This post was last Updated on June 16, 2023 by Himanshu Tyagi to reflect the accuracy and up-to-date information on the page.
Website security has always been a significant concern for organizations, business owners, and people. Bad website security or improperly implemented security leads to severe consequences. One of them is identity theft. Some other serious concerns are sabotaging digital assets, stealing passwords, and accessing personal information.
Hackers can use this information to impersonate someone easily. This affects an individual but a whole lot of others. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 to 50,000 websites get hacked every day. Criminals can do the hacking through manual or automated means.
Website security has become even more critical because the world is transitioning online. Digital purchases are increasing, and so are digital transactions. Spammers and hackers exploit this by sending traffic from automated sources. Over half of all traffic that traverses the Internet is from scrapers, hacking tools, bots, and spammers.
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Top 4 reasons why website security is important
Four main reasons why website security is important are listed below.
1. Hacked websites compromise customer data
Malicious software can infect websites, unknowingly data breaches, and hackers can hijack computer resources. Attackers can control a site once they gain access to it.
They can easily redirect all customer traffic to their malicious sites to steal information from unsuspecting customers. There are thousands of malware types and ways a website can be hacked. Automated hacking tools are becoming more sophisticated with each passing hour.
2. Loss of revenue and business reputation
With over a billion websites on the Internet and each contending for visibility, ranking well on search engines isn’t easy. Search engine optimization becomes important. Websites that lack essential security are marked and not shown on search results.
For example, although SSL or HTTPS is optional, not having an HTTPS-enabled website prompts search engines to rank such websites lower.
Search engines also remove hacked sites. It is part of spam prevention and weeding effort by popular search engines. But more than that, a hacked site worries the customer more. Customers will be picky about transacting on such sites, even if the sites have been bandaged after the attack.
Repeated hacking of a website causes search engines to block the website. On average, about 10,000 hacked websites are blocked. These are websites with poor security policies.
When such websites are accessed, search engines provide a warning to visitors. A delisted hacked website loses its customers – about 95% of them. It isn’t easy to regain the trust of customers after this.
4. Competition loss
Competition and opportunity loss are linked. Once customers are eroded, opportunity loss occurs. The business has to create another website and probably use another website name. But this is generally a tedious task.
Another website name might not always happen. Because brands are tied to website names, creating a new website on a new web domain is not the right solution. To prevent competition loss, you must take website security seriously.
10 essential steps to improve your website security
The ten steps to improving your website security are listed below.
1. Updated plugin and software
Software vendors regularly rearguard their software with patches. The patches are quick fixes for potential malware. When a new type of malware emerges, software vendors release new patches. The laptop, PDA, or desktop user updates the security patches.
If not updated, then the outdated software poses risks. Malware can gain entry through the loopholes in the software. You should only purchase plugins from verified and trusted vendors.
Plugins possess more potential to infect malware than outdated software. It is best not to use public plugins and instead use custom plugins built for specific use cases by corporations.
2. HTTPS and SSL
HTTPS is a technology that provides security through encryption, data integrity, and authentication. The technology uses asymmetric key encryption and certificates to verify the client to the server and vice-versa.
Using HTTPS ensures that all traffic between the client and server is encrypted. The traffic cannot be eavesdropped on because only the intended recipients receive the information. All websites must use HTTPS.
Although certain certificate authorities are issuing free certificates, it is best to get certificates from a reliable certificate authority. It may cost some money now, but the investment is worth it.
There are some best practices when it comes to selecting a password. Generally, it is considered unwise to choose the same password for all of a person’s accounts. Using different passwords for different accounts is an excellent way to reduce the attack surface.
A password should not be guessable. It should be random, an alphanumeric combination, and have special characters. Guessable passwords can be cracked using brute force algorithms of automated hacking robots.
It is also very susceptible to using one’s name in the password. Also, it would help if you changed passwords frequently. Once every three months is the recommended frequency.
4. Secure web host
The web hosting provider should be able to provide automatic security updates. The company should have senior administrators knowledgeable in troubleshooting and web security. Check on how frequently they update their server software.
The web host should provide SSL. Some web hosts give it free, and some levy a small charge. If a customer has multiple domains, then each domain should have SSL. The web host must also have an automatic backup and recovery plan.
The backups have to be done periodically and must not disrupt the availability and functioning of the website or web application.
5. Scan the website for vulnerabilities
Use an automated scanner to check for vulnerabilities on the website. The scanner will analyze all configuration files, webpages, and other web files. The web host gives the scanner.
The customer can use their scanner, but it has to be approved by the web host. The website scanner lists all the vulnerabilities on the website. These could be at the code, web configuration file, or network levels.
Fixing these issues is to get a website built by a website development vendor that understands web security. Scanning a website is a constant activity. Its frequency should be higher.
6. Web firewall
A web firewall or web application firewall (WAF) filters traffic entering a network. A firewall is a software program that runs on a hardware device like a gateway router. The firewall filters traffic after inspecting the data packets. Using a good firewall helps keep a balance between security and performance.
A poorly configured firewall can stifle performance by over-analysis or let in malicious traffic through weak rules. Check with the web host on their firewall policies. Understand the web host’s firewall policy versus one’s business’s firewall policy.
Check if the web host can tweak the firewall policy specifically for specific situations, traffic conditions, times of the day, etc.
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7. Secure authentication
Although strong passwords are the primary means of authentication, they are not enough. An organization should have a zero-trust policy in this matter. It means that a website should use different ways of authentication.
Multifactor authentication and password-less authentication are the most popular ones currently. In multifactor authentication, the user should log in using a combination of passwords, biometrics, or a phone app.
The phone app will be installed only after the user validates their authenticity. So, the phone app cannot be installed by a scammer. But it is another thing if the scammer can access the victim’s phone.
8. Identify management and access control
IAM (Identity management and access control) is one of the ways how website security is implemented. It is a framework that not only corporations but web hosts can use. IAM is delivered as a service by major cloud service providers.
The web host can use any of these, depending on their customer’s web security requirements. In IAM, user access is bracketed into administrative rights.
So, when a person visits a website and logins, they are given administrative rights depending on their role. Users can perform only those actions on the website per their administrative rights.
9. Educate users
User education is one of the best ways to improve website security. Otherwise, it will be a chase-run-chase situation because the web host cannot keep implementing security policies to fend off the user’s lousy website usage habits.
User education is about informing users of the risks of downloading files from unverified sites. It would be best to educate them on how hackers compromise information using sophisticated techniques such as phishing, protection against SQL injection, an article covering fraud rings, impersonation, etc.
10. Hire a network security expert
There are many things that the web host may not be aware of. There could be dozens of other network security techniques that the website owner might not know. Hiring a network security expert solves this problem. The network security expert has the tools and techniques to implement the latest web security technologies effectively.
Website security is not an option. The dangers out there are for real. With so many hackers lurking in the dark, they are all looking for an entry. Denying them that entry is one’s fundamental right.