How to defend Wordpress from DDoS attacks?


Wordpress is one of the most popular CMS platform available today with over 75 million websites powered by it. The popularity comes with risks as vulnerabilities and weakness of such platform will be shared amongst hackers and script kiddies, and automated bots will be searching for websites built on Wordpress platform.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are a serious problem for many website owners as DDos can bring down a website for days and weeks if not mitigated. Wordpress has a pingback feature which is enabled by default can be used by booters to attack other websites. Booters (Cyber Criminals offering DDoS service for money) will use thousands of Wordpress websites to initiate pingback requests to target website. The pingback request to a Wordpress website is initiated by requesting the xmlrpc.php file, and it could not only attack other target website but also potentially slow down or even crash your website if heavily misused.

A sample log of Wordpress attacks using XML-RPC and Cron

104.192.3.50 www.example.com  POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.0
204.110.219.215 www.example.com  POST /wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron HTTP/1.0

If you experience extreme slow down on your website, you may install mod_status Apache module and enable server-status support to view server activities and performance. The server-status report will allow you to view pages being requested at the time when you're experiencing a problem.

To enable server-status module your your IP, you'll need to edit httpd.conf configuration file with the following.

<Location "/server-status">
    SetHandler server-status
    Require ip 1.2.3.4
</Location>

To prevent XML-RPC pingback attack, you may use one of the following two options:

1. Remove xml-rpc.php file from your root of WP folder.

2. Disable XML-RPC on all IPs except for known good IP.

<FilesMatch "xmlrpc\.php$">
    order deny,allow
    deny from all
    allow from 1.2.3.4
</FilesMatch>

If you're using a DDoS mitigation service from Incapsula, CloudFlare and other DDoS mitigation providers, you may configure the WAF settings to defend DDoS attacks including Wordpress pingback attacks.

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