Home > WordPress Tips and Tricks > WordPress Author Names Are Important For Security

WordPress Author Names Are Important For Security

With all this talk about brute force attacks on CMS platforms like WordPress, we wanted to discuss an oft forgot security hole in the system: author names.

By this point everyone knows that they need to change the default username, but what sometimes gets forgotten is that your nickname/author name /display name is automatically set to match your new username.  So if you don’t update these as well – it’s pretty simple for a hacker to figure out what username they should try.

For example, at the bottom of this post you’ll see:

If you click on that link, it’ll take you to my author page on the site – showing all my posts in one place.  Luckily, I’ve changed my display name to not match my username – so even if a hacker went this far, if they tried ‘Mr McNamara’ – they wouldnt be able to log in no matter how many passwords they tried.

So, how can you update your user profile for this security measure?

  • Once you login to your WordPress backend, on the left hand side of the screen you’ll see the navigation list of options: pages, posts, appearance, etc.  Click on ‘Users’ to go to the user admin panel.
  • From there, scroll over the user you want to update and click ‘edit’ when it appears.
  • You’ll open into a page where you’ll find the following set of fields (these may vary slightly as new WordPress versions come and go)

  • Administrative usernames can’t be changed from the WordPress control panel once your WordPress setup has completed, so you just need to make sure your nickname and your display name are NOT the same as the listed username. Note that you can change the administrative username using 3rd party plugins or directly from the database table.
  • Once you’ve updated both, click save (depending on your WordPress version it will ask you if you want to update all your posts to show this new author name – YES YOU DO!)
  • If you leave these fields blank they will likely default to your username so make sure you enter something in these fields that is different from your username and make sure you hit “Update Profile”.

Now unfortunately you also have to make a change to the database because the WordPress core code also uses the author username as the page URL for your specific author page. Even though your “authorship” name will now be updated on all your posts and pages the original username will still appear in the URL pointing to your authorship page. This value is pulled from the database field “user_nicename” in the “wp_users” table.

Here’s how to change the URL value and hide your username. These steps assume your hosting account is setup with phpMyAdmin and you have access to and editing privileges to the WordPress database. If you don’t have database editing experience, you might want to make a database backup just in case and/or ask someone experienced to make this change. An incorrect change to your database can potentially take down your entire website.

1) Go to your hosting account’s cPanel and click on the “phpMyAdmin” icon. If you don’t see it, look for a “MySQL Databases” icon, click it, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and then click the phpMyAdmin link.
2) Select your WordPress database from the menu on the left.
3) Select the wp_users table, and then click the “Browse” tab.
4) Locate the row that has your username in the user_login column. Click the Edit button (the pencil icon) on that row.
5) Enter the new URL version of your name into the “user_nicename” field.
6) Click “Go” to save your changes.

And that’s it.  These two relatively simple changes makes it that much harder for hackers to get your username. Remember no website is bullet proof but you can take some easy steps to not be the slowest gazelle in the herd.

WordPress Tips and Tricks

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