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Security Tips for WordPress Online Forms

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    What’s the first thing you think of when filling out a web form? If you’re like many people, you probably wonder if it’s secure. Where will your data end up? How is the business going to use it? With cyberattacks on the rise, protecting personal information is more important than ever.

    Here are 10 tips to consider if you run a WordPress site that uses fillable online forms and why security is paramount.

    The Cybersecurity Risks of Online Forms

    Cybercrime is a bigger threat than ever before. Many people settled into online jobs in 2020, and the FBI saw a 69% increase in complaints to its Internet Crime Complaint Center compared to the previous year. With so many people filling out online forms when making purchases, inputting health care data or requesting quotes, you must ensure your WordPress site is secure.

    Cybercriminals use several methods to hack into web forms, including:

    • Email scams: A hacker pretends to be a legitimate client who wants to request a quote. They fill out a form, and a staff member replies to them. The hacker then emails the employee a malicious file that, if opened, infects the computer. The cybercriminal might then gain access to the entire company network.
    • Social engineering: This can include things like forgery and fraud. A hacker may convince a registered user to input information that will execute code with elevated admin privileges or access.
    • Cross-site scripting (XSS): A hacker injects lines of malicious code, usually JavaScript, into a vulnerable online form. When another person visits the hacked site, it executes the JavaScript to steal input information or cookie and session data.
    • SQL injections: Many forms use the SQL language to commit information to a database. Hackers that break in can add raw SQL code to the database, allowing them to perform commands.

    Online forms are attractive targets for hackers because they often contain personally identifiable information (PII), which they can use to break into people’s accounts.

    Keeping Your WordPress Clients Safe

    Many hacks via online forms are preventable. Follow these practices to keep your site from falling victim to a cyberattack:

    Encrypt All Data

    Encrypt any information submitted through an online form so hackers can’t read it. This is critical for protecting the data on its journey into storage and keeping it secure during its long-term stockpiling in a server.

    Use reCAPTCHA

    Bots sometimes try to inject SQL into online forms. Use WordPress-supported verification tools that make people prove their humanity, such as reCAPTCHA, to help prevent bot attacks.

    Implement Smart Tags

    Smart tags let you see a user’s IP address. Whenever you receive a form, you’ll be able to identify where it came from — and maybe multiple spam forms originate from the same source. In that case, you can block that IP address from accessing your site.

    Ask for Consent

    Asking for consent might be a legal requirement depending on your location and the type of WordPress website you manage. Even if it’s not explicitly stated in the law, it’s still a good practice to ask site visitors and clients for consent when using cookies, collecting personal info, conducting surveys or signing people up for email marketing campaigns.

    Restrict File Types

    Users may use online forms to upload files such as resumes, quote requests and more. This presents a security risk because hackers could potentially upload malicious files. You should only allow certain file types, such as .txt, .rtf, .docx or .pdf documents. Don’t allow people to upload scripts or executable (.exe) files.

    Update WordPress Regularly

    Updates often include security patches. Having the latest version of WordPress is a good way to prevent data breaches that might have gotten through on older software versions.

    Hide Sensitive Information

    When people type in passwords or PII such as credit card info, ensure WordPress is censoring the text with asterisks or dots. This protects sensitive data from prying eyes.

    Maintaining Compliance

    In addition to preventing cyberattacks, you must comply with data security rules to protect your clients’ information. These will vary depending on where you live and the type of business you own, but some examples of laws to be aware of include the following:

    Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

    HIPAA is designed to protect sensitive medical information. Although it’s less likely to apply to your WordPress site, it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with this common health care privacy law. It governs who can handle and view a person’s medical records, many of which are submitted to patient portals through online forms.

    General Data Protection Regulation

    GDPR debuted in 2016 and became fully enforceable two years later, which is why virtually all websites have started asking if you accept cookies. It governs how companies can collect data in the European Union.

    If you do business with European clients, you must ensure your website complies with this landmark data protection law. The penalty for breaking it includes steep fines. GDPR tells companies to explain why they’re collecting data, ask site users for explicit consent and keep their information secure.

    Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard

    If your WordPress site collects payment information from major credit card companies, such as Visa or MasterCard, you’ll need to follow PCI DSS regulations. This ensures that you have a vulnerability management program, use strong access control measures, regularly test your networks and protect cardholder data. The regulations are stringent because the stakes are high.

    Preventing Hacking on WordPress Forms

    Keeping your site users safe when filling out WordPress web forms is essential. People that can navigate your site safely develop a sense of trust in your company that will keep them coming back to use your services.

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