10 Tips to Prevent WordPress SQL Injection Attacks

by Montel Anthony

SQL injection attacks pose a severe threat to WordPress websites, with potential to compromise sensitive data and cause significant damages. As one of the world’s most widely-used content management systems (CMSs), WordPress makes itself vulnerable. Here, we discuss what SQL injection attacks are, why WordPress websites may be susceptible and provide 10 essential tips to prevent WordPress SQL injection attacks.

What are SQL Injection Attacks?

SQL injection attacks are a type of cyber attack SQL injection attacks are an emerging cyber threat which exploit vulnerabilities in how applications handle user input. Attackers manipulate SQL queries by inserting malicious code through unvalidated or improperly sanitized input fields (like login forms or search bars ). By doing so, attackers can bypass authentication, retrieve sensitive information without permission, modify database content without authorisation, delete database content entirely and even execute administrative commands against it all from one attack point on.

Consequences of an attempted SQL injection attack could be devastating, including:

  • Data Theft: Attackers can gain unauthorised access to sensitive information stored in databases, including user credentials, financial or personal data stored therein.
  • Website defacement: Hackers may alter content on targeted websites to damage both their reputation and credibility, as well as that of their owners.
  • Data Loss: Attackers may attempt to erase or alter critical website files that could compromise its functioning, leading to severe disruption and disrupted functionality of a site.

Consider the 7 Eleven data breach to better understand SQL injection attacks. The company’s app for mobile devices was vulnerable to SQL Injection in 2018. This exposed the personal information of more than 2 million users. The incident shows the need to implement proper security measures in order to avoid such attacks.

Why are WordPress Sites Vulnerable to SQL Injection Attacks?

WordPress is a popular target because of its popularity. WordPress is responsible for over 40% of the websites that are on the Internet, according to W3Techs. Due to its widespread use, any vulnerability found in WordPress’ core, plugins or themes could potentially impact millions of websites.

WordPress websites are vulnerable to SQL Injection attacks due to a number of factors:

  1. Old software: Many WordPress website owners do not update regularly their WordPress themes, plugins and core. It is possible that outdated software contains known vulnerabilities which attackers could easily exploit.
  2. Unsecure themes and plugins: One of WordPress’ strengths is the large library of plugins from third parties. Not all extensions have been created with security as a priority. Insecure plugins and theme code can lead to SQL injection vulnerabilities.
  3. Weak Security Practices: Some WordPress site administrators may not adhere to best practices when it comes to securing the sites. This includes using strong passwords and implementing measures such as web application firewalls.

Let’s look at 10 ways to prevent SQL Injection attacks on WordPress sites now that you understand their risks.

10 Tips to Prevent WordPress SQL Injection Attacks

1. Keep WordPress and All Extensions Updated

Updating your WordPress theme, plugins and core is the best way to prevent SQL Injection attacks. WordPress releases updates regularly that contain security patches to fix known vulnerabilities. Installing these updates quickly can help you close any potential attack points.

It is important to keep your WordPress website up-to-date.

  • Automatic updates of WordPress core can be enabled
  • Install updates regularly for themes and plugins
  • Reduce the surface of attack by removing any plugins and themes that are not in use.

2. Use Prepared Statements and Parameterized Queries

To prevent SQL Injection attacks, you should always use parameterized queries and prepared statements when developing plugins or themes. This technique ensures that the user’s input will be treated as data and not executable code.

Here’s an example of a parameterized query using WordPress’s $wpdb class:

$user_id = $_GET['user_id'];
$query = $wpdb->prepare("SELECT * FROM users WHERE id = %d", $user_id);
$results = $wpdb->get_results($query);

In this example, the prepare() method escapes the $user_id parameter before inserting it into the SQL query, preventing potential injection attacks.

3. Validate and Sanitize User Input

Another important step to prevent SQL Injection attacks is validating and sanitizing the user’s input. Validation checks that input matches the format and size expected, while sanitization eliminates potentially malicious code or characters.

WordPress provides several built-in functions for input validation and sanitization, such as:

  • sanitize_text_field(): Sanitizes a string by removing tags and encoding special characters
  • absint(): Validates an integer and returns its absolute value
  • is_email(): Validates an email address

Always validate and sanitize user input before using it in SQL queries or displaying it on your website.

4. Limit Database User Privileges

When configuring the WordPress database, it is important to apply the principle of minimum privilege. It means that the user should only be granted the necessary permissions to complete their tasks.

To limit database user privileges:

  1. Create a new database user specifically for your WordPress installation
  2. Grant this user only the SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE privileges on the WordPress database
  3. Avoid using the root user or granting unnecessary privileges like DROP or ALTER

By limiting database user privileges, you can minimize the potential damage an attacker can cause if they successfully exploit an SQL injection vulnerability.

5. Use WordPress Security Plugins

WordPress security plugins will help you protect your website from various threats including SQL Injection attacks. Popular security plugins include the following:

  • Wordfence security: Provides malware scanning, a firewall for web applications (WAF), and features to protect logins.
  • Sucuri security : Offers WAF, malware scan, and options for hardening your security
  • iThemes Security: includes a variety of security features such as password enforcement and two-factor authentication.

The plugins will help you detect potential SQL Injection attempts and provide extra security measures for your WordPress website.

6. Implement Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Web application firewalls (WAFs) are security tools that filter, monitor, and block HTTP traffic from and to a web app. By inspecting and blocking malicious SQL codes in incoming requests, WAFs help to prevent SQL Injection attacks.

Some popular WAF solutions for WordPress include:

  • Cloudflare: A content delivery network (CDN) that includes a built-in WAF
  • Sucuri: Offers a cloud-based WAF that can be integrated with WordPress
  • ModSecurity: An open-source WAF that can be installed on your web server

Implementing a WAF adds an extra layer of security to your WordPress site, helping to prevent not only SQL injection attacks but also other common web application vulnerabilities.

7. Regularly Monitor and Audit Your WordPress Site

Regularly monitoring and auditing your WordPress site can help you detect and respond to potential security issues, including SQL injection attempts. Some key monitoring and auditing tasks include:

  • Reviewing access logs for suspicious activity, such as failed login attempts or unusual traffic patterns
  • Monitoring file integrity to detect unauthorized changes to WordPress core, plugin, or theme files
  • Conducting regular vulnerability scans using tools like WPScan or Acunetix
  • Checking for unauthorized user accounts or suspicious user activity

By staying vigilant and proactively monitoring your WordPress site, you can quickly identify and address potential security breaches before they escalate.

8. Enforce Strong Password Policies

Passwords that are too weak can increase the likelihood of attackers gaining unauthorized access to your WordPress website, increasing security risks such as SQL Injection attacks. For all accounts, implement strong password policies to mitigate the risk.

  • Passwords must be 12 characters or longer and contain a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters, numerals, and special characters
  • Use unique passwords to protect your WordPress account and don’t reuse passwords on other websites.
  • Implement an expiration policy on passwords that forces users to regularly change their passwords (e.g. every 90 days).
  • Use a password manager for generating and storing strong passwords that are unique to each account.

Enable two-factor verification (2FA) to add an additional layer of protection. 2FA asks users to enter a second method of authentication, like a mobile code, to access their accounts.

9. Educate Yourself and Your Team About SQL Injection

Educating yourself and your team about SQL injection attacks and WordPress security best practices is crucial for maintaining a secure website. Stay informed about the latest SQL injection techniques and prevention strategies by:

  • Following reputable WordPress security blogs and forums, such as WPSec.com and WordPress Vulnerability Database
  • Attending WordPress security workshops and conferences, like WordCamp Security
  • Participating in online courses and webinars focused on web application security and SQL injection prevention

By fostering a culture of security awareness within your organization, you can reduce the risk of human error and ensure that everyone is working together to protect your WordPress site from SQL injection attacks.

10. Perform Regular Backups

It is essential to regularly backup your site in order to minimize the damage of an SQL Injection Attack or any other breach. A recent backup will allow you to quickly restore the site’s state and minimize downtime.

To implement an effective backup strategy:

  • Use a reliable WordPress backup plugin, such as UpdraftPlus or BackupBuddy
  • Schedule automatic backups to run daily or weekly, depending on your site’s update frequency
  • Store backups in a secure, off-site location, such as a cloud storage service or remote server
  • Regularly test your backups to ensure they can be successfully restored in the event of an emergency

By following these backup best practices, you can ensure that your WordPress site can be quickly recovered in the event of an SQL injection attack or other security incident.


SQL Injection Attacks are serious threats to WordPress sites. By implementing these 10 tips, you will reduce your risk of being a victim. Keep your WordPress website and extensions updated, make sure to use parameterized queries and prepared statements, validate user input and limit the database privileges of users, and utilize WordPress security plugins.

To minimize potential security threats, you should also monitor your website regularly, implement strong password policies and educate your staff about SQL Injection. You can perform regular backups and ensure that your site is always up to date.

You can safeguard your site, its users and reputation on the internet by taking an active approach to WordPress Security and being vigilant about SQL Injection Attacks.

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