Hackers love WordPress: In 2018, websites that used the CMS were successfully attacked more frequently than websites using any other CMS. Much of this is due to WordPress’ enormous popularity, running on at least 35% of all known websites. It’s a hard target to miss.

Even still, cybercriminals know that many WordPress users either don’t understand proper security or don’t take it seriously, making their websites easy-hackable. Want to prove them wrong? One of the first steps to strengthen security on a WordPress site is a security scan.

Download Now: Free Website Safety Checklist

What Is a WordPress Security Scan?

A WordPress security scan reviews the files that run your website and detects harmful or potentially harmful code placed by attackers in these files. Some scanners also flag potential security vulnerabilities, like weak passwords or outdated files, and provide users with recommendations to fix them.

A thorough scan will check your WordPress core (i.e., the files WordPress itself uses to run), your current theme, and all installed plugins for dangerous code and security vulnerabilities. These comprehensive scans are safest, since you never know which part of your website might be affected.

Why You Should Scan Your WordPress Site

Cybersecurity should be a top priority for any online presence, since a successful attack could mean disaster for your business growth and reputation. It doesn’t help that the battlefield changes so often, with new technologies constantly implemented to both harm and protect innocent website owners.

Even after taking the proper measures to block out attacks, it’s impossible to eliminate the chance of a successful hack on any website, including ones built with WordPress. Even worse, an attack gone undetected will continue to cause damage long after the initial breach. Without security scanning, you leave your visitors and customers susceptible to a variety of potential attacks from undetected intrusions.

You could review these files yourself, but this would require an unrealistic amount of time, not to mention you risk accidentally damaging your files in the process. To clean up your WordPress site and keep it that way, you’ll want to use a scanner.

How to Scan Your WordPress Site for Malware

As is with most functions in WordPress, you need a plugin designed for WordPress security in order to conduct scans. But, not just any plugin will do. You need one that’s reputable and properly maintained, since new vulnerabilities are always popping up and require competent developers to patch them.

Even with the right plugin, security scans are not one-and-done. They must be conducted regularly to be effective. According to web hosting provider Bluehost, you should scan your website for problems at least once a month, and the frequency of scans will increase based on the popularity and visibility of your website, as well as what content you store online. It’s also a good idea to conduct scans after updates to WordPress core or any of your plugins.

One more thing: Just about all reputable security plugins offer more than simple scanning. Choosing a WordPress security plugin only for its security scanning is like choosing a car just for the wheels. Wheels are necessary, but there are other factors of equal importance to consider. When browsing security plugins, keep in mind your WordPress security requirements beyond simple scans.

Here are 7 security plugins for WordPress we recommend for security scanning, and more.

1. Defender

Defender is an all-in-one security plugin for WordPress. Among its many security features, it offers free malware scans to detect malicious code and quickly restore damaged files. Defender also contains tools for two-factor authentication (2FA), login protection to combat password-guessing bots, security update reminders, firewall protection (for filtering traffic from outside networks), and other handy features to harden your WordPress security.

Pricing: Defender offers a free version and a paid membership for $49/month, which also grants access to other premium WordPress plugins offered by WPMU Dev.

the Defender WordPress Security scan plugin being used in the WordPress dashboard


2. Wordfence

Wordfence is a reputable and widely used plugin for comprehensive protection of your WordPress website. The free version of Wordfence offers a malware scanner that checks for security vulnerabilities and eliminates harmful code, spam, and injections. It also includes a powerful firewall, login protection measures, and website monitoring tools.

If you manage multiple websites built with WordPress, Wordfence offers the free “Wordfence Central” feature, which allows users to oversee security for all websites using the Wordfence plugin.

Pricing: Wordfence offers a free version and a paid version with additional features for $99/year.

screenshot of the Wordfence WordPress security scan tool


3. iThemes Security

iThemes Security is another popular option for WordPress users seeking better security. The free version of the plugin is capable of fundamental security measures including basic security scans, content backup, login protection against brute-force attacks, and spam prevention. However, the paid version is where iThemes Security shines, with advanced malware scans, 2FA, tools for closely monitoring user accounts, captcha for login and visitor-facing website forms, and more.

Pricing: iThemes security offers a free version and annual subscriptions ranging from $80 to $199.

the iThemes security dashboard for running WordPress security scans


4. BulletProof Security

For a more hands-on plugin solution, try Bulletproof Security. The free version alone offers an abundance of features including malware scanning, login protection and monitoring, maintenance mode, update reminders, error logging, and tools to modify specific files to your liking. The pro version basically doubles the number of available features. If you’re not afraid of a slightly steeper learning curve, it’s worth giving BulletProof a shot (pun intended).

Pricing: BulletProof offers a free version and a paid version for a one-time payment of $69.95.

screenshot of the BulletProof Security WordPress security scan tool


5. All In One WP Security & Firewall

For a powerful free option, try to All In One WP Security & Firewall. This plugin emphasizes its user-friendliness and wide range of offers, including malware scanning, a firewall feature with adjustable filter levels, login protection, close user monitoring, automatic and manual database backups, and many other features to toggle smaller security details in your website, all tied together with a friendly interface. For a free tool, All In One WP Security & Firewall is quite versatile.

Pricing: All In One WP Security & Firewall is free.

banner for the All In One WP Security and Firewall tool for WordPress security scans


6. Sucuri

Sucuri is known for its exceptional cybersecurity products and services, including its free WordPress security plugin. In addition to free resources like email alerts, WordPress core integrity checks, and guides for a post-hacking scenario, Sucuri’s plugin includes a scanner which detects malware, errors, outdated code, and blacklisting status.

However, the scanner itself is remote, meaning it can only find vulnerabilities in your WordPress website pages. It cannot check the core files that control your site’s backend, so it won’t scan as thoroughly as other options on this list. You can also use the same scanner tool on this page without having to install the plugin.

Pricing: Sucuri’s WordPress plugin is free, and integrates with Sucuri’s paid security features.

dashboard for the Sucuri tool for WordPress security scans


7. Security Ninja

Security Ninja is an excellent option for WordPress users who want a security plugin focused on extensive checks and detailed reviewing. Besides having the best name on this list, Security Ninja runs over 50 different security checks on safety of your login procedures, plugins, and more. After a scan, it presents the results in detail, making it easy to run down the list and pinpoint vulnerabilities.

Pricing: Security Ninja offers a free version and a paid version with monthly, annual, and lifetime subscription options.

dashboard for the Sucuri tool for WordPress security scans


There are many plugin options for hardening your WordPress site, and some will certainly work better for your needs than others. As with any plugin, take the time to research and weigh your options before settling on one. Of course, switching out one for another is okay, too.

If you use any of the plugins I’ve listed here, be sure to update them when needed and run scans on a regular basis. By staying on top of your scanning, you’ll keep a clean website and a clear head.

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Originally published May 27, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated September 08 2020


WordPress Security