The internet can be a dangerous place. Anyone operating a website must take smart steps to improve security.
It is ultimately impossible to make anything 100 percent foolproof, as we can see by the large number of major companies that continue to be attacked. But hardening your website against known threats and methods can go a long way toward encouraging hackers to go after other, less-secure targets.
Just by taking the following simple steps, you can rest easier and know that your website will be much less likely to be attacked.
1. Know Your Risk Level
While all sites and web users face some level of threat, there are categories that are more exposed. E-commerce, membership-based, or other monetized websites tend to be at a higher risk from hackers who can see immediately that there is more to be gained by a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack, ransomware, or other exploit. In any instance where you are accepting payments or bringing in revenue, be sure to take extra care in all matters related to security.
2. Implement Obvious Solutions
The exact solution that will be best for your website depends upon your risk level and the nature of its operations. If you are taking payments, a Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate to encrypt transmitted data is a good first step. This will go a long way toward protecting sensitive information and showing customers or members that they are safe. You should also implement some method of ensuring that anyone interacting with the website is human, whether that be with a login feature, Facebook integration, or CAPTCHA-style test.
3. Screen for Malware
Oftentimes, a malware attack doesn’t really seem like an attack at all. Instead of shutting down your site with a dramatic DDOS onslaught, the malicious actor simply embeds code into the backend of the site. And there the exploit sits, collecting information like newly registered email addresses, siphoning off other data, or sending spam out through your system. The key is to detect it as quickly as possible and then remove it. So be sure to run malware screening tests regularly. Depending on the size of the operations, you may need to do this weekly, daily, or hourly. But the more often the better — and many of the best options today have the equivalent of always-on detection.
4. Stay Updated
No matter what backend content management platform you use, there will always be a need to update the system. WordPress, for example, is one popular service that regularly issues new versions to fix flaws and enhance capabilities. It is imperative to always remain up to date and to initiate these upgrades as fast as possible.
The same goes for any plugins, themes, third-party extensions, or smartphone apps that you use to manage the site. These updates are issued for a reason, and every minute that goes by with a known vulnerability left un-patched is a possible pathway for malicious actors to access.
5. Use Identity Theft Protection
Beyond hardening the website itself, every site owner should look into procuring some form of personal identity theft protection. While most domain registrars offer an option to mask contact information associated with any URL, chances are that some identifying info is out there. This can make you a target. Safeguarding your identity is therefore a common-sense investment, particularly since modern plans can cost as little as $100 per year. Even with such small upfront costs, you can acquire the peace of mind of having insurance to cover legal fees or damages, alert notifications to potential fraud, account monitoring, ID restoration assistance, and other services.
The fight for digital security is never-ending. As soon as the protection methods improve, cyberthieves find new ways to attack a system. There is a cat-and-mouse aspect that leaves both sides reacting and evolving all the time.
But the good news is that security is much better than ever before. By understanding your threat, implementing solutions, scanning for problems, keeping your site updated, and protecting your own identity, you will remain safeguarded against the most common vulnerabilities.