Before we dive into some WordPress security plugins, let’s start with an example. Say you buy a new house. This exciting new investment requires a hefty down-payment you’re probably not used to spending. And, of course, you’re hit with inspection fees prior to buying. Then comes the mortgage and insurance payments, all of which come straight out of your pocket.
They say purchasing real estate is one of the best investments you can make, but that investment is a costly one. For such a high-value investment (and something that could make you big bucks in the future,) would you not want to protect it to the best of your ability?
That’s why you buy insurance and consider setting up an alarm system or some security cameras. Many experts suggest at least placing a security system sign on your door, to scare away those who don’t want to risk it. All of this security is meant to protect the initial investment, along with the potential for that investment in the future.
And you should think the same way when it comes to your WordPress website.
Starting a blog, ecommerce website, or small business site requires an upfront investment for items for services and products like hosting, themes, plugins, and website development. That doesn’t include any help you must hire, such as customer service reps or salespeople.
This initial investment alone is enough to secure your website from the start. But more importantly, you’re making sure that you don’t forget to protect the potential money you’re going to make in the future.
By default, WordPress core has some security measures in place, but it’s nothing compared to what a reputable security plugin does for you. For example, the top WordPress security plugins deliver the following:
- Active security monitoring
- File scanning
- Malware scanning
- Blacklist monitoring
- Security hardening
- Post-hack actions
- Brute force attack protection
- Notifications for when a security threat is detected
- Much more
Your First Priority Should Be Secure Hosting
The security of your site is only as good as the backend and foundation it’s running on. That’s why it’s important, before looking into security plugins, that you choose a WordPress host that has security measures already place, such as Kinsta. Many of these safeguards are done at the server-level, and can be far more effective, without harming performance on your site. Not to mention you don’t have to spend time fiddling with a bunch of security settings in plugins which in you might not even understand their functionality or purpose.
Here are a few security features that Kinsta offers on all WordPress managed hosting plans.
- Kinsta continuously runs malware scans, detects DDoS attacks, monitors for uptime, and automatically bans IPs that have more than 6 failed login attempts in a minute.
- Only encrypted SFTP and SSH connections (no FTP) are supported when accessing your WordPress sites directly.
- Hardware firewalls, along with additional active and passive security measures are in place to prevent access to your data.
- Kinsta uses Linux containers (LXC) on top of Google Cloud Platform which provides complete isolation for not just each account, but each separate WordPress site. This is a much more secure method than offered by other competitors. GCP also employs data encryption at rest.
- Kinsta only runs supported versions of PHP: 5.6, 7, 7.1, and 7.2. Unsupported versions of PHP are dangerous due to the fact that they no longer have security updates and are exposed to unpatched security vulnerabilities.
- Nothing is ever 100% hack-proof, and that’s why Kinsta provides free hack fixes for all clients.
It’s important to note that a lot of security plugins cause performance issues due to their always-on and scanning functionalities. That’s why Kinsta bans some (not all) security plugins. Kinsta also utilizes load balancers with Google Cloud Platform which means in some cases IP blocking features of some security plugins won’t work as intended.
If you’re a Kinsta client we highly recommend utilizing a solution such as Cloudflare or Sucuri, along with Kinsta, if you need extra protection or help to decrease bot and or proxy traffic. Check out our blog post on how Sucuri helped to easily mitigate a DDoS attack.
However, not every host is going to have as tight of security in place as Kinsta, and that’s where WordPress security plugins can be very beneficial.
Best WordPress Security Plugins
If you’re in a hurry, feel free to click on the following links to test out the security plugins and make your own decisions. If you’d like to see our in-depth analysis, keep reading!
- Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Security Hardening
- iThemes Security
- Wordfence Security
- WP fail2ban
- All In One WP Security & Firewall
- BulletProof Security
- Google Authenticator – Two Factor Authentication
Most worthwhile security plugins have a price tag, but there are a few that come with limited functionality for free.
We’ll talk about the pricing, but it’s more important to understand what each plugin is going to do for you. Ultimately, it’s all about figuring out the best way to keep the bad guys away from your investment–and sometimes that means spending a little money.
1. Sucuri Security – Auditing, Malware Scanner and Security Hardening
The Sucuri Security plugin offers both free and paid versions, yet the majority of websites should be fine with the free plugin. For instance, the website firewall requires you to pay for a Sucuri plan, but not every webmaster feels like they need that type of security.
As for the free features, the plugin comes with security activity auditing for seeing how well the plugin is protecting your website. It has file integrated monitoring, blacklist monitoring, security notifications, and security hardening. The premium plans open up customer service channels and more frequent scans. For instance, you might want a scan to be completed every 12 hours. For that, you’d pay about $17 per month.
Best Features of Sucuri Security
- It offers multiple variations of SSL certificates. You do have to pay for these, but it’s available in the packages.
- The customer service is available in the form of instant chat and email.
- You receive instant notifications when something is wrong with your website.
- Advanced DDoS protection is available through some plans.
- If you don’t want to pay any money you still receive valuable tools for blacklist monitoring, malware scanning, file integrity monitoring, and security hardening.
2. iThemes Security
The iThemes Security plugin (previously known as Better WP Security) is one of the more impressive ways to protect your website, with over 30 offerings to prevent things like hacks and unwanted intruders. It has a strong focus on recognizing plugin vulnerabilities, obsolete software, and weak passwords.
Although some basic security features are included with the free version, we highly recommend upgrading to iThemes Security Pro for the low price of $80 per year. This provides ticketed support, one year of plugin updates, and support for two websites. If you’d like to protect more sites, you have the option to upgrade to a more expensive plan.
As for the primary features in the pro version, iThemes Security Pro provides strong password enforcement, the locking out of bad users, and database backups. These are only a few of the ways to protect your site with this WordPress security plugin. You can activate 30 total security measures, making iThemes Security Pro a great value.
Best Features of iThemes Security
- The security plugin offers file change detection, which is important since most webmasters don’t notice when a file is messed with.
- Add an extra layer of protection to your login by using the Google reCAPTCHA integration.
- The plugin compares your WordPress core files with the current version of WordPress, helping you understand if anything malicious is placed in those files.
- Update your WordPress salts and keys to add an extra layer of complexity to your authentication keys.
- You can set an “Away Mode” for when you’re not making constant updates to your site and want to completely lock your WordPress dashboard from all users.
- Other essentials like 404 detection, brute force protection, and strong password enforcement.
3. Wordfence Security
Wordfence Security is one of the most popular WordPress security plugins, and for good reason. This gem pairs simplicity with powerful protection tools, such as the robust login security features and the security incident recovery tools. One of the main advantages of Wordfence is the fact that you can gain insight into overall traffic trends and hack attempts.
Wordfence has one of the more impressive free solutions, with everything from firewall blocks to protection from brute force attacks. However, a premium version is sold starting at around $99 per year for one site. The plugin creators also make it cheaper for developers, providing steep discounts when you signup for multiple site keys. For instance, opting for 25 keys cuts the price to about $29 per year for each site. Overall, it pays to consider Wordfence if you’re developing multiple websites and want to protect them all.
Best Features of WordFence Security
- The free version is powerful enough for smaller websites.
- Developers can save tons of money when they signup for multiple site keys.
- It has a full firewall suite with tools for country blocking, manual blocking, brute force protection, real-time threat defense, and a web application firewall.
- The scan portion of the plugin fights off malware, real-time threats, and spam.
- The plugin monitors live traffic by viewing things like Google crawl activity, logins and logouts, human visitors, and bots.
- You gain access to some unique tools like the option to sign in with your cell phone and password auditing.
- The comment spam filter removes the need to install a separate plugin for this.
4. WP fail2ban
WP fail2ban delivers one feature, but it’s a rather important one: protection from brute force attacks. The plugin takes a different approach which many see as more effective than what you get from some of the security suite plugins listed above. WP fail2ban documents all login attempts, regardless of their nature or successfulness, to the syslog using LOG_AUTH. You have the option to implement a soft or hard ban, which is different from the more traditional approach of only choosing one.
There’s not much to know in terms of configuration for the WP fail2ban plugin. In fact, all you have to do is install it and let it do its magic. In addition, the brute force security plugin is completely free so you don’t have to worry about spending any money. This plugin is truly a standout, since the users consistently report that it works flawlessly.
Best Features of WP fail2ban
- Choose between hard or soft blocks.
- Integrate with CloudFlare and proxy servers.
- Log comments to prevent spam or malicious comments.
- The plugin also logs information about spam, pingbacks, and user enumeration.
- You also have the option to create a shortcode that blocks users immediately before even having a chance to reach the login process.
5. All In One WP Security & Firewall
As one of the most feature-packed free security plugins, All In One WP Security & Firewall provides an easy interface and decent customer support without any premium plans. This is a highly visual security plugin with graphs and meters to explain to the beginners metrics like security strength and what needs to be done to make your site stronger.
The features are broken down into three categories: Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. Therefore, you can still take advantage of the plugin if you’re a more advanced developer. The main ways this plugin works is by protecting your user accounts, blocking forceful attempts on your login, and enhancing the user registration security. Database and file security is also packaged into the plugin.
Best Features of All In One WP Security & Firewall
- The WordPress security plugin has a blacklist tool where you can set certain requirements to block a user.
- You can backup .htaccess and .wp-config files. There’s also a tool to restore them if anything goes wrong.
- The plugin shows one graph to specify how strong your website is and a graph that designates points to certain areas of your site. It’s one of the best features for the average user to visualize what’s going on with the security of a site.
- The plugin is free without any upsells along the way.
Most people who use WordPress are familiar with Jetpack, and it’s mainly because the plugin has so many features, but it’s also because the plugin is made by the people from WordPress.com. Jetpack is filled with modules to strengthen your social media, site speed, and spam protection. There are so many features in Jetpack that it’s definitely worth exploring.
Some security tools are included with Jetpack as well, making it an appealing plugin for those who want to save money and rely on a reputable solution. For instance, the Protect module is free and it blocks suspicious activity from happening. Brute force attack protection and whitelisting is also supported by the basic security functionality from Jetpack.
That said, the paid versions of Jetpack are more powerful when it comes to security. For instance, the $99 per year plan includes malware scanning, scheduled website backups, and restoration if anything goes wrong. Furthermore, the $299 per year plan offers on-demand malware scans and real-time backups for the ultimate protection.
Best Features of Jetpack
- The free plan provides a decent amount of security for a small website, then you can upgrade to the reasonably priced premium plans and get full support and a plugin that’s one of the best on the market.
- The premium plans turn the plugin into more of a suite, with benefits like backups, spam protection, and security scanning.
- Plugin updates are managed entirely through Jetpack.
- You also get downtime monitoring.
- Jetpack is also a plugin that eliminates the need for other plugins. For instance, it has features for email marketing, social media, site customization, and optimization.
7. BulletProof Security
The BulletProof Security plugin has both free and premium versions. The paid option sells for a one-time payment of $69.95, but it’s not the easiest of programs to install and manage. That said, the plugin provides a 30-day money back guarantee, and you receive features for quarantines, email alerting, anti-spam, auto-restore, and more.
I’d suggest you try out the free plugin first, since it offers the following tools:
- Login security and monitoring.
- Database backups and restoring.
- Anti-spam and anti-hacking tools.
- A security log.
- Hidden plugin folders.
- Maintenance mode.
- A full setup wizard.
As mentioned, it’s not the most user-friendly WordPress security plugin, but it does the job for advanced developers who want to take advantage of unique settings and features like the anti-exploit guard and the online Base64 decoder.
Best Features of BulletProof Security
- It has some of the most unique advanced security tools on the market, with encrypting solutions, scheduled crons, cURL scans, folder locking, and more.
- The free version is packed with enough features for the average website.
- The database backups are provided in the free version.
- You can hide individual plugin folders.
- The maintenance mode functionality is not something you would find in most other security plugins.
It’s important not to forget VaultPress, since it works similar to plugins like iThemes Security Pro and Sucuri Scanner. You need to pay in order to get any type of protection, but the plans start at only $39 per year, making it one of the more affordable premium security plugins. The website states that this plan is more for small businesses and bloggers, but you also have the option to upgrade to a more powerful plan for either $99 per year or $299 per year.
The daily and real-time backups are the bread and butter of the operation, with a beautiful calendar view for specifying when you’d like to complete your backups. You can also complete site restores with a quick click of the mouse. What’s more is that the restore files are logged in the dashboard, and several of them are stored so that you can choose which one you want. The best part of VaultPress in regards to backups is that they are incremental. This is great for performance.
The primary security tools monitor suspicious activity on your website, with tabs for viewing your history and seeing which threats have been dealt with or ignored. You can also check out stats and manage your entire security detail from the convenience of a clean dashboard.
Best Features of VaultPress
- The pricing is better than most other premium WordPress security plugins.
- The dashboard looks cleans and easy to understand for all users.
- You can make real-time or manual backups using a calendar.
- The stats tab reveals information on the most popular visiting times on your site, while also showing what threats have occurred during those times.
- You can contact the experts from VaultPress to help you out with tasks like site restores and backups.
9. Google Authenticator – Two Factor Authentication
The majority of plugins that have individual security features don’t make much sense to install. The reason for this is because you can typically go with a plugin like iThemes Security Pro and get that one feature along with dozens of other ones. However, two-factor authentication is a different story, since it seems like most security suites don’t include it. Therefore, it might make sense to harden your login security with a plugin like this.
The Google Authenticator plugin adds a second layer of security to your login module, which is rather important since the majority of hacking attempts happen with the login. In addition to your regular password, this plugin either sends a push notification to your phone or some other form of authentication such as using a QR code or asking a security question.
This way, your login becomes far less penetrable since the second layer is most likely something that only you know or have on your person (like your phone).
This WordPress security plugin doesn’t require any payment, and the interface is easy enough to understand. Besides choosing the type of authentication, another cool feature lets you specify which type of user role should have to go through the authentication. So, you can allow admins to get in easier, but you might ask that authors or other users go through the two-factor process.
The only problem is that the two-factor authentication makes it rather difficult to log in to your backend with a mobile device.
Best Features of Google Authenticator
- It nearly eliminates the vulnerability that is your login area.
- You can choose which two-factor authentication method is the easiest for you.
- You can select which user types need to go through the authentication process.
- The plugin has a shortcode for using with custom login pages.
Which WordPress Security Plugin is Best for You?
Now that we’ve walked through the best WordPress security plugins, take a look at our main recommendations below. This makes it easier for you to select one or two plugins without having to test every single one out. Remember, that depending on what your WordPress host already offers, security plugins may not be needed.
These suggestions hone in on certain situations where you might choose one security plugin over another.
- For the best value – Sucuri Security, Jetpack, or iThemes Security.
- If you want a free WordPress security plugin – All In One WP Security & Firewall, Sucuri Security (free version,) or Wordfence Security.
- If you’re looking for a security plugin for beginners – All In One WP Security & Firewall.
- When you require a more advanced brute force protection plugin – WP fail2ban.
- If you’d like two-factor authentication – Google Authenticator – Two Factor Authentication.
- For a beautiful interface with great incremental backup potential – VaultPress.
Of course, we can’t cover all the plugins out there. These are simply those we recommend based on our experience with users. If there is one you think should be included in this list, let us know below in the comments.