How to Create an Activity Log for WordPress Sites (And Why You Should)

One of the most critical aspects of web
security is being able to monitor what happens on your site. To do this
effectively, you could implement an activity log to help track all changes on
your WordPress site. Not only can this help you spot potential vulnerabilities
and notice suspicious behavior, but it could even help you troubleshoot WordPress
technical issues and errors.
In this article, we will dig into how
using an activity log can help you better run and manage your WordPress site.
We’ll also show you the basics of setting one up using the WP
Security Audit Log
plugin.
 

What an Activity Log Is

An activity log refers to a list of events or
updates, usually pertaining to a website. Sometimes, such a list is referred to
as an ‘audit trail’, or ‘audit log’, but the concept remains the same.
The most common usage for activity logs is to
track every ‘action’ that happens on a site. When it comes to WordPress, this
usually includes events in the admin dashboard such as creating and editing
content, installing plugins, configuring the site’s settings, changing user
profiles and much more. However, a log can also track activities from a site’s
users, such as login attempts and comments.
You can probably already imagine how having a
complete trail of all activity on your site can be useful. Let’s dig a little
deeper into the specific benefits.
 

Why Having a WordPress Activity
Log Is Helpful

The advantages of using an activity log are
manifold. For such a simple concept, it has a large array of uses, so let’s
look at some of the most prominent ones.
For a start, having an activity log helps ensure accountability when it comes to making
changes on your site. Since it lets you see exactly who make a certain
alteration and when they did it, you make it impossible for malicious users to
avoid being found out.
In a similar way, an activity log can also be
used to improve security. For example, since you can track login attempts, you
can quickly see if somebody is trying to gain access to your site via a ’brute
force’ attack.
Arguably the greatest benefit is how much
easier it makes troubleshooting errors and WordPress technical issues. If a
problem with the site occurs, you can simply refer to your log to see what
happened at that time. This makes it significantly faster to diagnose errors
and find their source, because otherwise it is like looking for a needle in a
haystack.
Finally, using an activity log is invaluable
when it comes to meeting specific regulatory
standards
. One of the most prominent is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which
requires you to document and process all activities that happen on your WordPress
site.
 

How to Create an Activity Log for
Your WordPress Sites & Multisite Network

One of the benefits of using a Content
Management System (CMS) such as WordPress is you can add almost any type of
functionality to your site by installing a plugin. The same applies to activity
logs. While there are several plugins for this specific purpose, none are as
comprehensive or easy to use as the WP
Security Audit Log
plugin:
 

 

This plugin makes it easy to keep an activity
log on your WordPress site. You can even decide how detailed you want the log
to be, whether that’s including every minor event, or focusing on the more
substantial updates.
To get started with the plugin you can begin
with the free version. You can also jump straight
into using the premium edition if you need features such as email
notifications, WordPress reports and activity log integration tools.
Once you’ve activated the plugin, you’ll be
greeted by a configuration wizard:
 

 

This will let you configure the plugin by
taking you through a series of steps. For example, the first option lets you
select the level of detail you want your log to include:
 

 

You’ll also be asked to select how long you
want to keep the log data saved:
 

 

It asks you who you want to be able to access
the activity log. By default, the only users that can see the log are
administrators, but you can provide access to specific users or set one or more
user roles as well:
 

 

Finally, you’ll be given the option to exclude
certain information from the log. For instance, you could specify users, roles,
or even IP addresses, which will not include any of their actions in the final
activity log:
 

 

Once you’ve completed the wizard, the activity
log will start to track your site. You can view it yourself by navigating to Audit Log > Audit Log Viewer:
 

 

This screen displays when a user has logged in
successfully, as well as changes made to tags, posts, user profiles, WordPress
site settings and more. The log reports the exact time and date, the IP address
the change was logged from, and additional information that spells out what the
change entailed in clear English.
The activity log events are also labeled by Severity. This essentially reflects how
major the change was and how much it affects your site. These stretch from
simple Notice events, such as adding
a tag or posting a comment, to Warning
and High level events, which cover
changes made to themes, plugins, posts, and more.
This makes it easy to quickly scan the log for
important events, while providing you with clear descriptions of how each one
has affected the site. With this at your disposal, you’ll have more control and
insight into what happens on your site than ever before!
 

Conclusion

No human could possibly follow every
action on a site, which is why an activity log can be so crucial. This activity
log plugin lists all events on a WordPress site in a way that can help you find
potential security issues, troubleshoot errors and stop the blame game.
In this article, we’ve discussed the
benefits of using an activity log. We’ve also shown you how to add on to your
WordPress site using the WP Security Audit Log plugin. This makes keeping an
eye on your site significantly easier, and it could also be a crucial aspect of
keeping
your WordPress site GDPR-compliant
.
Do you have any questions about using an
activity log on your website? Let us know in the comments section below!

 

Irfan Shakeel
Irfan Shakeel, the founder of ehacking project, he also hosts cyber security training classes at EH Academy. He has discovered many vulnerabilities in the famous platforms (like Google, Dailymotion, Harvard University & etc.). He specializes in Network hacking, VoIP pentesting & digital forensics. He is the author of the book title “Hacking from Scratch”.

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