Establishing your online presence is a critical aspect of your marketing strategy. However, as you focus on improving your online visibility and ranking in search engines, you should also always be on constant alert to respond to cyberthreats by protecting your website from hackers. Web security is a complex and ever-evolving topic. The landscape changes every so often. Even as new and more effective security features and functions for websites emerge regularly, hackers are also always reinventing themselves to navigate around these security features, and attack vulnerable sites.
What is website security?
Website security, otherwise known as cybersecurity, can be defined as a means of shielding your website from cyberthreats and attacks. While complex, it involves setting up features and taking actions that help protect your data and those of your site visitors from cybercriminals.
Website security will protect you from:
Malicious software: This is a common threat used by cybercriminals to steal data and allow unauthorized access to your website.
Blacklisting: If a search engine finds malware in your site, it may be removed from the search results reducing your online visibility completely.
DDoS attacks: These attacks slow down your site or crush it completely, making it inaccessible to your site visitors.
Vulnerable exploits: Involves attacking your website from its weak points and extracting data.
One of the main reasons to have enhanced website security is to protect your site visitors. Web security shields them from:
Stolen data: If your site visitors or your clients have to share personal information like their name, address, and contact information, website security helps protect this information from being accessed by cybercriminals. Often, cybercriminals go after customer data.
Spams and malicious redirects: Some attacks come in the form of links to malicious websites and random redirects to other sites to drive traffic.
Session hijacking: Hackers can hijack a session and force users to perform unwanted actions on the site. Often it involves accessing personal information.
Why is website security important?
While these threats are always imminent, website security should always be a priority regardless of whether you have been attacked before or not.
Here is why.
1. It’s more costly not having cybersecurity.
Investing in optimizing the security of your website is like buying an insurance policy. It is a continuous process of ensuring that you and your visitors are less vulnerable and always protected from danger. The investment is worth it compared to the loss occasioned by a cyberattack. The costs of a security breach include:
Increased operational costs: A security breach will most likely disrupt your business operations. As stated earlier, you may end up losing total control over your website. Further, if your website ends up being blacklisted, your customers will no longer be able to find you resulting in loss of sales. The cost of responding and regaining control over your website is also high. Also, the process entails acquiring the best cybersecurity skills and installing the best features, which come at a high cost. Further, you may have to replace some hardware and software, and possibly hire expert skills in your IT department, which means incurring higher costs, or outsourcing IT development to top IT outsourcing companies to save on the cost of development, but you must have internal resources to control the outsourcing process.
Reduced business value: When your clients and site visitors learn that their security and that of their data is at risk by visiting your site, they may lose trust in your business, which can be detrimental to its value. It is even worse if it is a big company. Normally, the public opinion on your business is tainted and, consequently, they lose trust in your products. This, in turn, affects your profits, share price and overall reputation.
Fines: In the event of a serious breach and loss of crucial customer data, you also risk facing fines. In some countries, fines are defined in the legislation if it is determined that you did not take sufficient action to protect your site from hackers.
2. You can never predict when an attack will come.
Just like other crimes, cyberattacks are not always easy to predict or detect. Further, some malware can enter your site and remain undetected, allowing cybercriminals to attack and access your website data without your knowledge.
3. Your hosting service provider only protects your servers and not your website.
One of the misconceptions people have is that once they are assured of the servers they are on are protected, the website is also fully protected.
4. It can provide better web performance.
If you have been wondering how you can improve your website’s performance, the answer is boosting its security. It will help compliment your marketing strategy by maintaining a seamless communication platform between you and your visitors while guaranteeing them maximum security for their data.
7 tips to protect your website from hackers
Hackers do not just target big companies. They also target small businesses and personal websites. This means that if you have a website, installing all the necessary security features and taking all precautions is paramount. Here are some things you can do to reduce your site’s vulnerability to hackers.
1. Update your website’s software.
Hackers are always learning how to navigate existing security features. That is why software updates are necessary as they come with advanced technologies and features for improved security features. Therefore, it is important that your website runs on the latest available software with the newest and most effective security features.
When looking for potential sites to hack, cybercriminals always target vulnerable websites with outdated components such as themes and plugins, among other components. These are easy to navigate, bypass, and gain entry to the restricted parts of your website.
To maintain the latest software update:
Review and analyze all the software components of your website. Do a basic search analysis to identify those that need to be updated. If there are components with an auto-update option, and the software documentation allows for automatic updates without affecting the functionality of the site, turn the feature on.
Create a schedule for updates. Software updates happen often. For the complex components, the updates may take some time, but for the small components, the updates are often regular. Best practice calls for having a calendar to regularly check and install updates for all the software components of your website.
It is also advisable to create a backup for your website before installing any updates. This is an extra precautionary measure just in case the update causes the website to crash or affects its functionality.
2. Beef up your passwords.
Your password is like the lock to your room. The stronger the lock, the harder it is for someone to get in. Go all out with your website passwords and make them as strong as possible. Avoid “lazy” passwords. Here are a couple of things you can consider:
- Be creative. The idea is to make your passwords as unique as possible such that no one can easily guess. This means staying away from obvious options like using your name, or generic passwords like “qwerty,” “Password,” or “123456.” A strong password contains a combination of letters and symbols. Further, the longer the password, the better. A common concern people have with creating complex passwords is that they won’t memorize them. However, you can have the name of a place or an object that reminds you of the combination.
- Use multifactor authentication. Two-factor authentication provides additional security in the event someone manages to bypass your passwords. It always takes the form of asking for a unique piece of information, which has to be answered correctly before being granted full access to the website. It is also a great idea to add two-factor authentication for every level of access.
3. Use password encryption.
This is particularly important for sites that require customers to provide their personal information and login with a password. To protect them, have their information, including their password encrypted.
The security of your website is also pegged on the security standards of your web host. They should also maintain strong passwords to their servers to protect the integrity of the hosted sites.
4. Migrate to HTTPS.
Hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) is an advancement from hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) – it adds an extra layer of protection to your website. HTTPS prevents hackers from intercepting login credentials to your websites.
To migrate and communicate securely over HTTPS, you need a secured sockets layer certificate. This is particularly important if you are running a site that collects sensitive information as it protects information as it’s being transferred online. Once the certificate is installed, redirect traffic from HTTP to HTTPS. Also, include an HSTS response header in your web security policy for all browsers. This will link the different browsers with your website via HTTPS.
5. Restrict access to your site.
Regulating access to the main control dashboard of your website is also a very critical security protocol to observe. The more the number of people with access, the more vulnerable the site is to attack. As such, you can regulate the level of access to the site by:
- Granting limited access. If there is a need for multiple users to gain access to certain sections of the website, then only provide them limited access. Do not grant everyone admin privileges. For instance, if a user is only granted access to the editorial section when a hacker cracks their password, they won’t have access to the main dashboard controlling the entire website.
- Delete unnecessary users. If there are users who no longer need access to the website, remove the users. Keeping their credential active creates a vulnerable spot that hackers might use to gain entry to your website.
6. Take extra precautions when uploading or downloading files within your site.
This is critical for sites that have multiple users. Even with varying levels of access, someone could upload a file with malware if a hacker gets access to their credentials. Also, if you require the credentials of your site visitors, it is best not to accept file uploads as that increases the vulnerability of your website.
However, if you need to allow uploads, ensure you take extra precautions to protect your site. These include:
File type verification: Define the type of file extension accepted. This way, you can easily identify suspicious file types before downloading them.
Set a maximum file size.
Scan malware in uploaded files.
Rename files automatically upon upload to prevent re-access by hackers.
7. Constantly monitor your site and back it up.
Even with the latest updates, features and precautions, no website is 100% protected from hacking. Therefore, you need to be ready for the worst-case scenario. There are two main things involved:
- Continuously monitor your site. This involves constantly keeping an eye on how your site is functioning to monitor any anomalies. Various tools easily available online can help track malware on your website and give alerts when they are detected. The bottom line is to keep a constant eye on what is happening within your website to detect and deal with anomalies as soon as they are detected.
- Back up your website. Have a backup of all the databases and files for your website. This will be helpful in the event you are hacked and are in the process of restoring the site. The best backup option is using offsite storage. Also, automatic backup is crucial, especially if you are processing a lot of information within short periods like in e-commerce websites. Always ask your web/software development agency to report on website back-up status.
The tech space is constantly evolving, and what works today may not be equally effective tomorrow. Consequently, the task of securing your website is a constant task that never stops. It involves constantly monitoring the site for vulnerabilities and addressing them as they emerge. While these precautions do not provide 100% protection from hackers, they help minimize the risk of getting hacked.