How to Get the Most Out of Defender Security

How to Get the Most Out of Defender Security

Keeping your WordPress site safe often requires no more than the click of a button with Defender, our 5-star WordPress security plugin.

Defender protects your site 24/7 against hackers, malicious code, SQL injections, and much more. This guide shows you how to get the most out of using the plugin.

With Defender installed,  your site’s security needs are automatically handled.

One of the great things about Defender is that he’ll automatically start suggesting ways to boost your site’s security as soon as he’s installed. He’ll then continue making regular suggestions while keeping your site safe, secure, and protected.

Despite all the built-in automation, when it comes to getting the most out of the plugin, Defender gives you plenty of room to tweak, finetune, and harden your site’s security settings.

This guide covers seven areas of WordPress security that you can count on Defender to monitor and address:

  1. Set Up Security Tweaks
  2. Activate One-Click Malware Scanning
  3. Track Changes with Audit Logging
  4. Ban Suspicious Behavior with Firewall
  5. Block Attacks with Web Application Firewall (WAF)
  6. Protect Your Logins with Two-factor Authentication
  7. Enhance Site Security with Advanced Tools

You will also find links to other great articles about Defender for more information on specific topics.

Let’s begin by showing you how to…

1. Set Up Security Tweaks

Once Defender is installed and activated, security issues are immediately brought to your attention.

This is where Security Tweaks can take care of most of them with one-click. Defender will show you how many issues you have, what they are, and how to fix them almost instantly.

Everything is displayed in an actionable list under Issues.

Defender security tweaks.
What greets you in Defender’s dashboard under Security Tweaks.

When you click on the dropdown for a specific issue, it gives you two options: Ignore or click the blue button to take care of the suggested security tweak with one-click.

Disable the file editor.
In this example, the suggestion is to disable the file editor.

If you choose to resolve the issue, it will then be in the Resolved area. If you ignore it, it will go in the Ignored section. If no action is taken, it will stay as an Issue.

If you resolve the issue and decide that you want to keep it the way it was, you can revert it at any time by clicking the Revert button.

Resolved issues.
The issue got resolved and it’s easy to revert with one click.

As you can see, any issues that come along will be brought to your attention and can be taken care of quickly and effortlessly.

Be sure to read detailed information about security tweaks and more in our article about stopping hackers in their tracks.

2. Activate One-Click Malware Scanning

The Malware Scanning section lets you scan for malware in one-click and set up Defender to scan all your files on a regular basis, check if there are any problems, and report back to you (and anyone else you specify).

Where you’ll click for a new scan.
Where you’ll click for a new scan.

Once activated, Defender scans your WordPress core files and alerts you if it finds anything suspicious.

Defender scanning your files.
Defender scanning your files.

Once the scan is complete, Defender then lists all the files it thinks could be suspicious under Issues.

Issues from the scan.
Issues from the scan.

If you click the dropdown of the suspicious file, it will give you precise information about the issue, including the issue details, error code, location, size, and date it was added.

From this point, you can ignore the issue or delete it with one-click.

The issue and the options to ignore or delete.
The issue and the options to ignore or delete.

If you have multiple issues, you can also take care of all issues in bulk by selecting Bulk Update or Ignore in the dropdown.

Bulk actions.
All issues can be taken care of at once in the bulk action dropdown.

Note of caution: It’s recommended that you are 100% certain that something is harmless before deleting and/or ignoring it. We have our export available 24/7 for live support if you’re unsure or need advice.

For additional scanning, Defender Pro will tackle these areas:

  • Plugins and Themes: All plugins and themes will be scanned for publicly-reported, known vulnerabilities.
  • Suspicious Code: This cranks-up the scanning potential by scanning all site files for suspicious PHP functions and code.
The additional scanning is added in Pro.
The additional scanning is added in Pro.

Along with the scanning aspect, you can adjust the settings to determine what kind of scans you want to do and to turn off a scan with Scan Types. If you have Defender Pro, you’ll get to determine all three scan types.

You can also include the maximum size of files to include. Any files larger than the specified size (in Mb), Defender will exclude from the scans.

scan types.
Scan types and also where you can adjust the maximum file size that you want Defender to skip during scans.

Plus, adjust the notifications so that you can get emails sent directly to you about issues when they’re detected.

The Enable Notifications settings area.
The Enable Notifications settings area.

It’s just a one-switch option to turn on. Also, easily customize the emails for when an issue is found and also when no issues are found.

Where you can adjust email settings.
Where you can adjust email settings.

Additionally, you can enable reporting with Defender Pro.

It allows you to send reports about issues at a specific time of your choosing. You can choose from daily, weekly, or monthly. You can also specify the day of the week and time of day you would like to receive reports.

Once reporting is enabled, Defender will then let you know if it finds suspicious activity and send you a report as you have scheduled. Defender also gives you the option of receiving notifications even when no issues are detected.

The reporting options.
The reporting options.

For more detailed information about Defender’s malware scanning, be sure to read our article about finding and deleting suspicious code with Defender.

3. Track Changes with Audit Logging

With Defender Pro, you can track and log every event that happens on your website with Audit Logging. You’ll get detailed reports on what exactly is going on behind the scenes (e.g. hacking attempts) so you can keep track of any security threats.

The Audit Logging dashboard that contains all the recent events.
The Audit Logging dashboard that contains all the recent events.

Defender can export all the events as a CSV and arrange the events by dates.

Each event summary has detailed information about it in its dropdown.

A detailed description of a logged report.
A detailed description of a logged report.

Adjust the settings to set up how long you’d like to keep the events stored in our API. You can also turn off this feature at any time.

Where to specify how long you’d like to keep events stored.
Where to specify how long you’d like to keep events stored.

This also includes scheduled reporting, where an email of a summary of all events on your WordPress site gets automatically emailed to you. You can add recipients, schedule the frequency, day of the week, and time of day for when they’re sent.

Where you’ll schedule reports.
Where you’ll schedule reports.

Audit logging is a great way to stay on top of all events happening on your site and keep it secure.

4. Ban Suspicious Behavior with Firewall

Defender’s powerful firewall can keep your WordPress safe with IP banning, location banning, automatically identifying bad acting IPs, and more. There’s a ton that it does (as you’ll see).

Defender’s firewall includes:

Defender automatically bans repeat offenders so it’s effortless on your part to keep them away. Beyond that, there are a lot of areas with Defender’s firewall you can activate for added security.

This is a brief overview of what’s included with Defender’s firewall so you can take advantage of using it:

Login Protection

Put a stop to hackers trying to randomly use your login credentials. It will lock out users with too many login attempts.

You can put a threshold on how many failed login attempts a person is allowed and the timeframe for lockout. Then, you can specify the duration of time for the lockout.

Where you’ll specify the threshold and duration of time for a lockout.
Where you’ll specify the threshold and duration of time for a lockout.

Also, create a customized message that will be sent to locked out users. In the same section, there’s an area to enter banned usernames.

An example of this is users shouldn’t be using admin, hostname, or administrator as their username. If someone tries to login with one of those names, it’s a clear indication that it’s a malicious attempt and is blocked by Defender when those usernames are listed in the Banned section.

Where you can create a customized message and also add banned usernames.
Where you can create a customized message and also add banned usernames.

To deactivate, you can do so with a click of a button.

It’s a great deterrent for hackers that will simply get tired of getting locked out of your site because of failed login attempts.

404 Detection

Defender keeps an eye out and reports IP addresses that repeatedly request pages on your website that don’t exist. From there, he’ll temporarily block them from your WordPress site.

This occurs usually from bots that crawl every link in your site trying to locate a back-end admin area so they can wreak havoc or requests from the same IP addresses for pages on your WordPress site that are non-existent.

If this happens too regularly, Defender will block users from accessing your site.

In the 404 Detection area, you can see how many lockouts were logged, adjust how long they’re locked out if banned, create a custom message, and more.

When activated, the top of the screen tells you the current lockouts that are logged. Below that, you can adjust the amount of 404 errors before it triggers a lockout. Beyond that, you change the duration of how long you’d like to ban a locked-out user. You can also opt for a permanent ban.

Where it displays the current lockouts, threshold, and duration of lockout time for users is located.
Where it displays the current lockouts, threshold, and duration of lockout time for users is located.

Next is a spot to create a customized message for locked out users.

Where you’ll create your customized message.
Where you’ll create your customized message.

Once created, offenders will be greeted by Defender with the message of your choice.

Defender’s message to mischiefs.
Defender’s message to mischiefs.

You can also choose specific files and folders you’d like to Allowlist or Blocklist.

Any files or folder URLs that you want to automatically ban, you can do so here. Likewise, you can include common files or folders that your website is missing, but you don’t want to Blocklist, by adding them to the Allowlist.

The Blocklist and Allowlist area for file and folder URLs.
The Blocklist and Allowlist area for file and folder URLs.

You can also Allowlist and Blocklist file types and extensions in this area.

There is also a switch to turn off monitoring 404s from logged-in users if you decide to do so.

IP Banning

Here you can add any IPs you’d like to permanently ban and also allow.

The Blocklist is for blocking IPs and the Allowlist allows them access all the time.

The IP Blocklist and Allowlist.
The IP Blocklist and Allowlist.

Here, it also displays the active lockouts. Also in this area, Defender can ban locations by countries in this section with the help of Maxmind.

Finally, Import and Export any Allowlist and Blocklist so you can add or export to another website with just a few clicks.

Logs

Defender logs all IP lockouts and has them available for you to view so you can stay on top of your security.

You can sort by date, add them to allowlist, and bulk update in one area.

The logs area in Defender.
The logs area in Defender.

Under each detail, you can click the dropdown to get a detailed look at the description, type of issue, IP address, date & time, and ban status. Plus, you can Allowlist or ban the individual IP in this section, too.

The dropdown with details.
The dropdown with details.

There’s an option to bulk update everything by clicking on individual issues or all of them at once. The updates include Ban, Allowlist, and Delete.

Where to bulk update IP lockout details.
Where to bulk update IP lockout details.

All activity is monitored and controlled so you can stay on top of suspicious activity on your WordPress site with ease.

Notifications

You can choose several email notifications for specific issues, who the email recipients are, and also choose when to stop receiving notifications after a certain number of lockouts.

Where to adjust your notifications.
Where to adjust your notifications.

The notifications you can enable are Login Protection Lockout and 404 Detection Lockout.

With Login Protection, you’ll get emails when an IP address is locked out for trying to access your login area. And with 404 Detection Lockout, you’ll get notified when an IP has repeated hits on non-existent files.

This gives you notifications so you can be aware of any issues happening immediately.

Settings

The Firewall has a settings area to adjust how long to store logs and also where to delete logs in one-click.

The Settings area.
The Settings area.

The capability to choose how many days of event logs to be stored can be changed at any time by specifying the days.

Reporting

Reporting is a feature available in Defender Pro. With this, you can get regular updates that you schedule however you’d like. You can also add any recipients you want to receive the reports and the frequency of reports.

The Reporting area.
The Reporting area.

This is a great way to get lockout reports for your WordPress site regularly.

Be sure to check out our step-by-step more detailed look at Defender’s Firewall in our article How to Create a Powerful and Secure Customized Firewall with Defender.

5. Block Attacks with WAF

Another feature is WAF (Web Application Firewall). This comes included with our hosting. When combined with Defender Pro, it’s the first layer of defense to block troublemakers and bot attacks way before they even reach your site.

It filters requests against our optimized managed ruleset covering frequent attacks (OWASP Top Ten) and performs virtual patching of WordPress plugin, core, and theme vulnerabilities.

This can be enabled directly from WPMU DEV’s The Hub.

Where you can enable WAF in the Hub.
Where you can enable WAF in the Hub.

In the Hub, you can also add IPs to the Allowlist and Blocklist. Also, there is a User Agent Allowlist, User Agent Blocklist, URL Allowlist, and an area to disable Rule IDs.

For more information on WAF and our hosting, be sure to read this article all about it.

6. Protect Your Logins with 2FA

2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) is a great added line of defense when it comes to protecting your site. You can enable it in Defender and adjust a ton of its capabilities.

Once activated, you can choose the user roles you want to enable two-factor authentication for. Those users with those roles will then have to use Google’s Authenticator app to log in.

User Roles can be set to two-factor authentication with one-click.
User Roles can be set to two-factor authentication with one-click.

Below this area, you can activate Lost Phone, so that if a user is unable to access their phone, they can be sent the password to their email instead.

Along with that, you can Force Authentication for all users. There’s also an option to add a Custom Graphic for the login field (Pro only).

Additional settings in the 2FA area.
Additional settings in the 2FA area.

You can customize the default settings for the Lost Phone email, get quick access to the app download for Google Authenticator for Android & Apple, and view your active 2FA users.

More 2FA options and settings.
More 2FA options and settings.

If you ever need to deactivate 2FA, you can do so with one-click.

This is a great necessity for security and also have more options for users to gain access when needed.

7. Enhance Site Security with Advanced Tools

Defender has plenty of options for more advanced protection.

One big security measure is the Mask Login Area.

Here you can create a customized URL for users and admin to login in. This helps prevent hackers and bots from finding your URL.

In this area, you can also redirect traffic to a specific URL to avoid 404s.

The Mask Login area.
The Mask Login area.

Also in the Advanced Tools area is a section called Security Headers.

This is where you can add extra security by enabling security headers of various types, including X-Frame Options, X-XSS-Protection, Strict Transport, and more.

Several examples of security headers you can enable and what they do.
Several examples of security headers you can enable and what they do.

When you enable them, they will display any additional security options if applicable.

An example of additional settings for X-Frame-Options.
An example of additional settings for X-Frame-Options.

Coming to Your Defense

As you can see, Defender comes to your defense and has your WordPress site security covered. Oftentimes it just takes one-click or just sitting back and letting Defender take care of things automatically.

If you ever have any questions about security settings, malicious code, or just need some advice, our amazing 24/7 support staff is always here for you.

Check out Defender’s documentation for more information. And to keep tabs of what’s next for Defender, be sure to check out our roadmap.

 

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Nathanael Fakes
Nathanael Fakes Nate Fakes is an L.A.-based writer. When he's not pounding keys on his MacBook, you might find him scribbling inappropriate things as a syndicated cartoonist. He's fond of family time, hanging out at Venice Beach, and pizza coupons.
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