6 Vital Sources Causing WordPress And Website Security Weaknesses And What You Can Do About Them

Web security is complicated. It’s complex and that can seem overwhelming at times. Sure, we have the tools to detect the technical vulnerabilities associated with most web security incidents like cross-site scripting, man-in-the-middle attacks, SQL injections, and so on. As the technology to create those less-than-desirable capabilities advances, so does the technology to diagnose, prevent and solve them.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day cat and mouse game where you’re the good guy waiting around (with some protections in place) for the villain to spring out and attempt to steal your data or take down your site. But as you sit back and wait for the next heart-pounding issue to solve, ask yourself what the real cause is of it all. Let’s consider peeking behind the scenes and possibly track down the root of your next web security crisis before it happens.

In my experience, often, the root of the next major crisis isn’t some AI-powered phishing bot or SQL weakness in the recent update but rather issues created, regardless of intention, of actual, red-bloodied people. We’re all habitual by nature, and oftentimes those habits generate blind spots and create a culture of crisis management and problem-solving instead of crisis and problem prevention.

Know each place and platform that your data is stored and what risks are associated with it.

You wouldn’t let your kids sleep over at a house you don’t know with parents you’ve never met. Yet that’s exactly what most business owners do when it comes to their data. That invaluable data, internal and external (employees and customers alike) is sitting on a server somewhere. 

  • What software is on that server? 
  • What security infrastructure is in place, if any? 
  • What level or type of encryption is being used to protect it, if any? 
  • How often are updates and fixes applied? 
  • What percentage of the industry-wide hacks, attacks and security alarms involved this setup?

You see, knowing just the software you’re running on your database (MySQL, MariaDB, Oracle, etc.) and feeling secure with that limited knowledge is like assuming your kid is safe at a friend’s house because you know the general neighborhood where the house is located.

The data your company collects and stores is your responsibility. It’s imperative that you know how it’s collected, where it’s stored, and the risks associated with all aspects of the process and every choice made along the way.

Not fully utilizing the web security and analysis tools you already have.

Unless you’re springing for a fully managed hosting setup (like ServerWise provides) you absolutely should be losing a little sleep at night over your web security vulnerabilities. After all, a publicized hack can damage even the most hard-earned reputation of a company in a matter of hours.

Most likely, your web security infrastructure already includes a myriad of tools that you’re not using to their full potential. Beyond any premium services you are paying for, you should at the least have the following:

Application Firewalls: when was the last time you printed off, sat down and went over your cyber firewall logs with a highlighter?

Website Logging: your website log files are an invaluable resource into your inner security workings and possible vulnerabilities.

Google Analytics: no doubt your site has a Google Analytics account. When was the last time you logged in and spend some time absorbing your site’s numbers? You only sell in North America, so why are there so many IP addresses listed from Asia or Eastern Europe (geographic blacklisting time in my opinion)? And you sell a high-end B2B product that requires a desktop, so why did the number of mobile users accessing your site spike up 200% in the last three weeks and from where?

Patch Management: you most likely are using an automated patch management service or software to oversee, test and safely apply the hundreds of patches that are released each week. Have you ever looked at the patch management reports and taken note of any software (commercial, custom, or open source) on your servers that hasn’t been updated frequently or perhaps hasn’t even been updated in a year or more? Can that software that is no longer frequently updated be replaced with something superior?

Web Vulnerability Scanner: if you use a vulnerability scanner on your site and/or server, don’t leave the results up to a contract IT firm or a single employee. Sit down with the results log and go over it once every few months. Ask questions and make sure your interest in the vulnerabilities and fixes of your web security infrastructure is well known throughout your business.

Forcing IT staff to adhere to their strict roles for better time and resource management.

IT departments are notorious (I speak from experience) for trying to do everything for everyone at once. An IT department appears organized and clean to the outside eye, but within those offices’ chaos is rampant with everyone trying to do everything. Sometimes it’s driven by ego. Other times, it’s driven by the desire to help. Regardless of the reason, IT staff need to be singularly focused on their specific jobs, for which they are individual contributors. Trying to be all things at once leads to details being overlooked and nothing ever fully getting accomplished.

Patching holes and fixing vulnerabilities without paying attention to what else those scans are telling you.

A decent vulnerability scanner is going to catch and spotlight most of your web security holes and weaknesses. You’ll apply necessary patches and fixes and move to the next one. But what else could you be learning from those issues?

Think about it this way. You’re paying for a software program to analyze your website and database and cloud systems (if applicable) for vulnerabilities, but you’re getting considerably more value out of that. You’re also receiving a report on your staffing and operational vulnerabilities.

Ask yourself why the same issues keep popping up in the vulnerability scans? Why has the database software you’ve been using for ten years and updated every few days not been analyzed by your IT department for a possible superior replacement? What does the vulnerabilities you keep seeing in your web security tell you about your system management and overall IT operations and oversight?

A good business leader or IT head knows not to make assumptions.

We all want to point our finger at someone and say, “This is your responsibility now” so we don’t have to think about it or deal with it again. But that’s not good leadership. Even if you have a web security star or IT head, you need to take ownership of your web security. Schedule quarterly meetings with everyone involved and request updates. Know what they’ve done, what they’re doing and what they may need from you (hardware, additional services, etc.). When people know you’re interested, they work harder, and they know they can’t let something slide as easily.

Communication is only as efficient as the words used.

When it comes to web security, communication can be difficult. Valuable information is easily lost in the unnecessarily industry-specific terms IT pros toss around. Sure, most of us work with people all day long that use the same terminology, so we don’t think about it often. But when management wants to know something and understand something it’s important that the IT staff recalls that it’s their job to communicate practically and efficiently and that means using terms that everyone understands.

I’m not suggesting a dumbing down I’m only pointing out a universal truth. The head of a finance department knows most people working in other departments won’t understand all the terms of his industry, and why would they, it’s not their expertise or responsibility.

Put effort into delivery communications with other departments, especially management, that is understandable and universally recognizable. Tossing it a bunch of industry-specific terms isn’t going to make anyone in IT look more valuable or learned – it only wastes time and leads to preventable miscommunications.

In Conclusion: Site Security Is Also Very Human

In the end, through the frustrations and the stress, web security is no different from any other business challenge you’ve faced – personnel, workplace culture and communication. While the software tools you use play an important role, it’s the people using those tools you must focus on.

After all, as with anything in our personal life (romance, marriage, nutrition, etc.) unless you tackle the root cause of the issue with consistency and communication the problem will persist, and the cycle will continue.

Picture of Rad Mitkov
Rad Mitkov
Radoslav is a senior motion graphics engineer and designer specializing in 3D modeling prototypes for digital marketing platforms. Rad frequently writes on WordPress, site optimization and cybersecurity topics.