WordPress has been getting a lot of bad press the last few days, as a worm is out in the wild exploiting a security vulnerability. This is leading to somewhat unfair comparisons with Windows, and thoughtful articles from John Gruber and Maciej Ceglowski.

To be sure, the ease of programming in PHP leads a great many people to contribute to projects, who may not have the experience or security awareness they should. This is not helped by poorly designed features in PHP that were enabled by default in previous versions, and cannot always be disabled outright due to legacy compatibility concerns, reminiscent of the persistent security woes due to the C standard library’s insecure old string processing facilities.

For many users, migrating away from WordPress may not be a practical option. My recommendations would be:

  • Reduce your exposure by exporting a static HTML version of your site, as suggested by Maciej. This is really only simple if you use a non-default permalink structure that does not use question mark characters in URLs, like that used by the SEO plugins. Otherwise you would need quite a bit of mod_rewrite jiggery-pokery to get it to work. In any case, this will also disable quite a bit of functionality on your site, such as comments.
  • If you are an Apache user, install modsecurity, a truly outstanding Apache module that acts as a firewall of sorts and will inspect requests for suspicious behavior like SQL injection attempts and malformed requests. Configuring modsecurity is not for the faint of heart, but there are some papers online like this one by Daniel Cuthbert (PDF) that walk you through this. This is probably the single most significant thing you can do to make your WordPress blog safer.
  • Practice security in depth — keep regular backups of both your wordpress directory and database, so you can recover in case of attack, and if possible run WordPress in an isolated account with minimal privileges.