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How To Protect Your WordPress From Brute-force Attacks

maxresdefaultLast week a large distributed brute-force attack was launched against WordPress Blogs. One of the first to notice the attack was Cloudflare. Not only did they detect the attack, they automatically protected your WordPress site if you had an account with them.

On this blog post, we want to give you some details of the attack, what to do if you were compromised and things you can do going forward to protect your site from future attacks.

The attack

The attack is simple. Because WordPress by default does not limit the number of logins attempts a person can try, the attackers created a bot that identified WordPress sites and tried to brute-force the login using common username/password combinations.

A total of 2927 common username/passwords were tried. All of them are simple usernames and password. Here’s a sample of 10 combinations used in the attack:


Admin:passwd
Admin:parol
Admin:pass
admin:admins
admin:administrator
admin:administrators
admin:Admin
jessica:JMR9760
jessica:JMR9760
jessica:JMR976
admin:qwerty

Although the list is short (<3000) it looks like it was highly effective. HostGator reported up to 90,000 IP’s are participating in the attack.

The reality is that passwords are simply not enough these days.

How to protect yourself

There are 3 simple things you can do to protect your WordPress site.

  1. Rate limit the amount of logins using this WordPress plugin.
    http:/wordpress.org/extend/plugins/limit-login-attempts/
    
  2. Avoid using common login names such as admin, Admin, root, Administrator.
  3. Don’t use common words for passwords. Make sure you choose a strong password.

These are simple steps you can ensure your WordPress site is a little safer. However if you have a larger WordPress site with multiple users, it’s hard to make sure everyone is following this practices. If you are serious about security you shouldn’t be using username and passwords only.

We recommend:

  1. Sign-up for a free Cloudflare account. They will not only protect you from these types of attacks but from many others.
  2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication on your WordPress blog. Have a look at Authy for WordPress. Don’t be intimidated if you are not tech savvy, we designed the Authy for WordPress plugin to be used by anyone. Just follow the installation video and you’ll be fine.

What if you are already compromised?

There are a few steps you should take:

  1. Login as admin and remove all users from your WordPress site that you don’t recognize.
  2. Change all of your passwords (for all users).
  3. Re-install your WordPress site from scratch.
  4. Change your database password. Look at wp-config.php. Make sure you change your database password and any other passwords inside that file.

Staying Safe

As attackers and attacks evolve, keeping your WordPress site secure becomes harder and harder. We know trying to remember complicated passwords is hard and enforcing it on others is even harder. But there’s no reason these days that you should be using a username and passwords only. If you enable Two-Factor Authentication and keep your WordPress site up-to date you’re already 99% ahead of the attackers.

About the author Simon Thorpe

Simon works in the product group at Authy and has over 15 years of experience in the security and identity management space. Working at companies like Oracle, Microsoft and Okta, he has spent a lot of time understanding and architecting solutions to secure all sorts of information. At Authy he works closely with the whole team to deliver a world class solution for developers to build security into their applications.

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