The term “online security” is everywhere: public announcements, notifications from our banks, and articles about new data leaks. And all this information goes – as our parents used to say – in one ear, and out the other, with us usually doing nothing about it. It’s time to change that. Remember: better safe than sorry! How can we ensure the security of our websites?
Cyber Attack Types
Can my website be hacked? Is my website worth hacking? The truth is no place on the web isn’t worth breaking into. Each domain and each page can be used to build links to ads for penis enlargement, redirect to suspicious domains, or silently use our server for mailing porn sites to innocent Internet users. The number of ways to use a hijacked website is limited only by the hackers’ creativity.
Once a website is hacked, it can have various consequences like malfunctions or dropping out of the Google index as a result of removed optimization. Hacking also increases the risk of your website being removed from the SERPs as a penalty for illegal content. In addition, each time the website gets hacked, it loses credibility due to data safety concerns. It’s user data that attracts hackers. In some cases, hack attacks will cost you money in the form of lost potential income during your website’s downtime. The costs of server cleanup and site restoration can also make a big difference when it comes to your budget. There are also legal consequences.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Every website and every person using the Internet may fall victim to many types of cyberattacks. Even large and well-protected companies suffer security breaches.
- Adobe lost data in 2013 – usernames and passwords, full names, credit and debit card details – from 153 million accounts,
- LinkedIn leaked email addresses and passwords in 2012 and 2016,
- Garmin lost access to a large part of its systems in 2020 and was forced to disable access to all services. The company paid a ransom to gain access to the data decryption key,
- Source code for the games Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3 was stolen by hackers from CD Projekt RED in 2021.
The scale and damage of these break-ins is greater than what small website owners usually experience, though this doesn’t mean that you should ignore safety precautions and not take appropriate steps. Remember: better safe than sorry!
The popular CMSs WordPress and Joomla are usually mentioned as systems that fall prey to hack attacks, the frequency of which is influenced by factors like the immense popularity of these platforms and a rather frivolous approach to security updates and notifications. In the case of WordPress, plugins are an additional source of attacks, as some are third-party software. The vulnerability of Joomla can be observed during system configuration, which tends to generate errors. WordPress acts similarly when installing external extensions.
Ensuring Website Security
Here are six basic solutions for raising website security.
Professional tools and the most complex security programs can fail due to lack of common sense. Passwords are the first line of defense when it comes to online accounts. Common password failings include:
- Simplicity – passwords such as qwerty, 12345, abc123 or passwords associated with the website name. This type of password is easy to break as they are quite intuitive and often found on lists of stolen data.
- Universality – one password for everything? Simple solutions like this work well… for a short while. Data leakage from one website may result in the loss of accounts in other websites as well.
- Keeping all passwords in one place – a notebook or an ordinary text file is also a bad idea. While a traditional notebook may fall prey to a less IT savvy thief, a text file may be targeted to anyone who knows how to take advantage of users’ trust in public networks (e.g. wifi in a restaurant) – an easy path to taking over all our Internet accounts is a short time.
So how do you keep your passwords secure? One of the solutions that work well on both private and business accounts is applications that store passwords in a safe way, such as LastPass, 1Password, or their free equivalents – KeePass and BitWarden. These solutions are similar to the criticized notebook – but they store passwords in one place, and are much more secure. These programs generate extremely complex, encrypted passwords. The users only need one that allows them to access the application. You can use programs of this type only on computers but also on mobile devices.
Multi-tier verification is another effective way to limit the possibility of hijacking your accounts. Implementing this solution requires user verification on several platforms, like a phone or tablet, allowing for additional control and preventing unauthorized login attempts.
Passwords should also be changed from time to time, especially in the case of rotation among company employees. After changing the people responsible for various internet activities, it’s a good idea to refresh the passwords and make sure that only relevant employees have access to the password-protected content.
Updating systems is another element that reduces the risk of unwanted activity on a website. This applies to all elements – CMS, software on the server, or plugins and extensions. The update should also eliminate bugs and potential threats existing in the earlier code in addition to developing the application and adding new functionalities. The lack of software updates running within the website makes it much easier to take over the website.
You can find out how often security patches are implemented by analyzing the information provided with subsequent software updates. Most updates go hand in hand with a blog post or note detailing each subsequent patch.
Information on WordPress can be found at the official WordPress website.
Joomla announces updates here.
CMS update info usually appears on the main page of the administration panel. Note – updating older CMS versions (e.g. those that have not been updated for several months) may result in problems with the basic functionalities of the website. Backup your website files before starting the update. Use help from specialists – e.g. a software house that was responsible for the original website launch. Remember to update the system on which the website is hosted when designing the website and include h updating assistance in contracts.
- Plugins and Extensions
Each of these offers new functions for our CMS, unfortunately – not always only the ones we are interested in. So how do you recognize safe plugins? What to look for?
Before installing an add-on to our CMS, it is worth taking a look at its popularity and reviews, checking the credibility of software developers, and checking how often updates are published and what they are about.
Leaving plugins without updates is a mistake. Bugs can lead to taking over your website, and they need to be dealt with.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is an encrypted Internet security protocol. Initially developed by Netscape in ‘95, SSL is the predecessor of TLS encryption which is widespread today. Transport Layer Security (TLS), is a cryptographic protocol created to ensure communication security in computer networks. SSL or TSL guarantees the confidentiality of data transmission and server authentication. It is based on asymmetric encryption with a public key.
- Remember To Backup
Caution may be another point on the list of monthly website maintenance costs, but in times of crisis, it becomes priceless. Backups stored in a safe place reduce the risk of data loss. Securing databases and placing them in a different space than the original files will enable business continuity, even in the event of failure or losses caused by burglary.
Backups will also be stored by the hosting on which the website is located, which is very useful in the event of technical problems with the website – restoring the state from two or three days ago is usually a matter of one phone call. Unfortunately, leaving the security of your websites in the hands of third party companies doesn’t always work.
- Educate Yourself and Your Coworkers
The security of a website depends on many factors. The negative impact of some can be reduced by education. Sometimes it’s enough to brush up on the basics of online security – the rules of creating passwords, secure internet connections, and “log out after work”, or to be suspicious of unusual-looking emails.
Websites are vulnerable. Web security and all resources necessary for our company doesn’t require specialized knowledge or technical skills – in many cases, all it takes is implementing best practices.