Images are an essential element of the modern web. However, in some cases, they can also make your website vulnerable to security breaches that jeopardize your data.
Understanding how these vulnerabilities work and how to protect yourself against them is key to securing your site and your users’ information. With the right security measures and best practices in place, you can rest assured your content is safe.
In this article, we’ll break down how images can impact your website’s security. Then we’ll talk about image theft and how to avoid it. Let’s get right to it!
Keeping your website safe means protecting it against a wide range of possible threats. One issue most people don’t pay close attention to is their media files, specifically images. Depending on which formats you use, you may be leaving your site open specific types of attacks.
By and large, the most popular image file formats used on the web are pretty safe. That includes JPEGs, PNGs, and GIFs. If you’re using these formats exclusively and you always keep your site’s components up to date, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Additionally, for many years WordPress included a vulnerability that allowed certain user roles to upload images that could trigger remote code execution. In other words, it enabled hackers to take control of your server. This issue has since been patched.
File formats that, by their nature, include executable code tend to be considered more dangerous. If you use SVGs in WordPress, for example, you’ll notice there are several plugins for ‘sanitizing’ your images:
In practice, the security risks posed by images are minimal if you follow some basic guidelines, including:
WordPress takes care of the second point for you, by only enabling you to upload a limited range of formats by default. If you stick to these guidelines, images shouldn’t pose a threat to your site’s security.
Image theft isn’t so much a security issue as it is a byproduct of the way the internet works. If you run a quick reverse search for basically any image on the web, you’re likely to find hundreds of instances of its use:
This applies to all types of intellectual property online. Trying to stop image theft altogether is basically impossible, much like piracy in general. However, you can discourage it by implementing protection methods such as:
If you’re using WordPress, it’s easy enough to implement all of these features using our plugin, NextGEN Pro. It also enables you to set up advanced image galleries and various e-commerce features.
Some file formats, such as SVGs, come with inherent security risks. However, by and large, images don’t pose a threat to most websites as long as you follow basic security guidelines. Even with ‘vulnerable’ files, if you take proper precautions, your website should be safe.
As far as image theft goes, it shouldn’t be high on your list of concerns unless you’re displaying original, artwork, a digital portfolio, or other similar content on your site. In those cases, there are several ways to protect your intellectual property, such as including watermarks, disabling right-click functionality, and using password-secured pages.
Do you have any questions about image security in general? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Will Morris is a staff writer at WordCandy.co. When he’s not writing about WordPress, he likes to gig his stand-up comedy routine on the local circuit.