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I don't know how brute force attacks work. I have protected the wp-admin folder with a password, in addition to having the regular Wordpress login. How does having this "second layer" inhibit brute force attacks? Is it because an automated process isn't able to re-launch for the second login?

Thanks.

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Protecting only wp-admin won't help a lot, at least it won't protect your from brute-force attacks.

A brute force attack is a trial-and-error method used to obtain information such as a user password or personal identification number (PIN). In a brute force attack, automated software is used to generate a large number of consecutive guesses as to the value of the desired data.

So in other words - attacker tries to guess the password by trying to log in with different credentials.

Why protecting wp-admin won't protect you? Because brute-force attacks are not directed at wp-admin. There are two methods used to perform brute-force attacks on WordPress:

  1. Send credentials to wp-login.php and check the response.
  2. Send some authenticated request to xmlrpc.php and check if authentication error occured.

So if you want to protect yourself from brute-force attacks, you should protect these 2 files. This way attacker won't be able to guess the credentials.

Of course protecting wp-admin is also a good idea - this way even if someone breaks the password, he still won't get to wp-admin area.

Although you have to remember that second layer (Basic Auth?) is just one of methods you can use to protect yourself from brute-force. You can also implement login throttling or temporary lockout.

  • Thanks for the excellent response Krzysiek. Login throttling seems like a great solution and one that I've used a plugin for. A couple more questions. 1. Why are there no automated attacks against mywebsite.com/wp-admin.php? 2. Are automated attacks only set up to go through a single layer of login id and password? So, would an attacker be blocked at all if there was a second layer setup, for example from the host I use, on xmlrpc.php or wp-login.php? – nemomcnobody Jun 24 '18 at 2:17
  • @nemomcnobody most of the attacks are automated - it’s a lot easier and faster. And most of the attacks are not pointed on any precise site - they’re just trying to attack sites using WP (because of it’s so popular). So yes - anything that will make your site a little bit different than others will be OK. Just be careful not to harm yourself (for example renaming wp-login.php will make your site different, but also will change brute-force attacks into DDoS attacks) – Krzysiek Dróżdż Jun 24 '18 at 7:19
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    Sorry, I meant why aren't there automated attacks against .../wp-admin.php like there are for .../wp-login.php? That's what I really don't understand. I've seen lots of blog posts about obscuring wp-login but not wp-admin. I'm in Hawaii and can see the glow of the lava from my porch. Crazy. – nemomcnobody Jun 25 '18 at 19:27
  • @nemomcnobody because if you’re not logged in, then WP-admin will just redirect you to WP-login.php... – Krzysiek Dróżdż Jun 25 '18 at 19:38

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