The most dangerous place in the entire earth is the internet. This statement is no exaggeration. Cybercrime has increased manifold and it is proving to be an ongoing battle to keep hackers out of websites with sensitive information.
Therefore, website protection has become a field of expertise in itself. No one, in fact, not even the reputed and highly sensitive government agencies, is immune to attack from hackers. So then, how can you protect your company website from hackers in 2019?
Why is website security important?
Consider what hackers can do to your website. They could steal your data, including sensitive financial information that could result in heavy financial losses. Serious though this is, it is just the tip of what hackers do. They can destroy your website or even your entire business system. They can track your activity.
They can lock up your website and hold you to ransom. They can crash your network. They can use your website to stage malware attacks on those who use your website. They can deface your website. They can send malicious messages to those who visit the website. They can destroy your reputation and brand name beyond repair. That is like being dealt a death blow from which recovery is next to impossible.
Unlike your physical office, visitors to your website are invisible, unless you have really strong defenses in place. Knowing the importance of online reputation management, one cannot take such risk. Hackers who seek out your website are also much more malicious in their intent. They seek to not just steal, but malign and destroy. Therefore, website security consciousness is of prime importance.
It is easy to feel complacent, especially if you have escaped hackers thus far. However, complacency is just what hackers take advantage of. On the other hand, website security consciousness will help us ensure that we have defenses in place. This would be like having a strong lock, a CCTV system, and a security guard at our physical office.
It will then take a lot more effort on the part of hackers to get into our system and so, more often than not, they will go looking elsewhere for easier prey. Only very few website development services providers use all the below mentioned key factors to defend your website from hackers.
Is https better than HTTP?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is an application protocol that helps in communication between the computer and the servers. The transfer of data is not encrypted and thus a hacker can easily tap into the line of communication.
A Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate that is employed ensures that any data that is exchanged between your server and your user is encrypted. When such is the case, the connection protocol is secure and is called Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (https) and the browser indicates this by showing a lock symbol on the left.
Data is transmitted between the browsers and web servers in encrypted packets. Encryption takes place at the origin and the information is decrypted at the delivery point. Thus any hacker trying to tap into the line of communication gets only an encrypted bit of data that would be gibberish to him.
This explanation would in itself suffice to help us see how an https website is much more secure than an HTTP website.
Can an https site be hacked?
Just as a lock in itself would not ensure that your physical office is burglarproof, a secure website (https) in itself does not ensure immunity from hackers. While https ensures that data transmission is encrypted, there are other aspects that hackers can use to gain entry into your domain.
A hacker could still enter your network or website. He could use software vulnerabilities or just brute force access by working out login credentials. Website security is much more than just obtaining security certificates for the website.
Is the website safe?
There are a few things you could look out for to ensure that any website you use is safe.
- First of all, check to ensure that it is a secure website. The URL should begin with https. This indicates that the company handles the information they collect responsibly.
- Ensure that they have a trust seal. There should be an icon with “secure” or “verified” indicating that they have enlisted a security agency to ensure website security.
- Be careful of malware. If you find suspicious pop-ups or suspicious information on the webpage, it could be that the page is compromised even though it might have an URL with https.
- Check for contact information. If contact information of the organization is easily available on the website it would make it more trustworthy.
How to protect WordPress website from hackers
WordPress is a free and open content management system. Many businesses use this platform to create and develop their website or blogs. Since it is a free and open source platform it is also much more vulnerable to hackers. What could you do?
Ensure that you carry out all the system updates regularly. Install all updates immediately. Add malware protection and lockdown security to prevent hacking, defacement, SEO spam, infections, and attacks by ransomware. Use a web hosting provider that prioritizes security. Some partner with security agencies to ensure protection which would be a good idea. Use free security plugins such as iThemes Security and Bulletproof Security.
Protecting your website is no child’s play. With hackers getting more and more ingenious, you need to ensure that you seal all vulnerable entry points, as it were.
Here are some suggestions you do well to keep in mind:
- The best antivirus software and firewalls cannot protect an outdated system. Therefore set up your system to automatically update itself whenever there is an update. Remember that WannaCry took advantage of a known problem with the windows OS and easily targeted users whose systems were not updated.
- A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Ensure that all passwords used by your employees are strong. You could set things up to ensure that employees change passwords periodically, and to ensure that the passwords meet certain criteria to ensure password strength.
- Use a two-step authentication process. Use not just the username and password but also an OTP to ensure only authorized access, especially to key parts of your website, or business domain.
- Train your employees in safe email practices. Ensure that all emails are scanned. If an email is not from a trusted source, train employees to be careful and check before opening them. Remember, once malware gets on the network it is very difficult to contain it.
- Set up your antivirus and firewalls to automate update themselves whenever there is an update.
- You might choose to use an e-commerce platform as a service because it is more secure since the end user is removed from the equation.
- Ensure site-wide security (https), not just selected pages.
- Ensure that you have PCI compliant checkouts and payment processors.
- Check to ensure that your service provider has automatic backups.
- Work with your payment processor to enable alerts for suspicious credit card usage.
- Protect your admin username and password. Do not send it by email. Ensure that both the username and password are such that they cannot be easily guessed.
- Any devices that are connected to your system should be scanned for malware.
- Make sure that inactive logins are deleted after a period of time.
- Install a web application firewall which is a cloud-based plug and play service. This serves as a gateway to screen visitors, stop hackers and block malware.
- Do not let search engines index your admin pages. Not having their address will make it more difficult for hackers to find it.
- Store any files that are uploaded by your website users outside your root directory and use a script to access them when needed.
- Do not use form auto fill as that leaves information available for hackers to use.
How to protect the website from malware
Malware is a catchall for all the harmful virus, Trojan horses, worms, and so on, that get into the systems and steal data or otherwise deface or endanger a website. The suggestions we have discussed above will help ensure that your website is protected from malware attacks. Besides the above, using a reputed cloud storage system or service provider will be of great assistance. They take care of the security aspects and thus relieve you of much anxiety in this regard.
How to prevent website defacement
Website defacement is a horrifying prospect. Do a regular security audit of your website. Ensure that the website is well protected from hackers and malware. Use defacement detection tools to monitor your website and have in place a plan to handle matters in case there is a breach.
“It won’t happen to me.” It is good to hope for the best. However, remember that all the other website owners also thought the same until their websites were hacked. That is when they realized that just as no office can really be a 100% burglar proof, no Website can be a 100% hacker resistant. However, plugging in all the vulnerable points will ensure security.
It is good to keep in mind that “prevention is better than cure” and that it is “good to err on the side of caution.”