It’s vital that you do all you can to keep your website secure.
However, it’s even more important that you put in the effort to secure your membership site, due to the fact that you’re handling data regarding your members, not to mention giving them access to parts of your site.
Thankfully, WordPress is secure software. However, its popularity makes it an attractive target for hackers — if you’re going to learn how to hack a piece of software, why not choose one that powers nearly 35 percent of all websites?
The flip side of this is that due to the popularity of WordPress, a lot has been invested in keeping websites using this software secure. From security-focused web hosts to powerful third-party plugins, there’s a whole industry built around keeping WordPress secure.
In this guide to security for your membership site, we’ll give you some pointers on securing your WordPress website and keeping your member data safe.
So with that in mind, let’s begin…
Choose a Reputable Web Host
With the leading web hosting companies offering attractive plans that start at just a few dollars a month, there’s no need to risk your site with an unknown provider in order to save a bit of money.
While the best low-cost shared hosting providers, such as Bluehost and SiteGround, will help keep your website secure, choosing a more expensive managed WordPress hosting plan has many security-related advantages.
For example, if you choose the Business plan from WordPress.com, you’ll get access to a whole host of extra security features, including brute force attack protection, malware scanning, and more. The Business managed hosting plan from WordPress.com also comes with a subscription to the powerful and reliable VaultPress WordPress backup system, making it even easier to keep your website backed up.
A good web hosting plan will make it easy to secure your membership site with a free SSL certificate, a must for many reasons.
Our guide to choosing the best web host for your membership site will help you find the right option.
Install a WordPress Security Plugin (or Two)
If you choose a security-focused web host, many of the tasks related to keeping your membership site secure will be taken care of for you.
However, it’s still worth checking out the best WordPress security plugins and installing any that add features to your site that aren't provided by your web host.
The functionality of these security plugins varies, but some common features include site scanning, protection from hacking attempts, blocking traffic from suspicious sources, and more. Many of these tools are freely available from the official WordPress Plugin Directory, with paid upgrades available for extra protection.
If you’d like to know more about these tools and get some help choosing the right one for your project, our guide to the best security plugins for membership sites looks at this important topic in greater depth.
Protect Your Passwords
One key way to keep your WordPress website secure is to use passwords that are unique and difficult to guess. Using a mixture of letters, numbers, and special characters in your WordPress user passwords can make them harder for hackers to guess. Using a password manager like LastPass can help you securely store your login credentials and generate strong passwords that will be tough to crack.
Another point to consider is who else has access to your computers. Some browsers will store passwords for you, making them potentially available to whoever is using your computer. Also, if you’re logging in to your WordPress website on public or unsecured Wi-Fi, there’s a chance someone could intercept your traffic and access your passwords and other data. Using a VPN service can help mitigate this security risk.
Use WordPress User Roles Appropriately
As WordPress makes it easy to create multiple user accounts for your website, there's never a need to share your login details with anyone else. So if you have someone adding content to your site or carrying out maintenance tasks, for example, never give them your login details. Instead, create a new account for them.
Furthermore, don’t just give them the all-powerful admin user role. Instead, consider what tasks they will need to complete, and then assign their account an appropriate WordPress user role. This way, they won’t have more access to your site than needed, with the ability to, for example, delete your content or change your password.
If you're creating protected content, that only logged in users can access, then a good membership plugin is vital for securely managing this.
Only Install Official WordPress Themes and Plugins
One of the main reasons to choose WordPress for your membership site is the almost unlimited options for enhancing the functionality and design of your website. Through plugins and themes, you can adapt your website for almost any purpose.
However, when looking for a plugin or theme, always choose options available from reputable sources. Doing so will significantly reduce the risk that the plugin or theme will contain malicious or easily hackable code that will make your membership site vulnerable to those with bad intentions.
Some safe places to source plugins and themes include the official WordPress Plugin Directory and the ThemeForest marketplace, although there are many more reputable outlets out there.
Keep WordPress, Plugins, and Themes Up to Date
If you choose a good web host, they might keep your WordPress software up to date for you. But in most cases, it will be up to you to update your chosen theme and plugins. If you log in to your WordPress website and see an update notification, it’s best to take care of this straightaway.
If you want to be extra careful, you can test out the update on a staging version of your site. But in most cases, creating a backup of your website before you update any plugins, themes, and the WordPress software will suffice.
Test Your Membership Site Backups
It goes without saying that you should have a backup system in place for your membership site. But perhaps it’s worth mentioning that you should regularly test your backups to check that they can be relied on should something go wrong with your site.
Setting up a test version of your site, then restoring your backups should tell you all you need to know. Doing this should also reveal if the backup restoration process is straightforward enough to ensure you can quickly restore your site when needed, or if it’s a complicated task with the potential to go wrong when performed under pressure.
Securing your membership site, and keeping it that way, is an ongoing process.
There’s lots you can do from the outset, such as choosing a reputable web host and using secure passwords. However, other tasks, like keeping the WordPress software up to date and monitoring your site, will need regular attention.
However, by using the right tools and providers, you can automate most of the tasks involved in keeping your membership site secure. Combined with a bit of common sense, and avoiding things like sharing passwords and using unsecured internet connections, you can greatly reduce the risk of the security of your membership site being compromised.
How will you keep your membership site secure? Please let us know in the comments below.