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Website Security Guide

Want to learn about website security? Then you are at the right place, as in this guide, we have covered all the nitty-gritty of website security. Get expert advice!

Stephanie Salud

Stephanie Salud — 25 minute read.

Frustrated with repeated cyberattacks on your website? Then it’s about time you learned everything about website security to protect your online business.

Cyber-attacks have undoubtedly become a common thing in this tech-driven age. If you find it hard to believe, let us tell you that over 30,000 websites get attacked every day. So, know that you are not the only one who has been a victim of hackers; many others.

Website Security Guide

In our opinion, the only way one can ensure complete protection of their websites is by learning about website security. We have written this informative guide explaining pretty much everything there is under the sun about it. After reading this guide, we are sure you will know what to do to secure your website in 2022.

Now, let’s get straight to the real stuff without further chit-chat.

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Website Security 101

As you know, your website is a collection of crucial information and data. And if it’s hacked or breached, it could lead to several issues in your corporate and personal life. The person attacking your website could misuse the information and jeopardise the credibility and reputation of your company. Therefore, website security is an absolute must.

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So, what does website security mean? It means keeping the site safe and secure for your visitors and yourself through a set of practices and measures. Additionally, it comprises:

  • Preventing cyber threats and attacks
  • Detecting and resolving vulnerabilities by using security tools

We have explained the importance of website security in greater detail in the following sections while highlighting common threats and providing security tips.

5 Reasons Website Security Is So Crucial

Website security is extremely important in this tech-driven age, so keep reading to know why.

Cyber Security

1. Rising Cyber Attacks

Believe it or not, the rate of cyber attacks rises with every passing year. According to a study, hackers attack websites every 39 seconds and around 43% of the attacks are made on small-scale businesses. Once hacked, businesses find it difficult to overcome the losses and get back on their feet.

Even though not all cyber-attacks mean successful hacking, implementing security measures and staying alert is important.

2. Prevent Diverting Traffic And Misuse Of Information

It’s no news that the online world is filled with malware and viruses, which hackers use to breach websites. If you don’t have your website secured, it won’t be long until it gets hacked. Note that once your website is breached, it comes under the control of the hackers.

The hackers can then misuse the data on the website, publish undesirable content and divert traffic to other sites. You would never want that, would you? So, make sure you take security seriously and implement the best website security practices.

3. Protect Website From SEO Blacklisting

We bet you have seen messages saying that visiting some websites could harm your computer. This is because the website that you wanted to visit was not safe and could have contained malware.

Types Website Malware

Google and most other search engines always ensure they provide you with the most reliable and secure data. Hence, they blacklist any site that contains security issues and remove them from the search results. According to a survey, 85% of buyers avoid visiting insecure websites while shopping online.

So, be sure to take measures to secure your website, as a secured website is considered reliable and credible, which can help bring traffic quickly to grow the business.

4. Ruins The Reputation Of Your Company

If you have a secure site, people are bound to perceive it as an authentic and trustworthy platform, which results in more traffic. On the contrary, if you have an insecure website, it reflects poorly on your company’s reputation and brand.

5. Protects The Data Of Your Business And Customers

A company’s website contains various important information and data about the company itself, its employees and its customers. Hence, protecting such crucial information from cybercriminals is a must. If the hackers get hold of this information, they can misuse it or violate the confidentiality of your company and your employees to make a profit.

And the worst part? They can crash your site, which could result in you losing business.

8 Ways In Which Websites Get Attacked

Today, hackers have numerous techniques at their disposal to breach a website. It is next to impossible to inform you about every one of them and how to avoid them. That’s why we have come up with a list of the top 8 ways your website can be hacked.

1. Third-Party Integration

When talking about common security threats, it’s challenging to keep third-party integration out of the conversation. It may look like a good deal if you want to monetise your website via ads, but these integrations can put the site at risk of being hacked. Most of these third-party integrations contain viruses and malware that hackers use to get into your website.

For example, hackers can breach an insecure extension and use some virus to infect it. And if you use the same extension, the virus will infect the site, which will give hackers complete control of the webpage.

2. Software Vulnerabilities

Software and applications often have loopholes and bugs that developers may not be privy to, making the system vulnerable. Cybercriminals see this as an opportunity and misuse those bugs in the software to their advantage.

For instance, many software programs contain bugs that make them vulnerable to malware attacks. If you install such software, attackers can misuse it and make their way into your website. As a result, hackers get the opportunity to deploy attacks such as Local File Inclusion (LFI), SQL injection and Remote File Inclusion (RFI) to take control of your website.

3. Weak Passwords

It’s no brainer that if a hacker gets access to your password and username, they can perform many malicious activities on your website. So, make sure that you use strong passwords on your website that can’t be guessed or decrypted easily.

Creating Strong Passwords

Hackers often use social engineering tactics to decipher the passwords, and when you use weak passwords, you only make their job easier. Therefore, make it a point to use password managers for security improvements as they are a reliable way to generate strong passwords that can’t be decoded easily. This will help you keep the site secure.

4. Insecure Web Hosting Provider

There is no denying that web hosting is an integral part of the security of a website. While most companies have adequate security tools that save your website from DDoS attacks and other types of threats, others don’t implement appropriate security measures. So, you must conduct enough research on web hosting provider services before zeroing in on one.

Using insecure web hosting can further raise the risk of data breaches, making your website vulnerable. Not to mention, hackers can acquire access to your website if your hosting isn’t secure enough.

5. Transport Layer Misuse

If the hackers detect a transport layer vulnerability in your website, they could trick your customers and redirect them to a dodgy site. After which, they can retrieve their personal information, such as login or credit card details, even if they are encrypted through a man-in-the-middle attack. This is why ensuring that your website is secure is a necessity in this day and age.

6. SQL Injection

As far as SQL injections are concerned, they are the most common injection attacks performed by hackers. This attack directly affects the website database and can even destroy it.

The hackers input malicious codes into the input box of your website, which allows them to view confidential data stored in your database. Needless to say, through this attack, they retrieve information for exploitation.

Sql Injection Explaination

7. XSS Attack

This is another mode of injection attack that hackers use to mess up your website and hijack confidential information. What’s more, this attack can even change the HTML content of your website and redirect the customers to a malicious page.

8. Viruses And Malware

We are pretty sure that you are familiar with viruses and malware. After all, they are widely used on websites and ads by hackers to infect users’ computers, but the malware also allows hackers to launch other different attacks.

If you don’t have secure comment filtering enabled, cybercriminals can write malicious codes as comments on your website and easily breach it. Malware is a gateway to hacking the website and taking it over.

Common Threats To Website Security

This section has mentioned some of the most common website security threats that you should be aware of. Here they are:

1. Security Misconfiguration

It is one of the most common threats to website security. As you may already know, a website utilises different applications and systems with separate security configurations, such as applications, plugins, hosting servers, etc. If the security arrangements of such systems are not appropriate, it leaves the website open to a slew of vulnerabilities.

2. SEO Blacklist

As stated before, reputed search engines always display the most relevant and secure website on top of their search results. Therefore, if a website has poor security, it’s only natural that the search engines will blacklist it. This technique is also known as SEO blacklisting.

Check Website Blacklisted

It is not a security threat, per se, but rather a consequence of taking poor security measures to safeguard your website. Note that once your site is blacklisted, the search engines will keep your website from showing up on the search results. Thus, it will cause you to lose traffic, which will affect your business.

3. File Deletion By Accident

When running a business, one has to maintain numerous folders and files directly or indirectly related to the website’s security. What if they accidentally delete the files? Well, consider their website gone, and this deletion can prove a major security threat with no definite solutions.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to keep backups as it can save your website from going down permanently.

4. CSRF Attack

CSRF, also known as cross-site request forgery, is a vulnerability that enables hackers to trick the users into performing actions they don’t need to. For instance, it could be transferring funds, changing passwords, or their email address.

The hackers could get total control over the website based on the action performed.

Csrf Attack Breakdown

5. Ransomware

As far as ransomware is concerned, it is an infamous malware attack that targets customers and on-site visitors in various ways. Usually, cybercriminals make their way into the users’ computers and change file content or restrict access. After which, they demand a ransom to solve the hosts’ computer issues.

More often than not, hackers use the comment section to post ransomware links.

Make sure that you keep an eye on the comment section of your website and remove malicious links to prevent visitors from clicking on them and getting into trouble. That said, it would be best if you take proper measures by upgrading out-of-date software to secure your website so that such things don’t happen in the first place.

6. Pharming

Next, let’s learn a bit about pharming. It is nothing but another cyber attack where hackers redirect the traffic from your website to another fake website to gain confidential information about visitors. This confidential information may include account numbers, social security numbers, login credentials, etc.

Pharming Attacks Work

In this case, a hacker first infects a user’s computer by sending malicious codes through emails. Then the malicious code changes the host’s files in the computer to carry away the traffic from the intended website to a malicious one.

Note that it doesn’t matter if a user types the correct website address. The infected file will take them to a fake website.

7. Defacement

The defacement of a website is another common type of cyberattack where the hackers misuse the vulnerabilities of a website and replace the website information with dodgy content. So, when the customers visit your website, they will see other malicious content instead of the original website content.

Suffice to say, it can significantly affect the reputation and image of your business. Hackers usually perform this sort of attack to defame a particular organisation or spread hate messages.

8. WHOIS Domain Registration

Anyone who knows a thing or two about getting a website would agree that purchasing a domain name is equivalent to buying a home. As a rule, the organisation that sells the home should have the buyer’s details to contact them whenever the need arises.

It’s the same when it comes to purchasing a website. Based on the location you are from, you will need to give out crucial information that gets recorded on WHOIS data. Hackers can use this information to get into your web server and exploit you.

9. Spam

Yes, they are pretty much the same thing that you find in your spam box: bulk unsolicited and unwanted comments and messages. More often than not, they are harmless if you don’t respond to them. But sometimes, they can be malicious, especially those left by bots on your website to create backlinks.

If your customers open them, they might be infected with malware. Not to mention, they are an eyesore and could potentially turn away potential customers.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that if Google crawlers detect that your website contains malicious URLs, they can penalise or even blacklist your site for featuring spam. This can drastically lower your SEO ratings.

10. DDoS Attacks

This is another type of cyber attack performed by hackers to prevent users from visiting a particular website. The hacker essentially utilises fake IP addresses to flood the website servers with traffic, making it crash. You can consider it a kind of spamming website traffic, but the catch is that you don’t benefit from the extra traffic.

As the site owner, you should do everything you can to restore the server to its normal state as soon as possible. Otherwise, it is at risk of being infected by malware, making you lose domain authority, credibility and value.

Tips To Secure Your Website

Now that you have gone through the different ways a website can be attacked, we believe you want to learn how to secure a website. If so, then read this part carefully as here, we have provided some tips that can help you protect your website.

1. Utilise Two-Factor Authentication

One of the best ways to secure a website from unauthorised login is to use two-factor authentication. Usually, one needs a password to access a website’s admin area, but when you use two-factor authentication, you’ll have to satisfy another authentication factor to log into the website.

This second factor could be an email, a message sent over the phone or simply another passcode. It increases the security of the authentication process by adding an extra layer of protection and makes it challenging for hackers to get into your website.

Tfa Explanation

2. Limit File Uploads

Another way to secure your website is to limit file uploads for visitors. Due to the fact that files uploaded to your site could contain malicious scripts, hackers may be able to exploit these vulnerabilities to attack your website.

In some cases, however, the very nature of the website could require users to upload large amounts of files. For instance, you might want your customers to include photos of their purchased products when writing reviews.

You should view all the picture uploads as threats and make arrangements to ensure that the uploaded files get stored in a database in another location to secure your website. There are three ways to do that:

a) Third-Party Software

Softwares like Transloadit and Filestack provide an incredibly secure upload system featuring top-grade virus protection and security. That said, it’s worth noting that they can be pretty expensive.

b) DIY

Moving on, you can build a script that will bring the uploaded files from a remote and private location before making them visible in the browser. You will need to be somewhat of a techie, as there is a bit of coding involved in the process.

c) Avoid It

Avoiding file uploads is perhaps the best and the most simple solution. However, if that seems complicated, you should at least limit the file types that site visitors can upload.

3. Change Your Default CMS Settings

Today, most attacks are automated, and attackers often design bots to search websites having default settings. This helps them target a broader range of sites and gain access using the same kind of virus or malware. So, once you set up your CMS, don’t forget to change a few default settings such as:

  • File permissions
  • Information visibility
  • User controls
  • Comment settings

4. Use Backup Plugins

Using a quality backup plugin is an absolute must as far as securing a website is concerned. If your website gets compromised down the road, there is a good chance that hackers will remove all the content from it, leaving nothing but the URL link. This could affect your traffic as well as your business.

Consider utilising a backup plugin, such as BackupBuddy, to ensure that you don’t lose access to the critical data on your website due to an attack. You can also use other highly-rated options, such as VaultPress and UpdraftPlus, to build backups of your WordPress sites.

5. Restrict User Access

According to a report, 95% of cyber-attacks are caused by human error. This is why we strongly recommend educating your employees and yourself about the key aspects of cybersecurity.

The most effective way to keep human errors to a bare minimum is to restrict website access to those susceptible to making errors. If you have interns, guest bloggers, and outside consultants, don’t give them access to your website. Make sure you allow this privilege only to a few at the top.

If one of your employees needs to access your website to complete a certain task, give them the bare minimum amount of access required to finish the task. Once done, make sure you take away the access.

Additionally, you would want to ensure that everyone has their login credentials. If all the people use the same passwords and usernames, it can become difficult to track a security breach.

6. Utilise Website Security Tools

Preventing cyber attacks on your own is next to impossible. Therefore, it’s best to utilise online tools to keep an eye on your site’s security on your behalf. We strongly suggest using security plugins, such as All in One WordPress Security And Firewall, Jetpack, Malware, Bulletproof Security and iThemes security for WordPress websites.

They help build a firewall around your WordPress website while preventing malware attacks and other cyber threats. If you don’t use a WordPress site, use other good website security software, like Bitdefender and Avast, to stay safe regardless of the content management system.

You may also conduct security audits to identify your weaknesses and take preemptive actions to prevent a cyber-attack before it occurs.

7. Safeguard Your PC

Don’t let your computer be a risk to your website. You might be surprised that most hackers perform cyber attacks on websites by stealing FTP logins through computers. Therefore, make sure that you use a well-known antivirus on your PC.

You would not want to be callous and make a mistake while browsing to cause harm to your website, like clicking on malicious ads. Lastly, business or website owners should tell their employees to safeguard their PCs from cyber attacks by routinely scanning their devices.

8. Keep Changing Your Password

To avoid cyber attacks, it’s good to keep changing the password now and then. Also, make sure that you don’t use the same password for all your websites and electronic devices. Once a hacker knows your website password, they will try it on other platforms, including social media and bank accounts.

So, if you have been using the same password for multiple accounts, change them immediately. We also recommend using a good password manager to create lengthy passwords that are difficult to guess. Password managers utilise modern encryption technology that safeguards your passwords from cybercriminals.

9. Select A Reputed And Secure Web Hosting Service

You would want to choose a hosting provider having top-notch security on its web servers. That way, you will be able to ensure you get the same level of security for the website, although this might not be the case every time.

You might also consider settling for a shared plan because of its affordable price, but know that it will not be the safest choice. In shared plans, you essentially share web servers with different websites. If one of them gets attacked, it won’t be long until the hacker gets access to your web server.

10. Keep Updating Your Software

Those who own a PC know that you need to update the software smoothly to run it. While it could be frustrating, it is an absolute must, which applies to websites.

Ensure that you are using the latest version of CMS, plugins and everything that requires updating. Software updates can essentially fix glitches and bugs to improve security. Hence, if you are not updating your software regularly, it becomes easy for attackers to breach the website.

11. Use HTTPS Protocol

Another thing that you can do to secure your website is to ensure that it’s running on HTTPS protocol, which should be one of your top priorities. When your visitors see “HTTPS” in the URL of the website, they feel safe knowing that they are on a secure platform and nothing can breach their privacy.

Https Works

If your website doesn’t use this protocol, hackers can alter the data on the page and gain access to all your confidential information. For instance, they could get hold of the passwords and login information of the site visitors, but that would hardly be the case if you utilise the HTTPS protocol.

It also improves your ranking on search engines, but do you know the best part? You can take the security a notch by combining the HTTPS protocol with a secure sockets layer or SSL certificate. This combination is a requirement for eCommerce websites as users visiting them input confidential information, such as addresses, names, and credit card details.

An SSL certificate encrypts data transmitted between the visitor’s web browser and the server, keeping the user’s and the website’s information safe. We strongly recommend using a combination of HTTPS and SSL certificates for added security, even if your website is not an eCommerce platform.

Types Ssl Certificates

12. Utilise WFA (Web Application Firewall)

The job of a firewall is to safeguard your computer from cyber-attacks and unauthorised access. It also filters out incoming requests and offers protection against malware or DDOS attacks. As far as the web application firewall is concerned, it safeguards your web applications by monitoring, blocking and filtering malicious traffic directed to it.

Using WAF can help you monitor significant threats, like SQL injection, XSS, CSRF attacks and DDOS attacks. On that note, Cloudflare, SiteLock, and Sucuri are among the top website firewall providers.

Web Application Firewall Protection

Benefits Of Using Cloudflare

There is no denying that Cloudflare can prove to be highly effective in protecting you from DDOS attacks and various other online threats, given its popularity and positive customer reviews. Hence, we thought of mentioning a few of its benefits to help you understand why you should start using it.

1. Image Optimisation

Over 60% of the content present on a web page is images. If you’re having trouble managing the images on your website, consider using Cloudflare Polish, as it can help reduce their sizes and enhance the loading speed.

2. Free Of Cost

Unlike other CDNs, the free plan of Cloudflare provides a lot of benefits, such as fast website performance, security protection and SSL. So, if you can’t afford the premium plans, the free plan is a great option to get started.

3. Minification

With the help of Cloudflare, you can get rid of undesirable characters, like block delimiters, newline characters, comments and whitespaces that are not required on a web page. The website size gets reduced by removing the unwanted characters and allowing the web page to load much faster.

4. Load Balancer

The load balancer feature of Cloudflare is another reason you should use it. It distributes your traffic to numerous servers to ensure that the website is up and running even if a backend server goes down. This feature helps guarantee the availability of the website 24x7 and significantly reduces the load time.

5. Blocks DDoS Attacks

We have already explained what this attack is previously, so we will not waste space by explaining it all over again. The good news is that Cloudflare can help protect you from such attacks.

6. Protection Against Spams

Since Cloudflare filters out most of the bad traffic from the website, it safeguards the hosts and servers against automated bots and spammers. So, you can rest assured that your website security will go up a notch with Cloudflare.

Top 5 Website Security Tools (Free)

Website owners should check and monitor their websites for vulnerabilities from time to time, so here are a few tools that can help you do that.

1. SSLTrust

We start this list with SSLTrust, an exceptional website security checker. With it, you can check the security of your website with third-party tools, such as Sucuri SiteChecker, Google Safe Browsing and OpenPhish.

The only drawback of this tool is that it doesn’t offer solutions to your issues, as it just checks for the existing threats.

Ssktrust Tool

2. UpGuard Web Scan

As far as UpGuard Web Scan is concerned, it is yet another excellent website security tool that checks your website for several threats. It scans your website thoroughly to detect if it has been hacked or has malware. You can simply go to the official UpGuard website, enter the URL of your webpage and scan for vulnerabilities.

Besides malware protection, it checks network and website security, email security, and other website risks. Additionally, it utilises a rating system between 0 and 950 and gives you a score depending on the security of your website.

Even though it might not be able to offer you protection against new and complex malware since it is a free tool, it easily detects the common ones.

Upguard Website Scan Tool

3. Observatory

The following security tool on our list is from the house of Mozilla - meet Observatory, a tool that performs detailed security checks. All you need to do is visit its website and start scanning your webpage with no hassle of creating an account or logging in.

4. MalCare

If you have a WordPress site, then you can’t afford to ignore MalCare. It is good at detecting complex and new malware, giving it an edge over ordinary website security tools. Apart from providing a vulnerability scanner, it offers solutions that you can implement to secure your website.

To use Malware, you first need to create an account on the official site. After that, you will have to add its plugins to the WordPress site, which will let you use it to scan the site for any security and malware threats.

Unlike other malware detectors, this one does not affect your website’s loading speed, which is no less than a bonus if you ask us.

Malcare Wordpress Security

5. Sucuri SiteChecker

Like our previous tool, Sucuri SiteChecker is a free tool that scans your website for malware. It creates a report that includes a risk gauge and suggestions that you can follow to level up the security of your website. However, note that it doesn’t scan the server files but only the website’s front-end.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, we have tried answering a couple of commonly asked questions to help clear any further doubt that you might have about website security.

Q1. If you own a small business, do you need to secure the website?

Yes, even if your business is small and doesn’t generate much revenue, you should still secure the website to protect the users’ data.

Q2. How to be sure if a website is secure?

You can use security checkers, like MalCare and SSLTrust, to confirm if your website features a firewall and if it is secure or not.

Keeping Your Website Security

With that, we have come to the end of our informative guide; hopefully, you were able to gain in-depth knowledge about website security. But before we call it a day, we have a couple of things to remind you of.

Firstly, make sure that you keep changing the passwords of your website’s admin area every six months to improve security. Remember not to share the password with every team member of your company, especially if you have a lot of guest bloggers, interns and outside consultants.

But make sure that every team member has their separate login credentials. If all of them use the same username and password, tracking a security breach won’t be that easy.

You can also contact our sitecentre® team for any assistance you need! Our years of experience in cybersecurity, websites, and SEO will ensure your customers’ information safety and security!

On that note, it’s time for us to wrap up. Until next time, take care and stay safe!

Stephanie Salud

Stephanie Salud

Stephanie comes from a background specialising in off-page SEO, from link building, citations and strategic brand placements to increase search rankings. Stephanie brings to the team a unique approach to off-page and on-page optimisations for our clients.

Find them on their website: sitecentre® and LinkedIn.

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