Website Security – Everything You Need To Know To Secure and Protect Your Website

Websites can have many purposes, they are powerful tools to bring our product and services to our customers to serve them.

When customers place trust in our services, the best way to honor that trust is to maintain websites secure so they can have peace of mind when visiting our pages and enjoy our content.

Would you like visiting websites knowing the owner and the webmaster are doing all they can to protect it? I definitely do!

Attacks against websites are happening on a daily basis around the world and anyone could become a victim of a website attack.

What is website security?

Website security refers to the ongoing processes and actions you take to secure your personal or business website from cyber attacks and Cybermonsters. I’m going to daresay that your website security can be as important as the purpose of your website itself.

Think about it: If you have a hacked or breached website, your reputation, your services, your legal and financial wellbeing, your customer’s data and your business in general can be negatively affected.

What are the 4 most common website threats?

Attacks against websites happen in many different ways and for many different purposes. The top four common threats to any website in no particular order are:

Website Malware Attack 

The first type of website threat we are covering is called a website malware attack.  Malware or malicious software is developed to affect your website in many different ways and the purpose varies depending on the intention of the cyber criminals. 

A common type of website malware includes credit card stealers which target the financial information of customers or visitors (credit card number, name, address, etc.) when purchasing products or services.   

A different type of website malware may target login credentials (user and password) with the purpose of accessing and stealing the website data or to modify the website content. 

Website malware could place infected ads or services because Cybermonsters take advantage of legitimate websites to carry out their cyber attacks..

My client’s employee’s computer was affected by ransomware in a matter of seconds. The employee was browsing through a website, unaware the site had infected ads with malware.  This is known as a malvertising attack.   

Another common method Cybermonsters use to distribute malware is using spam. They could simply comment on your latest article or blog post and add an infected link!

Using bots is one of the preferred methods used in this type of attack, because  they can target many websites at the same time.

If you or any of your website visitors were to click on one of these malicious links, malware will be installed, which can take full control of your website. 

Clicking an infected link could also redirect your web visitors to a different site where they can be victims of an attack. This technique could be considered another type of phishing.

Furthermore, if malicious code gets installed on your website, it could alter the way your website operates, change your content, and insert pornography or inapropiate information with the intention to promote illegal activities or to simply ruin your website operation. 

Even if the spam you receive doesn’t include infected links, it won’t look good on your website, because it may discourage your readers from engaging with your content or even using the comment section to give you feedback.

You may get penalized by search engines, which affects your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking. This means that your prospect customers or potential readers won’t find you when they search for the products or services you offer.  

In summary, malware is detrimental to your website and to your web visitors and it can rapidly damage your reputation and your business.

A simple step you can take is to make sure your web maintenance professional has turned on comment moderation and installed a tool that prevents spam comments.

 Injection Attacks

Injection attacks are specific to database-driven websites, so while you may not understand these terms, you can take action by communicating your concerns to your web developer or webmaster.

Injection attacks are also known as a SQL injection or SQLi. In this type of attack, a Cybermonster tries to execute malicious database commands with the intention to manipulate and bypass your application security measures.

The reason they want to go through all this trouble is to simply get access to your sensitive data or personal customer information. 

SQL injections have been occurring for years and the main reasons why they still happen is because of vulnerabilities and outdated software, especially in database software. 

Your database information is valuable to Cybermonsters because it often includes your critical business information and your customer data.

 DDoS Attacks

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. DDoS attacks generally happen to websites or cloud services and applications. 

For example, your internet service provider, your web hosting or domain providers are often victims of this type of attack because it can impact a large number of customers at the same time.

In this type of attack, a cybercriminal overloads your website by sending large amounts of unwanted traffic that simply collapses your website operation, because your website is suddenly down.

This situation can cause loss of customers because your web visitors will get an error when they visit. It will cause loss of revenue because your website won’t be able to process any transactions, and it could ruin your business operation.

3 simple ways to prevent DDoS attacks: 

  • Be present and alert before clicking on links.
  • Establish a protocol to maintain your website and backups updated. 
  • Ask your webmaster to validate how your hosting provider is protecting your website against DDoS attacks. Together, you may consider implementing a Content Distribution Network (CDN) that can provide a copy of your website across different locations around the world.   

Brute Force Attack

Cybercriminals use a trial-and-error approach to find a weak password or your login information, or find hidden pages in your site. 

When you or your webmaster use simple words or common phrases for your website password, it is easier for hackers to break into your website. They try all the possibilities using  words found in the dictionary or the databases from public data breaches. 

One popular brute force attack tool to crack passwords is known as “John the Ripper,” and although this is really scary, you can take one step right now to protect your website:

I encourage you to create a password that has meaning to you and it isn’t easily guessable or that doesn’t incorporate your personal public information. Read my post about passwords, where I break it down for you in a simple and easy way!

What are the common myths of website security?

Knowing, reflecting and taking action can be the difference to react timely in case of an incident on your website. 

In order to take the right action, you must know the five common myths about securing your website.  

Let’s dive in!

My website and business are too small to be hacked

Big corporations, financial institutions, and famous people are not the only targets of website hacks. 

Cybermonsters hack websites for many reasons, some of which can be: 

to simply disrupt your services, 

to monetize by selling your information, 

to use your website as bait for further cyber attacks to your visitors, 

and many other purposes. 

Because cybercriminals like easy prey, many website attacks happen as a result of scanning for common vulnerabilities when security flaws are not addressed. 

This is good news, because when you take just a few, simple and easy security measures that an affordable web plan can cover, your website is many times less likely to get hacked. 

Insecure websites are okay if people only visit them for a short time

You don’t have to spend countless hours on a website for your information to be compromised.

However, you can easily protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft or cybercrime simply by noticing when you navigate a website and whether that site is safe. With that being said, securing your website is something you can do to protect your customers.

When the browser bar (URL bar) indicates the site someone is visiting is “insecure,” this means that the site doesn’t have a security SSL (secure socket layer). 

SSL is a security protocol for website transactions.This is an important feature, especially if someone is entering credit card information or user and password credentials. 

If a site doesn’t have HTTPS or a padlock symbol it means a Cybermonster can easily grab the information someone is typing.  

I recommend you steer away from insecure sites and, of course, if your website doesn’t have a proper SSL certificate in place, make sure  you contact your hosting provider or web maintenance professional to activate one.

An SSL certificate is all I need for website security

SSL certificates protect the data that is being transmitted from and to your website. 

When your visitors see that you care about their security, it gives them peace of mind. 

If you have an SSL certificate, congratulations for taking such an important step to secure your website!

Now that you’ve crossed that out, remember that SSL won’t protect you from spam, malware, malicious activity, password compromises, unauthorized access, DDoS attacks or any other type of cyber attack, and use my recommendations to safeguard you from those threats.

Thankfully, a hack on my site won’t affect my customers

Many people believe that they don’t have customer data on their website, so even though they care about their customers, they don’t think it will affect them.

The truth is that, if Cybermonsters were to take control of a website, they could manipulate it by adding illegal or inappropriate content or duplicating it. 

When cyber criminals copy a website, they may add a letter or a dash at the end or strange characters so it looks like a legitimate website asking for your user and password.  

Customers could be directly impacted and the cybercriminals will steal their login credentials or any other information they collect from them.

When you secure your website, you are protecting your customers, too! It’s a win-win.

If someone breaks into my website, I just need to restore my backup

Having a backup is a smart idea. In fact, I suggest having a robust backup solution including daily, weekly and monthly backup service outside of your web host to help your company’s ability to recover in a more timely manner.

The loss of data, time and effort may still hurt your business significantly, and the effectiveness of your backup will depend upon the damage done to your website and that the backup itself has not been affected by the attack, so preventing a hack is still the best way to go. 

What are the simple ways to improve website security?

Website security or any cybersecurity or cyber safety practices require more than just a one-time done activity. It is a continuous process, but they don’t have to be hard or take hours of your time. 

Cyber practices that are ingrained in your business or that are core into your personal routines are most effective to keep your information safe. 

Below are 3 best practices to incorporate:

1 – Plan it

Your calendar is an incredible cyber security tool that allows you to systematically keep your technology optimized. 

When your Standard of Procedures includes routine activities such as installing security patches, fixing critical vulnerabilities, keeping up with updates of your website, plugins, and applications, your team is  reducing the chances that Cybermonsters target your website and thus, you are keeping your customers safe. 

Scheduling and testing your backups regularly is a big step to maintain the security of your website. 

I invite you to encourage  your team to get this habit in place for at least 3 months and notice how everything starts to flow with ease, and as a bonus your website performance will improve. 

2 – Secure it

One of the best ways to protect your website and anything else that matters to you is to simply change the default passwords, use a strong password and incorporate two-factor authentication which means you are using a multi-factor authentication or validation code when you login into your website. 

Make sure your webmaster is limiting who is an administrator in your website and customizing access levels to prevent misuse of your website accounts and protect your data.

They should also validate unused applications, themes or plug-ins and remove them. 

There are additional security tools that provide further security benefits such as malware scanners, firewalls and monitoring services that they might consider if your budget allows.

3 – Assess it

Health security assessments can help you to proactively identify what areas of improvements are needed in your website. 

There are some free scanning tools available from major cybersecurity firms that could be a great first step to check your site. 

I have personally used the SSL Server Test from Qualys that validates your SSL (secure sockets layer) certificates and identifies potential vulnerabilities that Cybermonsters can take advantage of. 

Qualys security scans give you a score grade and recommendations for your web team to implement. 

Additional resources for vulnerability scanning tools are available at OWASP.org. OWASP is the Open Web Application Security Project, and they are an open source community with a mission to improve  the security of software listing an industry standard for developers and web application security.

I am so grateful for my website and my amazing team for all they do to keep your information safe and for helping bring the best content to you. I also love that the website aligns with my mission and purpose to empower women to take charge of their cyber safety and live Happily Ever Cyber!

What is one action you can commit to today in order to protect your website security?

Share it below!

Live Happily Ever Cyber!

Sandra Estok, CEO and Founder of Way2Protect | Happily Ever Cyber!

Sandra Estok

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