The Hidden Weakness in Your WordPress Site – and What to Do about It

Today, I wanted to talk about something a bit more technical but super important for all you WordPress users out there: XML-RPC. 🚀

First off, what’s this mysterious XML-RPC?

XML-RPC is a protocol designed for WordPress to standardize communication between different systems, allowing external apps to “talk” to WordPress.

This feature has been in the WP toolkit since the early days, facilitating communication between WordPress and other online blogging platforms and apps.

But here’s the twist:

That xmlrpc.php file, which sits in your site’s root directory and is responsible for implementing the XML-RPC protocol in WP, can be a weak link.

More specifically, it can introduce security vulnerabilities to your site.

Reasons to Consider Disabling Access to xmlrpc.php on WordPress

There are two common attacks on XML-RPC:

👉 Brute Force via xmlrpc.php:

Using automated tools, hackers can now uncover and list all valid usernames for a website in record time.

Once they’ve got that, they can exploit the xmlrpc.php file to carry out a brute force attack by sending requests with different password combinations.

With this method, hackers can gain access to your site, putting your WordPress environment at serious risk.

👉 DDoS Attacks via xmlrpc.php:

In WordPress, hackers often use the pingback feature in conjunction with the xmlrpc.php file to execute Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

These attacks can completely incapacitate your server and take your site offline by using xmlrpc.php to send a huge number of pingback requests in a short time.

Now, here’s the part where you might scratch your head – if XML-RPC has all these vulnerabilities, why hasn’t it been removed from WordPress altogether?

Two words: backward compatibility.

Although it’s crucial to keep WordPress, plugins, and themes up-to-date, it remains a choice for users.

Some are simply unwilling or unable to update their WordPress versions, and older versions that predate the REST API still need access to xmlrpc.php.

However, XML-RPC is largely regarded as obsolete now, with the more advanced and secure WordPress REST API taking its place.

So, if you’re currently using a version of WordPress that leverages the REST API to communicate with external systems, it’s worth disabling XML-RPC to reduce the risk of brute force and DDoS attacks.

Here’s how to do it using Hide My WP Ghost by Squirrly.

🛡️ How to Disable XML-RPC using Hide My WP Ghost

Go to the Hide My WP Ghost > Change Paths and scroll down to the API Security section. There, you will see an option to Disable XML-RPC access.

XML-RPC is still used by remote services. Before disabling XML-RPC, make sure there are no services on your website that use this function.

If you want to disable XML-RPC but still allow certain IP addresses to access it, you can use Hide My WP Ghost to do so.

Simply add the IP addresses you want to allow in the plugin’s settings under the Change Paths > Level of Security > Whitelist IPs section.

This will enable those IPs to access the XML-RPC option, while still disabling it for all other IPs.

As we wrap up, it’s worth noting that although XML-RPC has its place in WordPress history, it’s crucial to evaluate if it’s something your site truly needs today.

Remember, the safety and performance of your site should always come first.