July 26, 2023 by Paul G. | Blog, Releases, Shield Pro, Shield Security, Updates

WP Shield Security PRO – Release 18.2

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ShieldPRO 18.2 sees an overhaul of Shield’s Activity Logging feature, so that we can capture more events, regardless of whether WordPress is running as the event occurs.

To accompany these activity logging improvements, we’ve also created the Change Reporting feature (in beta).

Shield’s Change Reporting feature will let you view a summary of every significant event that has occurred on your WordPress site between any 2 dates.

We’ll dig into these new features, along with all the other improvements, below.

#1 Huge Improvements To WordPress Activity Logging

We’ve gone into some detail about our improvements to the Activity Logging feature in this earlier article, but we’ll summaries the important points here, also.

To perform the activity logging that’s required of a quality Intrusion Prevent System, Shield Security must “listen” for events that are triggered on a WordPress site.

It can get a little technical, but WordPress provides an API that allows developers to “plugin into” WordPress and capture events that happen. For example, when you activate a WordPress plugin, an “event” is fired by WordPress to say “Plugin X was just activated”.

This happens throughout the WordPress code and this is how Shield monitors events and adds them to the Activity Log.

With each WordPress release, new events are added and when we reviewed our Activity Logger, we discovered that there were some events not being captured, and thereby not being logged.

With this release, we’ve added loads more events, making our WordPress Activity Logging feature one of the most comprehensive available.

But we didn’t stop there.

You may or may not know that you can modify WordPress without ever loading WordPress itself. For example, you could

  • install or delete plugins and themes over FTP
  • add/remove database tables using PHPMyAdmin
  • add or remove users by directly modifying the user database
  • You could switch on the ability for new users to register on the site on the database

The list is endless.

The most concerning aspect of this is that you may never know about it when it happens.

With Shield Security 18.2 for WordPress, we’ve built a system to capture many events that could also happen outside of WordPress. We may not be able to tell who did it, and from where they did it, but we can capture the fact that it happened.

This is yet another exclusive to Shield Security. Sure you can have activity logging for your WordPress site, but does it capture everything, all the time? If you use Shield Security, then it does now.

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#2 New Reporting Feature: Change Reporting

When it comes to fully understanding what state your current WordPress site is in, you need to know what has happened to get there.

Shield’s Activity Logging feature is a critical component of that process. It details exactly what has happened, when, and by whom.

But it’s a lot of data.

This data will tell you a lot of things, but it might not provide the information in a format that helps you get the most out of it.

Think of it like statistics… while you might have all the data to-hand, and with enough time you may spot trends and patterns buried in the data, if you had a visual chart you could probably see patterns more clearly.

It’s the same idea when you want to quickly understand why your website is in its current state. Rather than see all the data all at once, you just need to get the answer to the question: “What’s Changed?

This is what inspired our new Change Reporting feature. It uses the data from the Activity Log to generate the report, so the data is same, but it presents only the relevant portions of that data.

The Activity Log shows you “what happened“.

The Change Report shows you “what changed“.

If you’ve taken our advice and you’re running regular Security Audits on your WordPress sites, then you’ll find this report absolutely critical. It’ll extract the relevant information buried within your logs and present to you a report of everything that’s changed between any 2 dates.

An important point to bear in mind here is that this report relies solely on the data within the Activity Log. This means that reporting is limited to the maximum lifetime of your activity logs. Please review your Shield Security plan to see how long data may be retained on your sites and ensure your log retention settings reflect your needs.

#3 Additional Security Admin Protection

One of Shield Security’s most loved and important features is the Security Admin feature.

The Security Admin modules serves to protect against tampering with the Shield plugin itself, along with key WordPress options and adminstrator users.

We’ve reviewed this feature and decided to bring 2 more WordPress core options under the protection of the Security Admin, namely:

  • WordPress Permalinks
  • New User Default Role

The latter of the 2 is probably the most critical.

With certain types of security vulnerabilites, it’s possible to use a MySQL injection attack to update the value of this option and allow new users to created on a WordPress site with adminstrator priviledges.

Not good!

If this is done with WordPress being loaded (and not directly on the database itself), then Shield will prevent this option from being changed.

It should be noted that we’ve also added logging for changes to many core WordPress options with our Activity Logging enhancements, outlined already. So if these options are modified in any way, Shield will detect it and you’ll be able to see it clearly when you run your next Change Report.

#4 Increased Minimum WordPress Version: 5.7

ShieldPRO 18.2 now requires a minimum WordPress version of 5.7.

This is per our continued push to keep Shield Security current, and up-to-date with the latest technology advancements. We do appreciate that some members are running older versions of WordPress (~1%) and this might pose some issues, but there’s only so long we can continue to support legacy versions of WordPress in our software.

We review this continually, and the only way is up. If you make the choice to operate legacy versions of WordPress and PHP, there will come a time when this choice forces you to choose between software that moves with technology, or doesn’t. We want to keep Shield as current as possible, so we’ve made the decision that where the stats indicate a small proportion of members (roughly less than 5%) are affected by platform requirements changes, we will likely move ahead.

We strongly urge all our members to keep their WordPress technology stack up-to-date.

#5 Code Optimisations and Improvements

As with many of our recent releases, we’ve done a huge body of work to clean up the code and make it easier to maintain and a little more performant.

Comments, Suggestions and Feedback

As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback so please do feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.

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