The Top 6 WordPress Security Plugins Compared (2020)
If you have concerns about the security of your WordPress site, you’re not alone. Used by over one-third of all websites, WordPress is by far the most popular content management system out there. This makes sites powered by WordPress regular targets of attacks by hackers, malware, and other malicious software.
That being said, there are many precautionary measures you can take in order to improve the security of your website. Installing one of the many WordPress security plugins from their extensive library is one such security measure.
Picking the plugin that will suit you best doesn’t have to be a tough task. For different users, different features will be a priority, so you have to decide what aspect of your site’s security you value most. When making the choice, try to choose plugins that offer the following features.
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WordPress sites work with files and folders, which are the usual targets of malware. Sometimes malware can be found on some of your files of folders even before you start using them, and your codebase has been infected with malicious code, it’s usually hard to find and remove. Malware can be present on any of the files and folders which is why it’s difficult to locate.
So logically, you’d want your security plugin to check all your files and folders for malware. Unfortunately, there are many plugins that actually can’t perform such scans. They usually check for malware only on the website level and other places where it’s commonly found. That said, there are plugins that actually check for file and folder malware as well, so they have an obvious advantage over the former ones.
Malware scans usually slow websites down, as they use up a lot of resources. This happens because the plugin scans directly on your website server, which has to perform the scan while doing all its other functions at the same time.
To tackle this, there are security plugins that actually run scans on their own servers instead of yours. This eases the burden of extra work for your server and avoids slowdown.
All security plugins will let you know if your site gets hacked. That said, you should choose one that can promptly clean it up, which is actually not the case with most security plugins. Sometimes it can take many of them hours, even days, to properly clean your hacked site.
Apart from the obvious advantage of plugins that are speedy cleaners, another less obvious one is that it saves you from issues that can result in search engines determining your site is infected. This could lead to them blacklisting your site, as it can sometimes take Google only a few hours to do so after locating malware on it. Even your website host can decide to take down your site if it deems it a potential security threat.
Scans and clean-ups are regular practice when it comes to WordPress security plugins. However, many of them actually offer a limited amount of scans for the money they charge, usually a single scan.
Ideally, you want to avoid such plugins, because paying over and over for the same service might end up costing you more than you can afford. After all, if your site ever gets breached or hacked, it can certainly happen again. Ideally, you want your security plugin to be able to help you even if you get re-hacked, without you having to pay for the same service again.
Not all traffic that your site attracts is beneficial for it. Sometimes malicious agents want to take advantage of your site and use it to their own ends. This is where your security plugin’s firewall steps in.
Firewalls work by filtering traffic in order to find and block malicious data before it even reaches your site. This, of course, can also be done manually, but ideally, you want your security plugin’s firewall to take care of this task so you don’t have to.
Login pages are the number one target of hackers trying to get into your WordPress site. They try out different passwords in order to guess the one that works, a process that’s automated more often than not and done by their computers. These hacking attempts are called brute force attacks.
These attacks can be easily prevented by setting up a maximum login attempts threshold. WordPress itself doesn’t have this by default, leaving its sites with unlimited login attempts at the mercy of hackers. Some security plugins, however, set up a login attempt limit by themselves, automatically protecting you from brute force attacks by doing so.
Working with a WordPress site can be a demanding job, especially if you have more than one. Maintaining multiple websites can be time-consuming sometimes, and time is precious, especially if you’re running a business that implies other obligations apart from site maintenance.
Often, when users run multiple websites, they also use a separate batch of plugins for each one. This can easily spiral into an even more time-consuming site maintenance effort.
This is why having one dashboard for all your sites is important when looking for a plugin. A simplified interface is a literal timesaver if you wish to protect multiple sites at the same time.
Lastly, try to get a plugin that actually has a dedicated customer helpdesk available. Good plugins will seldom cause issues, but still, in case this happens — or for a bunch of other reasons, really — you might end up in need of direct assistance.
For such situations, plugins that boast a responsive customer support service should be high on your list when choosing. If an actual issue arises, slow (or no) help from customer support can thin your resources even further. Trying to fix a security issue on your own can also be very painstaking.
When aiming for good customer support, a rule of thumb is not to choose free plugins. After all, a good help desk does come with the money you pay for it in most cases.
Now that you’re equipped with the right knowledge, let’s review the top 5 WordPress security plugins designed to keep your WordPress website from harm. If you are serious about your site’s security, keep reading to find out more about them.
We’re starting our list with what’s likely the most well-known WordPress security plugin so far — Sucuri. For its part, Sucuri is not only used for protecting WordPress websites, but sites powered by other content management systems and platforms as well.
This WordPress plugin provides you with solid security functionalities such as a site malware scanner, comprehensive malware removal features for files and databases, a Google blacklist removal process which basically submits blacklist removal requests on behalf of the hacked website, and more. Sucuri will also give you several suggestions for better website security, some of which might be disabling editing themes and plugins in the dashboard, blocking PHP execution in some specific directories whose security may be affected by it, and so on.
Paying users get a web firewall, one of Sucuri’s more important features. This firewall can stop a vast array of hacker-related, brute force, and malicious attacks such as SQL injections and DDoS hacks. It also provides you with a performance optimizer. The firewall, which is a cloud-based WAF, gets continuous updates by the Sucuri team. With it, you can put IP addresses on blacklists and whitelists, block IP’s related to a specific country, add extra security to vulnerable areas — the WordPress dashboard, for example — with passwords and other security measures, and much more.
Another function Sucuri provides is DNS monitoring. The plugin monitors domain name server (DNS) changes as they happen and provides SSL Certificate monitoring.
The plugin also includes a site checker that scans your website for malware. Unlike other malware scanners, however, Sucuri’s site checker only scans the website front-end and not the server, so it might not find certain well-hidden malware.
Sucuri offers great customer service that you can reach via live chat or email. The team that works on Sucuri is internationally based, employing more than a hundred people across dozens of countries.
A very important feature the Sucuri team provides is post-infection clean-up. If your site has already been successfully breached by malware, the team offers to clean it up for you completely free of charge. What’s more, they’ll also accept to clean a site that’s been infected even before you started using Sucuri.
Sucuri for WordPress comes as a free plugin and offers functionalities such as firewall, monitoring, and cleanup service for hacked sites as separate, paid additions. Pricing starts at $199.99/year.
The Wordfence WordPress security plugin is another quite popular security tool. It provides basic security functions such as login security, a malware scanner, malicious software blockers, firewall, as well as live traffic auditing. Making WordPress websites more secure is a top priority for the Wordfence team, which is also reflected in the plugin’s name.
Wordfence is developed by Defiant, a small but dedicated team working on multiple security products popular among users worldwide. The Wordfence WordPress plugin is Defiant’s most important product.
One main difference between Wordfence and other security plugins is the firewall feature. Wordfence’s firewall works on a server level, providing you with an extra level of security from attacks and data leaks.
The Wordfence plugin comes with an in-built malware scanner as well. The scanner catches malicious code, shields your site from brute force hack attempts, and does much more for securing your site.
Wordfence comes in a free and a premium version. It gives premium users regular plugin updates as an added value for their paid membership. If you use the free version you’ll still get all the current updates, only a month later.
Wordfence is available for multiple WordPress websites as well. It’s very user-friendly, showing you everything you need to know about your site’s security at a single glance.
Prices for the paid versions of Wordfence start at $99 per site per year, with many discounts for users who aim to employ the plugin on multiple websites.
Another option praised for its firewall, WebARX is actually not limited to WordPress. It works with PHP apps and other CMS’s as well. In this article, we’ll be talking specifically about its WordPress plugin, which is paid and can be found on their website only, not under the WordPress security section.
WebARX also offers a cloud-based WAF, an advanced endpoint firewall providing you with enhanced traffic control, plugin vulnerability protection, defense from malicious bots, and fake traffic. What this firewall really stands out for, though, is its advanced-level customizability. By using the WebARX portal, you can set up custom firewall rules, solidify the security of your WordPress installation, set up backups, get important security notifications, export reports, track security issues, and more.
The WebARX security plugin uses one dashboard for every site, as well. It includes various WordPress security tracking functions that constantly inform you of what’s happening with your site. With these reminders, you will always know how to fight off vulnerabilities and keep everything updated.
Uptime and defacement tracking is also one of WebARX’s key features. In case your website crashes or is defaced, WebARX will alert you about it by email or Slack. You may find this particularly useful if you work with multiple smaller websites which might take you a lot of time to check individually.
Pricing plans start at $14.99/month for a single site, with discounts for multiple sites as well.
Unlike the other plugins on this list, All In One WP Security & Firewall is completely free and doesn’t offer paid versions or premium plans. Yet, it has found its way on our list. This is because All In One WP Security & Firewall is arguably the richest in terms of functionalities among all free plugins.
As the name suggests, the plugin provides you with a firewall. However, it only has a website firewall and no DNS-level one.
This plugin is very user-friendly, giving you an intuitive and visually oriented interface suitable for even the least tech-savvy users. It displays categories such as graphs and charts that measure how strong your site’s security is and what you can do to make it stronger.
The plugin has three kinds of features — basic, intermediate, and advanced. These are adapted to users with various levels of technical knowledge, from beginners to experienced programmers.
All In One WP Security & Firewall shields your user accounts from hacking attacks, stops brute force attempts by locking logins, scans for malicious patterns, strengthens the safety of passwords during sign up, and comes with database and file protection.
Another thing this plugin features is a blacklist functionality. This tool lets you put up a compilation of conditions that need to be fulfilled in order for a user to be blacklisted. With it, you can manually block particular IP addresses as well as entire geographical regions. It also displays an easy-to-use list of blocked individuals that you can modify in a matter of seconds.
This WordPress security plugin also enables backups for files of the .htaccess and .wp-config formats. In case these files get damaged or lost, this feature allows you to bring them back.
For measuring the level of protection of your site, the plugin has a grading system based on security points. This system will show you the level of risk which you can lower through tackling vulnerable points on your site and by following current best practices for WordPress security.
It’s worth mentioning that, because it’s free, All In One WP Security & Firewall works on a more basic level compared to the other options on this list. Still, the protection it provides is solid by all accounts.
iThemes Security, which started off under the name Better WP Security back in 2008, is a widely used security plugin within the WordPress community.
While iThemes Security does offer both free and paid versions, it’s free version offers only the most basic protection. This free option won’t give you nearly as much as what other plugins offer for free.
The real reason behind iThemes Security’s popularity is it’s Pro version. It offers some features that add extra security such as CAPTCHA, two-factor authentication, user behavior logs, password strength and expiry period, file comparisons, and more. It even provides you with some extra widgets for your dashboard.
The plugin automatically bans users that try to log in with wrong passwords multiple times. It also bans users that it has already identified as users who have tried breaking into other sites. All IP addresses that have tried brute force attacks are gathered and reported by iThemes Security, giving your site an additional layer of safety.
iThemes Security works scheduled malware scans that locate where your site is most vulnerable to intrusions. When it finds the vulnerable locations, it suggests fixes for them in order to improve the security of your site. iThemes Security covers the safety of those vulnerable spots on WordPress sites that hackers most often manage to breach. If there’s a breach or even a potential security issue, the plugin notifies you by e-mail right away.
You can also use iThemes Security to improve the safety of your servers, by ensuring that posts and pages on all servers use SSL.
iThemes Security is completely integrated with the WordPress dashboard. It fits right in it and doesn’t give you the impression that it’s bothering you when it shouldn’t. It doesn’t oblige you to use external resources to increase security either.
The pricing for the iThemes Security Pro plan, which we recommend if you choose to go for this plugin, starts at $80/year.
As the name suggests, MalCare Security focuses more on malware than anything else. It’s designed to automatically locate malware that many other plugins can’t. When it does, it lets you remove it in a single click, saving you tons of time in the process.
Malware scans can sometimes produce lag if they’re done on your servers. You won’t have this issue with MalCare, as it scans for malware on its own servers instead of yours. This is one advantage MalCare has over other plugins, and, apart from its heavy focus on malware removal, this is probably what makes it such a popular security plugin choice.
The plugin also comes with a firewall function. While it does a solid job, its firewall doesn’t perform as that of Sucuri, for example.
This plugin will also stop IP addresses that it has determined to be malicious on other sites on their list, similarly to what iThemes Security does. MalCare keeps track of thousands of sites used to compile this record.
Some other solid security functionalities that come with MalCare include limiting logins to stop brute force attempts, disabling file editing and executing in the upload folder, CAPTCHA, using a single dashboard for all your websites, making three-month backups of all your website’s content, and more.
Pricing plans for MalCare start at $99/year for a single site and go up depending on the number of sites you use it for.
The safety of your WordPress website is crucial, and neglecting it can even cost you money in the long run. Security plugins make your site’s safety so much easier to handle, which makes them a must for all WordPress users.
Securing your site will not only save you from a huge deal of headaches in the future, but it’ll make your site’s users feel safe and confident while on your site, as some infections can affect them, too. This is especially true if you run your eCommerce business on WordPress.
All the plugins on this list do a great job when it comes to protecting your site from harm. Still, you’d do well to evaluate what you consider most important before choosing one.
If you want a reliable security plugin for solid overall protection of your site, try iThemes Security.
If you care more about specific functionalities such as the firewall, you should give WordFence or WebARX a try; if malware protection is your key priority, go for MalCare instead.
If budget is one of your main concerns, All In One WP Security & Firewall is what you need, as it gives you all the important features you’d expect from a good WordPress security plugin but completely free of charge.
If, on the contrary, you want a really stable security plugin that offers outstanding performance and you’re willing to invest in it, you should definitely go for Sucuri.
We hope this article has helped you narrow down your list of WordPress security plugin candidates to find one that will suit you best. And now that you’ve checked the security plugin off your list, if you’re looking to self-host your WordPress site check out our pricing plans for some of the best value for money in cloud hosting.