Is it possible to store client data securely on a wordpress server

I have posted a job on a freelancing website relating to the development of some features for my website. I want to collect client data using gravity forms/pdf extender and store that data in a database in the back end of wordpress. I then want to use that data to create documents for my clients.

In relation to that proposal I received the following letter. Please let me know if you feel that my proposal to use wordpress might work.

If you think that this could be successful are you able to give me a lead on the best person to help build the site in wordpress.

Hello,

Looking over your website project on freelancer.com we noticed that you are wanting to use WordPress to capture, process and store information that needs to be secure. Not that this cannot be done technically, but... for what it is worth, in our opinion it should not be done because WordPress is inherently insecure and vulnerable to numerous exploits and attacks.

A real life example and cautionary tale: one of our clients uses WordPress as the main platform for their business (media, paid content). While they do not use it to store sensitive information of any kind, which is good, they have had to develop a process and tools to reinstall and republish all of their WordPress sites (more than 30 sites in all) every two weeks, sometimes more often. This is because even with the most current version of WordPress, and all the recommended patches and policies in place, the sites and the servers upon which they are hosted are continually being compromised.

This is just one anecdote emailed to you out of the blue from a company that you know nothing about, but nonetheless we urge you to do some research on WordPress security issues. If you would like, we can provide you (at no charge or obligation) with relevant information from several widely known and well respected security experts. One of whom used WordPress at an internet security event as the basis for a class on hacking and intrusion this past January *because it is so easy to compromise and control*. This is not an exaggeration or a joke, it is indicative of how concerned we should be about WordPress and its vulnerabilities when we talk about using it for secure or private information.

Briefly, our recommendations would be to:
1. Go ahead and use WordPress for your blog and About Us and other *public* information you are planning on publishing to the site if you want to.
2. Then run a scheduled daily full backup (including databases) to the server *and* to another server or an office computer using the backup tools available in WordPress and/or in various download plugins.
3. Be prepared to do a full reinstall of the site from your backup if need be - and hopefully that won't be needed, or it will be needed only very rarely.
4. Develop the forms and documents functions that you describe, and house the database(s) needed for those functions on a separate, secured server.
5. At a minimum use high-grade SSL to protect all forms and communications between the forms and the database - it is very strongly recommended that you also:
a. Properly salt and hash* all of the usernames and passwords that your staff and clients generate to work with the secure functions and data that they will run on.
b. Properly encrypt the databases used for these functions *You can do a search on "salt and hash passwords" to learn more about what that means and why it is crucial to internet application security. Here is one source to get you started: https://crackstation.net/hashing-security.htm

Frankly, not taking these steps can open you up not only to potential hacking, but if private or restricted data that has been entrusted to you is stolen, then also to the subsequent liability and accompanying negative publicity. We are not selling anything, only trying to raise awareness. If this message makes you considerably apprehensive about your current plan for using WordPress, or even a server with WordPress installed on it, as the platform for housing and processing private and/or restricted information - then we have been successful because you *should be concerned* about that plan.

  • aristath

    Hello there @joseph_riba, I hope you're well today!

    Reading that post I could the blood boiling inside me and had to restrain myself not to write using inappropriate language.
    I read that and to be honest it's a bunch of false, misinformed, deceiving and misleading lies.
    Whoever wrote that obviously has no idea what WordPress is and how it works

    If WordPress were that insecure and lousy, surely it wouldn't power more than 20% of the world's websites... there's a reason WordPress is the top publishing platform worldwide trusted by major companies, governments and publishers.

    Your choice to use WordPress for your task sounds perfectly reasonable and fine to me!

    Cheers,
    Ari.

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