The Risks of Using Plugins with WordPress
Plugins are a great way to add useful features such as visitor statistics, entry forms, social media add-ons etc. The number of plugins available for any WordPress site is growing on a daily basis. They make managing and running a website much easier. To accomplish a specific task, simply install and activate a plugin. However, WordPress plugin security tends to be put aside too often.
Some of the most popular include Contact Form 7, W3 Total Cache, various SEO and security plugins. Some are free of charge and some come with small fees. https://wordpress.org/plugins/browse/popular/
The reason for the popularity of WordPress plugins? Ease of use. All one has to do is visit wordpress.com for the list of plugins available. Download as many plugins as desired with all the bells-and-whistles that come with each plugin. They make any WordPress site more user-friendly, more eye-catching, more search engine friendly etc. etc. With all these extras available for WordPress sites, what could go wrong?
WordPress Plugin Updates
- Any plugin that is not being maintained and kept up to date is a security risk. This applies to any site as well as the dedicated server itself, not just a single website running WordPress. “Abandoned” plugins are all too frequent as the developer moves on to other projects or the plugin may not be as useful or popular in the WordPress community as hoped. Using an old plugin that is not updated on a frequent basis is cause for concern. Your WordPress plugin security here is certainly at risk. WordPress.com also indicates whether a plugin has not been updated in quite some time. As a result, this (hopefully) gives the user pause whether to download the plugin or not. A plugin that has not been updated for some time does not necessarily mean it is a definite plugin security risk and vulnerable to exploits. In addition, rarely ever is software considered “finished” and no more work is required on that software. Other variables such as the Operating System and various dependencies running on the dedicated server will eventually change and updates are released and a plugin that is being left behind in the dust, may no longer even work properly or at all.
Depending 100% on an outdated plugin to perform a certain vital task may be leading to inevitable trouble. This is definitely where WordPress plugin security gets involved. Webmasters should strongly consider alternatives in this scenario. In addition, plugins that are simply not being used need not be there and should be at least deactivated but better yet, simply deleted. A deactivated WordPress plugin can certainly still be a vulnerability. A trusted publisher is crucial to using any WordPress plugin on a live website.
WordPress Plugin Slowness Issues
- Too many installed plugins running on a website is also not a good idea. They can slow down even the fastest of dedicated servers. Some plugins can be a real resource hog especially the ones that have sloppy or lazy coding bringing down the speed of an otherwise snappy website. Deactivating a plugin to determine if there is a substantial speed increase will help as long as nothing is still cashed in the web browser. Although some user reviews have reported issues with P3 Plugin Performance Profile (WP, PHP version etc.), it can help in determining if there is a plugin that is slowing down a website and by how much.
Too many active plugins will certainly consume more resources and memory. Determine if all the plugins are a necessity and if not, then again, deactivate them. It will help speed things up, increase security and will result in fewer things to manage. Ithemes.com has a plugin called ithemes Sync that keeps an eye on plugins that need updating and notify the webmaster. The plugin is free for the first 10 sites so should help with your WordPress plugin security. A good tool to have to avoid constantly checking whether plugins need updating.
- Last but not least, too many plugins (or even just an unlucky few) can cause conflicts on a WordPress site. As mentioned earlier, sloppy code can not only cause vulnerabilities but also conflicts. As a result, it will cause major issues with stability, speed, and visitor abandonment. Website visitors never want to see text on a page displaying errors on which line of code is faulty, rendering the page or website inoperable. With some plugins having thousands of lines of code, there is a good chance of a conflict happening. This, despite rigid coding guidelines that should govern all plugin development.
WordPress Plugins are a great way to add useful features to a WordPress site. The number of plugins available for any site grows on a daily basis. Managing and running a website becomes easier. However, WordPress plugin security is vital to keeping a WordPress site secure. Follow the guidelines above to stay secure.