Creating a website out of nothing used to require a lot of time, effort, as well as a fair bit of knowledge. However, as the internet matured, it became really easy to create a new website using pre-designed templates, and simply use features such as drag-and-drop to put every detail exactly where you want it to be. As a result, creating a website right now it quite easy and quick. But, once you get your website up and running, you need to make sure that it will remain secure. Which brings us to the tips included in this guide that’ll help you secure your website and protect it from possible breaches.
Steps to Keep Your Website Secure
There are all kinds of dangers out there, and having your work destroyed and deleted by a bored hacker is one of the worst things that you could experience. Luckily, there are steps that you can make to secure your site properly; certain precautions that will ensure that nothing bad happens to it.
Of course, it all depends on how much you are willing to invest in protecting your site. But, many of the things you could do rely on common sense and some healthy habits, rather than on expensive software.
To help you out, we will go through a number of tips that we can recommend for securing your website and preventing data breaches. Also, don’t think that you won’t be interesting to hackers just because you own a small business website or even a blog. Hackers do not discriminate, and everyone is a valid target, big or small.
Use CMS Security Plugins
Let’s start with the obvious and the easiest to secure your website. A lot of site owners choose to build their websites by using CMS (Content Management System).
This is a system that allows you to modify and manage digital content on your website, and organize it in any way you see fit. CMS is very popular these days, as it is highly effective, easy to use, and inexpensive.
There are several different ones, and they have become quite popular over the years, as mentioned. They are quite rewarding thanks to numerous features, and hundreds, if not thousands, of plugins.
Well, while most of those plugins provide cool features that make your website interesting. Some of them revolve around security, meaning that they will make your website safer and more resistant to online threats. Of course, it depends on which CMS you used, or plan on using. Here are some of the most popular security plugins for different CMS’.
WordPress is undoubtedly the most popular platform for website development in the world. It allows you to quickly and easily create and manage your website, and it claims that it powers 34% of the global internet, followed by Joomla, which is number 2 on our list.
Below you’ll find top WordPress Plugins you can use for better website security:
- fail2Ban — 40,000+ active installations
- Sucuri — 600,000+ active installations
- Bulletproof Security — 70,000+ active installations
- Wordfence — 3 million+ active installations
- iThemes Security — 900,000+ active installations
Back in 2017, more than 67000 websites were compromised within two weeks. The main reason for that was a bug in the REST API endpoint, which allowed any hacker to alter a website’s content. WordPress then rolled out 4.7.2, and the bug ceased to exist. Even the top platforms are susceptible to breaches, but at least they do something about it.
Joomla! is another highly-popular, award-winning CMS that is used by many developers to build websites and powerful applications. It powers over 2 million websites; it offers over 10,000 extensions and templates, and numbers 107 million downloads. You can learn more about how to secure Joomla by checking out our security guide for this CMS.
- RSFirewall — undisclosed
- JHackGuard — undisclosed
- Antivirus Website Protection — undisclosed
- jomDefender — undisclosed
Joomla is a great way to help you get up to speed fast and develop websites, applications, templates, or extensions. As I mentioned, the platform is pretty popular, with over 2 million websites – 9% are known business websites.
Magento is a perfect solution for eCommerce website creation, which uses next-generation technology and a global partner ecosystem to allow you to create the ultimate eCommerce site. Over 250,000 websites use it, and it claims to power around 1.2% of the internet. If you wish to learn more about how to secure Magento, read up on our top tips that will help you make your website safe.
While each of these platforms has its strengths, they also have security flaws that need to be addressed. These plugins can make sure that it is done properly, and that your website will be more capable of resisting most hacking attacks.
In addition to these plugins — each of which is specific to a different CMS — you could also consider using SiteLock, which is a great security measure that can typically close most security loopholes on your website. It can also detect malware, identify new vulnerabilities, scan for viruses, and more.
Update Your Software
While protecting your website with different plugins is important and helpful, you must also keep in mind that the software you are using might be full of undiscovered vulnerabilities.
This type of software is always being improved and upgraded. Sometimes, it brings new features. Other times, it patches newly-discovered bugs and security flaws.
In other words, it is important to keep your platform and software up to date, as each new update might carry patches for crucial security flaws.
Some examples of software that requires regular updates include:
- PHP — Hypertext Preprocessor — an open-source, general-purpose scripting language used for development
- Apache Web Server — Free, popular, open-source web server that powers nearly half the websites on the internet
If you don’t, hackers might find those flaws and try to access your website through them. With the majority of plugins and apps being open source, it is rather simple for them to get to the software’s code and study it. A professional hacker can then easily detect any vulnerabilities, and act upon them. This doesn’t only include plugins and apps, but even the CMS’ themselves.
Of course, software updating also depends on the type of server you use. If you are using a managed server, which is considered to be mostly a regular option, then most software updates are done by the manager.
However, if you are using an unmanaged server, that means that you act as its manager. That also implies that you are responsible for updating software and ensuring that the new updates are implemented as soon as they are delivered by the software developers.
However, if you do use managed servers, you need to make sure that you chose a proper hosting company — one that will be responsible when it comes to software updates, and that will make sure that they are always up to date.
Set Up Secure Passwords
Passwords have been the main obstacle to hackers, and the main security feature even before the internet was invented. They remain every bit as important today, and one of the best ways to secure your website is to make sure that you are using strong passwords that are impossible to guess randomly.
That means that your password needs to be difficult to guess or predict, and the more complex it is — the better. You can use tools that go by the name of Password Generators. The software will come up with a password that includes symbols, numbers, and capital letters, if necessary.
Of course, there is a problem with setting up long passwords that are random and impossible to guess, and that is that you might forget it. Misplacing a single character can result in you being locked out of your own website.
This is why you must find a secure way to safely store your passwords. Of course, you could always write them down on a piece of paper. However, a more modern solution would be to use a password manager — an app/extension which can remember all of your passwords for you.
Most of the password managers can automatically fill your login credentials or save them as you create new accounts. They can also help you generate new, random passwords that a human mind could never guess.
The golden rule — never reuse your passwords. You must always use a different password for different websites. It would also be a good idea to change them regularly, and never put an old one for the second time.
Finally, you should also enable dual authentication (a.k.a. Two-Factor authentication, or 2FA). This will additionally secure your accounts, and you will be notified by the website if someone tries to access your account from an unrecognized device.
You may have noticed that, at some point, the HTTP in your browser’s address bar became HTTPS for most websites. This is a shift that makes your connection to a website encrypted and more secure.
In other words, if the website you are on uses HTTPS, then it is safe to share sensitive information with it. At least, it is safer from online entities that might be out to steal such sensitive data while it is being imported into websites.
This is called SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate, and it has grown to become a standard security technology.
Google even pushed a security update that warns the user if they are on a website that doesn’t use SSL, meaning that, if you don’t implement it on your website — you might get some bad reputation and lose potential visitors to your website.
Now, SSL won’t solve all of your security problems and eliminate the danger completely. No current technology can do that. However, it can solve a portion of them, which is good enough. Further, using SSL might actually let you get more customers, as search engines might recommend your website more. Security is a big thing today, so keep that in mind if you want people to trust your brand.
Do Regular Backups
Just as it is extremely important to always keep your software updated, it is also very important to keep your website information backed up. There is always a possibility that some hacker might find a way into your website, or that they might affect the server you are using.
They might hit you with different attacks that might damage your files, crash your website completely, or ruin your business in a number of different ways.
Basically, there will be risks even if you follow every suggestion I give you and more. So, why not secure your data and prevent it from being lost forever simply by ensuring that your website is fully backed at all times?
Data breaches can be damaging, and even if not — they are difficult to deal with. There is always the possibility that you might use all of your data, and have your website completely ruined.
If that happens, you will be glad to have a backup you can rely on, and simply recover everything just the way it used to be. It is much faster and easier to do regular backups than to have to rebuild your website from scratch in case something unfortunate happens to it.
Besides, you don’t have to manually backup your site, as you can set automatic backups. That way, you won’t have to think about it and remember to do it yourself — the system will do everything for you.
Don’t Host All of Your Sites on a Single Server
You could be forgiven for thinking that hosting multiple websites on a single server is efficient and practical, and if you have an unlimited web hosting plan, it might be. However, from a security point of view, it is anything but safe. In fact, it is one of the worst things you could do.
The first thing you need to be aware of is that all of your websites can be compromised if only one of them has a bad plugin or some other security flaw. If one website gets compromised, hackers could proceed to the server itself and infect, hijack, or destroy every other site on that server. This is known as cross-site contamination, and it is actually quite common.
This also makes the cleanup process a lot more complicated, as the infected websites can keep infecting the one you have just cleaned, causing an endless loop of cleaning and infecting.
You will also have to reset every single password on every single website, and the problems will just keep piling up. It is much easier to simply host different websites on different servers, and avoid such problems completely.
Be Careful When Allowing File Uploads
Depending on what kind of website you are running, you might be tempted to allow file uploads on your site. In fact, it might even be a necessity in order to have proper interaction and increase activity on your site.
However, when any visitor has the ability to upload anything they want — it is easy for bad actors to misuse this ability and upload a malicious file.
If such a file happens to overwrite a file crucial for running your website, it could easily crash, get infected, or have sensitive data stolen. The obvious solution is to not allow file uploads at all if it can be done. If this applies to you, simply do that, and you are done with this issue.
However, as mentioned, this might not be a valid option for everyone and depending on the type of website you are running, you might have to let your users upload stuff to your site. This applies to healthcare websites or businesses that deal with accounting, where your customers have to provide documents and other types of files.
If this is the case, there is a solution, and it simply revolves around you taking some necessary precautions. Here is what you need to do:
- Make a list of allowed file extensions
- Scan files for malicious content
- Make sure that your upload folder is located out of the webroot
- Decide on the maximum file size (depends on the type of files you are expecting)
- Rename files automatically (that way, hackers won’t be able to re-access it since it will be under a different name)
- Verify the type of uploaded files
Run CSF on Control Panels
One other suggestion would be for you to install a control panel such as cPanel, and run a CSF. CSF stands for ConfigServe Firewall, which is — as the name suggests — a type of firewall configuration script that can increase the security of a server. You can configure it in a way that will allow you to manage your firewall in a more easier manner.
Furthermore, CSFs are a great way to limit the level of access that your website’s visitors will have to a certain service. You can use it to block IP addresses, check on emails, and increase the security of your website by limiting those who might wish to harm it.
This is an advanced solution that can provide you with a number of beneficial features. It might be a more complicated thing to pull off, and it will require some technical knowledge. However, it’s definitely doable.
If you want to enhance your website’s security, you can also use one of the most effective methods in the world, Cloudflare. It’s one of the most popular online networks dedicated to not only secure your website but to also boost its performance.
Have you ever heard of a DDoS attack? It’s short for Distributed-Denial-of Service, an extremely damaging attack where the hacker infects your device and forces it to bombard your website with information requests.
With so many requests, your website will no longer be able to handle these requests anymore. Eventually, your site will crash and in some cases, the servers will be damaged permanently. Below, you’ll find some of the attacks Cloudfare can fend off:
- Web software vulnerabilities
- SQL injections
- Spam comments
- Cross-site attacks
Cloudflare has enough resources to let you handle such attacks. So, it’s an extra step you should take if you want to protect your website. Well, you’ll be joining the safety community as Cloudflare is used on over 12 million websites, adding approximately 20,000 new customers every day. That was the number back in 2017; now, the number has skyrocketed.
Secure Your Website – Conclusion
Protecting your website is crucial in this age of cyber warfare, where hackers and security researchers remain in a constant battle to outperform the other side. You, as a website owner, as well as your website’s users, are, unfortunately, right in the middle of it. However, there are precautions that you can take that could help you increase your site’s (and your visitors’) safety.
Doing the things on our list will certainly help you increase your odds of fending off a hacking attack, which is ultimately the best you can hope for. If you play your cards smart, your business can thrive and avoid being caught up in hacking incidents.
However, to do so, you must be aware of all the potential dangers and take proper steps to ensure that they won’t damage your website, or permanently disrupt your business. Do you have additional tips? Please drop them below.