Preventing Brute Force Attacks

Let’s say you want better security for your WordPress site. Maybe you want your employees to always access their WordPress account by authenticating through Google (which you see as easier to manage rather than requiring all users to maintain separate username/passwords for WordPress as well as Gmail). You’ve also read about brute force attacks on WordPress so hope that Google login will guard against those. You might also have installed a plugin such as Limit Login Attempts to prevent multiple login attempts from the same IP address – likely a sign of a brute force attack (although increasingly such attacks are performed from distributed IPs).

This post explains how to configure Google Apps Login Premium/Enterprise versions to secure your site in this way – and also explains why brute force attacks will never succeed against WordPress when protected by Google Apps Login, so in fact your Limit Login Attempts plugin is now completely redundant!

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 15.05.49

In Settings -> Google Apps Login, click the Domain Control tab and enter your Google Apps domain. Check ‘Auto-create new users on my domain’ and select a default role.

Once you are happy that at least you as admin are able to ‘Login with Google’ successfully, check the other two boxes on Domain Control tab:
– Disable WordPress username/password login for my domain
– Completely hide WordPress username and password boxes

Important: Make sure that there are no users in the Users page in WordPress whose emails do not belong to your Google Apps domain, and there are no ways for new users to self-register.

At this point, all your users are required to use Google to login, and this means that there are no users in existence whose accounts can be brute-force attacked by guessing WordPress passwords. Their WordPress passwords will no longer be usable due to ‘Disable WordPress username/password login for my domain’ being checked. Therefore, Limit Login Attempts is redundant for preventing brute-force attacks.

Since the plugin is simply asking Google ‘is this user logged into their Google account or not’ every time a login attempt is made, an attacker can try a million times but the answer will always be no. The only way for an attacker to impersonate the user is for them to find a way to login to their Google account first. Of course Google’s security is much higher by default than WordPress out-of-the-box, especially if you enforce Two Factor Auth for all your users – I highly recommend doing that if you think your users will be able to use it.

If you leave Limit Login Attempts active then of course you may still receive notifications that attacks are being made. It’s entirely possible to still attempt to submit a WordPress username/password, but as outlined above these will never result in successful logins.

If you are concerned about DoS attacks then a WordPress plugin won’t help you anyway since such attacks will still overpower your site. Prevention would be required at the web-server level or higher – you’d need to ask your web hosting company to set this up.

Just to be clear, if ‘Completely hide WordPress username and password boxes’ is checked then it is still possible to display those boxes (just go to /wp-login.php?gahidewplogin=false) – or, moreover, the endpoint for a hacker’s script to attempt a WordPress login is still available, even if the boxes themselves were never visible. That’s why it is important to use the ‘Disable WordPress username/password login for my domain’ option along with the fact that no users outside your Google Apps domain exist on the site.

For more information about configuring the plugin, please see our documentation or get in touch with any questions!

Please also be aware that other plugins and configuration on your site could mean you still need to take further steps to guarantee security.

Google Apps Login is trusted by thousands of organizations from small businesses to NASDAQ-listed companies and government organizations.

Users click their way through Login via Google (just one click after the first time)

Users click their way through Login via Google (just one click after the first time)

You can try it out by clicking below to auto-create a test account on this site! This will show you the basic Google login process.
Try out Google login

Logging in is only the start – Google Apps Login takes care of all your WordPress user management. Find out more here.