In recent years, building an online presence has become easy because of various tools. Thanks to content management systems like Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal, managing content has become simpler too. However, several issues can come with even with the best-planned websites and one of them is security. While several website owners concentrate too much on what their websites do, they forget about keeping them safe. As a result, knowing how you can secure your website is crucial if you want to protect your interests as well as those of its visitors.
Going through these tips to improve website security will help you keep your website secure from people with unlawful or nefarious intentions.
Table Of Contents
Carry Out Regular Updates
If you’re wondering how to secure your website from hackers, one cannot emphasize the importance of carrying out regular updates enough. One of the main reasons why most websites get hacked is because they still use outdated software that is unsecured. As soon as a new plugin or content management system (CMS) version is available, you should update your website.
Bear in mind that automation has made its way into the world of hacking. This means bots scan through scores of websites constantly to find loopholes that make them susceptible. You should ideally use notification apps that inform you when new updates become available. This way, you can be sure that your website will not be vulnerable because of the software in use.
Keep Scanning for Potential Vulnerabilities
Scanning your website regularly gives you the means to identify and fix lapses in security before they cause damage. While this helps safeguard your interests, it also gives your website’s users a secure browsing experience. Some website owners carry out vulnerability scanning annually, and there are others who prefer following a quarterly approach. Some even rely on performing continuous scans to ensure that there’s little to no room for error.
Ideally, you should determine what schedule works best for you based on your specific requirements, and carrying out a scan after changing or adding elements is ideal. If you’re wondering how to improve your website security for free, know that while a number of online tools offer fee-free website security checks, there’s a good chance you’ll need to spend some money to address all the aspects that need your attention. Besides, free tools often fail to detect all the vulnerabilities.
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Use Secure Passwords
Most website owners have passwords that are not particularly safe. For example, using “admin” as your username and password is pretty much a recipe for disaster. If you have a password that appears on the list of the most common passwords, there’s a good chance it will fall prey to a hacker. Why then, would you want to expose your website to the risk?
It is important to have a password that does not relate to anything about you such as your birthday, anniversary, or any other personal information. The best option is to get randomly generated passwords because they are difficult for hackers to crack.
Make sure you do not use the same password on different websites. If one is cracked, a hacker might try to use the same password with other accounts. Given that an average web user has around 100 passwords, it’s fair to wonder how to remember all of them. Well, you don’t have to because there are several password management tools that can handle this for you.
Provide Limited User Access
Often, a website has different users logging in to work on the back end. These users should have appropriate permissions to access different areas. If there is a need, you can give a user access momentarily and then withdraw it after the completion of a given task. For instance, if you want bloggers to add guest posts, you can give them access without administrative privileges. You may check logs to view the activities of users when they remain logged in the system. This can help you monitor any type of suspicious activity on your website.
Change CMS Settings
A significant number of web attacks take the automation route and some depend on weaknesses in default settings. Hackers know these settings and create bots that can manipulate your website based on this aspect. To be on the safe side, you should change the default settings as soon as you install your CMS. It is easy to change the settings during the installation process, although you can do this at a later stage too.
Companies that provide different types of website security services understand that they need to keep content and data safe from people with criminal intentions as well as catastrophic events. Any such occurrence can take everything with it, which is why backups exist. You might not see the need for backing up everything but when something happens, you will thank yourself for taking precautionary measures.
What helps is that there are a number of effective backup solutions that webmasters may use. While it is important to have website backups, you should not risk it all by storing your backup on your primary web server. This is because your backups will contain information that you do not want hackers to access.
Check Server Configuration Files
To improve website security, it is important to understand web server configuration files. For instance, Microsoft IIS servers use web.config, Nginx servers use nginx.conf, and Apache web servers use .htaccess. These files are very important and powerful, and you typically find them in the root web directory.
Server configuration files allow web owners to execute rules by servers, including the directives that upgrade your website’s security. Some of the rules that help in improving your security include thwarting directory browsing, preventing image hotlinking, and protecting sensitive files.
Use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificates
There are many online posts that claim Secure Socket Layer (SSL) installation will solve all your web security problems. However, this is not entirely true because SSL cannot prevent malicious attacks, it can only protect communication between a website server and a browser. SSL, on its part, ensures that there is no interception of traffic at this stage, which is important from a security point of view.
SSL plays an important role in eCommerce websites and other sites that involve the submission of sensitive information such as bank account details and personally identifiable information (PII). An SSL certificate will protect your visitors’ information, which, in turn, will safeguard you from all the legal issues attached to being non-compliant with PCI DSS.
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Switch to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS)
If your website still relies on Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), it’s about time you make the switch to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), especially if you want to provide a secure browsing environment. This is because the latter encrypts normal HTTP requests and responses by using Transport Layer Security (TLS)/Secure Socket Layer (SSL). The technology ensures that no interception or interruption takes place during the transfer of information.
Any website that requires its users to provide any type of personal information should use HTTPS. This is because your website’s visitors will be more at ease knowing that your website has an encrypted connection if they need to sign up, request a callback, or carry out any type of transaction.
Not surprisingly, Google’s ranking metrics now account for SSL certificates and HTTPS, so ensuring that your website complies with these requirements works well for search engine optimization (SEO) as well. Besides, if you don’t offer a secure browsing experience to your target audience, it might simply head to a competitor’s website.
Use File Permissions
File permissions determine who can do what to a certain file. Each file has three basic permissions that come in the form numbers.
- Read (4) which allows viewing of content
- Write (2) which allows changing of content
- Execute (1) which allows the running of a script or program file
If you want users to have permissions for different elements, you may simply add the numbers. For instance, six (6) implies that a user has read and write permissions.
Rely on Two-Factor Authentication
One of the best tips to improve website security for website owners who wish to safeguard their most vulnerable information/networks is to turn to two-factor authentication (2FA). This is because 2FA minimizes the possibility of cybercriminals accessing, stealing, or destroying any type of information linked to your website.
Not needing to use hardware token generators works in the favor of 2FA, given that websites can call or text mobile devices so users may complete the process in an easy manner. Since websites with 2FA require users to enter their passwords and then authenticate themselves using another method, having access to someone’s password alone cannot give a hacker access to your website.
Maintain a Clean Website
Hackers can use just about every plugin, application, or database that’s part of your website to gain access to it and wreak havoc. As a result, make sure you delete elements your website no longer uses, be it files or entire databases. Maintaining an organized website structure can help you track changes in an easy manner, and it also simplifies identifying and deleting old files. Deleting old content comes with an added benefit. This is because your website’s users might view outdated content as a sign of unprofessionalism, and then look elsewhere.
Get Reliable Web Hosting
When looking at different website security services, choosing a reputable and reliable web hosting company is crucial. The one you select should provide a secure hosting environment, it should devote enough resources to keep your website safe, and it should be aware of the latest threats doing rounds. Your host should ideally backup your website’s data on a remote server, as this simplifies restoring it if the need arises. The web hosting company you partner with should also be able to provide ongoing technical support.
Other aspects that need your consideration in selecting a suitable website support and hosting company include:
- The use of Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)
- Protection against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks
- Enabling or disabling anonymous FTP access
- Use of rootkit scanners
- Regular security upgrades (up-to-date security patches)
Use an Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS)
An intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS) helps in detecting and preventing web attacks. It works by monitoring network traffic and looking out for malicious activity or violations of policy. Upon detecting any such activity, it sends alerts, either to a centralized system or a pre-assigned administrator.
Depending on the type of website you run and its requirements, you may choose a network- or host-based IDPS. You need to install a network-based system on your network at places like servers or routers, whereas the installation of a host-based system takes place on a server or a computer that functions as a host. While both have the capabilities to stop online attacks, they come with their share of advantages and disadvantages.
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Use the Services of Web Security Experts
Much like the need to create a professional web presence for online growth, you need to ensure that your website checks all the boxes when it comes to security. If you don’t have the required technical knowledge or enough time to devote to the process, turning to the experts is in your best interest.
Bear in mind that you need to worry about website security not only because of the exponential rise in risks, but also to build customer trust. When you partner with a company that specializes in this realm, you may expect it to carry out in-depth website audits, run vulnerability tests, and quickly address any existing or potential threat.
Now that you’ve gone through the tips to improve website security, you should have a fair indication of what you need to do to make and keep your website safe in the long run. While you stand to benefit from implementing the right measures, doing so also gives visitors the confidence they need to trust and freely use your website. If you’re unsure about any aspect or are not sure if you can handle your website’s security on your own, consider partnering with a digital agency that specializes in this field.