Waking up to find your website has been hacked and all of your data has been stolen or altered is one of the worst fears for a website owner. Sadly, though, it happens more frequently than we like to believe, which is why securing your website is one of the most important things you should do as a website owner.
According to Security Magazine, a cyber attack happens every 39 seconds (on average), while Breach Level Index states that hackers steal 75 records every single second.
With that in mind, you’ll agree that there is really no room for the “it won’t happen to me” mentality. However, if you’re a newbie in the online world, how do you know what to look out for, where to begin, and what the best ways are to secure your website?
Believe it or not, there are plenty of things you can do—even on your own—and today we’ll go over tips that will help you strengthen your website’s security.
So, sit tight and let’s see what it is that you can do to stop the bad guys from taking over your website.
8 Actionable Tips on How to Protect Your Website from Hackers
#1 Use SSL and HTTPS
By now, you have probably heard that the most secure websites come with HTTPS encryption and that those without it should be avoided. And it’s true—whenever a user sees that green lock in the search bar, they can rest assured that their data will be safe and sound.
However, in order to be able to transfer from HTTP to HTTPS, you’ll be needing to invest in an SSL certificate first. Essentially, an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate makes sure that the transfer of user information between your website and the server is secure, and usually, you’re required to pay a yearly fee to maintain it. Still, when you think of the benefits you get with it, it doesn’t really seem like a great cost.
Back in the day, having an SSL certificate was obligatory for eCommerce websites, but since Google’s Chrome update in 2018, it’s become mandatory for all websites out there. So, if you don’t have one, your users will get a notification that your website is not a safe place for them.
In short: if you want people to trust your brand and to lower the chances of your website getting hacked, then an SSL certificate is probably the first step when it comes to securing your site.
#2 Keep Your Website Software Up-to-Date
It may seem pretty obvious, but this is a mistake a lot of people make when running their website(s). In order for your site to stay secure against the latest threats and potential security breaches, you’ll want to update your software regularly—this applies to both the server operating system and any plugins, apps, or extensions (even CMS!) you may be running on your website.
The main reason for this is a lot of these add-ons come as open-source programs, and have easily accessible code that hackers can exploit to find vulnerabilities on your website. However, when everything is up-to-date, you avoid having security holes in your software, which stops hackers from accessing it with ease.
Keep in mind that if you opt for a managed hosting solution, you don’t have to worry as much about security updates for the OS, since your hosting company should take care of this.
#3 Install Security Plugins
One of the easiest ways to enhance your website’s security is to install security plugins through the CMS of your choice.
So, for example, WordPress offers Sucuri, iThemes Security, and Bulletproof Security, whereas if you’re running your site on Magento, you can use Amasty or MageFence. If you dig in a bit, you’ll notice that each of these CMS platforms have a dedicated number of security plugins you can use.
#4 Ensure Your Passwords Are Secure
Although we’re tempted to use passwords that we’ve used hundreds of times before or passwords that are incredibly easy to remember, it’s recommended that you always come up with a unique, secure password that hackers won’t be able to figure out.
Use a mix of letters, numbers, and special signs, and try avoiding your birthday or your children’s birthdays, because these are some of the first things that hackers will try out. And remember: one weak password is all it takes for your website to go down and for you to lose everything you’ve worked hard on.
Encourage people that have access to your website to have strong and secure passwords as well, seeing that the security of your site depends on this also. Using hashed passwords (passwords turned into a scrambled representation of themselves) might also be an idea for you to consider, as decrypting them is nearly impossible.
#5 Back Up Your Data
This probably goes without saying, but you should regularly back up your website data, not just because of hacker attacks, but also in case something else goes wrong with your website and your important data gets lost or becomes inaccessible.
And although your web host provider should do backups of their own servers, it doesn’t hurt for you to manually save your data from time to time, just in case. If there’s even the smallest chance of you forgetting, though, you might want to look into automatic backups. This will give you peace of mind, and not have you worrying about your website data constantly.
#6 Stop Users from Uploading Files
Allowing users to upload files to your website actually presents a huge security risk and one you’d rather avoid. Something as simple as uploading an avatar could result in you potentially having to deal with malicious files and a hacked website.
If it’s at all possible, try avoiding any file uploads to your website. However, if your business requires users to upload files, then treat all of them with great suspicion. Here are some additional tips you can do with in case you need to allow direct file upload:
- Use an antivirus program to scan all files for malware.
- Create a list of file extensions that you want on your site and only accept them.
- Decide on a maximum file size and stick to it to avoid DDoS attacks.
- Rename all files automatically when uploaded in order to stop hackers from re-using their files.
- Store the files in a folder outside of the webroot or as a blob in the database. This doesn’t allow hackers to access your website through the files they upload.
In case you can do it, it would be best to have your web server and your database server separated. By doing so, hackers won’t be able to access your database server directly, but only your web server, which could minimize the risk of your site and data getting exposed.
#7 Use Simple Error Messages
Believe it or not, error messages play a huge role when it comes to securing your website. If you say too much in them, you might reveal important information to the people looking to hack you. If you say too little, on the other hand, they might become entirely useless to your users, and make it difficult for your tech teams to resolve the error.
The best thing to do is to find a balance between the two. Keep the messages as simple as you can, while still informative so your users understand what is happening. without giving away secrets present on your server, such as API keys. By keeping detailed errors to yourself (i.e. in your server logs), and showing your users only the information they actually need, you will be able to avoid attacks such as SQL injections with more ease.
#8 Choose a Secure Web Hosting Company
We have briefly mentioned this in the text earlier but important to reiterate before we wrap things up. By choosing a secure and reputable web hosting provider, you will have someone else watching out for your website’s security as well as yourself.
You want to make sure the provider you choose is familiar with any threats that might be coming your way and be willing to help you keep your website safe. Additionally, it would be ideal if your host were able to back-up your data to a remote server, and offered technical support, just in case you need it.
NameSilo can help you with your web hosting needs, and we provide you with different hosting plans that you can choose for your website. We use cutting edge technology for all of our services and take support seriously, so you can rest assured that your website will be in good hands.
As the saying goes “It’s better to be safe than sorry”, so it’s best to secure your website in the early days than to wait for something to happen that you might regret.
As you have seen, some things you can already do today on your own, but if you really find yourself having trouble with installing the necessary security measures for your site, you can always talk to an IT expert and ask for help.
If overwhelmed, you can start small. Find out which plugins you can use and where to obtain your SSL certificate, and then move on to more advanced security tactics. Whatever you do will be far better than doing nothing at all in the long run, so start today!