There are millions of sites on Google that provide extensive information on ensuring WordPress security. However, as statistics of vulnerabilities and attacks rise, we need to simultaneously ramp up our efforts.
Security risks go beyond simple exploitation of weak usernames and passwords and a WordPress penetration testing procedure is just the solution.
Penetration testing is a repeatedly approved security measure applied frequently to detect security vulnerabilities within the system. Donning the role of a hacker, your chosen testing team is now looking at your WordPress site from this perspective. Since there is a lot of important information involved, penetration testing can be a sensitive process and should be handled carefully.
The WordPress Penetration Testing Procedure
Now that you’re aware of the importance of WordPress security and the role of penetration testing, we should step into how it’s conducted, the tools required, and how to go forward.
The first stage of WordPress penetration testing is the mapping of the threats. There are two ways of testing the system - the ‘black box’ procedure and the ‘white box’ procedure. In the black box testing process, the ethical hacker has no previous information about the target system. It’s the closest approximation to a real-life attack where the hacker engages the system to find vulnerabilities and exploit them accordingly.
The white box testing process is the exact opposite of the black box testing procedure where the hacker has complete information about the system. This could include source code, configuration information, network details, credentials, etc. It impersonates an insider attack and gains extensive information about the system being attacked. It tests the system more comprehensively for finding all the hidden vulnerabilities.
The next stage of the WordPress penetration testing procedure is the discovery of active vulnerabilities. This allows you to discover the security risks actively compromising your system for hackers to easily attack. It allows you to gain an objective assessment of the website vulnerabilities, especially for new and updated plugins and themes. By performing the testing on an exact copy of the website in the local development environment, you’ll be able to gain effective and quick results.
WordPress penetration testing ends with the exploitation of the vulnerabilities discovered during the reconnaissance and discovery stages. This allows you to test scenarios and visualize the system’s responses against hacking attempts. It’ll also help the testing team understand the risk potential of the vulnerabilities discovered and solve them accordingly, cancelling false positives. Such procedures ensure that less money, time, and resources are wasted on fixing hacked sites, lost reputation, and costly downtime.
Tools used for WordPress Penetration Testing
There are certain tools used during the WordPress penetration testing procedure that assists in the automated portions. Some of the more common tools include:
One of the most popular options for WordPress penetration testing, Kali Linux remains relevant because of the great variety of options offered. This open-source penetration testing tool comes with multiple pre-installed tools that are configured as well. The tool is a great help for experts and amateurs and is available for free.
Another free open-source tool, WPScan is a security scanner that looks out for common security risks in the entire WordPress site - plugins, themes, extensions, WordPress core, etc. It’s most useful for black-box penetration testing processes without needing access to the source code, making it a great option to discover the commonly found vulnerabilities quickly.
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) offers the Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) tool for website penetration testing purposes. A free open-source tool, it’s efficient in detecting different kinds of common vulnerabilities, including SQL injections and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.
The role of the ZAP tool is to sit between the pentester’s browser and the browser receiving the requests sent, acting as a proxy. While automatically detecting security vulnerabilities, the tool also uses the security technique of fuzzing (where invalid input is entered to test the system’s response).
Nmap is a free and popular scanner tool, making it a great addition to any pentesting team’s bag of tools. The advantage of using Nmap is the easy possibility of editing its NSE scripting language to modify its primary use as a port scanner for other scanning requirements.
WordPress sites face a lot of vulnerabilities, from outdated WordPress core, running unwanted configuration settings, exposed MySQL databases, unprotected temporary files, to active directory listings. Often, these settings are left on default and then left unmonitored by WordPress site owners, leaving openings for hackers to exploit for their needs.
Therefore, there is a requirement for continuous monitoring of the security strategy and follow the principle of ‘observe’ > ‘test’ > ‘harden’ > ‘improve’. Frequent penetration testing with the help of a third-party service provider will greatly assist in your security efforts - check us out our partner at Astra Security today to know more!