The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best WordPress Plugins to protect against vulnerabilities
Most small website owners who don’t use WordPress security plugins believe that only those websites with huge traffic base are prone to malicious attacks. The reality is that just because your website is small, doesn’t mean that your site is secure from malicious attacks.
In fact, small websites are actually an easier target for hackers because most of them don’t take any safety precautions to protect the site from hackers.
If that sounds like you, your website is probably being attacked right now. You’re not aware of it just yet - but if you had to look at logs, you’ll see that there are plenty of malicious probes going on, seeing whether they can find a problem in your website which can be exploited.
Unless you take any safety precautions quickly, you could be allowing the bad guys to sabotage your online business.
This roundup post on the best WordPress security plugins wants to make sure everybody is protecting their WordPress from hackers.
When it comes to choosing a WP protection plugin, there is no one size fits all solution. Each one is unique in terms of the features it offers.
Take a look at each one of them below, and install those products that you believe best suit your needs. Whatever you do, DO NOT leave this website without having installed a plugin to secure your WP - for sure one of the best WordPress hacking prevention tips one can give you.
1. Security Ninja
This is not one of the more popular products out there, but it's certainly one of my favourites. This is a top-rated product which takes plenty of preventive action to make sure that there is no chance for compromise, rather than waiting for attacks to happen.
Essentially, SecurityNinja looks for potential problems, vulnerabilities, 0-day exploits, versions of old software, including the software actually running on your server (such as PHP versions, MySQL versions, Apache versions and tests).
Now, the difference between this and other products is that Security Ninja does not perform any changes on your installation - it allows you to do the changes yourself, essentially making sure that you can decide what actions you want to take to fix the problems which have been identified.
This makes a lot of sense - essentially, you might know about specific things and have valid reasons why they are in place. Moreover, it might be that if you actually have a 3rd party tool making changes to your site, things can break without your knowledge.
Let's have a look at few of the excellent features:
- 50+ checks to find any issues with your install
- brute forces your website so that it is prepared for such attacks
- WP core + external software tests
- Checks for known and common behaviours which can result in getting hacked
This right here, is a tool for those who are serious about protecting their website.
PROS: Does not actually change or tweak files on your installation so that you are in full-control.
CONS: If you are not actually familiar or technical with some of the more serious problems and how to fix them, you might be left with question marks on whether your WP is protected or not, since SecurityNinja does not perform changes.
There is a free version of the tool which you can download from here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/security-ninja/
Price: Free for the standard versions, starts from $29 for the PRO version
iThemes Security is one of the best WordPress hardening plugins in the WP official directory, (formerly known as Better WP Security). With 30+ ways to protect your website, it ensures that your website is not an easy target for hackers.
If you would like to try their free version before switching to a premium user, you can download it from here but of course, the Pro version offers much better protection for a very good price.
Some of the pro features include but are not limited to
- Two-factor authentication
- WordPress user check
- Enforce strong passwords for all users
- Regular malware scan with Sucuri Sitecheck
- iThemes Sync Integration for up to 10 websites for free
You can easily review and take action if you find any potential threats. Once you logged in to WordPress admin navigate to Security>> Settings to assess the current state of your site and enable only those protection features you need.
Pros: One of the best WordPress plugins for any kinds of WordPress website with advanced features you’ll ever need.
Cons: Like any other advanced products to secure your installation, it also has the potential to cause problems because it could make significant changes to database and files. This is not the right tool if you’re on a shared hosting platform because it could consume lots of resources during the scan.
Should you use it?
The pricing starts from just $48, so it is worth every penny. Indeed, it is one of the most advanced WP security plugins in the market and quite possibly, the only one you’ll ever need.
Personal- $48 for 2 sites
Freelancer- $60 for 10 sites
Developer- $90 for unlimited sites
Plugin suite- $149 for developer license for all of the iThemes plugins
3. Malcare - One Dashboard to monitor ALL your websites
We've saved the best for last in this roundup.
One of the recent options we've discovered is Malcare. Essentially, this is a security service for your website, which does things slightly differently than the rest of the services which we've discussed.
Essentially, Malcare has a full dashboard of all of the sites which you manage. So besides the standard hardening functionality (such as firewall, core file changes scanning, theme and plugin updates etc.), you will be able to manage aLL of your sites directly from one place.
In terms of features, as you see above, it will give you an overview of any problems which you have on your site. The beauty is that thanks to the helper plugin which gets installed on your site, you can perform any security changes and updates directly from this dashboard. This is an essential feature for those who manage websites for other companies (or their clients) - because you can just log in to this dashboard and perform all security updates from the same place.
Pros: One single dashboard to monitor and manage all sites under your care.
Cons: none that we are aware of right now
Should you use it?
We find the dashboard to be an excellent feature of this plugin. It also has the ability to install the helper plugin directly through the dashboard, making literally the only place you need to log on to. We do believe it's one of the best options out there for those who manage and secure multiple WP websites.
Price: $59/month for up to 20 sites which works out at about $3/site/month for developers. If you are looking for a personal plan, it starts at $99/year, which is very fair.
When you enable the Sucuri products such as CloudProxy (Sucuri products are not your typical WordPress plugins - they do protection on their site, not yours), your entire traffic goes through Sucuri’s cloud proxy firewall before reaching your web host. That means the firewall blocks most of the brutal attacks before it reaches your site.
CloudProxy comes with the website security bundles and it needs some DNS changes to activate it, so it's not directly related to our list - yet it will still provide as much (if not better) protection.
Best of all, it sends only legitimate traffic to your website it consumes less bandwidth and improves performance. Unlike all other WordPress plugins we featured in this post, Sucuri is billed annually.
As of now, the pricing starts from $199.99/year.
If you’re looking for a free version, you may download it from here. The free version offers seven key features including activity audit logging, file integrity monitoring and blacklist monitoring, etc.
By installing the premium version, you can take an in-depth scanning which helps you to figure out if there are any server-side or theme/plugin issues.
Pros: Sucuri is a company that creates tools and plugins for securing websites on different platforms including WordPress. No other option here can secure your installation with a DNS level firewall. Best of all, it improves the performance of your WP.
Cons: The price is significant comparing to other WP plugins.
Should you install it?
Sucuri plugin is the best bet if you’re looking for the most comprehensive protection. If the price is OK with you, I’ll strongly recommend you to start using their service. For more information, visit our Sucuri review vs Wordfence review.
5. All in One WP Security & Firewall
Looking for a complete and convenient protection that enforces a lot of good practices on your WP? Then, all in One WP Security & Firewall plugin is one of your first stops and definitely worth trying.
This is one of the highest rated plugins for securing your installation in the official WordPress directory.
Incidentally, if you want to implement WordPress security to prevent hacking, we've got you covered, if your WordPress has been hacked, we've got you sorted too.
All in One Security and Firewall is a comprehensive and powerful security tool which will take a proper care of your site’s safety. It monitors your entire website and checks it for vulnerabilities, malware, force login attacks, and any issues or problems occurring on your server.
The settings for malware scanning are fully customizable.
The plugin uses an outstanding points grading system to measure how well your website is protected based on the features activated.
It also comes with an awesome firewall functionality that will take your firewall protection to a whole new level and block out malicious scripts before they even hit your site code.
It is a fully featured product despite being a free one. It comprises almost every WordPress hardening features you'll ever need.
- User account protection
- User log in protection
- Database hardening
- File system hardeing
- Blacklist and firewall functionality
Pros: This is the only options in the list that doesn’t offer a pro version. Undoubtedly, this one is the best free WordPress security plugins.
Cons: It may create a conflict with other functions if the advanced functionality is enabled. You may need to test it before enabling it on your live installation.
Should you install it?
As the name denotes, the plugin is an all-in-one solution for most of the beginner bloggers will ever need. Since it is free, there is nothing to complain about it. It works as it describes.
With 1.8+ million downloads, Wordfence is the most downloaded plugins in the official directory.
If you would like to try its free version, you may download it from here
Wordfence is for you if you're looking for one of the best plugins for hardening WordPress that is bundled with all of the hardening features you'll ever need. The downside is that there is a bit of learning curve because if you enable high sensitivity scanning, it might return lots of false positives.
Depending on your level of expertise, Wordfence lets you scan and fix issues by yourself. Once you scanned the installation, it shows you the result as either 'critical' or 'warning' level issues. When you need more help, you’ll need to take a look at their extensive documentation to see how to fix most of the issues the product reveals.
Pros: Offers tons of features and is being consistently updated to fight against known vulnerabilities.
Cons: The downside is that there is a bit of learning curve because if you enable high sensitivity scanning, it might return lots of false positives. It could affect the performance of your website if it is on a shared hosting server.
Should you install it?
This is the right tool for those who take their website protection seriously. The pro version is not for you if you wanted a simple product that works out of the box.
Unlike most other items in this list, Wordfence requires a recurring subscription.
Price: Pricing starts at $8.25 per month
7. Swift Security Bundle - N/A
One of the best things about Swift Security Bundle is that it totally hides the fact that your website is created on the WP platform.
By enabling the Hide WordPress module, you can rename your original file path, which makes it harder for malicious users to access and exploit any known themes or plugins vulnerabilities.
Another useful feature is their WordPress Firewall module. It helps you prevent common threats like SQL injection, file path manipulation, and vulnerable file uploads.
The product also scans all of your core files before installing it on your website. Besides that, it automatically scans your website at a specified interval.
Pros: This tool helps you to protect your site from mass hacking attempts that are primarily targeted at WordPress platform. Additionally, it offers basic code scanning and malware protection functionalities. It is being updated regularly and works seamlessly with almost any kind of sites like eCommerce, forums, and niche social networks, etc.
Cons: In order to hide the platform, this Swift simply changes the file path. However, there are hundreds of other ways to figure out the CMS of your website, so it doesn’t completely hide that you’re on WP.
Should you install it?
If you’re looking for a basic way to secure your website from hackers, that allows you to scan and protect your site from some common vulnerabilities and threats, this could be the right choice. It does what it claims, so definitely worth the price.
(No longer available)
- Block malicious IPs both automatically and manually.
- Its virtual keyboard prevents keylogging.
- Customize WP log in URL and hide it from general access.
- Blocks bots log in by enabling captcha log in
After installing the download, visit the admin panel and navigate to Settings> Security Manager. Here you can manage the settings and monitor how secure your website is.
Pros: This tool is primarily focused on preventing alleged entry to your WP admin. It is one of the best products that prevent your site from brute force attack for the cheapest price.
Cons: If you’re looking to protect your site from theme or plugin vulnerability exploitation, this might not be the right option.
Should you use it?
If you used to log in to your installation from publicly accessible computers (e.g. internet cafe) you may consider using this because it protects your site from keylogging and other threats. Since it offers some specific protection features only, you'll need to take a detailed look at the full list of features and ask yourself if you need them on your site before making the purchase.
9. Hide My WP
Hide My WP is one of the best WordPress security plugins in the CodeCanyon marketplace with 10k+ downloads. It prevents attacks from wannabe hackers by hiding the fact that your website is on a WordPress platform.
Similar to Swift, it modifies the paths of your files and directories without changing the locations.
Some other useful features of Hide My WP are:
- Hides page and wp-admin area.
- Spy notification feature
- Disallow direct access to theme files
Once you installed the plugin, in the General settings tab of the configuration page, you can check those options you would like to hide. You can change the permalinks structures by clicking on the Permalinks & URLs tab.
Pros: Similar to Swift, this product also protects from mass hacking attempts that are primarily targeted at this WP CMS by hiding it. Best of all, it costs nearly half the price of Swift. However, do keep in mind that it doesn’t offer as many features as Swift Bundle.
Cons: Even though it helps you to protect against targeted attacks, according to many experts, securing through obscuring is a practice that should be discouraged.
Should you install it?
If you're looking for an option that simply obscures WP, this plugin is the right choice.
We often recommend you to scan your WordPress themes and plugins before installing it on your website using a free malware checker tool like VirusTotal.com. It helps you analyze suspicious files using 40+ antivirus applications.
If you’re looking for a premium options that integrate with VirusTotal and Sucuri for malware scanning, Smart Security Tools could be an excellent choice. Unlike most other plugins, after scanning your website, it will not only provide the vulnerability report but also hardening suggestions you need to follow to secure your site.
After installing it, you can access the dashboard where you can find how secure your installation is.
If any action is needed at your end, the menu changes to red color. If you clicked the menu, you’ll be asked to take a collection of hardening tweaks for better protection.
Pros: This is one of the best WordPress scanner plugins in the ThemeForest marketplace. It also allows you to do easy to set up WordPress hardening tweaks and powerful .htaccess enhancement. Best of all, it has been regularly updated.
Cons: Tweaking .htaccess can be risky especially if you’re not 100% sure what you’re doing. You’ll need to read the documentation properly before tweaking it.
Should you install it?
This is the right option if you’re looking for a comprehensive tool for finding and fixing WordPress vulnerabilities.
11. WPMUDEV Defender
If you’re looking for the best WordPress security plugin that allows you to conduct regular scans on your website, Defender could be an excellent choice. After scanning your websites aside from providing WordPress vulnerability reports it also gives you safety suggestions so that you can guard your site for better protection without hiring a WP expert.
Do keep in mind that Defender is the part of WPMUDev’s premium membership. You can only access it by becoming their premium member.
Below are a few benefits of using WPMUDEV Defender.
(Speaking of membership, have you have a look at the top 25+ WordPress Membership themes and plugins you need to create a members site written also by CollectiveRay? See it all here: https://www.collectiveray.com/wp/themes/top-wordpress-membership)
- Conduct plugins, themes, and core vulnerability scans
- Its audit logging functionality tracks everything happens on your website including log in attempts, logs of comments and posts, etc.
- Always monitor whether your site is being flagged as unsafe.
The Dashboard is beautiful and intuitive.
You can easily harden the website, scan or monitor if your site is blacklisted right from the dashboard page.
Pros: If you’re looking for a product that scans, audits, and take backups of your installation, Defender has got you covered.
Cons: You need to become a premium member of WPMUDev in order to access the product.
Should you use it?
One of the best things about WPMU premium membership is that it offers 24/7 expert WordPress support. By signing up for the premium membership and by installing Defender, you can assure that you get a premium expert support all day long.
Price: You’ll need to become a premium member of WPMUDev.org in order to download and install Defender. The membership cost is $49/month.
This plugin is a different kind of plugin from the rest of the ones which we've listed above. We still believe it's a necessary tool, especially for those who have websites which are accessed by a large number of different authors and administrators over which you don't have direct control.
Essentially, this plugin keeps a full audit log of the actions that your users have been taking on the website where it is installed.
As you can see above, when you installed the plugin, you are now able to see a log of all the actions which are happening on the site. The great thing that there are literally hundreds of different actions you can log. You can choose to customize to only audit the actions which interest you. For example, if you don't care about 404 page access, you don't have to log that action.
The plugin is able to audit:
- Various different changes to contents and comments
- User activity and changes to user profiles
- Database changes
- Plugin changes
- Theme changes
- Menu changes
- Widget changes
- Multisite changes
- Changes to 3rd party plugins (BBPress, Yoast and WooCommerce)
- etc. etc
Of course, all of these actions might actually get overwhelming eventually, so the best thing to do is to only audit those changes that concern you.
Pros: If you’re looking for a product that keeps full logs of what is happening by the different users accessing and using your site, this plugin is a perfect choice
Cons: We haven't seen any particular things we didn't like with this plugin.
Should you use it?
For sure websites which have many authors or users who are able to access the site need to be able to know who did which changes. We believe this is a necessary tool for all those users who could run into problems if they don't strictly monitor what their users have been doing.
Price: You’ll need to buy a license to access some of the advanced features of the product, such as Email Notifications, Session Management, Database integration etc. The price starts at $89 for a single site license.
Which WordPress security plugin works for you?
We do strongly believe that installing one of the above-mentioned options out there should be one of the very first things you should do on all of your WordPress sites. There are much too many risks to take WordPress hacking lightly. If you're not using one of the above WordPress security plugins, which do you use? Have you found any problems with the above, or is there anything you'd like to comment. Speak to us below.