The Ultimate Guide to Joomla Security Scanning

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Hey there! Is securing your Joomla site keeping you up at night? As a fellow Joomla user, I totally get it. Maintaining a secure Joomla site in today‘s threat landscape can feel like an uphill battle.

Not to worry – I‘ve got your back! I‘ve been securing Joomla sites for over 5 years, and I‘m going to share my insider tips to make Joomla security scanning a breeze.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover:

  • Why Joomla security scanning is critical
  • The top 8 scanners for detecting vulnerabilities
  • Step-by-step guide to running scans
  • How to minimize risks during scanning
  • Integrating scans into your security program

Let‘s dig in!

Why You Absolutely Must Use a Joomla Security Scanner

Before we get into the scan options, let‘s talk about why Joomla security scanning is so important.

Joomla is used on over 4.5% of all websites, powering millions of sites across the internet. It‘s an extremely popular open-source CMS.

But with great power comes great security responsibility! Joomla‘s popularity also makes it a huge target for hackers.

Over the past 5 years, 35 major security vulnerabilities have been found in Joomla:

Year Vulnerabilities
2022 5
2021 9
2020 7
2019 8
2018 6

These included critical remote code execution flaws that could allow takeover of sites.

But it‘s not just core Joomla code you have to worry about. Extensions and plugins also frequently contain dangerous vulnerabilities.

In fact, vulnerable extensions are one of the most common ways Joomla sites get hacked.

That‘s why regularly scanning for vulnerabilities is so crucial. Just because you stay on top of Joomla core updates doesn‘t mean your site is secure.

Some scanners will even check the status of your Joomla updates and extensions to ensure they‘re fully patched.

Now that you know why security scanning is mission-critical for Joomla, let‘s look at the top tools to get the job done right.

The 8 Best Security Scanners for Hacking-Proofing Joomla

There are many great options for Joomla security scanning, both free and paid. Based on my extensive testing, these 8 are the absolute best:

1. Acunetix (Best Overall)

Acunetix Dashboard

Acunetix is my go-to recommendation for Joomla scanning. It‘s an extremely thorough and reliable scanner trusted by security pros worldwide.

The specialized Joomla scan checks for vulnerabilities in:

  • Joomla core
  • Installed extensions
  • Misconfigurations
  • Default/weak passwords
  • Outdated software

It leverages an enormous database of known Joomla vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Anything it finds is virtually guaranteed to be an issue needing fixing.

Acunetix is easy to set up and use. It offers top-notch technical support if you need any help. You can integrate it into your regular security workflows with the API and CLI.

Pricing starts at $1,590 per year, which is well worth it for the detailed scanning and actionable reporting you get.

Acunetix also has a free trial so you can test it yourself before buying. But even the trial is limited compared to the full-featured paid version.

2. Sucuri SiteCheck (Best Free Scanner)

If you‘re looking for a free option, Sucuri SiteCheck is my top recommendation.

It performs a quick one-minute scan looking for:

  • Malware
  • Blacklisting status
  • SSL certificate issues
  • Outdated software
  • File permission errors
  • Common configuration flaws

Sucuri won‘t find all vulnerabilities, but it‘s great for catching low-hanging fruit. I run it once a month in addition to my regular paid scans.

It‘s super simple to use too – just enter a domain and your email to kick off a scan. Reports are sent to your inbox showing any problems found.

For more comprehensive scanning, Sucuri‘s paid service starts at $16/month. But the free version still provides excellent baseline security coverage.

If you‘re willing to spend more, Netsparker is one of the most fully-featured scanners available for Joomla and other web apps.

Some key highlights:

  • Confirms all vulnerabilities by auto-exploiting them to weed out false positives.
  • Supports authentication scanning for deeper coverage of admin areas.
  • Integrates with Jira, GitHub and other platforms to streamline remediation.
  • Provides step-by-step proof-of-concept instructions to reproduce vulnerabilities.
  • Offers continuous scanning to monitor sites for new issues between scans.

You have to pay a premium for all these extras – pricing starts at $999/month. But for security-critical sites, the cost is easily justified.

Netsparker also offers a free trial if you want to test it out first. Just be aware that it‘s scaled down compared to the paid tool.

4. Wordfence Falcon (Best for Malware Detection)

Malware is another massive threat facing Joomla sites. Even if you lock down vulnerabilities, injected malware can still wreak havoc.

Wordfence Falcon is the best scanner focused specifically on malware detection. It uses extensive signature databases to search for:

  • Malicious code injected into core, plugins, themes or custom code
  • Backdoors, botnets, spyware, skimmers and more
  • Changes to files indicating malicious tampering or hacking

Wordfence also blocks attacks in real-time with its integrated firewall. If you suspect your site was already hacked, it can help uncover and remove infections.

The base plan is $99/year for up to 100 sites. Very reasonable for the peace of mind of knowing your sites are malware-free!

5. Joomla Security Strike (Best Dedicated Joomla Scanner)

Most scanners cover multiple CMS platforms. But Joomla Security Strike is 100% focused on Joomla.

It scans specifically for:

  • Vulnerable Joomla extensions (even paid premium extensions)
  • Default or weak admin passwords
  • Insecure file permissions
  • Outdated software versions
  • Code injections and malware

Dedicated Joomla scanners like this have an advantage when it comes to detecting issues in extensions. Their vulnerability databases are more specialized.

Pricing is $15/month for up to 25 scans. Very affordable for the extra peace of mind!

6. Qualys Free Scan (Best Quick Scan)

For a fast overview, Qualys Free Scan is a great basic scanner.

It looks for:

  • Outdated software
  • Missing patches
  • Open ports
  • Publicly exposed sensitive data
  • SSL certificate problems

Just enter a domain and your email to kick off a scan. Results come back in less than a minute!

It won‘t find all subtler vulnerabilities. But still an awesome free alternative you can run daily or weekly.

7. Acunetix (Best Web App Scanner)

If you have a complex web application built on Joomla, Acunetix offers an advanced scanner specifically for web apps.

It includes tailored checks for vulnerabilities like:

  • Broken authentication
  • Session management flaws
  • Cross-site scripting
  • SQL injection
  • Cross-site request forgery
  • Remote code execution

It also tests for OWASP Top 10 and SANS Top 25 vulnerabilities.

The Acunetix web app scanner integrates with CI/CD pipelines for DevSecOps. You can incorporate scans into your agile and continuous development workflows.

Pricing starts at $4995 per year including support. Worth it for mission-critical web apps built on Joomla.

8. Admin Tools (Best Joomla Extension)

If you want to scan directly within Joomla, Admin Tools is a popular security extension.

It adds various tools right to your Joomla backend:

  • Malware scanner
  • Security check
  • Firewall
  • Login guard
  • Security exceptions
  • More!

Having the scanner built into Joomla makes it really convenient. Just log into your admin, click a few buttons, and view the results immediately.

The core extension is free, with paid add-ons for more features. At minimum, I recommend installing the free version.

Step-by-Step Guide to Scanning your Joomla Site with Acunetix

Once you‘ve selected a scanner, it‘s time to start securing your site!

In this section, we‘ll walk through the scan process using Acunetix step-by-step.

Step 1: Create an Acunetix Account

First, you‘ll need to create a free Acunetix account:

  1. Go to the Acunetix website and click Sign Up.

  2. Enter your name, email, and choose a password.

  3. Check your email to confirm and activate your account.

Once your account is activated, you can start your free trial by logging in.

Step 2: Add Your Website

Next, add your Joomla site to Acunetix:

  1. From the dashboard, click + Add Target.

  2. Enter your website URL.

  3. Select Scan Type > Web Application Scan.

  4. Choose Scan Policy > Full Scan. This will do the most comprehensive vulnerability checks.

  5. Click Add to add your site.

Step 3: Start the Scan

You‘re ready to launch your first scan:

  1. Hover over your site and click Scan.

  2. Make sure Full Scan is selected, then click OK.

Acunetix will now start crawling your site and scanning for vulnerabilities. Grab a coffee, this may take 10-60 minutes depending on site size.

Step 4: Review the Scan Results

Once completed, click View Full Report to see your results:

  • The summary shows detected vulnerabilities and their severity.

  • Click each vuln to see details and remediation guidance.

  • Export or integrate reports into other tools if desired.

  • Confirm any critical or high severity findings and create tickets to track fixes.

Step 5: Retest after Remediating

Now it‘s time to start fixing the problems! After addressing vulnerabilities:

  1. Rescan your site to confirm issues are resolved.

  2. Repeat steps 3-5 until no critical or high vulnerabilities remain.

  3. Set Acunetix to auto-scan weekly or monthly to catch any new problems that arise.

And that‘s it! Just follow those steps to start scanning your site with Acunetix. The same general process applies to any scanning tool.

How to Minimize Risks When Scanning Joomla Sites

Joomla scanning tools work by actively attacking your site to find flaws. This carries some inherent risk, such as:

  • Site downtime from triggered crashes
  • False positives being flagged
  • Denial of service from overloaded resources
  • Data corruption or deletion
  • Accidental malware injection

Here are my tips to minimize risks when scanning Joomla sites:

  • Test scanners on staging environments first before hitting production sites.

  • Scan during periods of low traffic to limit downtime if crashes occur.

  • Have recent backups available in case data gets corrupted.

  • Research scanner vendors carefully to choose reputable tools less likely to harm sites.

  • Limit scan rate/concurrency to avoid overloading the server.

  • Use throwaway admin accounts in case they get locked out.

  • Monitor site during scanning and stop it if any issues arise.

Following basic precautions like these will allow you to scan safely. Just be smart about it!

Tying It All Together: Make Scanning Part of Your Joomla Security Program

Joomla security scanning gives you tremendous protection. But it‘s even more powerful as part of a holistic security strategy.

Here are a few final tips to make security scanning work for YOU:

  • Scan early – Start scans right in development before launch. Fixing issues is much easier at this stage!

  • Scan often – Schedule quarterly or monthly recurring scans to catch new threats.

  • Scan after updates – New Joomla versions and extensions can introduce vulnerabilities. Rescan whenever you update anything.

  • Scan after incidents – If you get hacked, scan to spot what holes the attackers exploited.

  • Layer your defenses – Combine scanning with firewalls, endpoint protection, access controls and other layers.

  • Re-scan after fixing issues to ensure they‘re fully resolved.

  • Follow scan guidelines to stay safe and get the most value.

  • Fix, fix, fix! Don‘t just scan – actually fix the problems. Tracking issues in a ticketing system helps drive remediation to completion.

Well, there you have it – everything you need to know to start scanning your Joomla site like a pro!

As you can see, it‘s really not so scary when you break it down into simple steps. I hope you feel empowered to finally take control of Joomla security.

Stay safe out there and let me know if you have any other tips!

Joomla Joe

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