Plugins are like add-on software that extends the functionality of the core WordPress platform. They enhance what WordPress can do. However, with over 59,765 plugins available for download and a whopping one billion downloads in total, the security aspect becomes crucial.
The security team responsible for analyzing these plugins faces an ever-increasing challenge. It’s also a challenge for users who might find it daunting to pick the right ones from the overwhelming number of options.
In this article, we aim to provide you with valuable insights and practical tips on how to assess the security of WordPress plugins. We’re not focusing on plugins that specifically add security features to WordPress. Instead, our goal is to help you make informed choices when selecting any type of plugin, with security as a top priority in your decision-making process.
The following tips will start off this article and are here to help you with the safety analysis of WordPress plugins:
- Be choosy and cautious when making your selections.
- Make care to constantly keep your plugins updated.
- Remove or update any inactive plugins.
- Delete plugins that are listed in the WPScan Vulnerability Database without fixes.
- Conduct regular analyses using WP Scan.
- Keep in mind that even premium plugins can have security issues.
- Thoroughly examine input, output, and credentials for security purposes.
How can you pick a WordPress plugin with care and finesse?
With more than 59,765 options, many of which serve similar functionality, you need to be selective and adopt criteria for the selection of WordPress plugins. The following list of analytical criteria is short and sweet.
Download statistics versus the number of active installations
With over 59,765 options available, many of them offering similar functions, it’s crucial to discern and establish criteria for choosing WordPress plugins. There are straightforward and easy-to-understand criteria to help you in this selection process.
Download Statistics vs. Active Installations
It might be tempting to focus solely on the number of downloads for a plugin, but this can be misleading. What really matters is the number of active installations, as it indicates how many WordPress websites are currently using the plugin. Let’s take the WP-PageNavi plugin as an example; it excels in both aspects. It provides features for content pagination and integrates seamlessly with native WordPress functions, making it an essential tool.
- Active Installations: More than a million websites are actively using this plugin, showcasing its reliability and usefulness to users.
- Daily Downloads: It maintains an average of over one thousand downloads per day, highlighting its continuous popularity.
- Overall Downloads: It has been downloaded over six million times, further demonstrating its widespread appeal.
By considering the active installations and user satisfaction, you can make more informed choices when selecting WordPress plugins.
WordPress plugin reviews, support, translation, and compatibility
The free plugins you find in the official directory contain valuable information that helps assess different selection criteria. It’s important to consider user reviews to understand expectations and the user experience with the plugin. When evaluating security in WordPress plugins, focus on aspects like software compatibility, support, and developer experience.
If a plugin requires an outdated version of WordPress, it’s advisable to steer clear of it. The risk here is the lack of ongoing development and utilization of new features and classes, and it may lead to the inefficient use of soon-to-be obsolete resources. It’s also essential to check for information on which version of the content management system (CMS) the plugin is compatible with. Ideally, it should support the current WordPress version, indicating frequent updates and alignment with new guidelines.
To gauge developer experience, you can consider metrics like the number of downloads, quality, and overall performance of the plugins. When we talk about quality, we mean factors like the total number of activations, user reviews, translations, responsiveness in providing support, and compatibility with the current WordPress version.
However, it’s important to note that free plugin support can vary, and you might need to consider additional factors. Developers often have other responsibilities to support themselves financially, which can affect their commitment to providing support. For this reason, plugins that follow the freemium model typically have dedicated professionals to assist users of the free version, ensuring a positive user experience with the product.
Paid (premium) or free plugins?
Premium plugins, often referred to as paid plugins, may pose challenges for those accustomed to free options. One benefit lies in the support they offer, accessible through a dedicated channel staffed by professionals ready to assist and resolve issues.
Free plugins, on the other hand, hold their own advantages. When popular, it’s relatively easy to find fellow users who can share their experiences with you. Moreover, the official directory pages for free plugins typically lack the necessary information to aid in making an informed selection, as mentioned previously.
However, the most crucial aspect to consider when evaluating WordPress plugins is their sustainability, ensuring they function effectively both now and in the future.
Why is it crucial to update plugins periodically?
This is an exceedingly important aspect to consider. When assessing the security of WordPress plugins, the process starts right from the moment of their installation. It is essential, mandatory, and vital to ensure that your WordPress components remain current.
WordPress regularly releases new versions of its software approximately every three to four months. These updates encompass essential security enhancements, novel features, and other improvements that render previous versions obsolete. It is imperative for plugins to keep pace with this ongoing evolution. If there are no available updates for the plugins you are using, this is a clear warning sign that they have not kept up with the latest advancements, making them outdated and likely susceptible to security vulnerabilities.
Why do inactive plugins cause problems?
Their codes are stored on the server and are open for exploration. This simply indicates that the functions provided by the plugins that are not currently in use are still part of the core platform.
Having these codes on the server exposes a potential vulnerability that malicious individuals can exploit. If these codes are no longer needed in the foreseeable future, it’s advisable to remove them. The rule is straightforward: always keep all your plugins up to date. This applies to both the active and inactive ones.
Plugins can affect your website in a number of ways, namely:
- Access the data on your website.
- Gain entry to the database.
- Incorporate banners and ads.
- Send a large number of emails from your server.
- Guide your website to unwanted links.
- Include references and links to other websites without their permission.
- Disable your website by using a lot of resources.
- And so forth.
How do I get rid of bad WordPress plugins?
Examining the security of WordPress plugins is a method to eliminate troublesome plugins that could disrupt your daily business operations. Certain tools can aid in this process, enabling you to be more vigilant and ensure that the security of your selected WordPress plugins is well-maintained.
Have WPScan and WPScan Vulnerability Database as an ally
Use the WPScan Vulnerability Database for Enhanced WordPress Plugin Security Analysis
To effectively assess the security of WordPress plugins, it’s crucial to have reliable allies in the process. WPScan serves as a robust tool that greatly assists in this endeavor.
Whether you are a developer or possess some expertise, consider employing WPScan to scrutinize your WordPress installation. This tool conducts vulnerability checks and furnishes you with a comprehensive report detailing the necessary actions to rectify any existing security breaches.
Even individuals who aren’t developers can derive benefits from the WPScan Vulnerability Database. This resource houses an extensive collection of safety incident data pertaining to plugins, themes, and the WordPress core itself. Their user-friendly search engine makes it accessible for anyone to assess the security of WordPress plugins.
Employing WPScan, along with the WPScan Vulnerability Database, guarantees that you select WordPress plugins devoid of security issues. If, by chance, a plugin exhibits any security problems, it is imperative to evaluate its versions and seek out an alternative that has addressed the issue. If the problem remains unresolved, it’s advisable to disregard the plugin.
Should you wish to stay informed about any additions to the WPScan Vulnerability Database, you can register your email to receive notifications when new data is added.
Considerations: Input, Output, and Credentials
It is of paramount importance for WordPress plugins to handle the trio of input, output, and credentials with care due to their critical significance for security.
Prior to entering and storing data, it must undergo treatment to avert potential attacks and guarantee that only processed and secure information is considered. WordPress and PHP offer specific functions to facilitate this task.
Output data pertains to the presentation of information to users via an interface. Functions responsible for this should also undergo preprocessing to prevent the inclusion of HTML tags as attribute values, thereby guarding against issues such as cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.
The third element in this triad revolves around user credentials. The mere authentication of a user in the WordPress dashboard doesn’t automatically grant them access to all information and resources. The user’s role and capabilities must be taken into account.
Given that WordPress powers over 24% of the global web, it’s natural for attackers to target its user base. Plugins that enjoy widespread usage provide avenues for potential exploitation.
The most fundamental advice to adhere to is the use of plugins sourced only from reputable outlets. Three notable sources include the official WordPress.org directory, businesses that sell premium plugins, and companies offering plugins to integrate with the WordPress ecosystem.
The last option raises questions. If a plugin is free, why not make it available in the official WordPress.org directory? A commendable example is MailChimp, which lists all WordPress plugins compatible with its platform and directs users to the respective plugin’s directory page.
Some tools for security analysis of WordPress plugins
WordPress is generally a secure platform. It offers a wide range of plugins that can add exciting features and possibilities to your site. However, it’s crucial to follow certain criteria when choosing and using plugins to ensure that you’re using them safely.”
Analyzing the security aspects of WordPress plugins is a critical step in maintaining a secure website. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can make informed choices when selecting and managing plugins, reducing the risk of security breaches and protecting your site’s integrity and reputation.
Remember, security is an ongoing process. Regularly update your plugins, monitor your website for vulnerabilities, and stay informed about the latest security best practices in the WordPress community. Your dedication to security will pay off in the long run, ensuring your
FAQ on Security Aspects Of WordPress Plugins
1. How can I find out if a WordPress plugin has a history of security issues?
You can check the WordPress Plugin Repository for user reviews, the plugin’s changelog, and any mentions of security updates. Additionally, consider using online resources and forums where users discuss their experiences with the plugin’s security.
2. Are all free WordPress plugins less secure than premium ones?
Not necessarily. Security isn’t solely determined by price. Both free and premium plugins can be secure or vulnerable. The key is to assess the factors mentioned in this article, such as developer reputation and update frequency, to determine a plugin’s security.
3. What should I do if I discover a security issue with a WordPress plugin?
Report the issue to the plugin developer as soon as possible. In the meantime, consider deactivating or removing the plugin to mitigate the risk. There are also security plugins available that can help you temporarily secure your site while the issue is resolved.
4. Is it safe to use older, less frequently updated plugins?
Using older plugins can be risky because they may have unpatched vulnerabilities. It’s safer to choose well-maintained plugins that receive regular updates and security patches.