Illustration of a padlock

Any website can be hacked. There is no set of security steps that you can take to keep your site 100% safe from hacking. Hackers may be malicious and actually steal information from your site. Other hackers may be pranksters that simply want to bring down your site and replace it with obnoxious graphics. Your site could be hacked and you don't even know it, the hackers are just monitoring the site to see if any goodies show up.

There are steps that you can take that increase the security of your site and make it safer. 


Basic security steps:

Only install official versions of Joomla.

Joomla installations are often included with third party templates. They offer a one step install where you install Joomla and their template is already set up as the default with all its custom appearance, functionality, components and plugins. Be very wary of these offers. Be sure that these are popular and highly regarded templates. If they don't offer the option of installing the template separately from the Joomla installation, steer clear. It could be that the Joomla version has core files that have been changed, causing conflicts with other extensions and upgrades. It could be that the plugins they have installed have vulnerabilities.

Never use 'admin' as a login name, never

Do not use admin or other obvious login names for logging into your Joomla site. If you have multiple contributors, do not use some standard way of creating login names, such as last name-first initial. It makes it too easy to figure out for others. You may think that the password will be enough, but having an obvious login name is a foot in the door.

Use well formed and unique passwords

Passwords should never be regular words. They should be a long combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and a special character or two or three. The more characters in your password, the better.

Change your password from time to time

It is a good idea to change your login password on a regular basis.

Never give your password to others to get into the site

Even if you trust someone completely, it is better to create a user account that you can delete later. 

Backup, backup, backup

Backup your site's files and database regularly. Backup again before making major changes or installing any extension or template. Backup before running upgrades.

Keep your Joomla site up to date

Upgrading can be a bothersome task, but it is still better to take the steps to upgrade if a new version comes out. Newer versions will have fixed known security issues.

Check your Users list in User Manager

See if there are any registered users that should not be there. If there are, it may mean that your site has already been hacked.

Remove the login module if you don't use it

If you don't need people to login into the front end, remove or unpublish the login module. You can still login to the front end of your site by adding

index.php?option=com_users&view=login

to the end of your url if you need to.

The login form creates an open invitation to hackers. Keep in mind, a Joomla hacker will know how to get to the login form even without a login form displayed in a module or page. Removing the login form will only keep out the novice hacker.

Turn off user registration, if you don't need it

If you don't have a forum, allow comments or have some other reason for users to register, turn off Allow User Registration in the Global Configuration for Users Manager. If you do leave it on, never allow users to be any level higher than Registered unless you take manual steps to allow them more permissions.


Installing Extensions

Backup your site before installing extensions

Backup your entire site, folders and database, before installing any extension or running any upgrade.

Learn how to restore the backed up files and database in the case that your site is hacked.

Only use popular and highly rated extensions

Check extensions.joomla.org for the rating on any extension. Popular extensions will likely keep up with Joomla upgrades. Even good and popular extensions can introduce security loopholes. If an extension is not listed at extensions.joomla.org, it probably should not be installed.

Review the Joomla Vulnerable Extension list

You can see a list of extensions that have known issues at vel.joomla.org. Some extension providers will have fixed the problems and have a newer version, so watch what version is on the Vulnerability list.

Only use Open Source extensions

Extensions, whether components or plugins, can come open-source or encrypted. If they are open-source, the code is all visible as PHP, JavaScript or other readable script. If it is encoded, there is an added possibility that it has hidden security risks.

Install Security Extensions

Go to extensions.joomla.org and research Joomla extensions that increase site security, if added security is important for your site. Some of these extensions will have lockouts for someone entering a wrong password too many times, so be sure YOU don't try too many passwords.

Minimize the number of extensions you have installed

The more extensions you have installed, the more places for hackers to break into your site. You should also minimize the number of extensions for site speed and ease of upgrading.


Your Hosting Environment, Folders, Files and Database

Consider using an SSL server 

Sites that have an SSL certificate have https:// for the protocol. This protocol uses encryption to send data over the web. It is not 100% safe, but it is much safer than not having this functionality. This protocol does not protect your site itself from hackers, it simply encrypts the data being uploaded and downloaded. You should purchase an SSL certificate if you:

  • Deal with any personal information about your registered users, even something like email addresses or phone number
  • If your site deals with money transaction
  • If you have forms that ask for personal information, such as event registration, forum registration, etc.

Use dedicated servers if possible

Most discount web hosting use shared hosting to keep the costs down. If you have a site with information that should not be public, consider the added costs of dedicated hosting. This way, your Joomla site is on its own server. As an added benefit, dedicated servers are also much faster than shared servers as far as downloading large web sites.

Protect your hosted folders and files

Watch the permission settings on your folders and files. Hackers can tell you have a Joomla site by simply looking at the source code and will know which files have security vulnerabilities. Folders should have permission level of 755 and files 644. Unfortunately if you assign even higher security permission levels, you can break your site as Joomla needs to access certain files and folders to work properly.

If you create new folders, add an index.html placeholder file

If you create folders in your Joomla installation via FTP or through your hosting control panel, you should include a placeholder index.html file in the folder along with the other files. This keeps hackers from being able to list the content of the folder in a browser window.

Keep your site's folders and files tidy

Remove any unused files or folders. Be sure to remove the installation folder after installing Joomla, don't just rename it.

Use separate login and password for hosting login, database login and Joomla login

Do not use the same login and password for your Joomla site as for your hosting account and/or database. This is like having the same set of keys for every item you own. If the thief has one set of keys, he can steal everything.

.htaccess security steps

You can add lines to your .htaccess file that will keep the casual hacker from accessing specific folders.


My Joomla site has already been hacked, what do I do?

Refer to this Joomla.org article:

https://docs.joomla.org/Security_Checklist/You_have_been_hacked_or_defaced