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XSS Attacks: How to Protect Your WordPress Website

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There are over 27 million live WordPress websites. While it’s superior to be a part of such a big, energetic neighborhood, the Content Management System’s (CMS) recognition additionally makes it a first-rate goal for Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) assaults.

Fortunately, simply because hackers give attention to WordPress doesn’t imply their breach makes an attempt are destined to succeed. By utilizing the proper instruments and strategies, you possibly can harden your website in opposition to XSS assaults.

In this publish, we’ll focus on what XSS is and why WordPress is uniquely weak to those sorts of intrusions. Then we’ll share 4 methods which you could implement to assist shield your website in opposition to them. Let’s get began!

An introduction to XSS assaults

An XSS attack happens when a hacker exploits a vulnerability in your website and makes an attempt to inject unauthorized JavaScript code. The malicious script is then executed on both the client-side within the browser, or is saved and carried out on the server.

XSS assaults are sometimes designed to gather knowledge out of your guests, reminiscent of their passwords or fee info. However, the assaults also can change how your website appears to be like or features. For instance, cybercriminals may redirect your customers to a completely totally different website.

This type of redirect could lead to your visitors plummeting, because the hacker steals one hundred pc of your guests. The rerouting may also be a launchpad to additional assaults. For instance, a nefarious redirect could ship your visitors to a scammy website.

Some dangerous actors could even mimic your website, in an try and trick your clients into sharing private info and fee particulars. This could be notably disastrous on your repute.

XSS assaults are an enormous drawback for a lot of totally different CMSs. However, WordPress is uniquely weak as a result of many websites on the platform use plugins. These extensions add code to your website, which can introduce XSS vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. In its 2021 report, WP White Security found almost 4,000 known WordPress plugin vulnerabilities, together with ones that might lead to profitable XSS assaults.

With so many loopholes to take advantage of, it’s maybe not stunning that Wordfence recognized 330 million attempted XSS attacks in 2020. With cybercriminals actively making an attempt to leverage recognized and unknown weaknesses, it’s vital to do all the pieces you possibly can to protect your website.

How to guard your WordPress website in opposition to XSS assaults (4 key suggestions)

XSS could also be one of the vital widespread strategies hackers use to infiltrate web sites, however there are methods to bolster your site’s security. Let’s take a look at 4 strategies which you could implement right this moment.

1. Keep up-to-date on the most recent vulnerabilities

By constantly monitoring your themes and plugins for recognized weaknesses, you possibly can maximize your probabilities of discovering issues early. Then you possibly can take steps to deal with these safety loopholes earlier than hackers have an opportunity to take advantage of them.

WPScan maintains a Vulnerability Database of recognized WordPress Core, theme, and plugin vulnerabilities. It has additionally launched a WPScan plugin that allows you to scan all of your plugins for recognized dangers:

The WPScan WordPress plugin screen.

However, when you’re a ManageWP buyer, you don’t even want a separate plugin. We’ve collaborated with WPScan to showcase all its knowledge instantly inside your ManageWP dashboard.

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Vulnerability Updates shows a notification alongside any plugins which have recognized vulnerabilities. This makes it straightforward to determine points which may be presently placing your website in danger:

The ManageWP vulnerability dashboard.

If you uncover a vulnerability, the most secure resolution is to deactivate after which delete the plugin in query. However, this might not be attainable if the extension delivers an important characteristic to your website.

In that case, you possibly can test to see whether or not the developer has issued a patch, as a accountable creator ought to be keen to repair any safety points. If an replace is accessible, resolving the weak point could also be so simple as clicking on Update Now:

The option to update a WordPress plugin to its latest version.

However, generally you might have to proceed utilizing unsecured software program, reminiscent of when the developer remains to be making a patch. Until you possibly can set up that replace and shut the vulnerability, it’s sensible to be further vigilant for any indicators that your website is below assault. This may embody monitoring your site for downtime, looking forward to a drop in performance, and including the ManageWP Security Check feature to your website so that you’ll be notified about any points instantly.

2. Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

A Web Application Firewall (WAF) filters out malicious requests, together with XSS assaults, earlier than they’ve an opportunity to succeed in your website. There are varied WAFs that you should utilize with WordPress. Sucuri WAF is a well-liked possibility:

The Sucuri WAF website.

After purchasing a Sucuri WAF plan, log into your account and click on on Protect My Site Now. You can then enter the area title you need to shield, and specify whether or not you need to whitelist any directories.

Hackers are recognized to intentionally goal weak elements of internet sites, reminiscent of admin directories. By proscribing entry to those delicate areas, you possibly can additional cut back the probabilities of falling sufferer to a profitable XSS assault.

After coming into your area, you’ll have to scroll to the overall dashboard web page. There, you’ll discover Sucuri’s DNS info. Your subsequent job is to alter the IP tackle on your website’s A report in order that it factors to Sucuri’s firewall.

You’ll sometimes make this adjustment by logging into your area registrar or Domain Name Server (DNS) supplier’s account. This step will differ relying on how your account is ready up. If you’re not sure tips on how to make the change, you possibly can test your supplier or registrar’s documentation for extra info.

DNS modifications could take as much as 48 hours to propagate, so that you may want to attend for this replace to return into impact. You can confirm whether or not your DNS has propagated by visiting

3. Add an HTTP safety header

Every time somebody visits your website, the server reacts with HTTP response headers. These headers inform net browsers tips on how to act all through their interactions together with your website, reminiscent of when managing the cache.

You will help shield your website in opposition to XSS assaults utilizing the X-XSS-Protection header. With this header in place, your website will stop the web page from being loaded when an XSS assault is detected, which might safeguard your website in opposition to sure classes of XSS breaches.

You add this safety header to your website’s .htaccess file, which is a configuration file that tells your server tips on how to deal with varied requests. After connecting to your website utilizing your favourite File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client, open the .htaccess file and add the next:

<IfModule mod_headers.c>
Header set X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block"

When you’re executed, it can save you your modifications and shut the file. Your website will now stop the web page from being loaded every time it believes that an XSS assault is underway.

4. Add a Content Security Policy (CSP) header

A Content Security Policy (CSP) will help mitigate XSS assaults by specifying which sources (scripts, types, pictures, and many others.) are permitted to load. By whitelisting authorized sources, you possibly can cease browsers from loading malicious content material.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy to CSPs. You’ll want to judge the sources you’re really loading and think about tips on how to handle them successfully. Then you possibly can create a coverage based mostly in your particular necessities.

When growing a CSP, you’ll use default-src to specify the usual coverage for loading content material reminiscent of pictures, fonts, media, and AJAX requests. You also can outline professional JavaScript sources utilizing script-src, professional picture sources utilizing img-src, and genuine stylesheet sources utilizing style-src.

Below is an instance of what defining a legitimate supply of pictures appears to be like like:

img-src 'self';

For extra info on establishing a CSP header, you possibly can try the Quick Reference Guide.

Once you’ve created your CSP, the subsequent step is so as to add it to your functions.php file. In the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance > Theme Editor:

The WordPress functions.php file viewed in the Theme Editor.

To the proper of the display screen, choose the features.php file and add your CSP header. When you’re executed, click on on Update File.


XSS is a standard assault that has the potential to destroy your repute as a dependable, security-conscious website. The excellent news is that there are methods to guard each your website and your guests from any such knowledge breach.

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Let’s recap 4 sensible steps that may enormously reduce your probabilities of falling sufferer to an XSS assault:

  1. Keep updated on the latest vulnerabilities.
  2. Use a firewall reminiscent of Sucuri WAF.
  3. Add an HTTP safety header by including code to your .htaccess file.
  4. Add a CSP header by enhancing your features.php file.

Do you may have any questions on defending your website in opposition to XSS assaults? Ask away within the feedback part beneath!

Image credit score: Unsplash.

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