The Internet is loaded with advantages but one of the most fundamental problems with this innovative tool is hackers. Various kinds of programs from viruses and malicious attacks up to hackers are a nuisance that the Internet is also filled with. They target the weaker sites with a security loophole and modify the data to their needs or entirely alter them! This is a great problem that any website may have to face. Especially, small businesses attract 453% of all such attacks!
However, there are many ways to secure your website from such attacks. There are simple and easy steps that you can take to ensure that hackers cannot access your site through a backdoor. Certain steps are a tad bit more complicated and give you even better protection. But all of them are aimed to ensure that your website remains protected against the activities of hackers. Here we will deal with 10 steps that will ensure a healthy website experience without attacks from fellow hackers!
10 Steps to Secure Your Website
- Security Plugins
Security plugins are very easily available and they are designed to repair weak areas and protect your website from attacks. A Content Management System (CMS) goes a long way to help protect your website by allowing you to easily download security plugins. There are specific security plugins for particular server platforms. For example, if you are using WordPress then you can easily tap into the benefits of such plugins like iThemes Security, Bulletproof Security, Wordfence, fail2Ban, and Sucuri. Similarly, if you are using the Magento platform then you can easily use Amasty, MageFence, and so on while you will find such plugins as JHackGuard, JomDefender, RDFirewall, Antivirus Website Protection, and so on with Joomla. All of these plugins are so crafted such that they can tackle and counter the vulnerabilities available in each of these platforms.
SiteLock is also an amazing security option that is available for all the sites and platforms out there. Whether you manage your site using CMS or you are running an HTML site, SiteLock targets the loopholes in your platform. It will also monitor your site regularly for all kinds of security breaches and prevents any occurrence. It works like any other antivirus program that will monitor your system daily to check for any discrepancies. It is compatible with all the platforms out there and you can use it just like you use any other antivirus program to keep your website and your data safe. The best thing about most of these security plugins is that they are available for free.
The major difference between an HTTP and an HTTPS lies in the “S”- it stands for secure. An HTTPS has grown very common over recent years and anyone will look for the little green icon beside the URL when they are opening a page. Any site that collects sensitive personal information such as credit card details is always loaded with an SSL certificate. It simply provides an extra layer of protection via data encryption that allows the data transfer within the website and the server to remain secure and devoid of attacks.
Website security has become an increasing issue of concern with various search engines too over the years. In fact, Google has brought about an update that makes it mandatory to have an SSL certificate for your website. If your website is not having one the Google will warn any user opening your page even if you are not collecting sensitive information. A warning such as this will immediately make the user go back and that acts as a loss for your site too. You should also remember that a more recent update by Google ensures that a site without an SSL certificate will be ranked lower which diminishes the chances of a hit.
Thus it has become essential for you to invest in an SSL certificate. It costs a very nominal fee but plays an important part in the higher ranking of your website as well as enhancing the security features of your website. It will also make users feel more welcome and comfortable at your site thus increasing the traffic for you.
- Regular Updates
The need for regular updates is just too much for any website. When you are using a Content Management System it becomes very easy for you to get extensions and plugins for your site to make it more interactive. However, these programs are generally open-source programs and it is very easy to access their codes. The codes can be easily found out by someone who needs it but can also be found out as easily by someone with a bad intention.
Any hacker can easily go through all these codes and look for a vulnerable point that they can use to their advantage. Thus, these plugins, extensions, and even the CMS are updated regularly and you need to install these updates. The updates are designed to bypass the existing security loopholes and patch them up thus giving you a more secure platform to conduct all your activities. When you are updating regularly, the latest security patch is installed into your system making it harder for hackers to disrupt your activities. However, if you are not updating regularly, chances are ha you can easily be the next victim of a malicious attack.
Checking for the updates is also relatively easy in most of the platforms available out there. For example, if you are using WordPress as your platform then you will find out whether there are any new updates from the dashboard alone. Whenever a new update is launched you are noticed via the update icon in the top left corner of the dashboard for you to download.
- Secure Password
A password goes a long way to protect your website. A password is so important in the digital realms that nowadays most applications 2-way or even multiple-way authentication systems that require more than one password to open an account whenever you are using a new device. Password security should be the first concern for any users as this is the strongest and the weakest point of access to the website.
A password should be of sufficient length, the longer the better. While it only takes minutes to identify a 4-digit numerical pin, it takes months to figure out a 6-digit numeric pin owing to the added permutations and combinations. The longer your password is, the more secure it will be. Your password should also be something that is not related to you nor something that is easy to remember. “123456” still remains the least secure password and so in your personal information such as your birthday, kid’s name, spouse’s name, and so on. If any hacker or anybody happens to have such information, then they are more likely to use them to try to open your account. If you are running an enterprise, it is also essential that you ensure that all your employees also choose a long and secure password loaded with alphanumeric and special characters. Even one small area of weakness in your website can compromise your security.
- Automatic Backups
The steps listed till now are very easy to follow and you can do them even if you are a novice. However, with ever-changing technology, you are never fully secured when you are using the internet. There always remains a chance that your website may be attacked or your data compromised. Backups form a fundamental and very crucial building block for your website under such circumstances. When you are backing up your data regularly, you can easily get the website running in no time after rectifying any security breach, if any.
All the data that you are storing needs to be backed p and stored in an external drive out of your system. This data backup may not come in handy in a long while, and the longer you have to wait for it, the better for your website. But if a situation comes up when your data is not backed up and compromised, it will be immensely difficult for you to come back from such a mishap. It’s always wiser to keep backups of everything and this point cannot ever be stressed upon enough.
All the steps mentioned above are some of the easiest and most basic ways to ensure a secure experience over the internet. They will greatly help to enhance security and keep your website going over without any incident. However, no measure is entirely sufficient to secure your sites. You can only integrate more and more security measures to enhance the surety. The steps mentioned from now onwards will be advanced measures and are a tad bit trickier to employ. However, if correctly done, they will boost the security of your site like nothing can.
- Prevention is Better Than Cure
Certain websites such as healthcare websites and accounts websites need to have the criteria for users to securely upload files. However, such actions can also be used by hackers to upload a malicious website that compromises the security of your website. They may even a file that is too large such that it pulls own the website leading to considerable downtime. You cannot have either of the two neither can you prevent users from uploading files into such websites. However, certain permissions will help ensure that only certain types of files can be uploaded to your website.
- You can start by creating a whitelist of acceptable file extensions to your website to limit the types of files that can be uploaded.
- Use a verification to ensure that the extensions match the file types set by you. This is important because certain hackers can employ ways to bypass your whitelist like uploading a file with a different extension or adding spaces and dots in the file name.
- The file size that you allow uploaded to your website should be monitored and standardized to ensure that too big a file or an incorrect fi9e cannot be uploaded to your website.
- You should scan all the files that are being uploaded to your website for enhanced security.
- A clever way is to rename the files once they are uploaded to your website. It is not possible for hackers to access their files if they have an altered name.
- You can set parameters such that all the uploaded files are saved outside of the webroot preventing hackers from direct access to your website.
- Queries with Parameters
A very common method of attacking a website is by employing an SQL injection. If your URL is such that any outsider can upload or supply information to your website hen a hacker can use it to their advantage. They will simply upload a bit of code such that they get access to your website or your database. Thus you can never set the parameters too open that will allow such a mishap. A simple and clever way to ensure that such SQL injections do not happen is to set the parameters. Using parameterized queries in your URL or web form will ensure that your website does not accept unnecessary uploads and thus prevent a security breach. The use of parameterized queries will ensure that no hacker can ever mess with your system and information.
The first step to ensure that an XSS attack is not launched upon your website is much like using parameterized queries. Wherever there is a box that collects information or data from your users, you should be as stringent as possible with the parameters as is possible for you. The parameters will ensure that only very few specific kinds of information or files can be uploaded into your website. You can also use a Content Security Policy which allows you to identify a particular set of domains from which you will accept information. You can also list exception to this list and when you specify such a list it is impossible for any other source to upload information to your website. These methods tighten up the security and checks all the information coming into your website to prevent a slip of malicious programs.
Everything that runs on or through a computer is simply a set of instructions stored in such a manner that they conduct particular functions when executed. Thus, a set of files and folders (the way codes are stored) are what determines the capabilities of your website. Every website in its skeletal form is just these files and folders stored in the server’s accounts. The access to these files can, however, be determined by the owner of these files and the type of access determines what anyone is capable of doing. For example, in a Linux based system, permissions are a set of 3-digit numbers ranging from 0 to 7. The first digit corresponds to the permissions given to the owner, the second one sets the permissions for the group with which the file is shared and the third digit represents the permissions given to the end-user. Numbers have particular meanings in this regard-
- 4 stands for read.
- 2 stands for write.
- 1 stands for execute.
- 0 stands for no permission.
Thus, a file with the permission “777” (4+2+1=7) is a type of file that can be read, written on, and executed by the owner, group, and all the users throughout the world. A file with the permission 775 can similarly be read, written upon, and executed by the owner and the group and can only be read and executed by the user. It is necessary for you to set proper permissions to these files and folders to prevent any unauthorized access. You can easily do so by opening the cPanel for your website!
- Simple Error Message
An error message gives a clue as to what is wrong with a particular function and why your website is not functioning properly. To the website owner, these error messages are really helpful as it helps them to pinpoint the source of the error very easily. However, in the wrong hands, like in the hands of a hacker, these messages can be the source of critical information regarding the functioning of the site. The hacker can easily interpret the error message to find out about the various aspects that keeps the site running and launch an attack accordingly.
When there is a problem it is necessary to inform the user about it through an error message. However, you need to craft these error messages to users in such a way that they understand the fault but not too much sensitive information is revealed. You need to keep the error messages simple such that not too much information is revealed through the message but should be conveniently framed to help the user get over any problem they are facing.
It is very important that you learn the different ways that you can employ to keep your site protected and secured. These are very important steps as a compromised website is up for no good. A compromised website can put your user’s data in harm’s way or throw the website into jeopardy causing loss of users. You want neither of the two from happening as both will lead to a loss in traffic to your website or even blacklisting of your website by Google.
These are just a few simple and advanced steps that you can use to secure your website. There are other methods too, but these steps will be more than sufficient to give overall protection from even focused attacks. With the internet, you are never truly and completely secured but you can keep upgrading your security measure from time to time to ensure a healthy existence over the network. When you have worked so hard to design and execute a website you should take necessary measures to keep it secured and protected. These are basic tips to protect yourself against attacks from a hacker and even from viruses or malicious programs which are aimed to bring your website down. If you diligently follow these measures, then you can be sure that hackers will remain at bay!