Why You Should Scan Your WordPress Site for Vulnerabilities

WordPress is and has been the world’s most popular CMS for years. But that popularity comes with an unpopular side effect. Hackers love to hack it. Learn why security scanners could be a useful tool in your arsenal, too.

At its core, WordPress is secure and Automattic—the company behind its creation—does a great job of keeping it that way. But everyone who creates a WordPress site will customize it in some way. And unless you’re a developer or coder, you’re likely adding plugins.

Plugins—while helpful and often necessary—are what make WordPress prone to vulnerabilities. And the less care you take when choosing plugins, the more chance you have of adding malicious code or scripts to your site. Code and or scripts that open the door to hackers.

Additionally, hackers learn new tricks. So eventually, plugins from reputable developers—and even WordPress itself—can become insecure.

That means it becomes your job to keep your site secure. There are obvious steps like always keeping everything up to date—WordPress core, plugins, themes—and using a good security plugin.

But there is more.

What are WordPress Security Scanners?

A security or vulnerability scan will check the security status of a network, system, application, or platform like WordPress.

And anyone with access to your site can modify the code—access you’ve given to your users or someone who has managed to break in. So regularly scanning your site for anything suspicious is a good idea. It can bring to attention known vulnerabilities like weak passwords and those outdated plugins mentioned above. Additionally, they can even comb through your WP core files and let you know if anything has been compromised.

Why Scanning Your Site is Important

A lot of website administrators, especially small business owners who might run a blog or micro e-commerce site, may feel that their insignificant little site will never be the target of cybercriminals. This is wrong. Everyone should be on guard against cyber-attacks, regardless of size.

According to the most recent cybercrime stats from the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, the numbers are mind-boggling. In 2022, over 422 million people were affected and nearly 33 million accounts were breached—at a predicted cost of $8 trillion. And SMEs are getting hit—the number of SME cyber claims has increased from 69% in 2018 to 83% in 2020.

Add to the problem that even the best WordPress security isn’t perfect, and you have a recipe for disaster. A very good chance that someone may be able to harm your site, either deliberately or by mistake.

By mistake?

Yes, mistakes happen. Either you or someone who has legit access to your site could make a disastrous mistake that could break your site. The ability to scan for vulnerabilities or even changes means you can track events and outcomes.

What a WordPress Security Scanner Can Do

Like most things, all WordPress security scanners aren’t created equal. Some may be very broad in scope—a component of an entire security suite—while others may be more nuclear. For many, the second, targeted approach may be the answer. And since most WordPress administrators already have a security plugin installed—and doing the work of a standalone scanner—sometimes a scanner may be unnecessary.

Regardless, the following is an overview of what a collection of scanners may look for and or do whether free or premium. Please note that this isn’t an extensive list, and it’s unlikely that a single scanner will do everything mentioned.

  • Check your WP version
  • Identify themes and plugins, then check versions against known vulnerabilities
  • Check the reputation of sites your home page links to and the reputation of your host
  • Scan for linked javascript
  • Look for iframes
  • In-depth auditing
  • Check and enumerate user names
  • Scan for server vulnerabilities
  • Scan for malware
  • Monitor and audit files and file changes
  • Monitor and audit security activities

Let’s discuss a few of these in more detail.

Monitoring and auditing files and file changes. Staying on top of the file integrity of your WordPress site is crucial. It’s a best practice that all site administrators should follow.

Changes to your code may indicate malware injections that could corrupt or expose sensitive data. Since most administrators won’t have the time or the know-how to read and inspect code on a regular basis, using a plugin that can do it for you makes good sense.

A plugin that monitors and audits changes to your files and then alerts you means you can react quickly and remove any files that proved to be security vulnerabilities.

Monitoring and auditing security activities. Depending on what plugins have been added to a WordPress site there are many different security activities that can be monitored and or audited, whether they’re legit or not. Any time someone accesses the site via a user profile, their actions will be tracked and recorded. Some plugins may even have the ability to control user access, not just monitor it. Additionally, they may have a tool that will check for data leakage.

WordPress Security Scanner Plugins

You can scan your WordPress site via an external tool, there is a multitude of SaaS (Software-as-a-service) offerings out there for that. Where they are limited is the direct access to the WordPress filespace and database which is beneficial for an in-depth scan and analysis. For that, WordPress plugins are a good approach.

Here is a list of some options:


WordFence logo

Installed on millions of WordPress sites, it is known and trusted. Many only know Wordfence because of the Firewall-type features, but it also features malware detection functionality and much more.

Jetpack Protect

Jetpack Protect - a WordPress security scanner

Developed by Automattic, the plugin is separate from the standard Jetpack plugin. Jetpack Protect’s unique feature is building on top of the WPScan database with tens of thousands of registered malware and vulnerabilities.

Security Ninja

Security Ninja - a WordPress security tool and security scanner

Although it has a magnitude less of installations (according to the WordPress.org plugin repository), Security Ninja is a plugin loved by its users and a serious option to use as a WordPress security scanner tool (and more).


As stated, there are many different types of WordPress security audits and scanners. Some may be baked into a larger security suite and might be a great idea for anyone in the development stages of their site.

Alternatively, if you’re administering a site that already has a security plugin that doesn’t offer auditing functionality, you can look for one of the more nuclear options. For example, WP Admin Audit will provide you with a monitoring log of all site changes, security events, and admin activities. If you’re looking for some ease of mind against a tsunami of hacking attempts, try it out!