Websites have become a crucial part of doing business in the modern digital landscape. However, they also introduce new attack surfaces and vulnerabilities that hackers and cyber-criminals can exploit to steal data or disrupt operations. Implementing proper website security measures is essential for protecting businesses and customers.
Web development companies, aware of these risks, emphasize the importance of implementing proper website security measures. These measures are essential for protecting businesses and customers. This article provides an overview of key website security best practices that every business should adopt, such as using SSL certificates, enabling HTTPS, applying regular software updates, requiring strong passwords, deploying web application firewalls, and configuring regular backups. Prioritizing these measures will help safeguard sensitive information, ensure continuity of online operations, and build customer trust.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to the details of an organization’s identity. When installed on websites, SSL certificates activate the padlock and HTTPS protocol and enable encrypted connections.
By establishing an encrypted link between web servers and browsers, SSL certificates protect sensitive information like logins, payments, and personal data from interception and manipulation.
HubSpot provides a beginner’s guide to SSL certificates, explaining their importance for website security and the encryption process. This guide offers insights into how SSL certificates protect against man-in-the-middle attacks and the different types of certificates available. It’s a comprehensive starting point for understanding SSL.
Benefits of having an SSL certificate for a business website
Key reasons businesses should get an SSL certificate installed on their websites include:
- Encrypting all data exchanged between browsers and servers
- Verifying organization/website identity and legitimacy
- Building customer trust and confidence in privacy measures
- Ensuring PCI compliance for online payment transactions
- Improving SEO rankings by switching to HTTPS
Different types of SSL certificates and their features
The main types of SSL certificates available include:
- Domain validation (DV) – verifies control over a domain. Most affordable option.
- Organization Validation (OV) – verifies the identity of owning a business. Displays organization info.
- Extended Validation (EV) – requires a thorough verification process. Displays green address bar. Highest legitimacy.
There are also wildcard certificates covering multiple subdomains and other speciality certificates with differing validation requirements, browsers/device support, etc.
2. Implementing HTTPS
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s the secure version of HTTP used to access web content through encrypted SSL/TLS channels.
Enabling HTTPS across an entire website is crucial for website security as all communications and data transfers become encrypted via SSL certificates that guard against interception attacks.
How to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS
The main steps for migrating a website from HTTP to HTTPS are:
- Obtain an SSL certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority
- Install the SSL certificate on your web server
- Forcibly redirect all HTTP traffic to HTTPS
- Update references/links on site to use HTTPS
- Change site preferred protocol to HTTPS
Benefits of using HTTPS for businesses
Switching websites from HTTP to HTTPS provides significant security and trust benefits:
- Website traffic is encrypted and secured from spying
- Visiting users can verify site legitimacy and identity
- Integrity and protection of transmitted data is maintained
- SEO and conversion rates typically improve due to trust signals
3. Regular Updates and Patches
Consistently applying the latest security patches, framework updates, and software upgrades is vital to securing websites against rapidly evolving threats targeting known vulnerabilities in outdated systems.
How to identify and apply necessary updates and patches
Best practices include:
- Maintaining an inventory of all software/systems associated with website operations
- Monitoring vendor release notes/blogs about new updates
- Testing updates first on non-production environments
- Establishing, documenting, and automating update approval/deployment workflows
Examples of vulnerabilities that can be mitigated through regular updates
Timely software updates are key to mitigating:
- Open source system exploits like Log4j, Heartbleed, Shellshock
- Content management system threats such as WordPress or Drupal exploits
- Vulnerabilities in web/database servers, libraries, plugins, dependencies
Weak passwords that are short, easy to guess, reused across accounts or unencrypted put websites and corporate resources at risk of unauthorized access, cyber-attacks and compliance violations.
Best practices for creating strong passwords
Creating strong passwords involves:
- Setting minimum length to 12+ characters
- Using unpredictable combinations of upper/lowercase letters, numbers and symbols
- Avoiding dictionary words, personally identifiable info, patterns
- Encrypting stored passwords via hashing or encryption
- Not re-using passwords across multiple accounts/sites
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires providing two or more credentials when logging into an account such as:
- Something you know (password/PIN)
- Something you have (security token)
- Something you are (biometric verification)
Adding MFA enhances account security, protects against password compromises, and safeguards against unauthorized logins.
Web application firewalls (WAF) are network security systems that monitor/control HTTP traffic directed at websites and web applications. Serving as a protective buffer, WAFs identify and block threats like SQL injections, cross-site scripting, DDoS attacks, and other web app exploit attempts.
Different types of WAFs and their features
WAFs are offered as cloud-based services, hardware appliances, and server software solutions with varying feature sets across those platforms regarding traffic analysis rules, custom policy creation, threat intelligence integration, reporting capabilities etc.
How to implement and configure a WAF for business websites
- Selecting appropriate WAF deployment mode – cloud, virtual appliance, software
- Choosing a WAF solution tailored towards organization size and web application stack
- Configuring WAF policies based on business needs and risk tolerance
- Adding customized rules to protect against application-specific attacks
- Tuning WAF settings over time as threats evolve
Performing frequent backups is crucial for security as it provides the ability to recover from data corruption, malicious tampering/deletion, ransomware attacks, accidental overwrites or errors. Backups ensure website continuity and availability.
UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin– A WordPress plugin that simplifies backups and restoration. It is the world’s highest-ranking and most popular scheduled backup plugin.
Different backup methods and their pros and cons
Common website backup strategies include:
- Full backups – copies all files. Resource intensive for large sites.
- Differential backups – backup changes since the last full backup. Faster recovery.
- Incremental backups – only backs up newly added/edited files periodically. Space efficient.
Other factors include backup media (disks, cloud), scope (files, databases, systems) and automated scheduling.
How to develop an effective backup strategy for business websites
Elements of an effective website backup strategy encompass:
- Automating scheduled daily/weekly full + incremental backups
- Maintaining generous retention periods (30+ days)
- Encrypting backup data to ensure security
- Storing backups separately from the live site across multiple media
- Regularly testing backup restores and maintaining documented procedures
Implementing robust website security measures is non-negotiable for modern businesses. Websites represent a major vulnerability that hackers are aggressively exploiting to infiltrate companies and steal valuable data.
By taking proactive steps to lock down external threats, organizations can avoid becoming the next data breach headline while building trust with customers.
The actions recommended in this article – enabling HTTPS, applying timely software updates, using strong authentication practices, deploying web application firewalls and configuring backups – provide a layered defense that significantly raises the barrier for cyberattacks.
While no single solution can make a website 100% impenetrable, adopting best practices greatly reduces the risks. Dedicate appropriate resources to regularly maintain, monitor and enhance your website security posture. Enable logging and alerts to detect threats early. Test for vulnerabilities and rehearse incident response plans.
Make website security a top business priority today before you end up the victim of a catastrophic and costly data breach.
Q: What is the most important website security measure to implement first?
A: Enabling HTTPS via a trusted SSL certificate is likely the most effective starting point. It encrypts all traffic, prevents eavesdropping/data theft and lets you leverage other security mechanisms.
Q: Does website security require specialized expertise?
A: In many cases, no. Managed service providers can now help implement things like certificates, WAF, patching automation and backups. However, larger organizations may want dedicated cybersecurity staff.
Q: What are the symptoms that indicate my website’s security has been compromised?
A: Unavailability, defaced webpages, redirected traffic, spikes in bandwidth usage, changes to files, fraudulent information or activities are just some examples. Ensure logging is enabled.
Q: Should I report website security incidents to law enforcement?
A: If the attack resulted in a confirmed data breach or theft, then yes. Report it to authorities and document everything about the intrusion. You may have legal/regulatory notification duties also.
Q: How often should we test and evaluate our website security posture?
A: Ongoing security requires vigilance. Audit controls at least annually. Simulate attack scenarios quarterly. Check compliance with updated regulations as needed. Remediate issues immediately.