Website Plugin Perils

How Website Plugins Can Compromise Your Website Security.

Lots of websites make use of open source and commercial code libraries many of which are now so user friendly that they are called plugins and can be installed on most of the major platforms in a matter of minutes. They allow you to do all kinds of cool things that would otherwise require a great deal of programming. But plugins should be used sparingly. Not all of them play nicely together and not all of them are coded correctly and the more you have, the more you put your sites security at risk.

The Dangers of Website Plugins

Plugins pose a security risk because they introduce new code to your web site, with some plugins being well coded and others having terrible coding standards. This increases your website’s vulnerability to attacks. More code means more opportunities for hackers to exploit weaknesses in your website’s coding.

This is especially risky in the long term, in order to maintain plugins, you need to get regular updates just look at how often Microsoft release updates, website plugins are updated almost as often. If the plugins on your website go without updates for long periods of time, they will almost certainly be full of weak points through which hackers can gain access. And hackers once an hacker knows of a security hole in a plugin they can easily find websites to hack using Google to search for them, it takes just minutes to come up with lists of thousands of websites.

Sometimes plugins aren’t what they’re advertised to be, they could be fake programs that contain malware. Once you install them on your site, the person who created them could potentially take over your website or use your server for their own purposes.

Check Out Plugins Before You Install

You can prevent most problems by using plugins sparingly and doing some research before you install them. Take a look at the author of the plugin to see if they’re legitimate. See if they’ve developed other plugins and look for reviews of them. Reviews will tell you if any other website owners had problems with them.

You can also find out about a plugin by looking at its activity in the directory where it’s available. Pay especially close attention to how responsive the developer was when there were problems. If something is not supported by its developer the best advice is to stir clear of installing it.

You may also be able to see how often the creator updates the plugin. This is tricky because if you see no updates, it might indicate that the owner is slow or unresponsive about updating their plugins. On the other hand, if there are a large number of updates, this may mean the plugin has had too many glitches and problems. Look for plugins that have a consistent update record.

Most directories will let you check the plugin’s popularity. If it has many users, this is a good sign that the plugin is alright. You’ll know at least that there’s nothing suspicious about it.

Get Rid of Old Website Plugins

If you have had your Website for any length of time, chances are you have plugins installed that aren’t used anymore, you might even have deactivated them. These deactivated plugins still pose a security threat as their code is still there and hackers can still use this to gain access, this is one of the biggest security black holes which hackers exploit. Periodically check for old plugins and uninstall them completely. This means removing them completely and generally means use a file manager program on your hosting account to uninstall them completely.

Do You Really Need It?

Plugin shopping is fun and there are many plugins offered for free, but resist the temptation to go overboard. Each time you’re considering a plugin, ask yourself whether or not you really need it. Are you considering it because it’s crucial or just cool? Before you install a plugin, you should also check to see if there’s a similar one that might be better, more popular, or more secure. Generally speaking commercial plugins are better coded, better supported and more secure however there are exceptions to everything so do your homework and check, check, check and if in doubt err on the side of caution.

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