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WordPress Security Best Practices for Programmers

WordPress has become one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) for creating websites and blogs. Its user-friendly interface and vast plugin ecosystem make it an attractive choice for programmers and developers. However, this popularity also makes WordPress websites a prime target for hackers and cyberattacks. As a programmer, it’s crucial to implement robust security practices to protect your WordPress sites and the sensitive data they hold. In this article, we’ll delve into essential WordPress security best practices that every programmer should follow.

WordPress Security Best Practices for Programmers

1. Introduction 

As a programmer working with WordPress, your role extends beyond merely writing code. Ensuring the security of your WordPress websites is paramount to protect your users’ data, maintain your website’s reputation, and avoid potential legal and financial repercussions. Let’s explore the key best practices to enhance the security of your WordPress websites.

2. Keeping WordPress Core and Plugins Up to Date

2.1. Regular Updates for Stronger Security

WordPress releases updates to address security vulnerabilities and bugs regularly. It’s crucial to keep both the WordPress core and installed plugins up to date. Hackers often exploit outdated software to gain unauthorized access. Set up automatic updates for plugins and core whenever possible to ensure your site is protected against the latest threats.

3. Implementing Secure Authentication

3.1. Strong Password Policies

Enforce strong password policies for all users, including administrators. Encourage the use of complex passwords that combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Additionally, consider implementing a plugin that forces users to change their passwords periodically.

3.2. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Integrate a two-factor authentication (2FA) solution to add an extra layer of security to your WordPress login. 2FA requires users to provide a second piece of information (usually a code sent to their mobile device) in addition to their password, making it significantly harder for unauthorized individuals to gain access.

4. Role-based Access Control

WordPress offers different user roles with varying levels of access, such as administrator, editor, author, and subscriber. Assign roles according to users’ responsibilities. Avoid assigning unnecessary privileges to users who don’t need them, reducing the risk of accidental or intentional misuse.

5. Sanitizing and Validating User Inputs

5.1. Escaping Output to Prevent Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a common attack vector where malicious scripts are injected into web pages. Sanitize and validate all user inputs to prevent the execution of harmful code. Additionally, use functions like esc_html(), esc_attr(), and esc_js() to escape output appropriately.

6. Securing Database Interactions

6.1. Using Prepared Statements

When interacting with the database, use prepared statements instead of raw SQL queries. Prepared statements help prevent SQL injection attacks by automatically escaping user inputs. This practice significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized database access.

6.2. Restricting Database Access

Limit database access permissions to only what is necessary for the application to function. Use separate database users with specific privileges for different parts of your application. This ensures that even if an attacker gains access, they’ll have minimal control over the database.

7. Protecting Against Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

7.1. Content Security Policy (CSP)

Implement a Content Security Policy to control which resources can be loaded on your site. This helps prevent unauthorized scripts from running by specifying trusted sources for scripts, styles, and other assets.

7.2. Input Validation and Output Escaping

Validate and sanitize all user inputs before processing them in your application. Use functions like wp_kses() to remove any potentially harmful content. Additionally, escape all output to prevent XSS attacks.

8. Preventing SQL Injection

8.1. Using Prepared Statements

Prepared statements aren’t just for database interactions; they’re also effective against SQL injection attacks. By using placeholders in your queries, you ensure that user inputs are properly escaped, thwarting potential attackers.

8.2. Database User Privileges

Assign minimal privileges to the database user used by your WordPress application. Avoid using a superuser account for database interactions. This limits the potential damage an attacker can do even if they manage to inject malicious SQL queries.

9. Securing File Uploads

9.1. Limiting File Types and Sizes

Restrict the types of files that users can upload to your WordPress site. Accept only the file types that are necessary for your site’s functionality. Additionally, set limits on file sizes to prevent users from uploading large files that could potentially overwhelm your server.

9.2. Storing Uploads Outside the Web Root

Store uploaded files outside the web root directory to prevent direct access through URLs. This ensures that even if an attacker manages to upload malicious files, they won’t be able to execute them directly.

10. Ensuring Secure Hosting and Server Configuration

10.1. Regular Security Audits

Perform regular security audits of your hosting environment and server configuration. Identify and patch any vulnerabilities or misconfigurations promptly. This proactive approach helps you stay one step ahead of potential threats.

10.2. Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Consider implementing a Web Application Firewall to filter out malicious traffic before it reaches your WordPress application. A WAF can help protect against common attacks like SQL injection, XSS, and DDoS attacks.

11. Regular Backups

11.1. Automated Backup Solutions

Set up automated backup solutions to regularly back up your WordPress site’s data and files. In the event of a security breach or data loss, you can quickly restore your site to a previous state.

11.2. Offsite Storage

Store your backups offsite to prevent data loss in case of server compromise. Cloud storage services or remote servers can provide a secure location for your backups.


Securing your WordPress website goes beyond just coding functionality; it involves a holistic approach to safeguard your site from potential threats and attacks. By following these best practices, you’ll not only protect your users’ data but also ensure the long-term success of your WordPress projects. Remember, staying informed about the latest security trends and continuously updating your skills is essential to maintaining robust WordPress security.

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Software Developer with strong expertise in WordPress websites with over 7 years of experience, and managed cross-functional teams.