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Website Security: How to Keep Your Website Safe

  • 27 May / 2023
  • 2,303 views
  • 7 Min Read
Website Security Guide

Given that so many companies have turned to doing business online, cybercrime has grown to be one of the biggest hazards to organizations globally today. It encompasses a variety of criminal behaviors, including data breaches, malware infections, and hacking attempts. Even the biggest businesses can be brought to their knees by cybercrimes. There have been instances of major data breaches where databases were compromised and millions of passwords, social security numbers, and other personal data were exposed. Currently, over 30,000 new websites are compromised every single day. That should cause you great concern and serve as a reminder to prioritize website security.

Enterprises or organizations often hire website development services to build websites to establish their online presence, connect with their customers, communicate internally and externally, and provide information about products and services, among other things. Websites often serve as repositories for sensitive customer or business data. If these were to be breached, there could be untold financial and reputational damage to the business. Besides, data breaches could also land a business in legal trouble.

This blog aims to offer insightful information and practical suggestions to strengthen your website’s security against potential cyber hazards. Continue reading if you want to take a proactive approach to web security, protect your sensitive data, preserve users’ confidence, and guarantee that visitors have a secure surfing experience.

What is Web Security?

Web security, simply put, is a series of measures you take to prevent your website from being harmed by dubious people (hackers). Such measures are intended to prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access to your website, databases, and server. This helps prevent any data breaches, modifications, disruptions, or destruction of your digital assets.

As the threat landscape keeps evolving, protecting your website can become increasingly complex and challenging. Web security is a constantly evolving field since cybercriminals find new ways to bypass existing security measures. They are always on the look for vulnerabilities in websites to be exploited, which requires you to stay one step ahead.

Keeping your site secure requires dedicated efforts on both the frontend and the backend. This includes focusing on the setup of the web server, your password policy (both for new passwords and renewals), as well as the client-side code.

3 Most Common Website Security Threats

If you want to protect your website, you must first understand what you’re protecting it from. Here we will discuss the 3 most common (and concerning) online threats that businesses worldwide face regularly.

1. SQL Injections

Imagine you have a box of documents that is not meant for everyone to see. However, if some unauthorized person sees the box, he or she can gain access to the documents inside without your knowledge and cause harm. That’s what SQL injections do to websites. They slip harmful SQL code into a site’s database, often because the site doesn’t check user input carefully enough before executing it. This lets attackers steal or change data, or even sneak into the website’s control room. They can bypass logins, grab private customer information, or mess with the site’s content.

2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Imagine you have a box of sweets that you want to share with your friends. However, someone slips something unhealthy (and potentially harmful) into those sweets without your knowledge. When your friends receive them they might be seriously harmed. That’s what XSS does to websites. An attacker adds harmful code to a legitimate website. When the victim visits it, the bad code runs in their browser, and that’s when the attack occurs. The site is used as a vehicle to deliver the harmful scripts to users.

This can happen on sites that accept user-generated content, like comments or other user inputs. The attackers can then steal user info, take over their sessions, or spread harmful code. There are different types of XSS attacks, like stored XSS (the bad script stays on the site) and reflected XSS (the script hides in a URL and gets sent to the site through other users’ requests).

3. Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Attacks

Imagine a crowd of people blocking the entrance to a store, not letting anyone in. That’s what DDoS attacks do to websites. The hackers use a network of remotely-controlled computers and phones, often called “botnets”, to flood a server or website with fake traffic. The site gets overwhelmed, stops working, and might even crash. This can be really bad for businesses or organizations, such as online stores, banking websites, ticket booking portals, healthcare portals, and others, that need to be open all the time.

Steps You Can Take

While the 3 threats mentioned above are the most common types that websites face regularly, they are by no means the only ones. It’s not always possible to assess every single kind of threat individually, so you must take proactive measures that ensure all avenues of unauthorized access are closed. Here are some of the steps you can take.

a. Input Validation and Sanitization

Properly validate and sanitize any user input received by the website to ensure it fits established criteria. Utilize both front-end and server-side validation strategies to filter out or reject any suspicious or nefarious input.

b. Escaping Special Characters

When direct SQL concatenation is essential, appropriately “escape” special characters prior to their use in queries. “Escaping” characters means signaling to the database drivers that those characters need to be handled differently (translated into understandable SQL code). Different database consoles have exclusive means of escaping special characters, such as using functional escapes or backslashes.

c. Implementing Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)

Install a web application firewall as a supplementary layer of protection. WAFs can recognize and obstruct malicious attack encounters by analyzing incoming requests and responses.

d. Regular Security Updates and Patches

Always keep all software, including your web server, content management system (CMS), and plugins, up to date with the latest security patches. To address recognized vulnerabilities, routinely apply security updates and patches provided by respective vendors.

e. Security Audits and Penetration Testing

Perform periodic security audits and penetration testing to detect potential vulnerabilities. Hire website developers and security experts or leverage automated tools to provoke attacks and expose weaknesses in the website’s security.

Immediately handle any susceptibilities or flaws disclosed during these website audits.

f. Load Balancing

Execute load-balancing techniques to allocate incoming traffic to multiple servers. This aids to absorb and manage intensified traffic during DDoS attacks. Load balancing will make sure that no individual server gets swamped, guaranteeing the availability and performance of your website.

g. Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Introduce a Content Delivery Network to distribute your website’s content over multiple servers at assorted geographical locations. CDNs help absorb and reduce DDoS attacks by scattering the traffic load and offering caching capabilities to take care of a high volume of requests.

h. Install SSL Certificates

Incorporate an SSL certificate into your website. It enables data encryption, keeping the privacy and security of sensitive information. SSL certificates help to build trust, provide visual cues of a secure connection, and fortify credibility with visitors. Moreover, they will help you meet security compliance requirements, upgrade search engine rankings, and guard against man-in-the-middle attacks.

Own a site on WordPress? Have a look at these 8 WordPress website maintenance tasks that you should perform regularly to stay clean and protected.

Conclusion

Web security isn’t a simple task, nor can it simply be achieved in one day. It is constantly evolving, and requires updated knowledge, constant monitoring, adapting, and improvement. Be vigilant, keep educating yourself on new threats, and when necessary partner with online security professionals.

Debmalya Rakshit

Debmalya Rakshit

As a technical architect at Webguru Infosystems, Mr. Debmalya Rakshit deep dives into the world of technology to give insights. He writes on diverse technology domains, such as web application development, product specialisation, SaaS, PaaS, and cloud technologies by drawing on his extensive working experience.

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