How to Protect Your Website From Cyber Attacks
Cybercrime is on the rise. According to one source, malware attacks increased by 358% from 2019 to 2020. Another report showed that cybercriminals hack over 30,000 websites every day.
As a business or website owner, these numbers can be crippling, especially when dealing with sensitive data or transactions. Hackers or cyber criminals can exploit vulnerabilities within your site to steal sensitive/ private data such as addresses and credit card information. They can also damage your reputation, among other things.
Your website is an extension of your hard work and should be protected to ensure that all that hard work doesn’t go to waste. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the most effective ways of protecting your website from cyber-attacks.
But before we do so, it’s important to understand the types of threats that plague our websites.
Understanding Common Website Security Cyber Threats
Cross-site scripting (XSS) is an attack that cybercriminals use to inject malicious client-side scripts into a victim’s web app or website.
This attack starts with the cybercriminal sending a malicious link to an unsuspecting user. These links are often enticing and typically lower the guard of a user into clicking them. This script will be downloaded to the visitor’s computer once they click that link or visit that specific site.
This type of scripting typically enhances the interactivity and functionality of a website. Client-side scripting allows the browser to process and manipulate web content locally on the user’s device. You can learn more about scripting and how it affects your website here.
But one thing’s for certain: this type of attack involves malware that can exfiltrate data, install other malicious malware, and redirect the user to a spoofed site.
How to Prevent Cross Scripting and Protect Your Website
Preventing XSS attacks and keeping your website safe starts with sanitizing your data inputs. This means that you should consider denying special symbols or characters to prevent the injection of code.
All this can sound like a new language if you don’t have experience with website development or cyber security but still need to protect a website. One of the solutions to start with is to consider a reliable and secure website hosting provider.
You can also use a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, which often have built-in security features and a wide community of users and developers who can help with security concerns.
You’ve probably heard of malware software programs like Trojan Horse. These programs are designed to infiltrate, damage, or steal data from your website and devices.
There are many malware programs out there, including viruses, worms, spyware, ransomware, and adware. According to one report, there are millions of malware and related strains created each day!
How to Prevent Malware Attacks and Protect Your Website
As much as CMS programs are cost-effective and easy to use to run your website, they also present huge targets for cyber threats. So, if your website is using a CMS solution like WordPress, one way to protect it is by ensuring it’s regularly updated.
Another way to prevent malware attacks on your website is by website scanning. Many viruses and malware go unnoticed until it’s too late because they are designed to be elusive.
Website security scanning software such as antiviruses can help you detect and fish out malware before it’s too late. For instance, if you use a Mac, consider the best antivirus for Mac, to prevent, detect, or remove malware from your system and protect your website.
Lastly, you’ll want to strengthen your passwords and install web application firewalls. Passwords are still a huge concern as people use easy-to-guess weak passwords. We’ll discuss passwords later, but you typically want to have strong passwords for your admin and user accounts to make it harder for hackers to guess them.
Web App Firewalls (WAF) help prevent attackers from visiting your site as they typically evaluate the quality of traffic coming to your site and act appropriately. These solutions can help your website avoid attacks of malware.
DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. As the name suggests, this type of attack leaves your website slow, unresponsive, or completely unavailable, denying legitimate users/visitors access.
In a DDoS attack, cybercriminals flood a network or website with overwhelming traffic. This flood of data causes the targeted system to become slow or completely unresponsive.
How to Prevent DDoS Attacks and Protect Your Website
According to Amazon, one of the first DDOS prevention measures is to minimize the surface area that can be exploited by the attackers. In other words, consider minimizing the possible points of attack to limit the options for attackers.
It’s also important to familiarize yourself with normal and abnormal traffic. The rule of thumb is to be able to accept as much traffic as your host or service provider can handle without affecting availability. This is what is also known as rate limiting.
You can also deploy a Web Application Firewall, as stated above, to curb such attacks.
SQL Injection Attacks
SQL injection attacks involve hackers who inject malicious code that corrupts, steals, or destroys data on your website or data-driven application.
It’s one of the most common web hacking techniques that involve the placement of malicious code in SQL statements. This attack compromises a server’s cookies, HTTP posts, or web forms to corrupt or manipulate data out of your database.
How to Prevent SQL Injection Attacks and Protect Your Website
- Keep your web application software, including libraries, plug-ins, and frameworks, up to date.
- Avoid using shared database accounts between different sites.
- Input Validation: Implement strict input validation on the server side. Check that user input adheres to expected formats and values before processing it in your application. Reject input that doesn’t meet validation criteria.
- Adopt the least privilege principle: Ensure that database user accounts used by your application have the least necessary privileges. Avoid using administrator-level accounts for database connections.
Other Ways To Protect Your Website From Cyber Threats
Regularly Update Software and Plugins
As mentioned above, keeping your web application software, including libraries and frameworks, up to date is important for maintaining a secure website. Outdated software can have vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit.
Review Your Passwords and Make Sure They are Strong
Passwords serve as the first line of defense for our user accounts and, in this case, admin accounts. But even though this sounds like a broken record, you’ll be surprised at just how many website owners overlook this.
According to one source, a hacker can try 2.18 trillion password/username combinations in 22 seconds. This means that a hacker can have a field day guessing your password if it’s simple and easy to guess.
The best way to prevent a hacker from gaining access to your website administrator accounts is by using a random combination of uppercase/ lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
If you find this whole endeavor time-consuming and challenging to remember, consider a reputable and solid password manager. These tools will help you generate a random and strong password for all your user accounts. They’ll also store the passwords for you so you won’t have to remember each one.
Implement Multi-factor authentication (MFA) for Your User Accounts
MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide multiple forms of verification or information before they can proceed to visit the website or gain access to an account.
If you’ve visited a website before and had to complete a challenge (i.e., to choose similar pictures like bridges and traffic lights) to proceed to the website, you have a rough idea of what an authentication system looks like.
You might be required to enter a code sent to an email, or answer a secret question, or scan a fingerprint. Enabling MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access.
Review Your Access Control and User Permissions
If you are not the only one accessing your business/ website accounts, you might need to reconsider your access control and user permissions. Not all users require the same level of access.
For instance, for users with temporary needs, consider granting time-limited access rather than granting permanent permissions. This reduces the risk associated with long-term access.
Backup and Disaster Recovery
Most of the time, how you act in the first few moments after a data breach could determine how the whole situation will play out. And while most people ignore data backups and disaster management, it’s essential to avoid data loss or corruption.
Losing critical data due to cyberattacks can have lasting and expensive consequences for your website. Data backups serve as a shield against data loss, in the event of a cyberattack, accidental deletion, or hardware failure.
Keep Learning and Training Your Staff about Cybersecurity
As the saying goes, learning never stops. And this phrase couldn’t be more applicable in this context, as about a million malware-related programs are released daily. Cybercriminals are always evolving and adapting to changes in the online world.
And for this reason, it’s advisable to always stay on top of changes or advancements in cybersecurity to keep you a step ahead of online terrorists.
Extend this learning to your staff and employees. This is very important as employee emails and employee accounts are some of the most popular channels that cybercriminals use to gain access to business accounts and websites.
They achieve this by using phishing scams, the most prevalent and effective way of hacking user accounts. Learning how to recognize and avoid phishing scams is an effective way to prevent online thugs from accessing your passwords, account numbers, or social security numbers.
Websites have become essential for all businesses or organizations, especially those that require online visibility. But cybercriminals and hackers are also cognisant of this need. They are constantly making attempts to gain access to websites for the sole purpose of stealing data or compromising the same.
Fortunately, cyberattacks can be prevented. You can secure your website using web app firewalls, strong passwords, antivirus software, multifactor authentication systems, and ensuring your apps and plugins are up to date.