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How to Protect Your WordPress Site from DDoS Attacks

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A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack can bring your WordPress site grinding to a halt by flooding it with more requests than it can handle. Left unprotected, all that hard work building your site could be destroyed in an instant.

The good news is that with the right solutions in place, you can defend your WordPress site against the crippling effects of DDoS attacks. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps you need to secure your site.

What Exactly is a DDoS Attack?

A DDoS attack uses a network of computers and devices infected with malware, known as a botnet, to bombard a server with requests and overload it. There are different types of DDoS attacks:

  • Volume-based attacks – Flood the network bandwidth by sending a huge amount of junk traffic. UDP and ICMP floods are common volume-based attack types.

  • Protocol attacks – Target and exploit vulnerabilities in network protocols like SYN floods that leave servers waiting for responses that never arrive.

  • Application layer attacks – Overwhelm applications by exhausting server resources. Slowloris slowly sends partial HTTP requests to keep connections open.

No matter the technique, the end result is that your WordPress site becomes extremely slow or completely crashes due to the influx of malicious traffic.

The Potential Fallout of a DDoS Attack

The consequences of an attack can be severe:

  • Your site may go down, leaving you unable to reach or serve your audience. Loss of traffic can directly hurt revenue for ecommerce sites.

  • Poor performance or downtime damages your brand reputation and site authority. Visitors will go elsewhere to find information.

  • It can cost big money for incident response and mitigation efforts to get your site back up and running again.

  • Search engines like Google will penalize your site rankings as a result of extended downtime.

  • Customer trust deteriorates every minute your site is inaccessible. People will question the reliability and credibility of your business.

Who is Vulnerable to DDoS Attacks?

Any site connected to the public internet can be a target, including:

  • Small personal sites
  • High-traffic commercial sites
  • Government institutions
  • Non-profit organizations

Hackers launch DDoS attacks for different reasons – as a form of hacktivism, for ransom, or to take down the competition. But everyone is at risk.

The open architecture of WordPress, with its reliance on plugins and themes from third-party developers, increases vulnerability. The many endpoints and APIs in a WordPress site give attackers more surface area to exploit.

That‘s why every WordPress site owner needs to take proactive measures to defend against DDoS attacks.

DIY Approaches to Protect WordPress

If you have a smaller site or tighter budget, starting with some DIY solutions can help shore up vulnerabilities:

Disable XML-RPC

XML-RPC allows your site to communicate with other applications, but attackers can exploit it to launch DDoS attacks.

If you don‘t need XML-RPC, disable it by adding code to your site‘s .htaccess file or using a plugin like Disable XML-RPC Pingback.

Use Security Plugins

Plugins like Protection Against DDoS and Disable WP REST API help lock down vulnerabilities in WordPress APIs commonly exploited in DDoS attacks.

While plugins provide some protection, they are not full DDoS solutions on their own. You‘ll get more robust protection from a paid service.

Update WordPress and Plugins

Hackers exploit vulnerabilities in outdated software. Always keep WordPress, themes, and plugins updated to the latest version. Sign up for automated update notifications via email or in the WordPress dashboard.

Limit User Roles

Don‘t assign Admin privileges to more users than absolutely necessary. Restrict Contributors and Subscribers to only the access they need to do their work.

For stronger DDoS protection and fully managed solutions, paid services are worth the investment. Here are some top options:

Sucuri

Sucuri Firewall filters all traffic to your site through a cloud proxy, blocking DDoS attacks before they reach your server.

The firewall intelligently learns normal behavior patterns and stops anomalies. Your site benefits from the large capacity of Sucuri‘s globally distributed cloud infrastructure.

Sucuri‘s malware scanner cleans infections and prevents new ones from taking hold through routine scans. You‘ll get notifications of suspicious activity like unauthorized file changes.

Plans start at $199/year with the firewall, malware scanner, blacklist monitoring, and support included. Site cleaning is offered at an additional fee if your site does get hacked.

Astra Security

Astra Security protects against DDoS at the endpoint with its firewall‘s machine learning intelligence. It identifies and blocks bad bot behavior and evolving attack methods in real time.

Astra‘s firewall works right on your existing server without any DNS changes. Install their WordPress plugin to get set up in minutes.

Each plan includes the firewall, malware scanner, country blocker, and more security tools. You can choose the plan that fits your budget and requirements.

Cloudflare

Cloudflare leverages its massive global network to absorb DDoS attacks before they impact your origin server. Attacks ranging from network floods to complex application layer attacks are filtered at Cloudflare‘s edge.

All TCP ports are protected by proxying connections through Cloudflare data centers. Automatic mitigations kick in upon detecting malicious traffic patterns.

Choose from four tiers of their DDoS protection and web security service, starting at the Free plan. Upgrading to Pro ($20/month) gets you advanced DDoS protection and caching.

StackPath

StackPath uses its extensive network capacity to mitigate even the largest DDoS attacks before they reach your site. Network and app layer attacks are thwarted at the edge.

Their Web Application Firewall employs techniques like JavaScript validation to identify and block bad bots behind application attacks in real time. Customize thresholds to suit your traffic needs.

StackPath‘s ecosystem of services starts at $20/month. Get their WAF and DDoS protection together or individually for $10/month per service. Volume discounts available for larger sites.

How to Choose the Right DDoS Mitigation Service

Consider the following when deciding on the best service for your WordPress site:

  • Type of protection – Get a service that protects against both network and app layer DDoS attacks for comprehensive coverage.

  • Network capacity – Choose a provider with infrastructure capable of absorbing massive attack volumes without slowing down.

  • Performance benefits – Services like Cloudflare and Sucuri speed up your site by caching content at the edge.

  • Budget – Weigh the cost against the value of keeping your site stable and safe. Your audience, brand, and revenue depend on it.

  • Support – Look for providers with 24/7 support in case your site does get hit with an attack.

  • Ease of setup – Minimal effort is ideal. You want to enable protection quickly without making DNS changes.

  • Additional security – Services that include a web application firewall, malware scanning, and other layers of protection are most thorough.

Layer Up for Maximum WordPress Protection

No single tool can block every DDoS attack vector. You get the strongest defense by combining multiple solutions:

  • Use security plugins alongside paid services to cover all vulnerabilities.

  • Enable a firewall, DDoS mitigation, malware scans, and monitoring to stop threats from all directions.

  • Regularly patch and update WordPress, themes, plugins, and any other software that interacts with your site.

  • Limit user roles and permissions to only those needed. Disable features not in use.

The time to protect your site is before disaster strikes. With the right foresight and tools in place, your WordPress site can stay online and avoid the crippling effects of DDoS.

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