WooCommerce Digital Downloads Security: Protecting Digital Products
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WooCommerce Digital Downloads Security: Protecting Digital Products

People looking for an easy and quick way to make money online are frequently drawn to selling digital products. The appeal of this business model lies in its reduced to non-existent product manufacturing costs and the lack of inventory and shipping management required. However, if you are considering selling downloadable products there are other challenges you’ll want to keep in mind. Let’s talk about WooCommerce digital downloads security.

Digital products – be they documents, audio files, videos, images, or software – are particularly easy to steal, reproduce and redistribute. As long as there is enough demand for your product, there will be someone out there attempting to get their hands on it for free.

Unfortunately, even when using one of the best e-commerce plugins such as WooCommerce, there is no way to achieve bulletproof security against piracy. This doesn’t mean that online creators shouldn’t try their best to protect their intellectual property though. 

There are several security measures we recommend to make your content less vulnerable to being stolen. In this post, our WooCommerce experts take a look at how you can navigate the tricky business of WooCommerce digital download security.

Table of Contents

Selling Digital Downloads With WooCommerce

Before we jump into protecting your digital downloads, we’ll give you a quick overview on how to set up your downloadable products on WooCommerce.

WooCommerce makes it easy for you to sell digital files by using some specific settings available for WooCommerce products. Here’s what you’ll need to do to set up a digital product:

  • Go to Products and add a new Simple product.
  • Check the “Downloadable” option box which will indicate that this is a digital product. When selected you’ll see new configuration options appear allowing you to add the downloadable files and set a download limit and expiry.
  • Select the Add file button. You can choose an existing file from your Media Library, directly upload a new file or enter a URL for externally hosted files. 

You should keep in mind that when you add a file to WooCommerce directly on your WordPress website, the file is uploaded to a location on your media library and can be accessed by anyone with the corresponding URL.

How To Increase WooCommerce Digital Downloads Security 

Select A Safe File Download Method 

There are three different file download methods you can choose from with WooCommerce:

  • Force Download
  •  X-Accel-Redirect/X-Sendfile
  • Redirect-only

Among them, redirect only is considered the least secure option, since users are able to view the file’s URL, which allows them to indefinitely access the file and share it with others. While this option has the advantage of being able to support large files, in terms of digital downloads security it is the least favorable option.

If you are serious about protecting your files, we recommend using either of the first two download methods on the list above. “X-Accel-Redirect/X-Sendfile” is a great option as this method delivers your downloads directly to your customers and uses .htaccess files.  However, to implement this method you should first verify that your hosting provider allows you to install and use the “X-Accel-Redirect/X-Sendfile” module on your server. 

If your hosting provider doesn’t offer you this option, you can still opt for the Force Download method. In this case your digital downloads are served by PHP, safeguarding your files from direct linking. However, this method does have one drawback – file size limitations. If you are selling digital products with large, heavy files, the risk of overpowering your server and experiencing timeouts during downloads using this method are high.  

Taking all of these factors into consideration will help you determine the best choice for your digital product downloads. If neither of the safest options are feasible for you and rely on redirect-only downloads, fear not. There are still some other measures you can implement to help you reduce security risks.

Setting download limits and expiry

Rather than giving your customers a free-pass to get your files at any time, you can limit their access by setting a download expiry date and limit. By setting an expiry date, you can determine how many days after purchase a download link expires. By setting a download limit, you can determine how many times a user can download a given file. This allows you to decrease the chances of your download being shared with others. Depending on the nature of your product, you can try different variations of these settings in order to best serve your customers while protecting your files.

Use Access Restriction.

Another way to protect your downloads is by limiting user access controls to your files. You can do this by enabling the Require Login option for downloadable products. This way only users who have an account on your site and are logged in will be able to access your files. 

Set Up Password Protections

One of the advantages of using WooCommerce and WordPress is the possibility of setting password protection on the pages containing your digital download’s link. All you have to do is to configure the page’s visibility settings, which are set to “public” by default. Changing visibility to “password protected” allows you to set a password to control access instead.  Alternatively you can password protect your files by uploading your files to a file sharing app and setting up password protections directly on the app.

Third Party WooCommerce Digital Downloads Security Solutions

Amazon S3

With its wide range of integrations, WooCommerce gives you access to a variety of tools that can help you better manage and protect your digital products. One of the best options for boosting WooCommerce digital downloads security is Amazon S3 Storage . Using Amazon S3, you can store your downloadable product files on Amazon S3 and share them through signed URLs. Not only will this help you protect your files, it also allows you to deliver larger files at a greater speed, improving your customer’s experience. With an annual license priced at $29.00 USD, Amazon S3 storage is an affordable way to improve both performance and security on your online store.

Prevent Direct Access WooCommerce Integration

To take your digital file security one step further you can install the Prevent Direct Access WooCommerce integration on your online store. The extension works by restricting the IP addresses that can access your customer’s product files (and order pages). Using this extension, you can also set a limit for the number of IP addresses that customers can access your files, helping you deter buyers from sharing your products with others. At the time of writing, you can get this extension for $69.9 USD billed annually.

Copyrighting your intellectual property doesn’t do anything to prevent theft, but it does help you best respond to the unfortunate situation. If your files are stolen, you can take action by asking a court to issue an injunction so that the copyright infringer stops their illicit activities. You can also get compensated for damages or losses and receive any profits made using your intellectual property.

WooCommerce digital downloads security

When it comes to your online business, you can never play too safe. Even if it is impossible to guarantee your files’ safety 100%, putting in a little effort into your WooCommerce digital downloads security can go a long way. If you need help optimizing security on your WordPress site and configuring WooCommerce for maximum safety, you can also reach out to our team WooCommerce experts.

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