Are inactive WordPress plugins a security risk? – Ask Paulie Anything, Episode 4

Ask Paulie Anything

The question of inactive WordPress plugins is one that comes up a lot. Is it a security issue to retain inactive WordPress plugins on your site? Is this a problem? Should you keep them or remove them? You’ll discover the full answer to this question and more in the video.

In this Episode 4 of Ask Paulie Anything, I’m going to answer the question that was sent to me on Facebook. It highlighted a good misunderstanding that some people might have about WordPress plugins and security.

Are Inactive WordPress Plugins A Security Risk?

The question was:

Is having all plugins installed on my website but not being activated leaving me open to security risks?

Someone immediately replied “Yes” – one word and that was it.

0:27 – Why That Was Not A Great Answer

One thing we have to understand is that plugins on your website are code and that code could be good, bad or ugly. They could have security risks or they might not.

If a plugin is not active it means that that code is not going to be instantiated, is not going to run normally when WordPress loads, but it’s still code and it’s still on your website.

So, if the plugin itself has a security risk, that security risk, at least in principle, is on your website. It might not be normally loaded with WordPress, it might not have any security risks but it’s still there.

1:22 – Why Are Inactive Plugins A Problem?

It’s not a problem but, do you know what security risks it has or doesn’t have?

So, why to keep it on your website?

If a plugin is not active on your website, don’t keep it on your website.

Installing plugins on WordPress is easy, you click “search” and you install it.

Keeping the plugin also means there’s another plugin you need to keep updated.

So, if you like more work, or if you like to run the risk, by all means, keep inactive plugins on your website.

Bottom line: Remove any plugins on your website that you don’t need. Just get rid of them.

2:03 – Not All Answers To Your Questions Are Correct Answers

I’m going to use this opportunity to highlight something important as well.

When you’re on the internet and you ask a question and someone responds to you with an answer like “Yes, inactive plugins represent the security risk”, it doesn’t mean that it’s correct, it doesn’t mean that’s an accurate answer.

On the internet, anybody can say “Yes”, anybody can say “No” and most people think they know what they know is correct.

That’s OK, but what I want you to understand is when you put a question out there for everyone to read, then anyone can answer and that includes people who don’t fully understand the situation.

Maybe he is right when he says “Yes”. If that code can get executed and that code has security risks associated with it… then he is right. But, most of the time the answer is wrong. It’s not an open security risk. You have an inactive plugin there but we don’t know what that plugin is and we don’t know if that plugin itself has security risks.

So, bottom line again: Don’t necessarily trust that every answer on the internet is complete and in wholly accurate.

I hope that this was useful.

Thank You! Comments, Questions?

If you have any feedback or comments you want to make, please feel free to leave them in the video. Or, if there’s something you’ve always wanted to know about WordPress but never knew who to ask, use the link below.

Ask Your Own Question Here.

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