With the everyday technological advancement in the online world, we tend to think that the security of it all is simply a commodity. It’s implied that our and our customer’s data should always be protected and that the websites we use and the places we go to are all secured - as they should be. However, the Internet is not a secure place. Just as fast as the technology is advancing and making our lives easier, hackers are further learning to break into our websites and make a profit off of us. Website security demands impeccable attention to detail when designing and using sites.
Over the course of last year, we all have heard of multiple cases of security leaks, hacks, and breaches of several websites and databases, both big and small. Some of the attacks tend to be less harmful, and others involve leaks of private and sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, or other important data. The goal of website security is to stop these kinds of attacks from happening in the future by preventing unauthorized access, modification or destruction of the page.
Effective website security should be applied to all stages of creating and maintaining the website. It starts with the configurations of the server, the code the web application is written in and goes to policies on creating and renewing passwords if such are required. While it all sounds confusing and complicated, the bright side is that half of those regulations are already implemented within almost any website built on the server-side framework. It has security measures, protecting against more well-known attacks, built in it by default. And to protect a site from other, less-known attacks is not that difficult.
Here is a list of some of the more common attacks performed on web applications and advice on how to mitigate them and ensure website security. Once we go through them, we'll share some web security tips you can apply to help your website (use the sidebar to navigate there immediately if you want to!)
DDoS attacks can destroy in seconds
A DoS or DDoS is a technique used by hackers to take down a web server or a website. The attacker floods the server or a website with vast amounts of traffic that the server or a site is unable to handle, eventually breaking it down. The resources of the website or the server are swamped by the fake traffic created by a hacker, making the website unavailable to its actual users. Eventually, when the system is offline, the attacker goes on to violate the whole site or certain parts of it. This is what took down Sony for a month in 2011 and closed down BBC for three hours in 2015
Preventing a DoS attack requires a lot of knowledge of how to secure a website. However, if you’re hosting your website with a hosting provider, your first action taken should be contacting them and explaining that you’re under attack. As a hosting provider, they probably are already aware of the offense and are dealing with it already. Another, more efficient way of dealing with such an attack, especially for business owners, is increasing your web resources. They should already be more prominent than needed, but in such case, the more, the better. By expanding your resources, you’re making it much harder for the hacker to fill your website with traffic it can’t handle. There are also plenty of website security companies, such as CloudFlare, which will make sure to detect any suspicious traffic that may be coming your way. They scan every incoming visitor, verifying its legitimacy. If it's an infected computer conducting a DDoS attack, it is not allowed access.
READ MORE: What Is CloudFlare And Should You Use It?
Such a security measure is a good way to avoid a closure of your website following a targeted attack. It may only take a couple seconds of your visitors' time but it can help you massively.
Counterfeit wireless access points may trick you
This attack is one of the easier ones to perform. By using custom software, a hacker creates a fake wireless internet point which can be easily confused with a real one. Once your computer logs on to that network, it instantly becomes vulnerable, and the hacker has access to it. It is relatively easy to hack a computer this way, as a free internet connection is expected everywhere these days and is used widely.
It really is a case of someone walking straight into the trap. When that happens - there's no one else to blame but you. Therefore, the first thing you should do is not logging in to random networks. For most of the time, a phone or a modem with a decent 4G connection can be just as good in terms of connectivity, and way more reliable in terms of website security. If you absolutely have to use public wi-fi though, consider purchasing a VPN subscription. Best VPN services fully encrypt online connection and traffic and help to prevent someone else from accessing your data. By combining common sense and software, you will reach an optimal result and ensure that your website security doesn't get compromised by a malicious wireless network.
Keep your ears open for an eavesdropping attack
Unlike other attacks performed by hackers, eavesdropping is a passive attack. Therefore, such attacks are one of the harder ones to track, as they do not cause data transmissions to appear in somewhat unusual manner. They use an unsecure network connection to ‘steal’ the data, such as passwords or credit card details, transmitted between the server and the client. There's no need to point out that someone else handling card details and passwords is bad business. Websites without SSL certificates are incredibly vulnerable to eavesdropping.
Eavesdropping attacks may happen at any time, so you have to expect everything. As a website owner, make sure to protect it using an SSL certificate and upgrading your page from HTTP to HTTPS. It's the best way to ensure encryption of private data, such as passwords or credit card numbers. The certificate provides an encrypted connection between the visitor's browser and a web server. This means there is no hyper-sensitive user information stored directly on your server. Before SSL, selling something through a website could've been disastrous. By asking for someone's credit card details you would store them inside of your server.
Now imagine if someone hacks it - every piece of information about your clients' credit cards would get stolen, with you to blame. Having an S at the end of HTTP shows that you are a credible brand which cares about the safety of its clients and has a website security certificate to show for it. Use the hosting providers which either include SSL in their packages or allow you for a simple way to get the certificate. In fact, an SSL certificate is a must if you want to do any sort of e-commerce. Now, let's talk about things you need to add your website to avoid getting hacked. SSL is one, but there's some more.
How to ensure perfect website security?
Hacking has become a growing threat to all businesses and online enterprises. It may be the cause for your website to shut down your website. It may be used to steal private and sensitive information or taking control of your computer. That means severe damages not only to your sensitive data but your clients and your business. The expenses for the precautions to be taken are minimal compared to the impact of hacking on your website. Therefore, knowing how to secure a website is a very important thing you should invest a lot of time in. Fitting tools, such as a website security certificate, great software, such as a virus cleaner, and a bit of common sense will take you a long way.
On top of that, a decent hosting provider with a knack for security will be incredibly helpful. For example, during all of our reviews, we extensively test the security of all hosting companies. Some of them may give away your password after someone correctly guesses the answer to one of a few basic questions! In this particular field, very high marks were given to Hostinger. This company uses your payment information as a form of additional identification - which is more reliable than any security questions.
Even with a great hosting, such as with Hostinger, a lot is determined by the software and general security practices. No one is safe - many of us have heard of massive data breaches, the most recent one being the leakage of social security information from Equifax. There have also been card detail leaks from Target and Sony. These breaches right here have one thing that binds them all together - they are all done on massive companies.
Therefore, some of the small business and website owners may think that they're not in danger. This is where they're wrong - in fact, data breaches and becoming increasingly more common for small websites. In 2011, 18% of data breaches happened to small companies. In 2015, that number has increased to 43%. There is a clear upwards trend, so now, with 2018 looming close, that number could be very well above 50%. Yet with all that in mind, small website/business owners do not feel like they're in danger. A survey conducted by a security company Manta has revealed that only 13% of small website or business owners feel at risk of falling victim to a data breach.
Data points to the fact that now, more than ever, owners should be taking their website security seriously. However, many of such businesses do not have the right funds to hire security companies or separate people to help them with that. Luckily, that doesn't mean you or any other website owners are left with no help. Both you and your hosting providers can do enough to avoid the majority of security problems. Right here I am going to talk about free or inexpensive tools that will help minimize the risk of your and your customer data getting stolen.
Passwords & authentication can save your data
One of the best website security tips anyone can give is: "work on your password!" A good password may be the most obvious of web security measures, but there's no denying it's very important. Every single perk of secure server hosting goes out of the window if your password is "password". Many hosting providers see this problem as well, not allowing their users to choose simple or obvious combinations. One of the most common ways, I'm sure you experienced that, is asking for the users to use both lowercase and uppercase letters, as well as numbers. This makes the passwords more difficult to guess.
Is the only capital letter in your password the first one? And you only have one or two numbers at the end of it? If I guessed that correctly - you need to consider a more difficult password.
It has to be said though, there is a certain danger in having a difficult password. A human mind can only memorize so much information. Therefore, with a difficult password to crack, you may start using it everywhere - if it's difficult to guess, it must be perfect, right? Not really - if it's everywhere, one leak is all it takes to send the whole house of cards falling down.
A service called "HaveIBeenPwned" looks at just that. By typing in your email account, you can see whether it was a part of the big data breaches that took place earlier. If you used the same email/password combination since the breach, it is more than likely someone can easily get inside many of your accounts.
An easy password may be easy to guess or hack into. Difficult passwords may be hard to remember or have been stolen already! So what should you do?
You may really put effort into having many different or difficult passwords. Alternatively, you can use password-encrypting software, such as 1Password or LastPass. These programs securely encrypt and store many of your passwords, asking only for one difficult "master key". When there's only one combination to work with, you may constantly change it and use many different symbols. You can get a seriously good password using our random password generator tool.
In hosting security, however, a password is not the final frontier. You may also set up two-factor authentication. The idea of it is quite simple: your phone acts as your identification device. These days, smartphones are unlocked by your fingerprints or your face. Hackers are very unlikely to break into your phone remotely, therefore, it's a decent technology to use in order to make your hosting secure.Many hosts have two-factor authentication enabled, either in client area or cPanel logins.
Many hosts have two-factor authentication enabled, either in client area or cPanel logins.
Every time you want to login (or every time you log in from a different IP and/or device) the website will ask you to type a code that is displayed on the app on your phone. If multi-factor authentication is enabled, even a password won't allow the hacker to take possession of your website.
Hosting providers are responsible, too
While testing the best hosting providers, I always make sure to test how does the provider handle sensitive user information. The test is always conducted in two parts. In the first one, I attempt to replicate a brute-force break-in. Such a break-in is when someone (usually, with a help of software) attempts to guess your password. It may take plenty of attempts to do that. Make sure to pick a hosting provider which blocks out the people trying to guess your login details. Often it is done by blocking the IP for a certain period of time after multiple incorrect attempts. Not all hosts use such a system - just to be certain, I always recommend people to choose a host which does.
Another thing I test is something I always imagined angry acquaintances doing. That is attempting to get your password by pretending to be the rightful owner of the account. Many hosts ask for your payment information and/or a copy of an ID card. Such a measure is usually deemed good enough to ensure that the account remains in the hands of its rightful owner. However, not many hosts use that. With some, you just need to know the URL of the website and an answer to one security question. Is that enough? I think not - and if you don't, then I wouldn't recommend using a host who gives information away that easily. Make sure to read our top hosting reviews to see which hosts treat your information well.
Use email and spam filters to reduce risk
Phishing and ransomware are two major concerns for every website owner. In phishing, you may get tricked by a convincing-looking letter or a website to give away your important details. Ransomware is relatively newer - and way scarier to most. During this process, website information and sometimes even entire devices are locked out and you can only gain access by paying a ransom. Very often these problems occur by opening a malicious email or downloading an infected file. Those things are affected by the human factor: so if you want to avoid such things happening, don't open links that look suspicious and don't type in crucial information unless you are 100% sure that the website is legit.
Many of this stuff can be avoided by having a good content scanner. Many hosting providers will offer an anti-spam software (such as Apache SpamAssassin) that will block out suspicious emails heading your way. Another place where you may get plenty of malicious links is in the comments section. If your website allows comments - there is a huge chance many bots are attempting to fill it up with dangerous content. Introducing a ReCAPTCHA identification system is a good way to avoid that. Often it won't even ask your visitors to type or select anything more than one box - and it will save you, as well as your visitors, a lot of time and problems.
Malware/virus scanners are crucial additions
You may be terrific in dodging malicious links or avoiding spam comments - but one time you may still get a virus. It may be a piece of bad software or a directed attack. You need a way to find viruses once they're already in. For that, there are website scanners.
These scanners work very similarly to anti-virus software, inspecting every file at your disposal and looking for the ones who may be harmful. Most providers do that in server already - make sure to ask if they do. For additional web security, you may get a separate scanner, like SiteLock, Sucuri or CodeGuard. Such secure server hosting software would constantly scan your files, looking for any changes you should be wary of. Just for the calm of heart, something like this could prove to be very useful.
System backups will save you from disaster
Now - every safety measure mentioned here so far may be helpful. At this moment, it is worth remembering that even the most advanced security systems may fail. This is why it is very important to have good damage control. The best kind of damage control is a good backup. It's more or less a snapshot or your website at a certain time. If something goes awry, you can just get your page back. The best secure web hosting providers offer weekly or even daily backups completely free of charge. Some of them may ask for a payment in order to restore your website to its previous state. When choosing a hosting provider, make sure to find out all about the systems they implement. After your website goes down, the last thing you want to hear about is the unexpected charges.
However, there is an extra thing you can do to make sure everything is secured. It is actually quite simple - just regularly store all of your website information on an external hard drive and keep it safely at your disposal. Even in a horrifying case of your hosting provider losing all of the data, you will still have everything with you. One of the best tips here is to not trust anyone - yes, even your hosting provider!
Use these tips to keep your website secure
In the world where attacks against small website and companies are increasingly more often, should you be worried? Absolutely. Yet there is no need to panic. There are plenty of web security tips to ensure the safety of your site and your business. By implementing all of the things mentioned above, you will avoid most of the common issues. And by having solid backups, you will not lose everything even if something goes bad. Make sure to take care of your security and you will suffer fewer problems!