It’s no secret that WordPress, powering nearly 40% of all websites globally, is a common target for cybercriminals. They often target specific pages like xmlrpc.php or login.php, seeking vulnerabilities to exploit and gain unauthorized access. As a WordPress administrator, it is crucial to understand the techniques available to block this malicious traffic, thus bolstering the security of your website.
Two of the common methods employed to secure a WordPress website include blocking IP addresses with a firewall and blocking user-agents using ModSecurity. We will delve deeper into these approaches, and analyze which is the more preferable option and why. Additionally, we’ll discuss the software and services that can assist in blocking these attacks.
Blocking IP Addresses with a Firewall
A firewall operates as a shield between your WordPress site and incoming traffic. One of the most effective techniques to deter hackers is to block suspicious IP addresses. These might be IPs from which multiple failed login attempts originate, IPs linked to known malicious activities, or even IP ranges from geographical areas from which you don’t expect or desire traffic.
Wordfence, Sucuri, and Cloudflare are some popular firewall solutions. They offer comprehensive security services like malware scanning, login security, and live traffic monitoring, along with IP blocking. By using these solutions, you can manually block an IP address, or set rules to automatically block IPs after a certain number of failed login attempts, mitigating brute force attacks.
Using ModSecurity to Block User-Agents
ModSecurity is an open-source web application firewall (WAF) that provides a layer of protection to your website from various types of attacks. It can block traffic based on many criteria, including the user-agent string, which is a piece of information the browser sends to the server to identify itself.
By leveraging ModSecurity, you can block or limit traffic from suspicious user-agents, like those linked to known malicious bots or web scrapers. However, be cautious, as many legitimate web crawlers, such as Googlebot, also use user-agent strings to identify themselves.
To block a specific user-agent with ModSecurity, you would add a custom rule in your ModSecurity configuration file, identifying the user-agent strings that you wish to block.
Which is Preferable – Blocking IP Addresses or User-Agents?
Choosing between blocking IP addresses and user-agents depends on your unique circumstances. Each method has its own advantages and potential drawbacks. Blocking IP addresses is a robust way to stop unwanted traffic from a particular source. It can be particularly useful in preventing brute force attacks. However, this method could potentially block legitimate users if not handled properly.
On the other hand, blocking user-agents can help stop malicious bots. But since user-agent strings can easily be faked or rotated, it is less reliable than IP blocking. Also, over-zealous blocking may inadvertently block legitimate bots, such as search engine crawlers, affecting your site’s SEO.
A more effective security strategy typically involves a combination of both approaches. Using a robust firewall to block suspicious IP addresses, along with ModSecurity to limit potentially harmful user-agents, provides a more comprehensive security solution.
Software and Services to Block Attacks
A myriad of software and services are available to fortify your WordPress site. Firewalls such as Wordfence, Sucuri, and Cloudflare are widely employed due to their comprehensive security features. These include IP blocking, intrusion detection and prevention, malware scanning, and DDoS protection.
Implementing ModSecurity might require a degree of technical expertise. However, hosting providers like InMotion Hosting and WebHostingHub have you covered. They offer pre-configured security settings and easy integration of ModSecurity, simplifying its deployment for their clients.
Additionally, consider using a security-centric WordPress plugin, like iThemes Security or All In One WP Security & Firewall. These plugins provide a broad spectrum of security features including login security, file integrity monitoring, and various security hardening measures.
Maintaining robust security for your WordPress website involves deploying a multilayered defense strategy to counter different types of attacks. By leveraging IP blocking, user-agent blocking, and dependable security software and hosting services, you can significantly mitigate the vulnerability of your WordPress site, fostering a safer and more secure online environment.