Cybercrime is currently the greatest threat to website owners and businesses across the globe. There is hardly a day that goes by when you don’t hear of a data breach or a site getting hacked.
According to a 2019 website threat research study, a hacker attack occurs every 39 seconds. This means that every minute, your website is vulnerable to an attack and you are on the verge of losing your visitor's sensitive details, website data, and more.
As such, you have to take appropriate measures to ensure that your website is secure from cyber-attacks. You should, however, note that website security is not a set-it-and-forge-it solution but rather a continuous and systematic process.
So, how can you boost your website’s security? Here are 5 easy steps you can implement.
1. Choose a Secure and Reliable Hosting Provider
Your hosting server is your first line of defense against hacking. While most hosting providers try so hard to give great services, only a limited number have reliable options when it comes to securing the server itself let alone websites.
With that in mind, you should be overly cautious when choosing a hosting service provider. Go for a host that you can trust with your business. Take your time and figure out what your site needs. Shop around for reviews, prices, and reputations before making a choice.
In most cases, a reputable web hosting company will have features such as a powerful data center, advanced technologies, quality software, and hardware.
In addition to that, they’ll offer site backups, dedicated VPS servers, advanced SEO tools, and reliable customer support that you can reach out to in case you detect a threat.
If you are not sure about which web hosting company is good for your site, a good place to start would be Bluehost or Wix. Both companies provide a reliable all-in-one web hosting and web-building solution. You can read an in-depth Bluehost vs. Wix comparison on MamboServer.
2. Switch to HTTPS
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is an advanced and secure version of HTTP used to transfer data between a web server and a website.
For you to move your site from HTTP protocol to HTTPS, you must install an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. Think of it as adding a protective wall. HTTPS allows the safe exchange of data over a secure connection.
If you accept payments through your website or collect user information such as emails, an SSL certificate is a mandatory feature. It helps secure online transactions, and protect customers against data tampering and phishing.
Websites with no SSL certificates are vulnerable to espionage actions since they lack web security. And with browsers such as Google Chrome marking all HTTP sites as insecure, they are likely to have very little traffic.
Another SSL benefit is the improvement in search engine rankings. This is in line with Google’s recent updates that require sites to implement SSL/TLS to encrypt website traffic. Sites encrypted with SSL will see a boost in search rankings.
There are various ways you can install an SSL certificate. You can purchase from your hosting provider (such as Bluehost) or an approved vendor. You can also get a free one. However, the free ones have their limitations.
3. Keep your website up-to-date
While keeping up with updates can be tedious, it’s your responsibility to ensure that every piece of software you run on your site is up to date.
If you use a website builder such as Wix, you need not worry about updates. The Wix technical team handles them for you and deploys them automatically to your website. If you are not technically savvy, this would be a real catch.
However, if you are using WordPress CMS, you need to be on top of your game. You need to update the WordPress core software, themes, plugins, extensions, shopping carts, applications, and templates. Failure to install the updates on time could render your site vulnerable to security glitches or bugs.
Note that most cybercriminals use automated bots to scan vulnerable websites. So, if you need to be very vigilant. The good news, however, is that you can set this updates to show automatically on your WordPress dashboard.
Some web-hosting providers, such as Bluehost through their WordPress plans offer daily automatic updates. It’s also a similar case with some reputable plugin and theme developers.
4. Build security layers around your website
The same way you lock the doors and windows then activate the alarm system before leaving your premises, your website should have a centralized system that protects your website from external attacks.
A web application firewall (WAF), is that system that shields your site from common attacks. It protects your site from SQL injections, cookie poisoning, cross-site scripting (XSS), brute force attacks, and other OWASP web application security risks.
A web application firewall works by monitoring, weeding out, and blocking bad HTTP/HTTPS traffic from accessing your site. It uses a set of rules also referred to as policies. These rules protect against the above-mentioned vulnerabilities.
Note, however, that WAF is a protocol layer 7 defense. So, it cannot protect your website from all types of attacks. Nevertheless, it is a holistic defense suite that plays a crucial part in mitigating DDoS attacks as well as boosting your site’s speed.
There are two versions of WAF technologies. The application-level firewall and the server-side firewall. The application-level WAF only protects your site but not on your server. The server-side WAF, on the other hand, acts as the first line of defense between your server and the traffic.
5. Use strong passwords
Your passwords are the keys to your kingdom. The last thing you want is for someone else with un-authorized access snooping around your kingdom. But with brute force attacks rising every day, it’s time to rethink how to keep hackers at bay.
For starters, avoid dictionary form passwords as they are quite obvious. Instead, use strong, and long passwords with a mix of characters. If possible, up to 15 characters. Also, avoid sequential keyword paths (QWERTY) or usual substitutions (DOORBELL or D00R8377).
Some more safety precautions that you should take include: enabling two-step verification, changing your passwords regularly, and keeping your users’ passwords in an encrypted form.
Like the old famous adage goes “an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” However, this is not realistic, at least when it comes to web security.
You need to ensure that your website is safe all the time. Imagine waking up one day, only to find out that your site has been hacked. What would you do?
The lost website data, wasted SEO efforts, and the blacklisting by Google. Imagine how much time and money it would take you to revive your site again.
Luckily, if you implement the above measures with diligence, you could help protect your site from bots and hackers.