Website Security: How to Protect the Website from Hackers
For most small business owners, website security can be reduced to one main question: how to protect the website from hackers?
Answers are not simple, since the issue is ever-evolving, complex and confusing. Website security is not something you set once and forget. Rather, it is a continuous process that needs constant assessment to minimize the risk.
Consider that website security includes all the measures taken to secure and prevent a website from hacking or cyber-attacks comprising the website security. It is the most crucial part of managing your website. A secure website is crucial to your online presence as a website host. If your website gets hacked, it may lose all its traffic. A clientele data breach, meanwhile, can lead to lawsuits, damaged reputation and heavy fines.
Understanding how your website got hacked or compromised is a vital part of protecting and securing your website from attackers.
How do Websites Get Hacked?
Whether you are a Fortune 500 or a small company selling cookies, you are equally at risk of getting your website hacked. Before the discussion on how to protect the website from hackers, it is important to understand how attacks are carried out and the site can get compromised.
Brute Force Attacks and Compromised Passwords
In the cyber crimes’ world, a brute-force attack is the simplest way to get access to a server or website or wherever anything is password protected. It is a method that involves repetitive attempts to submit various password combinations with the hope of eventually guessing the correct one and breaking into the website.
Hacking attempts are carried out by attackers using bots, or automated software programs. They install them maliciously in compromised computers to boost the power needed to run such activities.
Users with a weak or compromised credential management system are vulnerable. Whether a hacker is using techniques to guess the password right or trying out a common combination of stolen passwords, compromised credentials are a serious problem. This is why it’s important to create and set a strong password along with other additional security systems.
It is quite easy to give in to desire and install a beautiful free theme from the popular search engines. However, have you ever ensured whether the theme is safe, especially an attractive free one? Many of these free themes are not well developed or actively supported. This makes them vulnerable to attacks, and hackers have been known to add malicious code to free themes.
Outdated themes are another major source of vulnerabilities. That’s why it’s important to keep your themes updated and remove the ones that are no longer being maintained by the developers. When you remove any theme, make sure to remove all the files from the server. Always use high-quality themes from well-respected theme stores and developers.
If you’re wondering how to protect the website from hackers, check the plugins. Plugins play a prominent role in the website development process, particularly in WordPress sites. These special purpose tools integrate all kinds of functionalities on the website.
But sadly, plug-ins are the most vulnerable to hacking attacks. The hackers manage to find loopholes within the plugin’s code and use these to gain access to sensitive and confidential information. Protect yourself by keeping plugins up to date and avoid usage of abandoned plug-ins.
Security Policy Loopholes
Following poor security policies can increase the chances of getting your site hacked. Examples include giving admin access freely, allowing users to create weak passwords, not updating user accounts regularly and failure to use an SSL (secure) certificate on your website.
Not Updating Software
Perhaps the most common—and the easiest to avoid—security vulnerability is neglecting to update site software, such as WordPress, themes and plugins.
Old software that is not updated for a long time can be exploited by attackers to compromise your entire website. This is why hackers intently seek out old software—which is often recognizable from outside the website.
To prevent these vulnerabilities, set up an automatic system for updating software and sign up for any kind of security announcements your software developers offer. You can also subscribe to WordPress website maintenance service through our site.
Social engineering refers to a wide range of malicious activities achieved through human interactions. It tricks the users with psychological manipulation where they end up disclosing sensitive information.
Social engineering attacks come in different forms. The most common techniques are Baiting, Pretexting, Scareware, Phishing and Spear Phishing. You need to be aware of such tricks to protect your site from being attacked.
Malware and DDoS attacks
Malware and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks are the most common risks to your website. These are both dangerous hacking techniques that hackers may use separately or together to attack your website.
A collective name for malicious software, “malware” is software designed intentionally to damage computer systems, data, servers, websites and/or computer networks. These are developed by cyber attackers to gain unauthorized access and cause damage to your system. Examples include a broad variety of malware: Trojan horses, Ransomware, Computer Viruses, Spyware, Worms, Adware and much more.
DDoS is a malicious act to disrupt the traffic of the target server or network by indefinitely or temporarily disrupting the host connected to the Internet connection. While malware gains backdoor entry to your website and damages your files with a virus, DDoS targets to inundate your website with high fake traffic.
Install a firewall and malware scan system to protect your website from hacking with such malware software.
Cross-Site Scripting, or XSS attack, is another common attack where the hacker injects a malicious script to your website after you click a compromised link or end up downloading a file or attachment. This enables the hacker to add their malicious script to all the pages of your site and redirect the traffic to some other website.
SQL Injection Hacks
A code injection technique, SQL injection is a technique which is used to attack data-driven applications where a hacker inserts malicious characters or SQL statements into an insecure form. With this, a hacker attempts to exploit a database of your website, gaining access to credit/debit card numbers, usernames, retrieving passwords and home addresses.
So, Why do Websites Get Hacked?
Now you know how hackers get access to websites and hack them. However, you may be confused about why. There are numerous reasons for your website to get hacked, let’s put them under the following categories:
The most common reason for hacking is because the opportunity for profit. You might think that your site doesn’t have anything to offer, since it’s limited to some informational pages and posts and possibly some products for sale that the hacker can’t profit from.
Ransom– If you don’t have a website backup, a hacker can back up your site, destroy or deface the live version of it and demand you pay money in return for restoring the working website.
Weaponized Site– Hackers can use your website as an online weapon. You can witness DDoS attacks targeted at websites where political interests or business motivate the attack. The attackers are often paid by third parties to get a website or service down to further their agenda. Your website can even be sold as an online weapon, functioning at someone’s command without your knowledge.
Your compromised personal computer or website server can be used as a distributing or storage medium for malicious and illegal content such as pornography, spyware and much more.
Black hat SEO campaigns can be lucrative in many instances. The hackers insert fake SEO (spam links) into your website without you even realizing it. They abuse your audience by directing them to some third-party website that generates affiliate revenue. Most such cases are related to pharmaceutical, fashion, pornography, and gambling. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing index the fake links and, once these links make it to the result pages of search engines, the attackers start producing revenue.
If you operate an ecommerce site that stores customers’ credit card details, hackers can easily access the details and use or sell your client’s information. Compromised user data information, such as emails, passwords, and login usernames, can be sold on the black market for a good amount of money. For instance, your client’s email details can be stolen from your database and sold for spam purposes. A great example is that of the LinkedIn breach, where details of around 117 million user accounts were compromised and the information was sold on the black market.
Hacking is sometimes executed for simple reasons which are not related to economic gains. These reasons could be pure boredom, curiosity, for a bet, for amusement, to bragging rights or may practice some future bigger hacking projects.
Most of these kinds of hackers are teenagers and computer-savvy youth who have nothing else to do.
This motivation is the hardest to understand and contend with. Hacktivism can be related to nationalism, human rights, religion, anti-globalism, some political agenda and many more. Most of the hacktivism cases are related to page defacements. The purpose of these attacks is typically more to cause embarrassment to the website owner than to have any effect on site users.
Here’s How to Protect the Website from Hackers
Fixing the already hacked website is quite a daunting task as hackers usually create secret entry points that are hidden. This allows them to keep revisiting and re-hacking your website. Moreover, the recovery costs are pretty high, and the results can be devastating for the website owner.
Prevention is better than cure. There are security measures you can take to protect your website from hackers.
Keep Software Updated: Update everything from time to time. Ensure that you have the latest version of your CMS, themes, and plug-ins.
Stay Informed: Keep yourself well informed regarding the threats and what their targets are. Follow some tech sites and keep track of the latest what is happening.
ControlAccess: Harden site access with passwords and usernames strong enough to not be easily guessed.
Install Security Applications: Install highly secure applications such as a firewall, Wordfence and other security software.
Use encrypted SSL: Transfer personal information of users between your website and database by an encrypted SSL protocol.
Tighten Network Security: make sure that your logins automatically expire within a short period of inactivity, change your passwords frequently, create strong passwords and scan all the devices that are plugged into the network for malware every time you attach them.
Tim Smith is a marketing consultant who specializes in website design and helps clients generate leads using both online and traditional channels. He regularly blogs on website and marketing-related topics, such as website strategy, design, content, security and maintenance.