Website Security: Essential Best Practices every Online Business should follow
Website security refers to the collection of all active and passive methods performed to safeguard your website. A secure e-commerce platform serves as the building block for a secure online business.
Many online business owners lack security experience, operate on shoestring budgets, and lack the financial resources necessary to deploy advanced security measures utilized by large businesses.
More crucially, cybercriminals know this, viewing small e-commerce businesses as one of the most lucrative targets. Consequently, online retailers need to be aware of the risks and take the necessary precautions to secure their sites.
This article explains what website security is and provides insight into the best security measures for securing your online business, preventing e-commerce fraud, and maintaining your customers’ data confidentiality.
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What is Website Security?
Website security includes all security measures that you take (or should take) to safeguard your website against assaults. Measures such as selecting a secure server, implementing SSL, monitoring traffic, and restricting back-end access contribute to website security.
E-commerce website security is an umbrella term that refers to the process of safeguarding your business’s online assets from cyberattacks and unauthorized access or use by cybercriminals and destructive bots. It protects your online business and safeguards the private information of your customers and business.
Maintaining a weak website security posture equates to leaving a site vulnerable to data breaches and compromise of sensitive customer/user information (such as login credentials or credit card information), as well as a point of attack for other systems through the installation of ransomware or phishing attacks, such as pop-up ads.
The importance of Security for your Website
As an online entrepreneur and ecommerce business owner, you are responsible for the safe and secure handling of all consumer data. While e-commerce security might be a challenging subject, you should safeguard your website against hacking and the theft of critical client data.
Consumers want to do business with a reputable company – when they enter personal information on your site, such as their credit card number, they expect it to be secure.
If you experience a data breach or data leak resulting in the disclosure of client information, consumers will be less likely to do business with you in the future as a result.
Website security is not solely about your customers. If hackers compromise your site, you will be responsible for addressing the security breach – meaning you may end up paying for forensic investigation, data recovery, and credit monitoring services for your customers.
Additionally, your firm must adhere to a specific security compliance level to comply with the appropriate legal criteria for an online business, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
If your business violates such standards –– you risk being fined or facing other penalties.
Common Website Security Risks
For far too many businesses, web security best practices are prioritized after a security breach occurs.
By definition, an effective strategy to web security risks must be proactive and defensive. To develop such a strategy, we must first become familiar with the most prevalent and significant web security risks.
1. DDoS Attacks
DDoS is a sort of cyber attack that is one of the most common dangers to website security. In these assaults, hackers use faked IP addresses to overload the traffic of a targeted website. The attacks prohibit genuine users from accessing the website’s resources and hinder them from receiving essential services.
Hackers use DDoS assaults to flood the target website with more traffic than it can handle, resulting in the website being overloaded, causing it to become slow or crash.
2. Malware and viruses
Malicious computer software is referred to as malware. Malware programs are one of the most severe dangers to a website’s security.
Malware can be used for a variety of nefarious purposes, from remotely monitoring website activities to illicitly obtaining user data such as passwords. Consequently, malware endangers both the website owner and the user.
Malware can infiltrate web servers as well as individual user machines.
Fraudsters publish spam messages on websites to entice users. Spam does not always “hurt” the site. They can, however, be unpleasant and cause security issues for the user.
Hackers, for example, send spam communications masquerading as promotions or offers to users. Curious users will be routed to external links if they click on the messages.
In addition, spam can potentially contain harmful programs that a user downloads instantly after clicking.
4. Registering for a domain
All website owners are required to register their websites with a specific domain name.
Domain names are managed by ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in support with several country-specific domain registrars.
When purchasing a domain name, owners must supply ownership information. This data is entered into the WHOIS database, which aids in identifying domain ownership, recording technical data, and resolving trademark disputes over domain names.
Hackers or insiders can use the information provided to trace the server’s location, which is used to store the website’s data. Once discovered, the server can be leveraged as a gateway to access and compromise the webserver.
5. Search engine site blacklists
Some search engines ban websites that lack adequate security measures. While being banned does not imply a security risk, it can negatively impact your website.
Being blacklisted will cause your website to perform poorly in search engine optimization and may never appear in a search result, significantly decreasing the website’s value to your business.
For example, a company that relies on its website to offer items and services via eCommerce may see lesser sales and traffic if it is blacklisted.
Best Practices for Improving your Website Security
Website security concerns can impact any online business. As cyber-attacks become increasingly intelligent, quick, and severe, e-commerce businesses must focus on “when” an assault could compromise their websites, rather than “if.”
An unprotected website is subject to various attacks, jeopardizing its integrity and users’ privacy and security.
Today, the most effective website security practices are as follows.
1. Using HTTPS and SSL
All website owners should prioritize the HTTPS protocol. HTTPS is increasingly seen as a baseline security requirement for all websites, ensuring safe communication between a web server and a client.
- HTTPS ensures customers that client/server communications are secure: The HTTPS protocol, in essence, informs website users that the information they request or see from the webserver cannot be intercepted or manipulated by third parties.
- Some online browsers flag websites that do not use HTTPS: When visitors view the e-commerce website, they are advised that it is not secure. Some users may be hesitant to continue using a website’s services if it is labeled as insecure.
- HTTPS security prohibits hackers from accessing the website’s code: Attackers may modify the code of a website that lacks HTTP security to monitor and access all information provided by visitors while interacting with the website.
A Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate can be used to supplement HTTPS security mechanisms:
- An SSL certificate encrypts all data between a server and a website’s visitor: While SSL does not prevent hackers from injecting malware, it does encrypt data to make it unreadable.
- SSL ensures the user data is protected from man-in-the-middle (MITM) type attacks: SSL certifications are vital for websites that handle any personal data, such as e-commerce platforms.
Regardless of the services offered through the sites, all businesses should secure their websites with HTTPS and SSL certificates.
2. Ensure your website software is up to date
For many websites to function as desired, it is often necessary to use several software applications. These can include, among other things, content management systems (CMS), plugins, and widgets.
Many of these e-commerce platforms and add-ons need to be kept up to date to ensure website security.
Software updates not only address flaws and issues that slow down a website’s performance, but they also install the most recent security measures and fixes, preventing the exploitation of obsolete software.
With hackers now using technologies such as artificial intelligence to automate cyber-attacks, failure to apply the most recent patches merely offers hackers the chance to use bots to check websites for weaknesses and more vulnerabilities to exploit.
This increases the security threats to a website, risking all services and information security and privacy.
Almost all websites rely on third-party services. These could be the website hosting company, the firms that build plugins, or even the designer hired to create the website.
Each of these third parties adds risk and potential vulnerability to a website. For instance, any plugins or third-party code used on the website may create new attack vectors for hackers.
Website owners should think about utilizing automated solutions that scan for and apply software upgrades as soon as they become available. By doing so, E-commerce businesses can be assured that all of their website software solutions are up to date and secure.
3. Ensure appropriate password security and access control measures
The importance of using effective password management solutions cannot be overstated. Even though passwords are the simplest way to maintain website security, they can pose the most significant security danger if not appropriately managed.
Anyone with minimal computer abilities may use hacking tools to crack a password. If possible, e-commerce website owners should try only to use the services of a web hosting provider that employs two-factor or multi-factor authentication.
Such authentication techniques give an extra layer of protection. Anyone can provide a valid login and password, but only the real user may provide the required authenticators.
See also: 15 Tips for improving password security
Controlling access is critical to the effectiveness of website security. E-commerce websites operators should define the access permissions for various individuals that can access the website.
Human activities are the leading cause of cyber-attacks, necessitating the necessity for strict access controls. Employees with access to specific website areas may make mistakes that lead to disastrous attacks. To address the threats, website owners must implement robust access control methods.
Role-based access control policies should be developed if it is determined that not all employees should have access to a website.
Least access privilege, often known as the principle of minimal privilege or least authority, is an important control and is crucial if several of your employees or outsourced contractors need to access your website.
Applying the principle to an individual who requires specialized access ensures that the person only accesses the section for the time and reason specified, eliminating the possibility of an erroneous mistake leading to undesirable website security incidents.
4. Secure personal devices
Many firms focus on implementing suggested internet security policies, forgetting that their devices can jeopardize the security of their sites.
Hackers frequently target personal computers to obtain access to a secure website. For example, cyber attackers can use malware to insert dangerous data and files into a website via stealing FTP logins.
Furthermore, hackers believe that using personal computers as a gateway makes it easier to carry out website attacks. As a result, safeguarding a personal computer should be a top concern in website security.
ECommerce operators can secure their personal computers in various ways, including using antivirus and antimalware software.
A website’s security is heavily reliant on secure personal devices, and as such, e-commerce entrepreneurs and website administrators must assure optimum protection.
5. Changing default configuration settings
Many e-commerce website owners fail to change the default security settings, primarily since this is viewed as a “hardware” security practice.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and cyber attackers frequently run bots that can identify on websites using default security configurations.
E-Commerce site owners should ensure that the default settings of their website are changed. Among the settings to consider modifying are, but are not limited to:
- User controls
- File permissions
- Comments settings
- Information visibility
6. Make Regular Website Backups
Backups are also critical for website security. They enable the restoration of a website if a malicious attack causes loss and destruction or a software upgrade causes a crashed website. The fundamental concept of all security processes is to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Backing up a website regularly is not only a good idea, but it is also a vital strategy for preserving the privacy and security of any related information.
A website backup is a snapshot of all the critical components of your website. Themes, plugins, databases, and critical files are essential components that should be included in a website backup.
Performing a regular backup of your website should be a must website security practice since they are both simple and necessary for ensuring the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of a website.
Most website hosting providers provide the essential tools for creating and managing backups.
7. Consistent and Continuous Monitoring
Malware and viruses are designed to be evasive, making them difficult to detect. This is one of the many reasons why malware is considered one of the most significant common dangers to website security.
However, through consistent and constant monitoring, you can identify trends for your e-commerce website, quickly detecting any behavior that may suggest the presence of malware.
The following are some of the key indicators that a website has security vulnerabilities that must be addressed:
- Login information for user accounts is obtained without their permission.
- Files on the website are changed or removed without the owner’s knowledge or consent.
- If the website freezes and crashes frequently
- When search engine results show noticeable changes, such as cautions about potentially hazardous information or blacklisting
- If there is a sudden surge or decrease in the website’s traffic
The existence of the above indicators may indicate that a website is infected. It is strongly advised to employ automated monitoring systems.
An automated scanner is more effective since it can continuously monitor a website while allowing it to function normally, and still detect any abnormal activity and implement corrective actions.
When making changes to the website, it is a good idea to run a new vulnerability scan. This is because changes can present new vulnerabilities, which a website scanner can assist in detecting.
8. Deploy firewalls for website security
One of the most extensively used website security solutions is the use of firewalls.
Web application firewalls (WAFs) are a subset of application firewalls that filter, monitor, and block HTTP traffic to and from web services. By examining HTTP traffic, it is possible to avert attacks that target known vulnerabilities in a web application, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), file inclusion, and poor system setup.
A web application firewall prevents harmful programs from accessing a web server, preventing a website from being hacked. Blocking dangerous traffic secures a website while also saving bandwidth and loading time for the web hosting account.
9. Validate all user input
An SQL injection attack is made possible by a cybercriminal entering SQL code into a website’s input field – validating user input guards against SQL injection attacks.
For example, a website may include a sign-up form where users may create an account. Instead of a name, the hacker will enter a computer code that will deceive your website into displaying the contents of your database.
To ensure the security of the data that a user inputs into your website, it must be validated. This validation can be performed on both the client and server sides. Since it is possible to bypass client-side validation, server-side validation is more secure.
10. Create a website security blueprint
To summarize the best website security procedures, creating and maintaining a plan for putting them into action is critical.
Before implementing any security solution, it is critical to create an actionable and detailed website security plan. The plan should define the goals that the business hopes to achieve through the implementation of security measures.
For example, the primary goal can be to improve the website’s general compliance or improve the website’s security.
A website security blueprint should also specify the apps whose security should be prioritized, as well as the techniques that will be used to assess their security. Although individual organizations’ website security designs may differ, the following six-step checklist can be used.
- gathering information on significant security risks
- devising a counter-measure procedure
- Putting the plan into action to find any flaws
- Keep track of the outcomes.
- Address the detected security flaws by performing necessary remediation.
- Check the website’s security.
Website Security: Next Steps
As an online business and ecommerce entrepreneur, website security must be one of your primary priorities.
If you haven’t taken any actions to secure your website, you’re at risk right now as you read this. Even if you have completed the necessary measures, you must regularly and frequently keep your website secure.
When it comes to avoiding rogue actors, being watchful and employing the correct measures will help put you, your website, and your business up for success. However, you can make it more difficult for them by using the security procedures listed above.