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Since each major-version of WordPress (like 4.0 or 4.4) gets its own series of security updates (currently 4.0.10 or 4.4.2), are the updated newer major-versions significantly more secure than updated older ones? More specifically:

Is 4.4.2 (from 2/2/2016) much more secure that 4.0.10 (also from 2/2/2016)?

And will 4.5 (when it's first released, as 4.5.0) be much more secure than 4.4.2? Or might it be less secure than 4.4.2, since 4.5 won't have had a security update yet?

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    @MarkKaplun Do you have any evidence that they would patch, say, two security bugs, but only one in previous releases' security updates? Why would they do that?
    – NoBugs
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 13:33
  • @NoBugs I didn't say such a thing, but it is obvious it may happen. No one will fix design problems in an older release Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 14:17

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Wordpress's current security policy is at https://wordpress.org/about/security/:

While only the latest version of WordPress is officially supported, the Security Team also backports fixes to older versions as a courtesy, to ensure older sites receive critical security fixes via auto-updates.

As of 2024, security updates are backported to WordPress 4.1 and later, as you can see from the version list here. So all those versions should be equally secure.

WordPress 3.7 to 4.0 stopped receiving security updates in 2022.

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are the updated newer major-versions significantly more secure than updated older ones?

This is quite ambiguous. How significant or insignificant security changes might be, it is totally irrelevant. There might or might not be significant security enhancements between minor and major versions or even major versions as such. To really know how significant changes are between versions, you will need to go through change logs, release archives and bug reports

Is 4.4.2 (from 2/2/2016) much more secure that 4.0.10 (also from 2/2/2016)

In all probability, yes. From what I could pick up, there where two security issues in WordPress v4.4.1 which where fixed in v4.4.2 and it was also fixed in v4.0 via v4.0.10. Apart from that, how v4.0 (through its minor versions) kept up with security updates in regards to v4.4, I don't know, this is something you need to backtrace. You need to remember, older versions are not actively maintained, so most updates might not reach older versions. A note from the release archive

None of these are safe to use, except the latest in the 4.4 series, which is actively maintained

And will 4.5 (when it's first released, as 4.5.0) be much more secure than 4.4.2? Or might it be less secure than 4.4.2, since 4.5 won't have had a security update yet?

This is impossible to answer correctly. There might be some minor security issues from v4.4.2 which will be fixed in v4.5, but to be sure, you will need to dig through the bug reports. In general, newer versions should be more secure.

I think you are really missing the bigger picture here. Apart from security updates and bug fixes, why do WordPress release major versions? The core developers made a promise to release two major versions per year, each one with at least one new feature which is totally open to ideas from anyone. Apart from that, a new theme gets released once a year which follows the year in which the theme is released. For example, this years theme is called twentysixteen

It is true that, with every new feature or major changes to current features, there will be bugs of some sort, which might or might not lead to security issues. There might still be hidden security issues from previous versions yet to be discovered

TO CONCLUDE

Keeping WordPrerss up-to-date has much more benefits to just security. Since the release of WordPress 4.0, all major releases after that saw significant changes with a lot of new exciting and very helpful features being introduced (and some not so great, like emojicons).

From a pure security point of view, it is definitely beneficial to stick to the latest stable release as it is the version that is actively being maintained, and therefor should be the most secure version. Any minor release, like version 4.0.10 is not actively maintained, and might have missed other minor security updates in the past.

As final thought, all of the above is totally irrelevant and a waste of time if your PHP version is as old as the dinosaurs and your theme and/or plugins you are using have loopholes in them the size of the union building. Remember, WordPress which uses PHP as language, is just a platform for themes and plugins. It really is of no use building a proper strong foundation (up-to-date WordPress) on a sandy beach (outdated PHP) and then building a house out of straw (bad security themes and plugins) and hoping that your house will withstand floods, tremors or fires (malicious attacks)

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Always use the most recent version of WordPress, security fixes are always made to the latest version.

The only time this isn't the case is in that rare situation that an older version of WordPress has a bug, and it's updated in a point release to trigger the auto-updater. This is irrelevant though if you're using the latest version of WordPress.

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    Thanks Tom. I know it's considered best to always have the latest version of WordPress. But sometimes a site has plugins that are not (yet) compatible with the latest version of WordPress, so significant work might be required to fix problems from the update. Also, just to clarify, my original specific question: you're saying 4.0.10 is definitely less secure that 4.4.2, though both were released on the same day?
    – tzeldin88
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 2:10
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    This answer is the gospel by core developers but unfortunately it does not fit real life. Core changes the generated front end HTML with almost every version now, therefor sites need to be massively re-tested on each upgrade. Therefor a blanket statement about what a perfect world might look like is not enough, this kind of statements need to be backed by numbers, and as long as new releases prove to contain new security problems even the "upgrade to be more secure" is a hollow promise when you actually might have been more secure without the upgrade. Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 8:36
  • Plugins are their own pandoras box of potential issues with regards to security, not counting upgrades. If plugins are built well using the APIs and hooks, they're generally much easier to port forward if any porting is necessary at all
    – Tom J Nowell
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 10:36
  • Re: 4.0.10 and 4.4.2, v4.0.10 will have been the rare situation an older version was updated, but these updates are rare, don't always happen, and usually have case by case reasoning behind them. They're unusual. Is it more secure than 4.4.2 or less secure? Look up how many known vulnerabilities are in each one, but always stay on the latest WordPress
    – Tom J Nowell
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 10:39
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    @MarkKaplun there's always a chance a new issue is introduced or an old issue is newly found, there's no such thing as 'secure' even when you disconnect the power. The cost of upgrading WP though isn't what was asked
    – Tom J Nowell
    Commented Apr 5, 2016 at 10:40

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