Opt out of plugging in for a more secure CMS

Davey Winder explains why CMS plug-ins are not worth the security risk

The web, as we know it today, relies heavily on content management systems (CMS) to operate.

It's a CMS that allows a blog, news publication or shopping site to be managed centrally, collaboratively and consistently, which is why it's such a shame that CMS systems suck elephants through a straw when it comes to security. Actually, let me qualify that statement: CMS plugins suck.

Advertisement - Article continues below

So much so, I know web developers at the larger end of the business who visibly shudder when a client asks for a plugin to be installed.

It's not just the home-brew business sites, participating in the perilous 'free plugin' adventure I am talking about here. Commercial plugins, which you might expect to be a different container of aquatic creature are also vulnerable.

I was talking to someone the other day who had been using a 'premium' plugin called the 'revolution slider' in this case. Now here's the thing, the plugin vulnerability was quickly patched by the developers for anyone who was buying it through them. However, older versions were still out there and rolled into theme packages and those are less likely to have been patched.

As a result, one business found itself on the wrong end of an exploit. The attacker downloaded the wp-config.php file and gained access to database credentials using this Local File Inclusion (LFI) attack mode. The outcome was a hijacked mail server, pumping out hundreds of thousands of malicious emails, and a reputation requiring urgent rebuilding.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

It comes as no surprise in that example that it was the WordPress CMS at the heart of things, including the insecurity issues.

WordPress is popular for a reason, well many reasons, and they all revolve around it being very functional indeed.

Security outfit Imperva reckon that 74,652,825 sites depend on Wordpress, including the likes of CNN, eBay and The New York Times. Half of those are using the free hosting supplied by, just to add a little more fear to the pot.

Of the top 100 blogs listed by Technorati, 48 per cent use WordPress. Unfortunately, as revealed in the annual 'Web Application Attack Report' from the same security vendor, sites running WordPress turn out to have been attacked 24.1 per cent more often than sites running on all the other CMS platforms combined and they get hit by Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks 60 per cent more frequently.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Here's the thing, and the message I'm trying to get across: the CMS itself is not a liability, and WordPress is not a liability. Plugins, on the other hand really can be, more often than not.

Saying be careful is a bit twee, but I'll say it anyway. When it comes to choosing plugins, my rule of thumb would be to apply the same level of security due diligence as you did when choosing which CMS platform to use in the first place.

Featured Resources

Preparing for long-term remote working after COVID-19

Learn how to safely and securely enable your remote workforce

Download now

Cloud vs on-premise storage: What’s right for you?

Key considerations driving document storage decisions for businesses

Download now

Staying ahead of the game in the world of data

Create successful marketing campaigns by understanding your customers better

Download now

Transforming productivity

Solutions that facilitate work at full speed

Download now



University of California gets fleeced by hackers for $1.14 million

30 Jun 2020
cyber security

Australia announces $1.35 billion investment in cyber security

30 Jun 2020
cloud security

CSA and ISSA form cyber security partnership

30 Jun 2020
ethical hacking

Mobile banking apps are exposing user data to attackers

26 Jun 2020

Most Popular

Careers & training

IBM job ad calls for 12-years of experience with six-year-old Kubernetes

13 Jul 2020
Business operations

Nvidia overtakes Intel as most valuable US chipmaker

9 Jul 2020
cyber attacks

Trump confirms US cyber attack on Russia election trolls

13 Jul 2020