Running a website is like owning your own house: it’s yours, you love it and you are completely responsible for what happens to it. Just like owning a house, your website can be at risk of intruders, putting the personal information of you and your users and the successful running of the site in jeopardy. And, with the ever-changing threats of Internet security, it’s your responsibility to protect your site in the best ways you can. Fortunately, just like we can buy extra locks, alarms and insurance for our houses, there are plenty of things we can do to ensure that our website is as secure as possible from hackers. Here are just a few examples of ways you can minimise the risk and ensure as smooth a running of your website as possible.
How To Protect Yourself
The best place to start when protecting your website from hackers is at the beginning: with yourself. By protecting the main devices that you administrate the website from, you can greatly reduce the risk of attacks. It may seem obvious but ensuring that you constantly have an up-to-date antivirus software and firewall means any malware and other nasty intruders can’t get into the site via your own system. Another handy first line of defence is to log-in via a VPN, or Virtual Private Network when administrating the site. This makes it harder for hackers to infiltrate the web space and can prevent the hijack of passwords or data when you are connected to the admin platform.
How To Protect Your Website
Similarly to this, you can protect your website itself using a Web Application Firewall. A WAF is a server plug-in and, like antivirus software can protect your computer, it can filter incoming traffic to protect you from many types of common attacks such as SPAM, XSS, SQL Injection and many more. Once, using a WAF was very expensive and required a fair amount of technical know-how. However, as technology has progressed, WAF’s have become available as a cloud-based option; instead of committing to pricey hardware, you can now rent a platform-agnostic version of the firewall, which does not require you to change the hardware or software on your machine.
Switching from HTTP to HTTPS can make a massive difference in increasing the level of security on your website. HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) dictates the way that information is shared online however, as such a widely used platform, it has become very easy to understand and intercept information. HTTPS was developed as an essential for online transactions, however by using it for the entirety of your website you can substantially increase your online security. HTTPS works by scrambling the information into an indecipherable code as it’s passed back and forth between computers. This is done by encrypting data on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security). However, this is not the only benefit of using HTTPS; not only does it help you in successfully securing your site, it has also recently become a ranking factor in Google meaning both better security and better visibility!
Stay Up to Date
By keeping your software up-to-date you can stay one step ahead of hackers at all times. Most attacks come as hackers find holes in software and learn to manipulate and abuse them. By always keeping updated with latest versions you are constantly reducing the risk for invaders to get inside and find the holes. It is important to note that this applies to both the operating system and any third party software you may be running such as CMS or forum. Fortunately, most vendors keep you updated via mailing lists etc. to make sure you’re informed about the latest security risks to software and any updates that may be available to counteract them. In some cases, hosting companies may even update the operating system for you so you don’t have to worry about it. The best way to stay on top of this is to keep yourself informed and updated with the latest information.
Finally, It may seem like a no-brainer, but passwords are a massive factor in keeping your website secure from all sides. There are many levels to consider in regards to passwording your site. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is to ensure the use of complex passwords. Even though it may seem like a massive hassle for you and your users, enforcing password requirements such as it being longer than 8 characters or containing numbers, capital letters or symbols can significantly reduce the risk of hacking.
Similarly, it’s essential to ensure you encrypt your passwords. By using a one-way hashing algorithm, it’s harder for hackers to decrypt and thus creates a greater level of security for you and your users. However, although encrypting passwords in this way makes it harder to decrypt, it is still possible to figure out by attempting to match hashes between passwords to essentially guess the combination. To overcome this, you can salt your passwords: this applies a random salt to the password that adds an extra layer of protection to the hash.
With the all of ever-changing and ever-growing hacking and online security threats, it seems almost impossible to ever really be fully protected. However, by taking the necessary precautions and staying up to date with your understanding of the risks, you can almost completely protect you and your website from intruders. These methods are good starting points, but the real protection comes from you; stay vigilant and keep updated and you can feel safe in the knowledge that your website is as secure as the home you live in.
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