third-party app.
  • Use a passcode on your cell phone. Sure, it’s annoying to always have to enter your passcode, but passcode protection keeps people from gaining access to your personal data, contacts, social media accounts, and email if you get separated from your device even for a few minutes.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a great way to get started. For an even longer list of steps you might take to protect yourself, check out the 66 privacy tips from Consumer Reports.

Protect Your Personal Data

At Namecheap, we value your privacy. We don’t sell your personal information to other companies, and here on the blog, we work to keep you aware of different ways your privacy might be violated.

We also believe that we should do our part to keep your personal contact information out of the hands of hackers, spammers, and Internet marketers.

That’s why we now provide WhoisGuard free for all of our eligible domains—for life! If you register your domains with us, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve taken one vital step to keeping your personal information safe.

The Ultimate WordPress Security Guide – Step by Step (2018)

Article Origin https://www.wpbeginner.com

WordPress security is a topic of huge importance for every website owner. Each week, Google blacklists around 20,000 websites for malware and around 50,000 for phishing. If you are serious about your website, then you need to pay attention to the WordPress security best practices. In this guide, we will share all the top WordPress security tips to help you protect your website against hackers and malware.

Improve WordPress Security

While WordPress core software is very secure, and it’s audited regularly by hundreds of developers, there is a lot that can be done to harden your WordPress website.

At WPBeginner, we believe that security is not just about risk elimination. It’s also about risk reduction. As a website owner, there’s a lot that you can do to improve your WordPress security (even if you’re not tech savvy).

We have a number of actionable steps that you can take to improve your WordPress security.

To make it easy, we have created a table of content to help you easily navigate through our ultimate WordPress security guide.

Table of Contents

Basics of WordPress Security

WordPress Security in Easy Steps (No Coding)

WordPress Security for DIY Users

Ready? Let’s get started.

Why Website Security is Important?

A hacked WordPress site can cause serious damage to your business revenue and reputation. Hackers can steal user information, passwords, install malicious software, and can even distribute malware to your users.

Worst, you may find yourself paying ransomware to hackers just to regain access to your website.

Why WordPress Security is Important

In March 2016, Google reported that more than 50 million website users have been warned about a website they’re visiting may contain malware or steal information.

Furthermore, Google blacklists around 20,000 websites for malware and around 50,000 for phishing each week.

If your website is a business, then you need to pay extra attention to your WordPress security.

Similar to how it’s the business owners responsibility to protect their physical store building, as an online business owner it is your responsibility to protect your business website.

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Keeping WordPress Updated

Keeping WordPress Updated

WordPress is an open source software which is regularly maintained and updated. By default, WordPress automatically installs minor updates. For major releases, you need to manually initiate the update.

WordPress also comes with thousands of plugins and themes that you can install on your website. These plugins and themes are maintained by third-party developers which regularly release updates as well.

These WordPress updates are crucial for the security and stability of your WordPress site. You need to make sure that your WordPress core, plugins, and theme are up to date.

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Strong Passwords and User Permissions

Manage strong passwords

The most common WordPress hacking attempts use stolen passwords. You can make that difficult by using stronger passwords that are unique for your website. Not just for WordPress admin area, but also for FTP accounts, database, WordPress hosting account, and your professional email address.

The top reason why beginners don’t like using strong passwords is because they’re hard to remember. The good thing is you don’t need to remember passwords anymore. You can use a password manager. See our guide on how to manage WordPress passwords.

Another way to reduce the risk is to not give any one access to your WordPress admin account unless you absolutely have to. If you have a large team or guest authors, then make sure that you understand user roles and capabilities in WordPress before you add new user and authors to your WordPress site.

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The Role of WordPress Hosting

Your WordPress hosting service plays the most important role in the security of your WordPress site. A good shared hosting provider like BlueHost or Siteground take the extra measures to protect their servers against common threats.

However, on shared hosting you share the server resources with many other customers. This opens the risk of cross-site contamination where a hacker can use a neighboring site to attack your website.

Using a managed WordPress hosting service provides a more secure platform for your website. Managed WordPress hosting companies offer automatic backups, automatic WordPress updates, and more advanced security configurations to protect your website

We recommend WPEngine as our preferred managed WordPress hosting provider. They’re also the most popular one in the industry. (See our special WPEngine coupon).

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WordPress Security in Easy Steps (No Coding)

We know that improving WordPress security can be a terrifying thought for beginners. Specially if you’re not techy. Guess what – you’re not alone.

We have helped thousands of WordPress users in hardening their WordPress security.

We will show you how you can improve your WordPress security with just a few clicks (no coding required).

If you can point-and-click, you can do this!

Install a WordPress Backup Solution

Install a WordPress backup solution

Backups are your first defense against any WordPress attack. Remember, nothing is 100% secure. If government websites can be hacked, then so can yours.

Backups allow you to quickly restore your WordPress site in case something bad was to happen.

There are many free and paid WordPress backup plugins that you can use. The most important thing you need to know when it comes to backups is that you must regularly save full-site backups to a remote location (not your hosting account).

We recommend storing it on a cloud service like Amazon, Dropbox, or private clouds like Stash.

Based on how frequently you update your website, the ideal setting might be either once a day or real-time backups.

Thankfully this can be easily done by using plugins like VaultPress or BackupBuddy. They are both reliable and most importantly easy to use (no coding needed).

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Best WordPress Security Plugin

After backups, the next thing we need to do is setup an auditing and monitoring system that keeps track of everything that happens on your website.

This includes file integrity monitoring, failed login attempts, malware scanning, etc.

Thankfully, this can be all taken care by the best free WordPress security plugin, Sucuri Scanner.

You need to install and activate the free Sucuri Security plugin. For more details, please see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to go to the Sucuri menu in your WordPress admin.

Sucuri Admin Menu

The first thing you will be asked to do is Generate a free API key. This enables audit logging, integrity checking, email alerts, and other important features.

Sucuri Generate Free API

The next thing, you need to do is click on the Hardening tab from the Sucuri Menu. Go through every option and click on the “Harden” button.

Sucuri Hardening

These options help you lock down the key areas that hackers often use in their attacks. The only hardening option that’s a paid upgrade is the Web Application Firewall which we will explain in the next step, so skip it for now.

We have also covered a lot of these “Hardening” options later in this article for those who want to do it without using a plugin or the ones that require additional steps such as “Database Prefix change” or “Changing the Admin Username”.

After the hardening part, most default settings of this plugin are good and doesn’t need changing. The only thing we recommend customizing is the Email Alerts.

The default alert settings can clutter your inbox with emails. We recommend receiving alerts for key actions like changes in plugins, new user registration, etc. You can configure the alerts by going to Sucuri Settings » Alerts.

Sucuri Email Alerts

This WordPress security plugin is very powerful, so browse through all the tabs and settings to see all that it does such as Malware scanning, Audit logs, Failed Login Attempt tracking, etc.

Enable Web Application Firewall (WAF)

The easiest way to protect your website and be confident about your WordPress security is by using a web application firewall (WAF). The firewall blocks all malicious traffic before it even reaches your website.

Sucuri Website Application Firewall

We use and recommend Sucuri as the best web-application firewall for WordPress. You can read about how Sucuri helped us block 450,000 WordPress attacks in a month.

Sucuri Attack Block Chart

The best part about Sucuri’s firewall is that it also comes with a malware cleanup and blacklist removal guarantee. Basically if you were to be hacked under their watch, they guarantee that they will fix your website (no matter how many pages you have).

This is a pretty strong warranty because repairing hacked websites is expensive. Security experts normally charge $250 per hour. Whereas you can get the entire Sucuri security stack for $199 per year.

Improve your WordPress Security with the Sucuri Firewall »

Sucuri is not the only firewall provider out there. The other popular competitor is Cloudflare. See our comparison of Sucuri vs Cloudflare (Pros and Cons).

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WordPress Security for DIY Users

If you do everything that we have mentioned thus far, then you’re in a pretty good shape.

But as always, there’s more that you can do to harden your WordPress security.

Some of these steps may require coding knowledge.

Change the Default “admin” username

In the old days, the default WordPress admin username was “admin”. Since usernames make up half of login credentials, this made it easier for hackers to do brute-force attacks.

Thankfully, WordPress has since changed this and now requires you to select a custom username at the time of installing WordPress.

However, some 1-click WordPress installers, still set the default admin username to “admin”. If you notice that to be the case, then it’s probably a good idea to switch your web hosting.

Since WordPress doesn’t allow you to change usernames by default, there are three methods you can use to change the username.

  1. Create a new admin username and delete the old one.
  2. Use the Username Changer plugin
  3. Update username from phpMyAdmin

We have covered all three of these in our detailed guide on how to properly change your WordPress username (step by step).

Note: We’re talking about the username called “admin”, not the administrator role.

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Disable File Editing

WordPress comes with a built-in code editor which allows you to edit your theme and plugin files right from your WordPress admin area. In the wrong hands, this feature can be a security risk which is why we recommend turning it off.

Disable file editing

You can easily do this by adding the following code in your wp-config.php file.

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// Disallow file edit
define( 'DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true );

Alternatively, you can do this with 1-click using the Hardening feature in the free Sucuri plugin that we mentioned above.

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Disable PHP File Execution in Certain WordPress Directories

Another way to harden your WordPress security is by disabling PHP file execution in directories where it’s not needed such as /wp-content/uploads/.

You can do this by opening a text editor like Notepad and paste this code:

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<Files *.php>
deny from all
</Files>

Next, you need to save this file as .htaccess and upload it to /wp-content/uploads/ folders on your website using an FTP client.

For more detailed explanation, see our guide on how to disable PHP execution in certain WordPress directories

Alternatively, you can do this with 1-click using the Hardening feature in the free Sucuri plugin that we mentioned above.

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Limit Login Attempts

By default, WordPress allows users to try to login as many time as they want. This leaves your WordPress site vulnerable to brute force attacks. Hackers try to crack passwords by trying to login with different combinations.

This can be easily fixed by limiting the failed login attempts a user can make. If you’re using the web application firewall mentioned earlier, then this is automatically take care of.

However, if you don’t have the firewall setup, then proceed with the steps below.

First, you need to install and activate the Login LockDown plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, visit Settings » Login LockDown page to setup the plugin.

Login LockDown settings

For detailed instructions, take a look at our guide on how and why you should limit login attempts in WordPress.

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Change WordPress Database Prefix

By default, WordPress uses wp_ as the prefix for all tables in your WordPress database. If your WordPress site is using the default database prefix, then it makes it easier for hackers to guess what your table name is. This is why we recommend changing it.

You can change your database prefix by following our step by step tutorial on how to change WordPress database prefix to improve security.

Note: This can break your site if it’s not done properly. Only proceed, if you feel comfortable with your coding skills.

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Password Protect WordPress Admin and Login Page

Password protecting wp-admin

Normally, hackers can request your wp-admin folder and login page without any restriction. This allows hackers to try their hacking tricks or run DDoS attacks.

You can add additional password protection on a server side which will effectively block those requests.

Follow our step-by-step instructions on how to password protect your WordPress admin (wp-admin) directory.

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Disable Directory Indexing and Browsing

Directory browsing

Directory browsing can be used by hackers to find out if you have any files with known vulnerabilities, so they can take advantage of these files to gain access.

Directory browsing can also be used by other people to look into your files, copy images, find out your directory structure, and other information. This is why it is highly recommended that you turn off directory indexing and browsing.

You need to connect to your website using FTP or cPanel’s file manager. Next, locate the .htaccess file in your website’s root directory. If you cannot see it there, then refer to our guide on why you can’t see .htaccess file in WordPress.

After that, you need to add the following line at the end of the .htaccess file:

Options -Indexes

Don’t forget to save and upload .htaccess file back to your site. For more on this topic, see our article on how to disable directory browsing in WordPress.

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Disable XML-RPC in WordPress

XML-RPC was enabled by default in WordPress 3.5 because it helps connecting your WordPress site with web and mobile apps.

However because of it’s powerful nature, XML-RPC can significantly amplify the brute-force attacks.

For example, traditionally if a hacker wanted to try 500 different passwords on your website, they would have to make 500 separate login attempts which will be caught and blocked by the login lockdown plugin.

But with XML-RPC, a hacker can use the system.multicall function to try thousands of password with say 20 or 50 requests.

This is why if you’re not using XML-RPC, we recommend that you disable it.

There are 3 ways to disable XML-RPC in WordPress, and we have covered all of them in our step by step tutorial on how to disable XML-RPC in WordPress.

Tip: The .htaccess method is the best one because it’s the least resource intensive.

If you’re using the web-application firewall mentioned earlier, then this can be taken care of by the firewall.

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Automatically log out Idle Users in WordPress

Logged in users can sometimes wander away from screen, and this poses a security risk. Someone can hijack their session, change passwords, or make changes to their account.

This is why many banking and financial sites automatically log out an inactive user. You can implement similar functionality on your WordPress site as well.

You will need to install and activate the Idle User Logout plugin. Upon activation, visit Settings » Idle User Logout page to configure plugin settings.

Logout idle user

Simply set the time duration and uncheck the box next to ‘Disable in wp admin’ option for better security. Don’t forget to click on the save changes button to store your settings.

For more detailed instructions, see our guide on how to automatically log out idle users in WordPress.

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Add Security Questions to WordPress Login Screen

Security questions on login screen

Adding a security question to your WordPress login screen makes it even harder for someone to get unauthorized access.

You can add security questions by installing the WP Security Questions plugin. Upon activation, you need to visit Settings » Security Questions page to configure the plugin settings.

For more detailed instructions, see our tutorial on how to add security questions to WordPress login screen.

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Fixing a Hacked WordPress Site

Many WordPress users don’t realize the importance of backups and website security until their website is hacked.

Cleaning up a WordPress site can be very difficult and time consuming. Our first advice would be to let a professional take care of it.

Hackers install backdoors on affected sites, and if these backdoors are not fixed properly, then your website will likely get hacked again.

Allowing a professional security company like Sucuri to fix your website will ensure that your site is safe to use again. It will also protect you against any future attacks.

For the adventurous and DIY users, we have compiled a step by step guide on fixing a hacked WordPress site.

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That’s all, we hope this article helped you learn the top WordPress security best practices as well as discover the best WordPress security plugins for your website.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

 

 

 

4 WordPress Maintenance Tasks You Should Have Performed Regularly

Article originally from https://www.a2hosting.com

Running a website is, in many ways, much like running a business. Behind every successful site you visit, there’s a lot of work that goes on in the background to keep things running smoothly. Without that regular maintenance, your website might not be able to achieve its full potential.

The good news is that WordPress makes your life easier when it comes to website maintenance. Using plugins, for example, can help you automate or simplify many important tasks, such as creating backups, checking for broken links, and more.

In this article, we’re going to talk about why website maintenance is so necessary. Then we’ll introduce you to four tasks you should carry out regularly, in order to keep everything running in top shape. Let’s pop your site’s hood open!

Why WordPress Website Maintenance Is Important

Sometimes, you’ll find that your website isn’t working at full capacity. You can think about your site as a computer – if you set up too many unnecessary programs and fill it with junk, it won’t work as smoothly as it did out of the box. To avoid this eventuality, you’ll need to carry out routine maintenance on your website to keep it running well. This will benefit both you and your visitors.

WordPress maintenance isn’t just about smooth performance either – it also improves security and user experience. Certain maintenance tasks will enable you to protect your site from attacks, while others make it more friendly to your audience. Either way, it’s important to maintain your site and ensure that it’s living up to its full potential.

How to Monitor Your Website’s Loading Times

We’re going to be talking about the importance of performance and loading times throughout this article, since a lot of WordPress maintenance tasks are designed to keep your site running quickly. However, before we do that, let’s touch on how you can measure your site’s performance to find out if needs improvement.

Knowing this metric is important, because if your website takes over two seconds to load, your bounce rate will often increase. With that in mind, you should monitor your loading times periodically using a service such as Pingdom Tools. All you have to do is enter the URL of the page you want to test, select a test server, and click on Start Test:

The Pingdom Tools homepage.

You’ll see a results page shortly. If you’re below the two-second mark, you’re within the ‘good enough’ range. However, we’re not big fans of good enough, and there’s a lot you can do to make your site perform even better.

4 WordPress Maintenance Tasks You Should Perform Regularly

There are plenty of things you can do to improve your website’s performance, security, and user experience. However, these four general maintenance tasks are the most critical, if you want to keep your site free from clutter and in top shape.

1. Back Up Your Website

The UpdraftPlus plugin.

Backups are snapshots of your website at a specific moment in time, and they enable you to revert your site to a previous state if anything goes wrong. Creating regular backups is the most critical thing you can do to secure your site. They can help you fix bugs, solve security issues, reverse data losses, and much more.

Most people know they should back up their data, of course, but it can be easy to put off doing so. That’s where plugins such as UpdraftPlus come in handy. On top of providing you with multiple options for storing your backups, it also enables you to schedule them so they happen automatically.

A while back, we wrote a guide on how to use UpdraftPlus, and we recommend checking it out. If this tool isn’t to your liking, however, there are plenty of alternatives you can try. Regardless of which plugin you use, you should aim to create weekly backups at the very least.

2. Delete Your Discarded Post Drafts and Trashed Articles

All the information on your WordPress website goes into your database. This means that every post, page, comment, link, and so on that you add will contribute to bloating your database over time. The more cluttered your database is, the longer it will take to find the information you (or your users) actually want. For this reason, you should clean out unnecessary data as often as possible.

WordPress likes to keep discarded post drafts and trashed articles around for 30 days by default. However, it’s better to take out the trash more often than that, which means permanently deleting the content you won’t need anymore.

To do this, go to the Posts page in your dashboard, and select the Trash tab. Inside, you can check all the pieces you want to get rid of:

Deleting the posts in your trash.

Then select Delete Permanently, and click on Apply. Emptying your trash can make a real difference to performance, and it helps keep your website clutter-free.

3. Update and Clear Out Your Plugins and Themes

One of the best things about using WordPress is the sheer amount of fantastic plugins and themes you get access to. However, some sites contain dozens of plugins and themes, many of which aren’t actually used or are outdated.

You should always make sure your plugins and themes are updated. Old versions of plugins often cease to work or cause problems, so you want to avoid using them. If you have plugins and themes that you no longer need, on the other hand, you should remove them altogether.

You can manage both of these tasks from the Plugins and Appearance > Themes tabs respectively. Inside, you’ll find notifications when one of your plugins or themes has an update available:

A theme with an update available.

Likewise, you can select the plugins and themes you don’t use and delete them. This will also help you avoid unnecessary security risks.

4. Check Your Posts and Pages for Broken Links

The Broken Link Checker plugin.

Finally, some of the external links you’ve added to your content may stop working over time. The website a link points to might have gone offline, changed address, or simply deleted that particular page.

Broken URLs can confuse your users, since they lead nowhere. What’s more, they can even negatively affect your search rankings. However, finding broken links manually within even the smallest of websites can be a pain. Therefore, you’ll want to use a plugin such as WP Broken Link Status Checker to speed up the process.

Once the plugin is running, it will notify you when it finds broken links (either via the dashboard or email). You can then remove or replace them with new links right away.

Conclusion

Keeping a website running smoothly isn’t as complicated as you might think. You can automate most maintenance tasks using plugins, and the rest can be carried out in a few minutes. If you take time to regularly clean out the pipes, so to speak, your website should always run at top performance.

When it comes to keeping your WordPress site in top shape, here are the four maintenance tasks you’ll want to perform regularly:

  1. Back up your website.
  2. Delete your discarded drafts and trashed articles.
  3. Update your plugins and themes, and delete the ones you’re not using.
  4. Check your posts and pages for broken links.

Do you have any questions about how to keep your WordPress website running smoothly? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!

How the Wordfence Scanner Protects Your Site

This entry was posted in WordfenceWordPress Security on May 21, 2018 by Dan Moen

When we think about Wordfence and how it improves your WordPress security posture, there are two core features we tend to focus on: the firewall, and the security scanner. As the first layer of defense, the Wordfence firewall gets the most attention because it blocks hackers from gaining access. But, the scanner plays an equally important role, alerting you to myriad of security findings that help you keep your site secure and respond quickly if you get hacked.

In today’s post we’re doing a deep dive on the Wordfence security scan. We walk you through everything it does and explain why each step is important.

Our malware scanner is the best in the industry

The Wordfence security scan performs a variety of functions, but perhaps the most important is malware detection. Wordfence scan checks your site to ensure you have not been infected with malware.

As the leader in WordPress security, we see more WordPress malware than anyone else. We see tens of millions of attacks every day, giving us unrivaled access to the latest threat information. We also clean hundreds of hacked websites every month, giving us visibility into the latest malware variants and exploits.

Our team has a workflow where we collect malware samples in a repository for analysis. Then we test to see if our malware scanner already detects the variant. If it does then we move on. If not, then we create a new malware signature to detect the new malware variant. We run the signature through quality assurance to make sure it does not detect things it should not (known as ‘false positives’). Once the malware signature passes QA, we release it to our Premium customers immediately and then 30 days later our free customers receive the signature. That way we constantly release detection capability for new WordPress threats to our customers.

Unlike many companies in our space, our analysts and developers are completely focused on WordPress. We don’t have to divide our time securing desktop systems, mobile devices or network hardware. Ensuring that publishers can securely run their websites using WordPress is all we do.

Our scanner runs on your server, giving it access to your website’s source code. Malware detection rates for remote scanners are significantly worse than server based scans like ours. Remote scanners cannot access site source code. Ours does scan source code – and many malware variants hide in site source code.

Our scanner was built from the ground up to protect WordPress. Our depth of knowledge, coupled with our singular focus on WordPress has allowed us to produce the best WordPress malware scanning capability in the industry.

Checking for suspect files and changes makes it hard for attackers to hide their malware

In addition to looking for known malware, the Wordfence scanner compares your site’s files against the official WordPress.org repository. Any files that have been changed or appear to be out of place are reported to you. This additional step makes it very difficult for attackers to avoid detection.

We even give you the ability to revert changed files to the pristine version that is in the official WordPress repository when you detect a change.

Malware scanning so good, we added it to the firewall

In fall of 2016 we added a break-through feature, integrating our malware scanning capabilities into the Wordfence firewall. As traffic passes through the firewall and before it hits your website it is inspected using our malware scanner, blocking any requests that include malicious code.

This was a leap forward in detection capability. Many competitor products don’t have a firewall at all. And many don’t have a malware scanner. We provide both and instead of just a rule based firewall that blocks exploits, we actually detect and block malware payloads too with the scanning capability we integrated in 2016.

The safety of your content matters

Linking to spammy or malicious content can adversely impact your search engine rankings and reputation. For many sites, search traffic is a critical part of their marketing strategy.

It is difficult to stay on top of the quality of your outbound links for several reasons. First, the content on pages you link to can change over time, so even if the content was fine when you published the link, it can end up hurting you down the road.

Second, most active sites have more than one contributor, making it very difficult to stay on top of changes. And even if you have your posts and pages under control, malicious and spammy links can creep in via comments.

Wordfence helps you weed out links that harm your reputation by scanning your pages, posts and comments for malicious content and known malicious URLs. We alert you in the scan results to these problems in a timely manner. That gives you the ability to go in and remove the links to malicious sites before Google notices them and penalizes your search rankings.

Blacklist checks

Domain and IP blacklists are a powerful tool used by search engines, email providers and many others to keep their users safe. As a website owner, landing on a blacklist can have a lasting impact on your site traffic, SEO rankings and email delivery. And there a lot of ways to land on a blacklist, even if your site hasn’t been hacked.

If your site is running on shared hosting with a shared IP address, for example, your site can be blacklisted based on your neighbor’s behavior.

Wordfence Premium helps you protect your site’s reputation, alerting you quickly should your domain or IP be blacklisted. By reacting quickly you can minimize any adverse impact. The fix may be as simple as moving your site to another IP address or fixing content on your site that Google thinks is malicious.

Fixing the issue quickly is key because this will avoid your site visitors seeing a browser warning and will avoid search engine penalties. Wordfence provides early detection which leads to early fixes.

Sensitive File Checks

It’s much easier than you think to accidentally leave sensitive files lying around on your server. It only takes one misplaced configuration or backup file with the wrong permissions to arm an attacker with the information they need to compromise your site. Last year on this blog we wrote reported that 12.8% of sites scanned had at least one sensitive file visible to anyone on the internet.

Running regular Wordfence scans protects you from this risk by alerting you quickly to any issues, locking down or removing sensitive files before they fall into the wrong hands.

Removed and Abandoned Plugins

Last summer (2017) we added an important feature that alerts you when plugins have either been abandoned or removed from the WordPress.org plugin directory.

We define an abandoned plugin as one that hasn’t been updated in over two years. While it is possible that the plugin author is still engaged at that point and available to react to any security issues that arise, it’s not likely the case. We generally recommend that site owners replace or remove abandoned plugins if possible.

The WordPress.org team removes plugins for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately when they do so they rarely disclose why, and in many cases it is due to a security issue that hasn’t been addressed. If you’re unable to determine why a plugin was removed or you’ve confirmed that it was removed for security reasons you should remove it from your site. In cases where it was removed for non-security reasons, it may be okay to continue to run the plugin, but finding a well-maintained replacement is likely a better bet.

We tell you about weak passwords

The security of your website is only as strong as its weakest link. Every time you grant a user access to your site, especially administrators, you are relying on them to keep your site safe. Unfortunately not everyone uses strong passwords, putting your website at risk. Wordfence scan checks if any of your users are using very common passwords and performs an extended check on admin level accounts.

We let you know about core, plugin or theme vulnerabilities

A couple of years ago we published research showing that plugin vulnerabilities were the most common way attackers compromise WordPress websites. The third and fourth most common reasons were core and theme vulnerabilities. It goes without saying that staying on top of vulnerabilities in WordPress core, plugins and themes is critical.

Every time the Wordfence scanner runs it checks to see if you are running software with known security vulnerabilities. It also warns you about any other updates that are needed, just in case the author quietly slipped in a security fix, which happens more often than it should.

We keep making it better and faster

Our development team is always working on ways to make the scanner perform better. Over the last couple of years we delivered a number of innovative updates that improved performance and speed significantly. In Fall of 2016 we released a new version of the scanner that performed up to 18x faster than the previous version. In Summer of 2017 we introduced lightweight scanning and optimized scan timing across VPS instances. In a subsequent release that same summer we introduced short-circuit scan signatures, improving performance by up to 6x.

It’s even better with Premium

The malware scanner relies on threat intelligence developed by our awesome team of security analysts in the form of malware signatures. Premium customers receive updates in real-time as they are developed (free sites receive updates 30 days later). Detecting the latest malware lets you react quickly to a compromised website. In addition, Wordfence Premium delivers real-time updates to firewall rules and enables the real-time IP blacklist.

Conclusion

The Wordfence scanner is a critical component in a layered security strategy. Wordfence scan alerts you quickly to malware, blacklist issues, security vulnerabilities, important updates and other security issues. To take detection to the next level you can upgrade to Wordfence Premium and receive malware signature updates in real-time.

As always we welcome your feedback in the comments below and we’ll be around to reply.

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Dropbox hack leads to dumping of 68m user passwords on the internet

Data stolen in 2012 breach, containing encrypted passwords and details of around two-thirds of cloud firm’s customers, has been leaked

dropbox on an iPhone
The Dropbox data breach has highlighted the problem of password reuse. Photograph: Alamy

Popular cloud storage firm Dropbox has been hacked, with over 68m users’ email addresses and passwords dumped on to the internet.

The attack took place during 2012. At the time Dropbox reported a collection of user’s email addresses had been stolen. It did not report that passwords had been stolen as well.

The dump of passwords came to light when the database was picked up by security notification service Leakbase, which sent it to Motherboard.

The independent security researcher and operator of the Have I been pwned? data leak database, Troy Hunt, verified the data discovering both his account details and that of his wife.

Hunt said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that the data breach contains legitimate Dropbox passwords, you simply can’t fabricate this sort of thing.”

Dropbox sent out notifications last week to all users who had not changed their passwords since 2012. The company had around 100m customers at the time, meaning the data dump represents over two-thirds of its user accounts. At the time Dropbox practiced good user data security practice, encrypting the passwords and appears to have been in the process of upgrading the encryption from the SHA1 standard to a more secure standard called bcrypt.

Half the passwords were still encrypted with SHA1 at the time of the theft.

“The bcrypt hashing algorithm protecting [the passwords] is very resilient to cracking and frankly, all but the worst possible password choices are going to remain secure even with the breach now out in the public,” said Hunt. “Definitely still change your password if you’re in any doubt whatsoever and make sure youenable Dropbox’s two-step verification while you’re there if it’s not on already.”

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The original breach appears to be the result of the reuse of a password a Dropbox employee had previously used on LinkedIn, the professional social network that suffered a breach that revealed the password and allowed the hackers to enter Dropbox’s corporate network. From there they gained access to the user database with passwords that were encrypted and “salted” – the latter a practice of adding a random string of characters during encryption to make it even harder to decrypt.

Dropbox reset a number of users’ passwords at the time, but the company has not said precisely how many.

The hack highlights the need for tight security, both at the user end – the use of strong passwords, two-step authentication and no reuse of passwords – and for the companies storing user data. Even with solid encryption practices for securing users’ passwords, Dropbox fell foul of password reuse and entry into its company network.

Leading security experts recommend the use of a password manager to secure the scores of unique and complex passwords needed to properly secure the various login details needed for daily life. But recent attacks on companies includingbrowser maker Opera, which stores and syncs user passwords, and password manager OneLogin, have exposed the dangers of using the tool.

Picking the right password manager is just as crucial and using one in the first place.

A Dropbox spokesperson said: “There is no indication that Dropbox user accounts have been improperly accessed. Our analysis confirms that the credentials are user email addresses with hashed and salted passwords that were obtained prior to mid-2012. We can confirm that the scope of the password reset we completed last week did protect all impacted users.”