by Nancy Seeger | Featured Contributor
Having a healthy website doesn’t mean increasing your intake of green veggies, time spent at the gym, or even counting calories. Whew, did I have you worried there for a moment? Having a healthy website is more about keeping it secure from all the nasties out there such as malware, hacks, and viruses.
If you are an active blogger, you might have noticed WordPress has done several small updates lately. While the “Mobilegeddon” change has grabbed the majority of headlines, what you might not be aware of is a quiet war being waged in the web industry. This is due to a newly discovered vulnerability found in many things you use for your WordPress website.
Keeping Ahead of the Marauding Hordes – Security Threats
On April 20, it came to light that 17 top used WordPress plugins had the Cross-site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability that would allow hackers to take advantage of your website. Some of the more popular plugins include WordPress SEO; All In One SEO; JetPack; Google Analytics; Gravity Forms, etc. Additional plugins have also been discovered since then having the vulnerability, even WordPress itself.
But don’t worry, I’ve got your back! There are some nifty steps you can do to keep your website healthy from XSS and other threats. It’s just like updating any software and getting a few tools; it just needs some attention on a regular basis to keep things humming along!
The Green Veggie Steps for Healthy Websites
- Offsite Backups. When a malware attack, server crash, or simply a plugin conflict that brings the “white screen of death,” you will need to restore your website to an earlier version. Don’t count on a webhost to do backups, most do not keep much beyond 24 hours (if they even do backups). Use VaultPress or Backup Buddy for daily backups of your website (to an offsite location). Peace of mind!
- Use Strong Passwords. Top listed reason for hacked sites – weak passwords. Your business name with a number or two is easily hacked by automated scripts to your WordPress login page. Oh and if you have “admin” for your user login – you are very vulnerable. Use a strong password you don’t use anywhere else (use LastPass or 1Password to track passwords.)
- Update Your Plugins Regularly. When a security issue or bug is discovered, many developers are quick to get a fix out. Backup your website and then update your plugins. Check weekly for updates.
- Update WordPress. Most updates to the third digit release (for example the release change from 4.2.1 to 4.2.2) are security fixes, and you want those. Recent versions of WordPress have automated updates turned on for these minor updates by default. Occasionally there are plugin conflicts after a WordPress update; this is one of those times a daily backup is helpful to restore an earlier version of your website.
- Security Tools. Although the above steps will be a big help, it isn’t going to cover everything. A good security plugin like WordFence will help (but turn off live scanning, it eats up server resources.) I highly recommend signing up for Sucuri’s malware protection service, should disaster strike, they can fix your site and scans for malware (paid version).
Those are the basic steps to keep your website humming along! What steps are you doing to keep your website healthy and secure?
Want more tips? Read about more security plugins.
Nancy Seeger – Web Designer for the Performing Arts and Regular Folks
Nancy Seeger is based just outside of Washington DC in Virginia but still thinks of Michigan, her birth state, as home.
For Nancy, it has always been about the audience. First as a professional musician, then as an orchestra manager learning how to engage the public with marketing campaigns, even when websites were still considered optional.
After leaving orchestras, Nancy realized her passion for web design. She spent two years taking classes to hone her skills while working with her first client, a GRAMMY artist. Currently Nancy’s web design firm, Arts Assistance, creates sites for a variety of industries. Nancy believes it’s about connecting with the audience and blogs weekly, sharing website tips for businesses. She is a strong advocate of design as part of the marketing toolkit.
When not buried in Photoshop or code, Ms. Seeger thinks being green is buying a fancy espresso machine to cut out daily trips to Starbucks. Because she can’t live on espresso alone, she also loves drinking green smoothies (with her latté of course). Is there any better way to start the day?