Statistics show that hackers attack WordPress sites about 90,000 times per minute. If you think the site is safe because it is of no interest to hackers, it’s not really so. In most cases, hackers don’t mind who owns the site, how long a website has been present online, the size of the site, its content, etc. Hackers break into sites to gain control over a host and use the resources of this host. Usually, hackers break into sites to send spam, redirect to their sites, steal personal data and use the server as a repository of some information or file hosting. In rare cases, hackers break into a particular site. In most cases, hackers use bots to automatically hack dozens of sites and use the resources of these sites for their business. With the purpose to protect websites from hackers, developers use WordPress security keys.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what security keys are and how WordPress uses them. After that, we’ll check how to change the security keys automatically and manually.

How Secure is WordPress

WordPress powers over 41% of sites on the Internet and is the most popular content management system. More than 80% of CMS attacks come from WordPress, but it still remains the most popular platform. WordPress developers are constantly working on fixing the found vulnerabilities and releasing WordPress updates.

More than 2,500 vulnerability fixes have been released since the release of the first WordPress version. There have been cases where updates were released less than 40 minutes after a vulnerability was discovered.

Hackbots crawl tens of thousands of sites per hour with descriptions of known vulnerabilities in outdated versions of WordPress, themes, and plugins. If you are using outdated software, then sooner or later the bot will find a site that uses an outdated WordPress version.

The key security rule from the developers of all plugins and security services is updating WordPress, plugins, and themes regularly. Other security measures are needed too, but they become less effective if the WordPress core is not updated. For maximum site security, you need to update WordPress. You can turn on automatic updates, or leave the update in manual mode.

Reasons Why Your Site Is a Target for Cybercriminals

All WordPress sites are the target for hackers. Even a completely new site with no content, no traffic, with an updated core can be hacked by hackers and used for their own purposes. All WordPress sites are targeted by hackers due to their popularity. Hackers write bots that crawl hundreds of thousands of sites and scan them for vulnerability lists. The more sites are scanned, the higher is the likelihood of finding a vulnerability and gaining some kind of control over the site.

Newly-released sites are usually less immune to attacks because their owners think their sites are not of interest to hackers, but in fact, such sites are one of the targets of hackers because they are easier to hack.

Hackers hack websites with the purpose to:

  • Add malicious content to the site. Hackers break into sites to inject malicious content into the front end. Usually, these are links to hacker sites, casino advertisements, wallets, Viagra, etc.
  • Use server resources. Hackers use server resources or the Internet channel to send spam, cryptocurrency mining, file sharing, store information, or attack other sites.
  • Retrieve visitor data. Cyber-attacks affect not only site owners, but also site visitors. Many people use the same data for their accounts on different sites or services, for e-mail, Internet banking, and so on.
  • Get business intelligence. Hackers don’t always attack websites to get user data. Sometimes they hack websites to get important information about that website’s business.
  • Malware distribution. Distribution of viruses and malware to the computers and devices of visitors.

Large sites are also the target of hackers because a large audience of the site can start sending spam.

What Are Security Keys in WordPress 

The WordPress login page is very important in terms of protecting your website. It is vital to keep your password secure in order to reduce the likelihood that attackers and hackers will crack it and gain access to your sensitive data. Using security keys, WordPress protects your passwords. With these keys, your password will be safe because attackers cannot use them even if they gain access to your data in the database.

WordPress security keys are cryptographic elements that are used to “hash” data in order to protect it. Such mechanisms are used by most major platforms and systems to protect confidential data. When storing a password in WordPress, the system uses salt keys to encrypt it. Thus, attackers will not be able to see your passwords in plain text, even if they somehow gain access to your database. All of this happens in the background, and you don’t need to take any additional steps to protect it. Security keys in WordPress are also used to sign your site’s cookies. This prevents attackers from gaining access to the dashboard, even if they can get hold of your cookies.

The sure-fire way to making your WordPress a safer place is by changing your WordPress secret keys from time to time to reduce the risk of being compromised. The system does not have such a function out of the box, so it will be useful for you to know how you can do it yourself. Now let’s see how to do this in practice.

How to Change WordPress Security Keys

It’s up to you to decide how often you change your WordPress security keys. Once or twice a year should be more than enough to keep your site safe. However, you can change keys every couple of months if you feel especially worried about your site security. It is important to note that every time your WordPress security keys are changed, all user accounts (including your own) will be forcefully “logged out” and logged out. This may be a minor inconvenience, but it will protect you in case your account has been hacked using cookies.

You can manually change security keys in WordPress by editing the settings file in WordPress, or by means of a plugin. In any case, it is recommended that you create a backup of your site ahead of time.

How to Manually Change Security Keys

WordPress stores security keys as a set of numbers, letters, and symbols in the wp-config.php file at the root of the site. To change them manually, you need to update them in this file. To do this, you need to log into your site via FTP using a client such as FileZilla. Once logged in, navigate to your WordPress root folder, which is usually called public_html, www, or your domain name.

You will find the wp-config.php file inside this root folder. Open this file and find the block of code with the “Unique keys and salts for authentication” heading.

Here you will find eight lines that hold all of your security keys. To replace them, you need to generate a new set of keys, which you can get using the WordPress API. Just follow this link and the platform will generate a new set of unique keys that you can then use.

Now you need to take the new keys and replace the existing ones in the wp-config.php file. You can copy and paste the keys one by one, or replace the entire section. If you do everything right, this change will not affect your site’s performance. The only change you will notice is that you will need to log in to your account again after updating the security keys.

After you replace the security keys, save the changes in the wp-config.php file and replace the old one on the hosting with this new file. That’s all!

Bottom Line

Keeping passwords unencrypted is always a bad idea, and this is where WordPress security keys come in. WordPress uses unique secret keys to protect your passwords, which prevents attackers from gaining access to your passwords even if they gain access to your database. You can increase the security of your keys by changing them regularly.

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