Among the many threats to consider with regards website security, hacking may seem a bit extreme. You might wonder why anyone would want to hack into your website to begin with, but imagine all of your hard work being wiped out or altered by a hacker or malicious attack.

Your website could be hacked in an attempt to extract data, such as your customer’s sensitive information. In fact, a large percentage of hacks are carried out with the intent of setting up temporary web servers for serving files that could be illegal or use such servers as email relays for spam. Your server could also be made a part of a botnet or bitcoin mine.

Beware of hackers accessing your website and compromising your data

Backing up your website database and files (which is of utmost importance) is a great step, but still not enough. Hackers and malicious spots get better every day; new and constantly evolving attack techniques keep surfacing. Automated scripts are set up to perform hacking and they constantly scour the internet to find and exploit website software security issues.

Malware does not operate using bias, as hackers rarely target specific websites. Therefore, every website is a security risk. The aim is to find vulnerable websites, which is why the security of your site should be top of your priority list. Even if you register cheap domains or web hosts from promotions found on the web, ensure they are reliable.

You may be handling all of these issues yourself. However, you could outsource your security needs to avoid the headache and get the job done, as needed. Here are a few tips on keeping your website safe:

Maintain updates to keep your data secure

1. Applying and keeping up with security updates is important

Be sure to keep all of your software up to date; from your server operating system to third party software, whether Forum or CMS. It’s important to remember that hackers take advantage of any vulnerabilities they find in software or your website.

For third party software, it’s advisable to apply updates as soon as possible. Most CMS vendors like WordPress notify you of security updates whenever you log in (always be sure to back up your data and ensure no compatibility issues will arise before updating). Some of them have mailing lists and RSS feeds for the same purposes. Make sure all of your dependencies are always up to date. You can also use tools to get notifications whenever a vulnerability is announced in any of your components.

Having the latest version of your platform and scripts installed is not too much work (especially with a CMS like WordPress), doesn’t take so much time and will reduce the chances of being hacked.

You won’t have to worry about security updates if you have a good hosting service in place, because they will often take care of the relevant operating system updates.

2. Guard against SQL Injections

SQL injections are one of the common hacks many websites experience as many CMS platforms (like WordPress) utilize SQL for the database that holds a websites data. These attacks occur when you have a URL parameter or web form that gives outside users access to provide information. If the parameters in such fields are left too open, code can be inserted in them by outside users that enable them hack into your database, putting sensitive information belonging to your customer – credit cards numbers, passwords and so on – at risk. They could subsequently change, delete or steal your data.
There are various steps to keep your website safe from SQL injection hacks. One of them is fairly simple to implement and uses parameterised queries, which ensure your codes have very specific parameters, guarding against hackers. Many web languages provide this feature and implementation is easy.

Javascript

3. Watch out for Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks

Also fairly common are cross-site scripting attacks, which happen when hackers inject malicious JavaScript code into your pages, which can affect those who visit your website and cause information to be stolen. It’s important that you protect your pages from such active JavaScript content.
Similar to protecting against SQL injections, one way to protect against JavaScript injections is making sure the code you use for the function fields (or fields for input) are completely explicit, removing the chances of anything slipping in.
Also handy for protecting your website from XSS is Content Security Policy (CSP), a header that can be returned by your server, which lets you control how (and what type of) JavaScript can be executed on your pages. This way, even though the attacker’s scripts can breach your page, they are deemed ineffective, because the browser won’t be paying any attention to them. For instance, you might specify that scripts not hosted on your domain shouldn’t be allowed to run. Mozilla has a great guide on crafting CSP headers for your site.

Use secure passwords

4. Use Secure Passwords

It is generally known that the most secure passwords are those that are fairly complex, but this doesn’t mean people always apply this rule. Strong passwords are crucial for your server and admin area. It’s also a great idea to encourage your users to protect their accounts with strong passwords as well. In fact, even though many users might not appreciate it, enforcing password requirements (such as length of passwords and using a mix of numbers and letters) should be a given.
Easy to guess passwords should be totally off limits; birthdays or partner’s names and so on. Strong passwords should also apply to anyone who has access to your website. It’s also advisable to store passwords as encrypted values. You could also salt passwords; for example, one salt per password could prove effective for extra protection.

Bryt Designs secure domain
The green lock represents an SSL “secured” website while unsecured websites may show as “Not Secure”.

5. Make use of HTTPS

HTTPS is a protocol for providing security through an SSL certificate or signal to the user that the content is safe. Many customers already know to look out for it when giving out sensitive information via the internet; it guarantees server authenticity and they can be confident the information they provide cannot be intercepted or changed in transit. While it’s great to use HTTPS for pages such as login pages and credit card pages, it’s even more important to use it across the entire website, because attackers can still imitate users and subsequently assume control of their login session.
Interestingly, Google has also promised boosts in rankings for websites that use HTTPS. If you’re already using HTTPS for your entire website, you can consider setting up HTTP Strict Transport Security, so you can prohibit insecure HTTP for your whole domain.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether or not you think your website is a target — it is. Just as you would protect your office, home, or storefront from intrusion, so should you make an effort to maintain the security and integrity of your website. It’s extremely important for businesses handling sensitive customer data to maintain a secure website and backend system, once you lose the trust of your online customers, it may be incredibly tough (and costly) to get it back!

If you have and questions about how you can secure your website or need help with the result of a security breach, contact us directly and we’ll help you get back on track!

Author
Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. He is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine. Feel free to send Bryan a message here.

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