The WordPress admin area allows you to manage all aspects of your site. However, leaving wp-admin improperly secured opens doors for attackers to compromise your site. This guide covers key strategies to lock down the backend.
As the central control panel, the wp-admin section presents ripe targets for cybercriminals. Once infiltrated, bad actors can tamper with sites by altering content, injecting spam or malware payloads, and harvesting user data. They can also leverage administrator privileges to install backdoors granting persistent access.
Therefore, website owners must follow WordPress hardening best practices to guard this sensitive area. The following 14 tips significantly reduce your site’s attack surface while still allowing easy content management.
1. Install a Web Application Firewall
Web application firewalls actively monitor incoming traffic targeting your site. They analyze requests for signs of exploitation attempts and block suspicious access to vulnerable endpoints.
For WordPress sites, we recommend considering options like Sucuri. Their WAF detects numerous attack patterns seeking wp-login and wp-admin access. It also has learning capabilities to spot previously unknown threats.
Implementing a WAF fortifies your externally-facing boundaries against automated attacks and abuse. Most solutions integrate with common hosting panels for simplified activation.
2. Password Protect the wp-admin Directory
Your hosting account likely utilizes Linux. So you can leverage built-in authentication mechanisms to add an extra password layer securing wp-admin.
Navigate to cPanel and find the Password Protect Directories interface under Security. Specify /wp-admin as the directory and assign a strong random password.
Now browsing to yoursite.com/wp-admin prompts for this new credential before permitting entry. Combined with disabling directory listing, this hides the admin path from unauthorized users.
3. Use Strong Passwords
When managing a WordPress site, you accumulate many critical passwords between the WP backend, database, web host, and more. Weak or reused credentials represent prime targets for account takeovers.
Always rely on randomly generated passwords containing upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. A length of 12+ characters ensures adequate complexity too.
Rather than trying to remember these robust passwords, use a dedicated password manager app instead. Top options like 1Password and LastPass encrypt your credentials and simplify sign-ins.
4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra identity confirmation step when users log in. It typically requires providing both the password and a verification code from an authenticator app.
For bolstering WordPress security, we recommend enabling 2FA selectively for admin user accounts only. Plugins like Google Authenticator simplify this using time-based one-time passwords tied to Google accounts.
With 2FA activated, an attacker would need to steal both your password and unlocked mobile device to gain admin access. This dramatically decreases the odds of account takeovers.
5. Limit Login Attempts
Online attackers frequently resort to automated brute force tactics when targeting WordPress wp-login pages. This involves continually guessing different password combinations until potentially cracking one.
Install plugin Login LockDown to thwart this. It lets you specify a maximum number of failed login attempts before locking out an IP address for a set duration. This frustrates guessing efforts.
You can additionally use another plugin like Limit Login Attempts to trigger IP blocking after just a few false password entries. Combining these exponentially reduces exposure to brute force.
6. Restrict Access by IP Address
WordPress allows defining authorized IP ranges permitted to access the admin dashboard and tools. Set this via .htaccess directives on the server.
First identify your own static home or office IP address. Then limit wp-login, wp-admin, etc access solely to this IP using allow directives.
This largely eliminates the attack surface from random external parties. You still retain convenient remote management via your designated home IP address.
7. Turn Off Login Hints
By default after failed WordPress backend logins, the system reveals whether the supplied username exists or not. This aids attackers in gradually determining valid usernames.
Install a plugin like WPS Hide Login to disable any login hints after unsuccessful attempts. Instead it displays a generic message, obstructing data leaks assisting attackers.
This better adheres to security best practices of failing closed rather closed open. When authentication fails, systems should not disclose why to potential adversaries.
8. Enforce Strong Passwords for Users
Allowing weak passwords for non-admin WordPress user accounts still introduces security risks. Compromised author accounts let attackers deface site content or post spammy links.
The iThemes Security plugin fortifies backends by forcing strong randomly generated passwords for all users. It also enables two-factor for each account, further blocking unauthorized access.
While admins require the highest security, never neglect lower privileged users either. Their accounts can provide pathways for site integrity or reputation attacks too.
9. Force Password Resets for All Users
Over time as sites mature, earlier user accounts accumulate stale passwords set years ago likely no longer meeting modern security standards.
A plugin like Emergency Password Reset facilitates mass password resets for all users to align with current best practices. It triggers prompts for fresh robust credentials upon next logins.
Periodically forcing password rotations for all users ensures the entire site utilizes properly complext passwords lessening the potential for cracking.
10. Maintain Up-to-Date Software
Core WordPress, installed plugins, active themes, and dependent libraries require ongoing updates to patch vulnerabilities. Modern releases address discovered security issues and bugs.
Set all WordPress installs to automatic background updates for seamless maintenance protecting against publicly known defects. Test updates on staging environments first though to catch compatibility glitches.
Make it a habit too to periodically check plugins and themes for recent updates. Outdated software represents the leading preventable security threat vector.
11. Build Custom wp-login and wp-register Pages
The default login and registration pages provide little access control or customization. For enhanced security replace them with custom equivalents.
Well-architected custom gateway pages enable far greater user management flexibility. You can limit specific types of access, add CAPTCHAs, implement passwordless authentication, and more while streamlining branding continuity from public pages.
Programming custom login and registration interfaces requires developer assistance but pays dividends for administration security.
12. Learn WordPress User Roles and Permissions
WordPress ships with predefined user roles like Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor and Subscriber. But often sites utilize the privileges of these groups inefficiently.
Always follow the principle of least privilege in assigning user roles. Editors often receive admin powers they rarely need. This unnecessarily widens exposure should their account face compromise.
Take time to properly understand what capabilities each role provides. Then judiciously grant the minimum required permissions per user to limit security blast radius if credentials leak.
13. Restrict WordPress Dashboard Access
Sometimes sites want to programmatically deny specific user roles from backend dashboard access while still permitting theme to publish content via the front end.
Install plugins like Remove Dashboard Access to selectively block dash visibility for roles like Authors who only require submitting posts, not site administration. Limit dash view to editors and admins only.
Reducing the number dashboard-authorized accounts limits your attack surface while still facilitating content updating by designated parties. Apply least privilege access.
14. Automatically Log Out Idle Users
User sessions with prolonged inactivity pose security risks should devices get stolen without having signed out properly. Enforce idle timeouts.
The plugin Inactive Logout detects idle WordPress sessions and logs out users after a customizable duration of backend inactivity. This negates hijacking risks from unattended open admin pages.
Mandating idle logouts ensures abandoned administration sessions close automatically limiting the window for potential unauthorized access.
Hardening WordPress security comprehensively requires addressing the admin login and backend dashboard. Follow this guide’s tips like enforcing complex passwords, MFA, IP whitelisting, and imposed idle timeouts.
Combining multiple protective measures collectively fortifies wp-login, wp-admin and other management paths against intrusion. But also schedule recurring penetration testing to validate defenses against the latest attack tactics.
With cyberthreats continually evolving, an effective security regimen necessitates constant vigilance. But diligently safeguarding your WordPress backend keeps your site reliable, stable and trustworthy for visitors.