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I made a bold statement that pissed someone off. I told him that hackers don’t use Google to find vulnerable sites and attack them.
They don’t, you know. Sure, they can do that, and I’m certain some of them run scripts to collect a list of people to hit up, but that’s incredibly inefficient. The only kinds of people who do that, who get lists of websites to touch, are people who for good reasons need to do that. Like maybe running a script to ping all your domains and trigger a WordPress automatic update by kicking off cron. And sure, a hacker could use a tool like WPScan to collect all the awesome information. But they don’t.
But like I said, doing that is inefficient. The longer it takes a hacker to find you, attack you, and break you, the more likely it is that you’ll be upgraded. With WordPress in specific, the moment that hacker hits your site, your WP install has probably already begun the upgrade to make you more secure. Assuming that, what a hacker wants, what they need, is to hit you once, hit you right, and hit you hard.
What a hacker really does is use that annoying BotNet to distribute an attack on as many websites as possible in one blast.
Do All Hackers Do This? Do All Hackers Do This?
I should clarify something. When I say ‘hackers’ I don’t mean a specific person who is out to get you, in particular, and wants to destroy your site. Those attacks take as much tech smarts as they do social engineering. When I talk about hackers who are taking down sites, I mean the ones who know about a plugin or theme or core exploit to your site and are going to en masse blast the hell out of the internet to take ’em all down or leave their backdoors for whatever they do with these sites. Perhaps I should call them script kiddies, since many are.
Why Do Hackers Do This? Why Do Hackers Do This?
I have no idea.
It used to be we hacked sites to prove we could. Then we hacked them to get in and get information we wanted. Then … somewhere along the line we started to hack to deface and leave viagra links. I don’t know what ‘good’ the hackers get out of the end result. It doesn’t make sense to me, but then again, I don’t understand why people buy most ‘as seen on TV’ things.
How Do Hackers Find Your Site? How Do Hackers Find Your Site?
One (kind of cool) thing they can do is, once they find one site, using a tool like SameIP to collect a list of everyone else on the server. That’s great for attacking people who are on shared hosts because they all have the same IP. And once they have your domain on their own list, they keep it and will hit you forever.
But what if they just want a list of all 23% of the internet running WordPress? It’s not that hard. BuiltWith, for example, has a list of many of the WordPress sites.
Certainly it’s not that hard to do. There used to be a site called Hacker Target that had a list of all WP sites:
https://hackertarget.com/100k-top-wordpress-powered-sites/ The URL doesn’t work anymore but the idea is there. One could take such a list and just attack it.
Similarly, if you happen to be on an insecure server, one could hack the server and from there collect a list of all domains (since the server has to know it’s domains) and, in the case of a very insecure server, get all the domains on the network, and attack all of those. The shell commands aren’t all that terrible.
The point is, both of those methods are far, far, faster than just grabbing a google for ‘this plugin’ or even ‘this error.’
How Do Hackers Find Out What You’re Running? How Do Hackers Find Out What You’re Running?
This is where people step in and say “WordPress shouldn’t announce it’s version to the masses!” It should, because of what I say the next section (see “Do Hackers Care What You’re Running?”), but the short is that your site content tells them. They can run scrapers to pull your site data, the layout, the way files are stored, and they can tell. It’s like figuring out what car you’re driving.
In fact… Think about that for a second. What kind of car are you driving? Does having the car logo on the car make it more or less secure? It may, if there’s a specific ‘hack’ for your car, but the trained professionals will still know, even if you pull off the logos, so in the end, you’re not really protecting yourself.
Do Hackers Care What You’re Running? Do Hackers Care What You’re Running?
No, they don’t. Sorry. They don’t. Once a hacker has a list of websites, they don’t care if you run WordPress or Drupal or Joomla or Ghost. They’re going to attack with what they know is vulnerable and keep at it until they have a success. Then they take that success and leverage it to get to the next site. And on and on.
So when you get hit by 100 bot-net computers, being tagged for timthumb when you don’t even have it installed, that’s what’s going on. They do not care what you’re running.
How can you protect yourself? How can you protect yourself?
Use a good host who cares about security. Use up to date versions of all web tools and their extensions. Follow those tools and get updates regularly as to any security issues with them.
WordPress is not “Set it an forget it.” You have to keep paying attention.