LAST UPDATED September 22, 2023
According to W3 Techs, 43% of all websites on the internet use WordPress CMS. Unfortunately, more than half a million of those websites were compromised by hackers in 2021. WordPress CMS features many open-source components in the form of third-party plugins and themes. While these components make WordPress a more powerful CMS, they often provide weak points for attackers to exploit through cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and web session hacking.
It is also not uncommon for attackers to perpetrate brute-force attacks in a bid to gain access to your WordPress admin panel.
Telltales that your WordPress website has been infected include:
- Loss of access to your WordPress admin panel
- Notifications from your hosting provider about unusual activities on your account
- Your website becomes extremely slow
- Changes on your account that you cannot account for how they got there
- Suspicious user accounts that you did not authorize
- Presence of unknown files
As the adage goes, prevention is better than cure.
The easiest ways to protect your WordPress website from hackers is using a firewall; specifically, a web application firewall (WAF). How does that help? – you may ask.
What Is a WAF?
Before narrowing down to a web application firewall, let’s first understand what a firewall fundamentally does.
A firewall is a software or firmware that prevents unauthorized access to a network by creating a barrier between internal and external traffic.
On the other hand, a web application firewall is more specific to web applications. It’s a firewall that protects web applications by monitoring, filtering, and blocking HTTP packets as they travel between the website and the internet.
As web applications and their threats have evolved, traditional WAFs have struggled to keep pace. Download: Your Roadmap from WAF to WAAP
It scans HTTP GET and POST requests, allowing benign requests to pass while denying entry to malicious packets. HTTP GET requests are used to retrieve and request resources from the server, while HTTP POST requests are used to send data to a server.
A good WordPress web application firewall can protect your websites from leaking crucial customer information such as credit card information.
Free WAF Tools to Secure Your WordPress websites
You can choose between free and paid WAF WordPress solutions. Your choice depends on your desired security level. Free WAF options are sufficient for blogs and content driven websites. Simply put, free WordPress web application firewalls do the trick for websites that don’t require a high level of security.
Below is an exploration of some of the free WAF WordPress tools available in the market:
This PHP-based WAF WordPress plugin offers protection from a wide range of attacks, especially those targeted at WordPress plugins and themes.
It uses rules corresponding to known WordPress website threats such as DDoS attacks and brute-force attacks. The generic rules featured in the Wordfence free version also offer critical protection from zero-day attacks.
Running at the beginning of WordPress initialization, Wordfence uses pattern-matching to discern and stop malicious requests.
With Wordfence, you will also be able to see to what degree you are protected.
Cloudflare Free Version
The free version of Cloudflare Wordpress web application firewall comes with a ruleset that monitors and deters most of the OWASP Top 10 attacks. Examples include injection, vulnerable and outdated components, and identification and authentication failures.
Additionally, the Cloudflare WAF monitors and blocks stolen or exposed credentials and alerts you in case your website sends a response with sensitive data.
Jetpack was developed by WordPress developers who also continue to support it. It is built to offer protection for all types of WordPress websites.
For that reason, Jetpack prides itself in having an intimate understanding of core WordPress vulnerabilities that allows it to offer protection from exploitation of the same vulnerabilities.
While it has paid features, the free Jetpack version offers packs a lot. You will get brute-force attack protection and downtime monitoring and view an activity log with the last 20 actions – all at no cost.
Malcare features excellent free security features for WordPress sites. With its advanced algorithm, Malcare uses over 100 signals to detect malicious requests and reports them to you directly via email.
It’s an excellent option for beginners because it’s easy to install. All you need to do is add your domain on their website and choose between manual or automatic installation. With automatic installation, all you have to do is log in to your WordPress admin panel while on the Malcare website, and Malcare does the rest of the work on your behalf.
With the Malcare WAF WordPress plugin, you can be assured of protection from phishing attacks, MYSQL attacks, malware injection, brute-force attacks, and trojan horse attacks.
The free version of Bulletproof Security is a great WAF WordPress security plugin option too. It features a malware scanner, user login protection, anti-spam software, auto fix, auto cleanup, and automatic plugin updates. All free of charge.
While many users accuse Bulletproof for having a legacy interface, it is straightforward to set up with its 1-click setup wizard.
Additionally, Bulletproof Security will send you alerts when new plugin and theme updates are available.
Lightweight Paid WAF Options for WordPress websites
While free WAFs suffice in cases where a website does not require a high level of security, enterprise and eCommerce websites that store sensitive user data require more robust security measures.
Below are five WordPress web application firewall options to consider for your website:
Sucuri’s paid cloud-based WAF WordPress protection solution secures everything remotely. It offers protection by blocking junk traffic, mitigating network and application-level DDoS attacks, and keeping bad bots at bay.
Sucuri receives a lot of praise for its continuous updates that result in better protection. It also lets webmasters add their own firewall rules, making it that much more powerful.
Their premium plans start at $199.99 per year for the Primary platform, $299.99 per year for the Pro platform, and $499.99 per year for the Business platform. The Business platform scans your website every 30 minutes!
The difference between the free and paid Wordfence version is that the premium version is constantly updated with data from new threats. These constant updates allow it to form an even more robust firewall.
How does this happen? The team at Wordfence logs new WordPress website attacks, analyzes them, and creates new firewall rules. Doing that ensures that your website is always protected from novel threats.
The premium Wordfence WordPress web application firewall version starts at $99 per year.
While it is not the most robust WAF in the market, Stackpath WAF is quite easy to set up. It is excellent for small and medium-sized websites.
Stackpath’s built-in rules protect your site from common attacks such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, file inclusion, and common WordPress third-party components exploits. It also blocks dangerous bots by monitoring suspicious activity and offering authentication via captchas.
Additionally, Stackpath lets you create custom rules in addition to out-of-the-box ones.
The essential Stackpath WAF package costs $60 per month, while professional and enterprise packages cost $1700 and $4000, respectively.
9.22.2023 Update – Stackpath have announced their decision to End of Life their Web Application Firewall and Edge SSL products. StackPath Web Application Firewall and Edge SSL services will cease operations at 12:00 a.m. Central (UTC-6:00) on November 22, 2023.
Offered by Amazon Web Services, AWS WAF allows you to add custom rules to the firewall in addition to the pre-configured firewall rules. This WAF also provides near real-time web traffic statistics which are useful for reporting and auditing. Its ability to log each web request’s complete header data can help you set up custom security automation too.
AWS WAF does not have static pricing plans; instead, their charges are based on the number of web access control lists (web ACL), the number of rules added per web ACL, and the number of web requests that your site receives. You can create a custom estimate using their online pricing calculator.
Similar to Sucuri, AppTrana is also a cloud-based WAF. It can uncover vulnerabilities in your WordPress website and patch them immediately, all while checking for false positives. It also offers DDoS protection.
AppTrana plans start at $99 per website per month. You can take advantage of their 14-day free trial to test whether it’s suitable for your enterprise.
Enterprise WAF for Large or Critical WordPress Websites
ThreatX takes a different approach to offering protection for WordPress Websites. It incorporates API protection, Bot management, Layer 7 DDoS mitigation, and even protection for runtime environments, alongside the typical WAF functionalities, all in one platform. Fusing these functions in one tool provides improved security with less complexity and overhead.
See how ThreatX brings together this depth of protection with self-driven interactive product tour.
Unlike legacy WAFs, ThreatX features advanced behavioral analysis and risk-based blocking where the system detects and stops highly-probable malicious attempts before the attack manifests into a full-blown attack.
The system also analyzes and sends security-relevant events to your upstream log management and SIEM solutions. These records are meant to help you and your security team operate more efficiently and make more informed decisions.
While ThreatX is many-fold more costly than legacy WAF solutions, it is the best recommendation for enterprise and eCommerce WordPress websites suffering from an uncontrollable loss of revenue due to malicious activity. Read more about how ThreatX has come through for businesses in the past here.
How to add WAF to Your WordPress Websites
Installing a WordPress web application firewall depends on the type of WAF in question.
Free WAFs are usually WordPress plugins you can install manually or automatically. It depends on the WAF provider. WAF WordPress plugins are usually installed by downloading the ZIP file from the WAF provider and then uploading it as a plugin via your WordPress admin panel, as detailed here.
A paid WAF, on the other hand, will require you to add a DNS A Record that points back to your WAF’s IP address. You can do this by logging in to your account on your DNS host’s website and configuring the A Record.
Learn how ThreatX can show you what threats are targeting your applications and APIs and how to stop them in real time. Request a live demo