WordPress Best Practices for Security

5 minute read | By Christopher Maldonado

WordPress Security Best Practices on Azure App Services (Windows/Linux)

NOTICE After November 28, 2022, PHP will only be supported on App Service on Linux.

Best Practices

When it comes to Security, there are a few Best Practices recommended when using Azure App Services.

  1. Modifications in wp-config.php file:
    • Change default $table_prefix from wp_ to a unique string
    • Utilize the encoding for Keys and Salts
    • Disable File Editing with: define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true);
      • This will remove edit_themes, edit_files, and edit_plugins capabilities to all users.
  2. DO NOT use weak passwords or usernames like: admin, administrator, test123, password, etc.
  3. Keep WordPress updated.
  4. Backup regularly
    • Use Backups for Azure App Services.
  5. Web Server config modifications
    • Restrict/Limit access to wp-config.php and wp-login.php
    • Prevent clickjacking with header: X-FRAME-OPTIONS = SAMEORIGIN
  6. Delete xml-rpc.php if not used
  7. Enable Static/Dynamic IP Restrictions
  8. PHP modifications:
    • Reduce XSS Attacks:
      • Add session.cookie_httponly = true in php.ini or .user.ini
  9. Use a WordPress security plugin

Modifications in wp-config.php

  1. Change the $table_prefix from wp_ to something unique.
    • Example: $table_prefix = 'mysite_';
  2. Utilize the encoding for Keys and Salts
  3. Disable File Editing by adding define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true);
    • This will remove edit_themes, edit_files, and edit_plugins capabilites to all users.

Password Recommendations

It is always recommended to use a strong password for WordPress. This should include some of the following examples:

  • Uppercase and lowercase characters
  • Numbers
  • Special haracters (@, #, *, etc.)
  • A minimum of 10 characters preferred.
  • Avoid using common phrases like: admin, administrator, test, password, 1234, etc.

WordPress Updates

You can enable various levels of auto updates for WordPress by adding the following in your wp-config.php file.

define('WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', true);

  • When set to true - Development, minor, and major updates are all enabled.
  • When set to false - Development, minor, and major updates are all disabled.
  • When set to 'minor' - Minor updates are enabled, development, and major updates are disabled.

Backup Regularly

Follow these steps in the Azure App Service documentation for backing up your site with the Backup feature. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/app-service/manage-backup

Web Server config

  • Restrict/limit access to wp-config.php and wp-login.php
    • Nginx

      location = /wp-config.php {
          deny all;
      location = /wp-login.php {
          allow xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx;
          deny all;
    • Apache

      <Files wp-config.php>
      # Apache 2.2
      Order Deny,Allow
      Deny from all
      # Apache 2.4+
      Require all denied
      <Files wp-login.php>
      # Apache 2.2
      Order Deny,Allow
      Deny from all
      Allow from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
      Allow from xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
      # Apache 2.4+
      Require all denied
      Require ip xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
      Require ip xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx
    • IIS

          <location path="wp-config.php">
                      <ipSecurity allowUnlisted="false" />
          <location path="wp-login.php">
                      <ipSecurity allowUnlisted="false">
                          <add ipAddress="xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx" allowed="true" />
  • Prevent clickjacking by adding an addditional header: X-FRAME-OPTIONS = SAMEORIGIN
    • Apache
        # Inside the apache2.conf or httpd.conf file
        Header always append X-Frame-Options SAMEORIGIN
    • IIS
                    <add name="X-Frame-Options" value="SAMEORIGIN" />

Enable Static/Dynamic IP Restrictions

IP restrictions can be enabled in App Services by setting up access restrictions. More information on this can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/app-service/app-service-ip-restrictions

  • Dynamic IP Restrictions
    • Apache
        # Requires libapache2-modsecurity to be installed
        # ex. apt-get install libapache2-modsecurity
        SecRuleEngine On
        <LocationMatch "^/.*">
        # initialise the state based on X-Forwarded-For ip address
        SecRule REQUEST_HEADERS:X-Forwarded-For "@unconditionalMatch" "phase:2,initcol:ip=%{MATCHED_VAR},pass,nolog,id:100"
        # if greater then burst_rate_limit then pause set RATELIMITED var and then return 509
        SecRule IP:ACCESS_COUNT "@gt " "phase:2,deny,status:509,setenv:RATELIMITED,skip:1,nolog,id:102"
        # if above rule doesnt match increment the count
        SecAction "phase:2,setvar:IP.access_count=+1,pass,nolog,id:103"
        # set the base rate to one per second
        SecAction "phase:5,deprecatevar:IP.access_count=1/1,pass,nolog,id:104"
        # set a header when ratelimited
        Header always set Retry-After "10" env=RATELIMITED
        ErrorDocument 509 "Rate Limit Exceeded"
    • IIS
                <dynamicIpSecurity enableLoggingOnlyMode="true">
                    <denyByConcurrentRequests enabled="true" maxConcurrentRequests="10" />
                    <denyByRequestRate enabled="true" maxRequests="30" requestIntervalInMilliseconds="300" />

PHP Modifications

  • Reduce Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks:
    • Add session.cookie_httponly = true in the php.ini, .user.ini, or custom .ini file being loaded into PHP.

WordPress security plugin

There are many different WP Security plugins out there that you could use. Using any one of them could help provide better overall security for your WordPress site compared to not having one at all. A list of some well known plugins are below:

Update for new WordPress on Linux App Service Marketplace offering (2022)

More information regarding this offering can be found here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/app-service/quickstart-wordpress

Updating Nginx headers

This will allow for updating many different headers for WordPress security. To do this, follow the steps below:

  • Copy the required config file to the /home directory.
    cp /etc/nginx/conf.d/spec-settings.conf /home/custom-spec-settings.conf
  • Edit /home/custom-spec-settings.conf using vi/vim editors to add custom settings.

NOTE: you can also upload a custom config file to /home directory using file manager. Navigate to file manager through this URL: <Wordpress_App_Name>.scm.azurewebsites.net/newui/fileManager. Upload the custom configuration file in /home directory (ex: /home/custom-spec-settings.conf)

  • Edit /home/custom-spec-settings and at the bottom of file you can add the headers for security

      add_header X-Xss-Protection "1; mode=block" always;
      add_header Access-Control-Allow-Origin 'https://www.custom-domain.com/';
      add_header X-Content-Type-Options "nosniff" always;
      add_header Content-Security-Policy "base-uri 'self';"
      add_header always X-Content-Type-Options 'nosniff';
      add_header X-Frame-Options "SAMEORIGIN";
      add_header Set-Cookie "Path=/; HttpOnly; Secure";
      add_header Strict-Transport-Security 'max-age=63072000; includeSubdomains; preload';
      add_header Referrer-Policy "strict-origin";
      add_header Permissions-Policy;
      remove_header X-Forwarded-Host;

Remove phpinfo() file

It is strongly recommended to remove any file that contains phpinfo(). By doing so, this will ensure that the database credentials stored as environment variables are not exposed to the public.