Sometimes the best methods to tackle any tasks are the simplest ones. You know that you need to keep your website safe from the bad guys, but once you venture down the rabbit hole of website vulnerabilities, you will be faced with complex concepts and convoluted solutions. Still, there are basic best practices to follow for improving your website’s security. Here are eight essential things that you can do to safeguard your website right now:
1. Update Your Software Regularly
It is crucial to keep all platforms or scripts you’ve installed up-to-date. Hackers aggressively target security flaws in popular web software, and the programs need to be updated to patch security holes. It is important to maintain and update every software product you use.
2. Implement Strong Password Policy
It is important to use strong passwords. Hackers frequently utilize sophisticated software that use brute force to crack passwords. To protect against brute force, passwords should be complex, containing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numerals, and special characters. Your passwords should be at least 10 characters long. This password policy should be maintained throughout your organization.
As much as users may not like it, enforcing password requirements such as a minimum of around eight characters, including an uppercase letter and number will help to protect their information in the long run.
3. Enforce Encryption to Your Login Pages
Use SSL encryption on your login pages. SSL allows sensitive information such as credit card numbers, so cial security numbers, and login credentials to be transmitted securely. Information entered on a page is encrypted so that it’s meaningless to any third party who might intercept it. This helps to prevent hackers from accessing your login credentials or other private data.
4. Choose a Secured Host
Choosing a secure and reputable web hosting company is very important to your website security. Make sure the host you choose is aware of threats and devoted to keeping your website secure. Your host should also back up your data to a remote server and make it easy to restore in case your site is hacked. Choose a host that offers ongoing technical support whenever necessary.
5. Declutter Your Website
Every database, application, or plugin on your website is another possible point of entry for hackers. You should delete any files, databases, or applications from your website that are no longer in use. It is also important to keep your file structure organized to keep track of changes and make it easier to delete old files.
6. Backup Your Data
It’s surprising how many businesses still don’t effectively back up their systems and data, even in this modern age where the cloud makes it a doddle. If nothing else will convince you that backing up your data, then perhaps this will – 60% of small businesses that suffer a data breach fail within 6 months.
However, 75% believe that they’re safe as they are too small for hackers to bother with. Not so, in fact: small businesses are seen to be the weakest link and are much easier to attack than large brand networks, so they are attacked more often. The average cost of a breach is around $214 per compromised customer – don’t let your business become another statistic.
Ensure that your site and all customer and business data is backed up both onsite and to a remote location such as the cloud. Don’t use free software to do this, Dropbox is great for storing files but you need the business account if it’s going to be safe. Ask your web host if they have a disaster recovery plan and create one of your own too, you’ll then be in a much better position to get back to business in the event of data loss.
Back up your site regularly. You should maintain backups of all of your website files in case your site becomes inaccessible or your data is lost. Your web host provider should provide backups of their own servers, but you should still backup your files regularly. Some content management programs have plugins or extensions that can automatically back up your site, and you should also be able to back up databases and content manually.
7. Regularly Scan Your Website for Any Vulnerabilities
It is important to regularly perform web security scans to check for website and server vulnerabilities. Web security scans should be performed on a schedule and after any change or addition to your web components. There are a number of free tools on the Internet that you can use to measure how secure your website is. Those tools can be helpful for a brief review, but they won’t detect all the possible security flaws of your site. Having a professional perform security scans on your website will provide an in-depth review and explanation of the vulnerabilities on your website.
8. Consider Hiring a Cyber security Expert
Developing a relationship with a firm that provides security services can be a lifesaver when it comes to protecting your website. While small things can be taken care of on your own, there are many security measures that should be handled by an expert. Companies providing security services can regularly scan your website for vulnerabilities, perform full website security audits, monitor for malicious activity, and be on hand whenever a repair is needed. You and your team must always be vigilant in protecting your website, and these practical tips represent only the most basic methods. Never stop seeking security protections for your website. Don’t let the bad guys win.
9. Watch out for SQL injection
SQL injection attacks are when an attacker uses a web form field or URL parameter to gain access to or manipulate your database. When you use standard Transact SQL it is easy to unknowingly insert rogue code into your query that could be used to change tables, get information, and delete data. You can easily prevent this by always using parameterised queries, most web languages have this feature and it is easy to implement.
10. Protect Against XSS Attacks
The key here is to focus on how your user-generated content could escape the bounds you expect and be interpreted by the browser as something other than what you intended. This is similar to defending against SQL injection. When dynamically generating HTML, use functions that explicitly make the changes you’re looking for (e.g. use element.setAttribute and element.textContent, which will be automatically escaped by the browser, rather than setting element.innerHTML by hand), or use functions in your templating tool that automatically do appropriate escaping, rather than concatenating strings or setting raw HTML content.
11. Beware of error messages
Be careful with how much information you give away in your error messages. Provide only minimal errors to your users, to ensure they don’t leak secrets present on your server (e.g. API keys or database passwords). Don’t provide full exception details either, as these can make complex attacks like SQL injection far easier. Keep detailed errors in your server logs, and show users only the information they need.
12. Validate on both sides
Validation should always be done both on the browser and server-side. The browser can catch simple failures like mandatory fields that are empty and when you enter text into a numbers only field. These can however be bypassed, and you should make sure you check for this validation and deeper validation server side as failing to do so could lead to malicious code or scripting code being inserted into the database or could cause undesirable results on your website.
13. Use Alerting Software
To protect against hackers and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, you should install file and server monitoring software in order to pick up any unusual activity as soon as it occurs. DDoS attacks have become incredibly powerful and unless you have a large, distributed network, they are very difficult to guard against. This is for the most part due to botnets, which allow a single attacker using as little as 1MB of bandwidth to amplify said bandwidth hugely.
A file/server monitoring program can’t stop this, but it can help to pick a DDoS attack up in the early stages and help to minimize the damage. You can check different antivirus software as most of them already have DDos protection. They also have features to alert you for any upcoming attacks.
14. Use a Dedicated Server
When looking at your hosting, you should look at getting a dedicated server or a virtual private server for the best security. Shared servers are commonly used for sites that don’t experience a huge amount of traffic and these work, as the name suggests, by sharing resources between more than one website. This, as you can imagine, is very difficult to secure completely, so you should avoid, especially if you take debit or credit cards.
A virtual private server (VPS) still shares a physical machine in the data center but uses visualization software to create a standalone, software-based machine that doesn’t share resources with any other site.
VPSs and dedicated servers are the most secure and also the most expensive. Don’t try to cut corners and get the cheapest hosting that you can (or worse, free hosting), as you will regret it if anything goes wrong. Choose a host with a good reputation and that offers an excellent rate of uptime and outstanding support.
The best way that you can protect yourself and your business when it comes to security is to learn the risks and take steps to prevent your business from becoming a victim. Ask the advice of your IT support professional and take it. Ensure that your site’s secure from all angles – your local network, your web host, your employees, and as much as you can, your customers, and you should remain protected as much as you possibly can be in the current climate.