Website Security Series Part II: Best Practices and Why It’s Important
July 26, 2023
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Because cyber threats are constantly evolving and becoming more sophisticated, website security is a necessity. In our previous blog, we discussed the common threats faced by small business websites and tactics used by cybercriminals trying to break into the Home Alone house that is your small business’s website. In this blog, we’ll teach you how to set up virtual tar-and-feather traps to stop cybercriminals from stealing your sensitive information.

The Risks of Inadequate Website Security

First, let’s review what is at stake if the security of your website is compromised. If you do not have adequate website security, these are some of the main consequences that can do considerable damage to your business:

  • Data Breaches: Sensitive information can be exposed to cybercriminals.
  • Loss of Trust: Trust in the website can be shattered, leading to customer loss.
  • Reputational Damage: Negative publicity can harm an organization’s image.
  • Legal Consequences: Non-compliance may result in legal actions and penalties.
  • Financial Losses: Costs of investigation, improvements, and compensation.
  • SEO and Ranking Penalties: Lower search engine rankings affect visibility.
  • Disruption of Services: Attacks can render the website unavailable.
  • Supply Chain Risks: Vulnerabilities can extend to connected partners and suppliers.
website security measures

Essential Website Security Measures

Now that we’ve covered the “why” of website security, let’s get into the “how.” By implementing these nine essential website security measures, you can significantly enhance the protection of your website, safeguard sensitive data, and provide a safer experience for your users. 

  1. Routine Software Updates: Regularly updating your website’s software, including content management systems (CMS), plugins, and themes helps patch security vulnerabilities and protect against known exploits. 
  2. Strong Password Policies: Weak passwords are susceptible to brute-force attacks, where hackers try multiple combinations to gain access to accounts. Implement password policies that require complex or unique passwords, and encourage users to use password managers.
  3. Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): 2FA adds an extra layer of security, requiring users to provide a second form of verification (e.g., a one-time code sent to their phone) along with their password. Enable 2FA for all user accounts, especially for administrators and privileged users.
  4. Firewalls: Firewalls act as a barrier between your website and potential threats, filtering malicious traffic and blocking unauthorized access attempts. Use web application firewalls (WAFs) and network firewalls to provide comprehensive protection.
  5. Regular Backups: Regular backups ensure that your website’s data can be restored in case of a successful attack or data loss event. Schedule automatic backups and store them securely on off-site servers or cloud storage.
  6. Secure Coding Practices: Writing secure code reduces the risk of vulnerabilities and potential exploitation. Train developers in secure coding practices and conduct regular code reviews to identify and fix potential security flaws.
  7. User Permissions and Access Control: Limiting user access to only what is necessary reduces the potential impact of a security breach. Grant the minimum level of permissions required for each user role and periodically review access privileges.
  8. Monitoring and Logging: Real-time monitoring and logging help detect suspicious activities and provide insights into potential security incidents. Implement security monitoring tools and regularly review logs to identify anomalies and respond proactively.
  9. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Protection: DDoS attacks can overwhelm a website, causing downtime and service disruptions. Employ DDoS protection services or use web hosting providers with built-in DDoS protection to mitigate these attacks.
website security ssl certificates

The Role of SSL Certificates in Website Security

In addition to these website security measures, obtaining an SSL certificate is key for securing your website and sensitive information. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates establish a secure and encrypted connection between a user’s web browser and the server, providing a wide range of benefits to both website owners and users: 

  • Encrypted Data Transmission: SSL certificates ensure only encrypted data is transmitted between a user’s browser and the website’s server. This encryption process scrambles the data, making it unreadable to anyone trying to intercept or “eavesdrop” on the communication. It protects sensitive information such as login credentials, personal details, and payment data from being compromised during transmission.
  • Trust and Credibility: SSL certificates display visual cues, such as the padlock icon and “HTTPS” in the website URL, indicating a secure connection. These visual indicators instill trust and confidence in users, assuring them that their data is safe and encouraging them to interact with the website. In contrast, websites without SSL certificates may trigger browser warnings, potentially scaring away visitors due to security concerns.
  • Protection against Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: SSL certificates prevent man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, where attackers intercept and alter communication between a user and the server. With SSL encryption, even if a hacker manages to intercept the data, they cannot decipher the encrypted information. This renders the intercepted data useless.
  • Authentication and Identity Verification: SSL certificates provide authentication, verifying the identity of the website’s owner. Extended Validation (EV) SSL certificates go a step further by displaying the company’s name in the browser’s address bar. This authentication ensures users that they are interacting with a legitimate and trusted website, reducing the risk of falling victim to phishing or fraudulent websites.
  • E-Commerce Compliance: For e-commerce websites and online businesses processing credit card transactions, SSL certificates are essential for compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). SSL encryption is one of the key requirements for safeguarding cardholder data during online transactions.
  • SEO Ranking Boost: Search engines like Google prioritize secure websites in their search results. Websites with SSL certificates receive a slight ranking boost, potentially improving their visibility and attracting more organic traffic.
  • Data Integrity: SSL certificates not only encrypt data, but also ensure its integrity during transmission. This means the information received by the user’s browser remains unchanged and hasn’t been tampered with during transit.

Overall, implementing website security practices will keep the sensitive information of your business and customers out of the hands of cybercriminals. Kevin-forbid, we don’t want your small business to fall victim to a preventable attack. Remember that website security is an ongoing process, and staying vigilant against emerging threats is crucial for maintaining a solid defense against cyber attacks. That way, anyone who tries to break into your website’s “house” will be what the French call “les incompétents.”

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