How to Check if Your WordPress Blog Is Secured Against XSS Attacks
If you’re a blogger or run a successful online business, you’d probably agree with me that WordPress security couldn’t be more important than it is today.
Hackers and cyber criminals are becoming more common as the internet has more valuable resources to copy and steal.
Though, you don’t need to scare to death about this hackers, it is essential to protect your online business from them. In today’s post, I will brief you about how you can check if you are under a XSS attack.
Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks are one of the oldest tricks in the hacker’s toolbox, and all it takes is a single vulnerability on your website for your readers to become vulnerable. They can be prevented, but just installing a WordPress plugin and calling it a day isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Here are some of the basic things you need to know when checking for XSS vulnerabilities:
What is a XSS Attack?
Simply put, a XSS attack occurs when a script input by a user is injected into a web page to be used by others. It is usually entered via an input field on the web page such as a comments section and will directly alter that web page. It is an assault on the “same origin” policy that protects user and website data, preventing blog or site tampering.
Here are some of the results/symptoms of a successful XSS attack:
- Stolen information ranging in nature from instructions to hidden notes to financial data.
- Attackers can impersonate a user in the future, having gained access to their login data.
- The ability to change the web page or website itself, providing unwanted screens and “content” to future unsuspecting visitors.
- Tricking readers into installing malware on their computer.
- Other unusual activity that is limited only by the hacker’s creativity.
General Security: Steps to prevent XSS attacks
When trying to examine your WordPress site for vulnerabilities, you also need to consider other potential problems and habits that you have that need to be addressed. Internet security is often a holistic practice, and hackers aren’t always specialists. What seems like a problem with passwords can become an XSS vulnerability. These precautions can save you from a lot of damage related and unrelated to XSS attacks:
Be cautious when using your device on a public network.
Make sure that you are avoiding the use of public networks without protection in the form of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Read my review of Hide My IP VPN service. Public networks are usually unprotected, allowing hackers to see anything you’re doing online and intercept any data they want. A VPN will encrypt your connection so that no one can intercept your data. It will also hide your IP address to keep you anonymous online. This allows one to avoid online tracking, access blocked websites and keep one’s physical location a secret.
Check your comments section:
You should moderate and get to know the community surrounding your blog. You will be engaging your readers (engaged readers are returning readers) and also keeping an eye out for destructive comments. Looking out for trolls is one thing, but oftentimes there are vulnerabilities in the comment sections on your WordPress site that allow for malicious code to perform an XSS attack. This is where you should consider using a professional commenting platform.
Update your wordpress version without fail:
You need to update WordPress, your computer and any plugins you might have as often as you can. Updates are often primarily released to patch up security concerns, and soon after they are released cybercriminals are fully aware of the closed vulnerabilities. This puts anyone who hasn’t updated yet in danger. Many of the vulnerabilities patched are related to XSS attacks, so securing your site against them requires you to be quick to update your technology.
Never ever go for free:
Free things like free themes can cost you even more in the long run. Free themes and plugins are often unchecked for loopholes and result in easy attacks for hackers. Even more dangerous is, using the nulled versions of premium themes . These often come with inbuilt codes that hackers have injected to them and would cost you your blog. You can easily come over these by buying your own copy of premium themes that are tested and secure against any such attacks. Themes these days come at very cheap prices. You can buy Elegant themes at less than $1 per theme or choose even more branded ones like those from StudioPress ($100 per theme or $400 for all themes) if you have the budget.
Look over all input fields of your blog:
An XSS attack occurs via an input field, so it naturally stands to reason that you should check every possible input field first. Leave nothing untouched. Make sure that the code your blog uses doesn’t have any loose ends. Make sure that any user input is encoded as such that it will be interpreted as text instead of script. This disables a lot of the vulnerabilities. See if you can include whitelisting or blacklisting of types of text in any of the appropriate areas on your website.
Here are some (but not all) of the places you should check for XSS attacks:
- Comments sections of any kind
- Login screens
- Email address input bars
- Contact pages
- Interactive content of any nature
That being said, it isn’t easy looking for XSS vulnerabilities, and you may not have the programming skill to find or prevent potential threats. Fortunately, there are tools and methods to help you and automatically perform some tasks for you. The above habits will prove particularly helpful, and there are plenty of security tools available that will scan for XSS vulnerabilities for you.
Consider Your Plugins against threats of hacking:
A special note that needs to be made is that plugins and their processes are especially vulnerable to XSS attacks due to the fact that they aren’t updated as frequently and use more specialized scripts. Plugin programmers might not be security conscious and that could be your undoing. To protect yourself against XSS attacks, you may need to uninstall the infected or prone plugins.
You can install this plugin (FREE) to make your site secure. It helps you change your site’s log in URL also.
Just as there are plugins that can open up your WordPress site to attacks, there are other plugins that are meant to protect you. Some will scan your website to let you know of and/or fix any vulnerabilities. This is often a scan that will take a look at multiple forms of threat, but make sure that you specifically get a plugin that takes note of XSS vulnerabilities. Don’t be afraid to pay for such a plugin, and remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch on the internet.
Do not host your blog on a free hosting service provider:
Choosing a free host or one that costs less than a what normal charges surely sounds interesting. But, this is when you sell your online business in exchange for a free hosting. Just imagine, if you had a brick and mortar office, wouldn’t it cost you way too much than what a premium hosting costs? So, why kill your online business for a few bucks? WordPress officially recommends Bluehost, as the service to host your blog. Click here to get Bluehost at only $5.95 per month.
XSS attacks aren’t a popular topic these days, but malicious actions take solace in the banal and boring. Unless you are willing to pay a professional, you need to take these kinds of threats into your own hands and take the right steps to help yourself. Do a check of everything mentioned right now. If you don’t make it a priority, you may find it’s too late come tomorrow’s blog post.
Do you have any thoughts as to how to check for and prevent XSS attacks on your beloved WordPress blog? Do you think that there is any more information that people should know about these sorts of attacks? Are you a former victim of these types of attacks that would like to share their experience? If so, please leave a comment below and join the conversation.
About the author:
This is a guest post by Cassie from Securethoughts.com. Cassie has been blogging about internet security and protection against cyber threats.