Website Security Guide
Your website is at risk.
I don’t say that to try and frighten you, but that’s the truth of the world in which we live. Every day, more than 30,000 websites get hacked.
You can’t have the attitude that “it won’t happen to me.” All the time, I meet organizations that feel this way. They think that hackers have to fry larger fish and have no justification to attack their website. That obviously isn’t the case. Currently, 43% of cybercrimes are committed against small businesses.
Approximately half of businesses worldwide claim they have endured a cyber assault in 2019. Just 40 percent of organizations say they’re able to deal with cyber threats.
I don’t have a magic crystal ball or some way to see into the future, but my gut tells me that one day, cybercriminals won’t simply wake up and decide to stop website hacking. Bottom line: Hackers are not going to stop trying to gain an advantage. That means you need to strengthen the security on your website on a regular basis.
This is what motivated me to write this guide. I will show you what needs to be done today, in 2020, to protect your website.
Common Website Security Threats
In a lot of different ways, websites get attacked. So I want to give you a brief overview of some of the most common threats to your website security before we proceed. These are the things that when taking security measures, you will want to be prepared for.
We were all contacted by a prince of Nigeria, or we had a distant, wealthy relative die and had to claim our income. Typically, if you ignore it, it is irritating but relatively harmless.
Spam, however, is more aggressive often. On websites, spam in the form of comments is extremely popular. As an effort to create backlinks, bots will hammer up the comments section of your website with links to another site.
These comments harm your website because:
They don’t look good on your site and might put off readers who might otherwise comment on your content.
Phishing links can contain malware that can damage visitors to your website if they click on them.
In addition, crawlers from Google will also detect malicious URLs and penalize your website for spam hosting. Your SEO ranking will crush this.
Malware and viruses
Malware stands for “malicious software,” for those of you who don’t know. But malware and viruses are practically the same things. The greatest threat to your website is arguably malware. Every day, as many as 350,000 malware samples are produced.
These are the most common forms of malware used in cyberattacks around the world, according to Statista:
Most Commonly Encountered Types of Malware Used in Cyber Attacks Worldwide in 2019
Malware comes in all distinct shapes and sizes, as you can see. That is why your website is such a huge threat.
These virus forms are also used to access or use server resources for private data. Criminals also use malware by hacking the website permission to make money with advertising or referral links. Hackers are able to inject malware in a number of different ways into your computer systems, including employee emails, redirects, and direct ft hacking.
Our greatest piece of advice: don’t click on odd links. That may seem like a “Well, duh” moment, but it’s easier than you think to fall into a trap. Be sure to teach the value of staying vigilant online to your staff and any other users who might be using the computers of your organization.
With malware, both you and visitors to your website are at risk. Someone who visits your site may be able to click on a connection that downloads a malicious file to their device. Keeping your website safe and preventing that from happening is your work.
WHOIS domain registration
Buying a name for a domain is like buying a home. The company that sells the house must be able to reach them and know who they’re selling to. Plus, anybody can go to the county auditor and find some address information.
For buying a website, the same goes. You’ll be forced to disclose some information about yourself that is documented on WHOIS records, depending on the country you’re in. This also includes information about your URL nameservers outside of your personal information (these are the servers that connect your domain name to your actual webserver).
This knowledge can be used by hackers to narrow down the location of the server you’re using. They will use this to access your web server as a gateway.
DDoS attacks refuse access to users who are attempting to visit a particular website. Basically, spoof IP addresses are used by the hacker to flood servers with traffic. This makes the website offline in essence. Think of it as a website spamming traffic to your site. Your website crashes instead of you benefiting from more traffic, however.
The host must now scramble to get the server back up and running as soon as possible, leaving the server open to ransomware, not to mention the loss of revenue and reputation.
Such attacks are also on the rise. In Q3 2020, relative to 2019, websites saw a 50 percent rise in DDoS attacks.
Search engine blacklists
In other main areas of your business, it will have a ripple effect if you don’t keep your website safe. For instance, Google could take note and reduce your SEO rankings if your website is attacked.
For SEO purposes, such as adding backlinks to your website, 74 percent of hacked websites have been targeted, according to a recent survey. In order to push your ranking down and raise the ranking of any site they choose, they can even build new web pages on your website or view an entirely different site.
When we were discussing spam comments, I briefly mentioned this earlier. Your SEO rating will suffer if search engines find malicious content on your website.
You may be added to a search engine blacklist if loads of users flag your site as spam or unsafe. When you’re on the list, getting off is incredibly difficult.
Here are a few ways people can report your website for security issues on Google:
- Spam on web pages. These are websites that, through black hat tactics such as secret text, redirects, and cloaking, try to get better placement on Google results.
- Paid Spam Links. This is the acquisition and selling of links that move through PageRank.
- Rich Spam Excerpts. If you give false or misleading information to leaders, like fake reviews.
About malware. This is when pages are compromised with malware and, as a consequence, present a detrimental user experience.
- With phishing. These are websites and pages that pose as another page to steal your personal information (e.g. setting up a fake PayPal landing page to get bank information).
Playing by the rules and doing right by the website users is the best way to avoid being identified. That starts with your website being kept safe.
How to keep your website safe?
You need to get serious about preventing them from ever occurring on your website now that you’re familiar with some of the most popular security threats.
You can’t just say it’s healthy for your website. If you haven’t done anything to boost your security, you may be vulnerable to attacks. You need to keep checking your site to make sure that it’s still secure, even though you’ve done something. The Internet travels easily. There is no room here for “probably”.
In order to strengthen your website protection in 2020, these are the steps you need to take.
Use HTTPS protocol
If your website does not currently use the HTTPS protocol, you need to go to the top of the list of priorities. This effectively tells visitors to your website that they are communicating with the correct server and nothing else can change or intercept the information they are accessing.
A hacker can alter information on a website without HTTPS to collect personal information from visitors to your site. They might steal login information and passwords from users, for instance.
The HTTPS protocol will also increase the rating of your searches. Websites that use this security measure are rewarded by Google.
To people who visit your website as well, this is soothing. They’ll see this next to the URL when they visit your site:
It’s secure and trustworthy. Now, compare it to a site that’s not using HTTPS protocol. The URL in the web browser will look like this:
Do you feel safe when you’re browsing on a website and see this? I don’t.
In addition, this protection measure can be further improved by combining the HTTPS with an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. For e-commerce websites, this is important because users request confidential information such as credit card numbers, names, and addresses.
The contact between the server and the user’s web browser is encrypted by SSL certificates. To keep your website secure (although it does not prevent attacks or dissemination of malware), this is a very good added layer of encryption. I highly suggest using the HTTPS protocol and adding an SSL certificate to add encryption, even if you’re not selling anything on your website.
Updating the app
You know how much you have to upgrade the program if you own a device in order to keep it running smoothly. Perhaps they are irritating, but they are important. For your website, the same goes. Make sure you have the new WordPress app version, plugins, CMS, and everything else that needs to be changed.
Software updates usually come with security upgrades, in addition to addressing bugs or glitches. No program is flawless. Hackers will still be searching for ways to hack their vulnerabilities.
Many cyber assaults are automated. Bots are used by hackers to simply search for compromised websites. So, if you don’t keep up to date on the new software versions before you can do something about it, it will be easy for hackers to find and target your website.
Choose a safe web hosting plan
In principle, you’ll benefit from the same degree of defense if your web hosting service has security on its servers. That’s not always the case, though.
Because of the price, going with a shared hosting plan can be tempting, but it’s not the safest option you can make. As the name suggests, if you want this sort of hosting plan, you can share servers with other websites.
A hacker can also gain access to the server you are using if one of those other sites is targeted. That means that even if you’re not specifically targeted, hackers might hurt your website.
It’s like sharing an apartment with roommates, but one of your roommates mistakenly leaves the door one day open. Then a burglar came in and took the television from the apartment. You still suffer from it even though it wasn’t your fault and you weren’t necessarily the target.
I’m not trying to steer you away from a shared hosting plan, but you’ll be better off with another alternative, like Cloud or VPS, if you want to improve your website protection.
Check out my list of the best providers for web hosting, which will lead you in the right direction.
Change your password
Adjust your password and do so frequently (every 6 months to a year). I can’t sufficiently stress this.
I talk to people all too often who have the same password for anything they own, and it’s something they’ve been using since they were in college 10 years ago.
Here’s the issue with that: they’re going to try other stuff like bank accounts, social media accounts, and more if hackers have access to your password. You effectively give them the master key to your Internet life if you have maintained the same password across several different accounts.
Shockingly, in just three seconds, 25 percent of passwords can be compromised.
The data from this graph was collected using John the Ripper’s open-source program. This tool can be used by anyone to crack passwords.
If apps like this can work out more than half the passwords in just two hours, I can guarantee you that passwords are broken much faster by the best hackers.
That’s why your password needs to be changed constantly. To help you create long passwords with special characters that are almost impossible to solve, you can use a password manager like 1Password. These password managers also leverage good encryption that keeps hackers away from your passwords. You can rest easy knowing you’re secure with your passwords.
In addition, you can choose a web host that uses two-factor authentication. This is a utility that allows you to confirm login on a separate computer (most commonly a smartphone). This will add an extra layer of password protection coverage. If this is not provided by your web host, there are other options for you to use applications or third parties to allow it on your own.
Safe the personal computer of yours
Don’t make a threat to your website from your own devices.
By robbing FTP logins from your personal computer, hackers can insert malicious files into websites. That’s why you need your machine to have strong antivirus software (yes, even if those McAfee popups annoy you).
When you search online on personal computers, the last thing you want is to be reckless and have the mistake end up damaging your own website. If you use a personal computer for your job, this is extremely important.
Be sure to train your workers to protect their personal computers from bad actors if you’re a business owner. In any case, on a daily basis, check your computer.
Use tools to monitor your security
You cannot avoid attacks on your website manually. Instead, check for online tools and services that will monitor the protection of your site for you.
If you’re using WordPress, I highly recommend looking at my guide to the best security plugins for WordPress. The plugins on this list add a firewall to your website while battling in real-time against malware, spam, and other threats simultaneously.
If you don’t use WordPress, check to see if the content manager of your website offers good add-ons for protection. If not, check out this list of good endpoint protection tools that will keep your IT infrastructure secure, regardless of your CMS.
In order to take proactive steps to avoid an attack before it occurs, you should run security audits that illustrate the weaknesses.
Limit user access
Don’t blame yourself, but human error is the product of 95 percent of cybersecurity attacks. That’s why educating yourself and your workers about the significance of cybersecurity is so essential.
Limiting the number of people who may make a mistake is the only way to avoid this. Your website should not be open to every employee of your company.
If you employ an outside consultant, designer, or guest blogger, don’t immediately allow those individuals access to your website to alter their settings. Implement the least privilege principle.
Let’s assume that you appoint someone who needs a certain degree of access to your website to a project. You only give them the absolute minimum degree of access by implementing this theory, so they need to complete the mission. The person returns to their normal access abilities once completed.
Make sure they have their own login credentials for each user. If a username and password are exchanged by many entities, it does not give them any responsibility and makes it more difficult to trace a security breach. If a mistake or change can be traced back to them, the team is far more likely to be cautious with confidential details.
Backup your website
You should always prepare for the worst when it comes to safeguarding your website. Obviously, you never want to be in a position where you are compromised by your website. Just in case anything goes wrong, if your material is completely backed up, your life will be a lot simpler.
So consider using a backup plugin, like BackupBuddy, to make sure that, as a result of an attack, you don’t lose anything on your website.
BackupBuddy is one of the five best backup plugins for WordPress that I’ve tested this year. To see which choice is best for your situation, check out the full list.
Some of these backup plugins often come with security measures built-in, which can help you escape an attack.
Adjust your default CMS settings
Too many cyberattacks are automated these days. To find sites with default settings, hackers program bots. They can thus target a broader range of websites and use the same form of malware or virus to gain entry. For them, don’t make it so convenient.
Make sure you change any of the default settings once you install your CMS:
- Settings for Comments
- Controls of Users
- Data visibility
- Permissions to register
These are all examples of some of the settings you can adjust right away and easily.
Restrict file uploads
It can be dangerous to let website visitors upload files to your website. That’s because when it’s run on the server, any file might theoretically contain a script that exploits vulnerabilities on your website.
The nature of your website might involve file uploads in some instances. For instance, when they’re writing a review, you may want users to add images of your items. You should also regard all uploads as a possible hazard in this situation.
You may also set it up so that any files that are uploaded are saved in another place in a folder or directory. This usually looks like one of three forms:
Hey. DIY. You may create a script to get certain files from a private and remote location in order to deliver them to your browser. This will take a bit of coding and is a bit difficult to set up, so right now I’m not going to go into too much detail about this.
Software from a third party. Third-party applications such as Filestack and Transloadit provide high-grade security and malware protection for a stable file upload system. However, this can become very costly.
Stop this. The easy solution is to fully prevent file uploads or at least limit the types of files that can be uploaded to your site.
Select the one for you. Choosing one and protecting the website is the main thE
Security for websites needs to be one of your top priorities.
You are potentially at risk as you are reading this if you have not taken any action to protect your website. You need to do so frequently and often, even if you have taken the steps, in order to keep your website safe.
When it comes to stopping bad actors, being vigilant and implementing the correct systems will help set you, your website, and your company up for success. But by taking the security steps that I’ve mentioned above, you can make it difficult for them.
At the end of the day, if cybercriminals have a hard time cracking a website, they would just move on to other sites that have not adopted the security tactics we spoke about on the website. You don’t want the list to include your website.