What Are WordPress Supply Chain Attacks (And How Can You Protect Against Them)?

What Are WordPress Supply Chain Attacks (And How Can You Protect Against Them)?

The average cost of a data breach in the US is a staggering $3.86 million. Avoiding that kind of financial blow means staying on top of your security. With supply chain attacks emerging as a particularly dangerous threat to WordPress sites, preventing them should be a top priority.

Fortunately, you can take proactive steps to secure your data. By taking advantage of native protections and choosing your third-party products strategically, you’ll be able to safeguard your WordPress site.

In this article, we’ll cover what a supply chain attack is and how it works. Then we’ll walk you through three key strategies for protecting against them. Let’s get started!

An Introduction to Supply Chain Attacks

A supply chain attack is an event where a malicious actor gains entry into a system by exploiting weaknesses in a third-party program. Once inside that software, the hacker has an avenue to any main-platform code that the third party can access. This can help criminals steal data and break pages.

Even the most secure platforms can fall victim to these strikes. This became clear in March of 2020, when the US government was compromised by a supply chain attack. By manipulating a tainted software update, the perpetrators were able to view high-level data.

The truth is that any system using third-party programs is at risk. Supply chain attacks take advantage of overlooked insecurities. The consequences can be devastating.

Why Supply Chain Attacks Target WordPress Sites

One of the most remarkable benefits of using WordPress is the large number of open-source plugins and themes it offers. This is made possible by the work of numerous third-party organizations. Unfortunately, this also means there are many potential gateways for criminals.

Additionally, over 40% of all websites are run on WordPress. Gaining access to many of these can be as simple as purchasing a popular plugin, injecting malicious code, and applying that code anywhere the plugin is installed.

Simply put, supply chain attacks tend to target WordPress sites because there are many opportunities to do so. A successful attack has the potential to harm countless users.

How to Protect Your WordPress Site Against Supply Chain Attacks (3 Key Tips)

Effective protection requires a certain degree of vigilance. With that in mind, we’ll take you through three practical ways to fortify your site against attackers.

1. Use WordPress’s Built-in Protections

WordPress is generally a very secure platform to operate on. In addition to work done by developers, you can take action to make the most of its built-in security features. One easy way to do this is to stay on top of updates:

A WordPress announcement regarding the latest security update.

Your software will periodically require patches that increase your site’s security. Minor changes will likely complete automatically. However, there are also bigger adjustments that you’ll need to manually approve before they can take place.

In addition to the platform itself, you should also be staying on top of updates for your plugins and themes. WordPress has a native feature to alert you whenever one of these additions needs attention. Therefore, it’s important to approve patches promptly.

Finally, WordPress offers a hierarchy of user roles for your site. Each role dictates different levels of access. So it’s smart to only give users the level of access they need. Even well-meaning members can accidentally create liabilities or download compromised programs that can open you to supply chain attacks.

2. Screen Your Plugins and Themes Carefully

Plugins and themes can add value to your pages. However, they can also pose a potential threat to your site. An effective way to combat that risk is to only use third-party programs that come from a secure source, such as WordPress itself:

The banner for the WordPress.org plugin page.

You can further vet your technology by taking note of each program’s update history. You’ll want to make sure that your plugins and themes regularly receive attention from their developers, and recent updates are also a good sign.

Additionally, pirated software should be avoided at all costs. Unregulated programs give hackers a perfect window to significantly alter the original code. Even if an unofficial addition has not been altered, you won’t be able to update it, leaving your site vulnerable to supply chain attacks.

Fortunately, it’s relatively simple to spot pirated technology. Don’t use any plugins or themes advertised for free if you know they come at a cost directly from the developer. If you’re ever unsure about the legitimacy of a product, it’s best to stick to the official WordPress Directory.

Now when plugins can be automated updated, we will also most likely see malware injections in plugins automatically installed your website during plugin updates. This is due to plugin owners can be hacked and plugins can be bought by criminals to name a few of the risks.

3. Invest in Security Technology

WordPress comes with features that act as your first line of defense. In addition to strengthening that by vetting third-party programs, you may also want to consider using a vulnerability scanner to fortify your site.

This technology can help you catch code that could be used for supply chain attacks. Locating weaknesses in your defense system as soon as they happen is one of the best ways to prevent a costly breach. WPSec can help you stay on top of your security:

The homepage for WPSec, a program that can help prevent supply chain attacks.

At WPSec, we help keep your site safe by scanning it for any irregularities that could provide unauthorized access to your data. The program also offers other benefits, such as automatic scans, push notifications, and in-depth reports on the state of your website.

There are a few reasons to seriously consider vulnerability scanning. However, this strategy is specifically useful against supply chain attacks, as it checks your code for harmful contents. Our service offers a simple way to add an extra layer of defense to your data.

Conclusion

Supply chain attacks are a growing threat to WordPress users. The same third-party programs that can enrich your site may also put it at risk. Fortunately, with some forethought and investment, you can work to protect your website against costly and malicious code.

In this article, we covered three key tips to protect your site against supply chain attacks:

  1. Take advantage of WordPress’s native security features.
  2. Spend time reviewing any third-party programs you allow to access your site.
  3. Use a vulnerability scanner like WPSec to actively monitor your site for threats.

Do you have any questions about supply chain attacks? Let us know in the comments section below!

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