While the dangers of modern online life are well-documented, many website owners simply do not believe that their website contains information worth hacking into. But the realities of modern website hacking go well beyond stealing data and modifying layouts.
In fact, modern hackers have been known to harness compromised websites to host illegal activity through a botnet or mine for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Some “hackers” are even automated scripts, designed to scour the internet for vulnerable targets.
As such, website owners and administrators need to take an active approach to secure their websites against emergent online threats.
But wait. Shouldn’t the hosting company that houses your website secure its servers and protect your website from data breaches? While finding secure website hosting may be the first piece of this puzzle, you’ll need to do more than the bare minimum to ensure your website remains protected from malicious threats.
Learning how to secure a website can take time, but these 5 security tips from industry experts will help you start along the path towards a long-term digital security solution.
Tip #1: Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
Whether a professional or consumer program, the single biggest source of website insecurity is outdated software. CMS, forum packages, plugins, and more all require regular updates in order to patch out newly identified vulnerabilities. Without these updates, websites are susceptible to intrusion from malicious actors – many of whom are all but too willing to take advantage of non-compliant websites.
Managed hosting services regularly produce and apply security patches as part of their tiered service packages. Website owners utilizing managed hosting solutions have a shorter security checklist as a result. That being said, these website owners should still take every opportunity to improve their endpoint security protocols, to minimize intrusions caused by human error.
Third-party hosting software providers also regularly put out security patches, but these often require manual installation or initiation. To keep up with your host’s security updates, be sure to add yourself to an email list or RSS feed they provide in order to hear about new security updates as soon as they drop.
Don’t wait to secure your site, either, as hackers are often hot on the tails of these critical updates.
Tip #2: Protect and Improve Your Passwords
Another major aspect of website security can be described as “security posture,” or in other words, how those with insider access to your website protect their login credentials. Though it may sound like common sense, it is essential that every password – top level and root level – remain as secret and as difficult to crack as possible.
Some companies and individuals make use of modern password managers, which help to organize existing passwords and generate newly randomized iterations for new members.
These password managers can be a great asset, especially for creating randomized passwords longer than 12 characters or made up of four or more random words. Password creation best practices also implore users to not reuse passwords, as the decryption of one can open the others to insecure intrusions.
Also, if you choose to implement a password manager, never write down the master password except on the single piece of documentation provided by the software creator for your records.
If you choose to write down your passwords (not recommended), do not put them in compromising locations (such a personal email account or on a cell phone) or where they can be intercepted (such as on an ongoing written list).
Tip #3: Minimize Cross-Contamination
Learning how to make a website secure means getting into the weeds a bit and learning about how a website “lives” on its host server. In simple terms, many hosted websites share server space with other websites, just as several homes may be built next to one another on the same strip of land. While this may be an affordable option up front, such an orientation opens websites up to cross-contamination from “neighboring” websites.
For example, if a “neighboring” website on the server becomes infected or compromised, experienced hackers are able to take advantage of server-side access in order to sneak in the back door of your website. While you may have done nothing to compromise your own security, such a “virus” may spread like an infection from website to website on a server until your digital domain is finally ensnared.
In order to minimize the chances of cross-contamination, website owners should make every effort to practice isolation. In the long-term, this may mean seeking out a more individualized hosting solution within your budget. In the short-term though, this means reevaluating your website portfolio and ensuring that it doesn’t “mix” fundamentally different software sets.
Tip #4: Make an Accountability Plan
If your website includes multiple access points (such as multiple administrator accounts), be sure that your group or company has an establish accountability plan that dictates how those logins may be used and by whom. Typically, these plans also outline who has been assigned what privileges and for how long, in order to minimize potential intrusions caused by “rogue” users.
As is common in education settings, these accountability plans often dictate that account credentials should not be shared between two users. This ensures that all activities attributed to that account can be traced back to an individual, making it easier to pinpoint abuses and intrusions.
To secure your site further, you should also consider running regular log audits. These routine checks of logins within your website’s server space serve as a preventative measure to identify potential end-point weaknesses before they can be abused.
Tip #5: Set Server and File Configurations
Taking time to set server and file configuration can make a major difference when learning to secure a website. Doing so gives you one more method of controlling who can access your website’s core files and to what extent those individuals can interact with the core files.
For file configurations (often called “permissions”), you are often able to make changes to three core categories: Read, Write, and Execute. “Read” allows for the viewing of content, “Write” allows for the modification of content, and “Execute” allows for the running of programs or scripts. Setting these tiered privileges based on need is crucial, especially when multiple users have access to the website’s core.
Server-side configurations, on the other hand, help to put safeguards on very important root directories. For example, one common configuration blocks directory browsing while another common configuration encrypts particularly sensitive personal information stored on the website.
Take Your Website Security Seriously
At the end of the day, learning how to secure a website is not a cut-and-dry task. You’ll need to take time to evaluate your website’s precise needs based upon its present vulnerabilities. This includes evaluating everything from security software to the people with access to your most previous website files.
Any weak point can become a single vulnerability and experienced hackers only need a single vulnerability to wreak havoc.
Even if you decide to work with an IT security expert, be sure to bring up these 5 website security tips in order to start a conversation about how you can do more to secure your site.
About the Author: Rick M.
Rick has been a part of content marketing industry for 10 years since 2009. Working with many clients Rick has built up his experience in website hosting and website builder niches. With this experience, he is trying to convey clear information to the world on these topics. His articles tend to be data-driven and researched thoroughly to give a strong and unique point of view on every subject. He believes that using real-world examples is one of the best ways to catch readers attention. Writer by day and gamer by night, Rick likes to involve himself with the e-sports scene.