If you think that not updating your WordPress website isn't a big deal, including your themes, plugins, scripts, etc. You'd better grab yourself a drink, take five minutes out to read this post. Hopefully, it's not already too late for you.
“My website is working fine, so why bother?”
“Can’t risk it; it may break my website.”
“I am managing too many websites. I don't have the time to update everything.”
“I just did a complete update, six months ago, it's fine!”
These are some of the common responses by website owners when asked why they haven’t bothered to update their WordPress website version to the latest released version. After all, as the adage goes -
“If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”
However, in the case of WordPress-powered websites, following this adage can have disastrous consequences.
According to recent reports from Sucuri, WordPress website infections had grown from 83% in 2017 to 90% in 2018. And WPWhiteSecurity revealed that 73.2% of the popular WordPress installations are vulnerable.
As mentioned at the start, it's not just your old version of WordPress you need to worry about. Your theme and plugins also need updating frequently.
According to this report on WordFence, plugins are the most vulnerable when it comes to WordPress hacks.
Yes, we understand why you may be hesitant to upgrade to the latest version despite all the benefits of enhanced features, security fixes, and better user experience. As a website owner, you are correct in being concerned about the not-so-positive aspects of making a WordPress update, such as the chances of a broken website, compatibility issues, and even loss of data.
The solution to these update-related problems is not to avoid carrying out the update but instead to plan and follow some basic safety measures. Performing regular WordPress updates on your website is mandatory as the consequences of not doing so can be very drastic.
Powering over 39% of all websites, WordPress is an obvious choice for website developers and owners among all Content Management System (or CMS) platforms. Thanks to its popularity, WordPress is also a preferred target for hackers all across the globe as they can inflict maximum damage by finding some security-related vulnerability in any of the installed WordPress websites.
So, you may ask, “why should hackers target my small business website with a limited number of online visitors?”
Well, the truth is hackers do not discriminate between a small business website or a large corporate website (with thousands of web pages) as long as they can find and exploit any security flaw.
You may ask, “what has all this got to do with WordPress updates?” For WordPress updates, you need to keep the following 2 WordPress components up to date with the latest versions:
The fact is with each released WordPress version, the team of core WordPress developers introduces fixes that take care of known security flaws, thus making it harder for hackers to compromise websites that use the latest version.
Do you know that since May 2003, there have been 32 major versions of WordPress with a release happening once every 152 days?
In simple terms, what this means is that the more significant number of WordPress updates that you apply, the more secure your website is going to be from hackers. So, be it malware or a brute force attack, what are the significant negative consequences of your website getting hacked? Oh plenty, here are a few of them:
A website crash is easily the worst consequence of a hacked website with your home page displaying the “Page Not Found – 404 Error.” A complete website crash typically signifies that the hacker has gained full control of your website and has made many changes (that could take ages to recover!).
Among its significant impacts on your business, your website loses all its web traffic and can also cause a loss of brand trust among online users and customers.
Aimed to gain access to personal or customer information, hackers use either brute force attacks or SQL injection attacks to steal sensitive information such as credit card details, confidential business information, and trade secrets. Additionally, hackers may try to sell this sensitive information to earn some money, which may, in turn, cause more damage to the company.
In the event of such attacks, business enterprises can lose customer trust or may even be sued by consumers in legal court.
Among the more visual forms of cyber-attacks, website defacement can ultimately damage the appearance of your website or a webpage. Among hacked websites in 2017, defacements comprise about 5.5% of successful malware attacks. The most common website defacement attacks are SQL injections used to gain illegal entry into administrator accounts.
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How can this damage your business? A defaced website is immediately noticed by your website visitors and can lead to loss of website traffic, brand trust, and even revenue. This can be particularly damaging if you are running an E-commerce website
In addition to stealing sensitive business information through brute force or SQL injection attacks, hackers can delete important business-related data such as customer orders, business emails, and invoices from the database. Such a data loss (particularly if you do not have a data backup) can cripple your business operations for weeks or even months.
Are your website visitors being redirected to another website that is selling illegal or suspicious products? Hackers often insert malicious code into your hacked website that redirects visitors to their websites or phishing pages.
Automatic redirects can destroy user trust in your business and reduce the incoming traffic to your website. Additionally, the redirected user could end up purchasing any banned product or illegal service from the other website, thus damaging your business reputation even more. Other adverse consequences for website redirects are blacklisting by Google and, as a result, a drop in your business's SEO ranking.
As reported by WPScan, 52% of WordPress-related vulnerabilities are caused by outdated WordPress plugins, while outdated WordPress themes cause 11% of the vulnerabilities. Not surprising then that according to this WPBeginner statistic, 86% of hacked WordPress websites contain obsolete versions of WordPress plugins and themes.
As a WordPress user, you can download thousands of plugins and themes created by third-party developers to their websites.
Do you know that over 50,000 free plugins in the WordPress Plugin Repository have been downloaded in over 1.5 billion instances?
In addition to updating the WordPress version, you must also update all the WordPress plugins and themes installed on your website. Along with new features, plugin developers can also include security fixes to each released version of their WordPress plugins and themes. Like in WordPress released versions, installing the latest version of the standard WordPress plugins and themes makes it harder for hackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities.
So, what happens if you do not update your plugins and themes regularly?
Apart from the security aspect discussed above, outdated versions of plugins and themes can impact your website speed and performance in several ways. They can increase your website response time, which can, in turn, make your website visitors lose interest in your business. This ultimately leads to lower customer engagement and loss of revenue.
On the other hand, installing the latest WordPress plugins and themes is more beneficial as they are more optimized for the latest WordPress website technologies, thus improving the overall performance and user experience.
As a website or blog owner, you must take care of your online asset by updating WordPress and all the installed plugins and themes to the latest available version. We understand that if you manage multiple websites or have hundreds of installed plugins and themes, it sure is cumbersome to update each of them to their latest version.
In such cases, applying manual updates is no longer a feasible option. Luckily for WordPress users, several third-party tools can simplify or automate the process of updating. One such efficient tool is the MalCare security plugin from the house of BlogVault. It includes a centralized dashboard for website management that can be used to apply updates to your WordPress version and all the installed plugins and themes (across multiple websites).
That’s all from us! We hope you realize the importance of updating your WordPress website to the latest versions. Do share your thoughts about this article by commenting below.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links to the MalCare security plugin for WordPress. This means if you click on one of these links and make a purchase of MalCare, we will get paid a small commission at no additional cost to you.