How to Protect Your Website: 10 Security Holes You Need to Care About
by Vitaly Kuprenko
How to protect the website? Various web security tools can prevent hacking and malicious software. In this article, we’ll discuss ten tips on how to protect your website or web app.
Let’s face it — website security is crucial for your success.
According to the Google Transparency Report, there are around 50,000 malware sites on average per week. So, how to avoid hacking attacks? In this guide, we’ll discuss ten widespread security holes along with tools that can help you protect the website.
Reasons Why Security Is Important
There are billions of websites on the Internet. All of them need to be protected regardless of their purpose — business or entertainment. Below you can find several reasons to protect your website:
- Lost reputation. There are more than 1.5 million websites all over the world. It’s evident that users won’t trust the platform with vulnerabilities. Search engineers can mark the site as insecure if there is no HTTPS protocol.
- Lost revenue. If the website is insecure, the customers lose their trust and loyalty to the platform. It leads to decreasing revenue.
- The number of hacked websites rises. Such popular platforms as Facebook and British Airways have suffered from hacking attacks.
- Data protection. Users give a lot of personal data on your website, e.g. login, password, date of birth, and so on. This information can be used to harm them. Additionally, if your website deals with the payments, you’d better consider secure payment methods like PayPal or Stripe.
- Avoid blacklisting. Many search engines like Google protect users. Trying to open a certain website, it’s possible to get a message “This site may harm your computer.” It means that the website has already been hacked and is blacklisted. As a result, the platforms can lose up to 95% of customers.
There is a tendency to scan platforms for vulnerabilities. So, to avoid the hacking attack, it’s better to protect the website beforehand.
Various security tools can detect vulnerabilities and provide a detailed report, so that you can fix them. We’ll discuss them at the end of the article.
However, the question arises — what to do if the website has already been hacked?
The website can be hacked to send spam emails, infecting clients’ computers. In this case, search engines will deny access to the platform and send a website owner a notification about the block.
Also, it’s possible to be unaware of the hacking attack. The malware can steal personal information like passwords and logins. In this case, you put into risk your reputation and users’ loyalty.
10 Tips on How to Protect the Website
We’ve prepared ten tips on how to make your website secure and protect it from hacking attacks.
#1. Update the Platform Regularly
It may seem obvious but you need to update the software regularly to avoid hacking attacks. A bunch of hosting services offer software updates, but it’s better to ensure security.
Additionally, using any kind of third-party software, you also have to consider updates. In most cases, such services tend to send notifications about upgrades.
#2. Consider Protection From SQL Injections
SQL injection stands for a situation when a hacker utilizes URL parameters or web form field to manage the information in the database. As a result, hackers can change or delete the data.
Also, a new parameter allows adding requests at the end of the SQL query.
To avoid such situations, it’s better to utilize parameterized queries.
#3. Take Into Account Cross Site Scripting
Cross Site Scripting or XSS means an attack when a hacker runs some maleficent code. As a result, it’s necessary to check that your data is verified. Also, it’s required to encrypt, crop, or delete any third-party HTML inclusions.
Among the most wide-spread XSS examples are stealing cookies. A bunch of websites tends to store essential data like login or password in cookies. To avoid such risks, it’s better to log out of the website.
#4. Pay Attention to Error Messages
Considering error messages, it’s better not to provide all the information about the mistake. Let’s discuss an example. The user tries to log in on the website. It’s common to choose such notifications as “Incorrect password or username.”
To make your website more secure, never tell what part of the data is incorrect. In this case, a hacker can pay attention to decrypting the particular information.
#5. Don’t Forget About Server-Side Validation
You need to consider both sides of data validation — in the browser and on the server. In this case, you can find bugs along with fields with mistakes. Forgetting to verify information may lead to breaking website protection.
#6. Create Secure Passwords
Everybody knows that it’s better to create passwords with letters and numbers. This aspect is significant not only for the dashboard of the website but also for users’ pages.
Of course, it can be complicated to create and remember long passwords. But it’s enough to have six symbols, including capital and small letters and numbers.
To encrypt the users’ passwords, it's better to utilize Secure Hash Algorithms or SHA. In this case, you can avoid attempts to decrypt the password. The only way is to utilize software for password selection.
There are various Content Management Systems or CMS that can help protect your website. However, it’s better to think about security plugins. Below you can find the most widespread ones:
- iThemes Security
- Watchlog Pro
#7. Think About Uploading Files Feature
Let’s face it. Uploading files to a server is a risk. Even if we consider the new image of a profile. Any uploaded file can bring a malware script to the server.
It’s better to check any file that users upload. You can’t rely on the extensions since they can be counterfeited.
Solution? Don’t let customers run the uploaded files. Also, malware files tend to have a double extension, e.g. png.php.
One more way is to rename the files and change extensions. It leads to a higher security level.
#8. Take Care of Server Security
If you develop a server on your own, you need to consider some aspects of website security.
- Ensure that you installed a firewall, and all insignificant ports are blocked. You can set a DMZ that offers access to 80th and 443rd ports.
- Use secure methods for uploading files to the server.
- Create the database on another server. It allows protecting information.
#9. Integrate SSL Protocol
SSL protocol tends to be utilized to protect websites. To transfer data between a server and a website, it’s required to use a security certificate. In other cases, hackers can get access to users’ personal information.
#10. Implement HTTPS Protocol
This protocol can be connected to SSL. It’s demanded to install SSL protocols to transmit information by HTTPS on the web server. These days, it’s common to choose HTTPS as a protection service.
By the way, Google ranks websites with SSL certificate higher in the search.
How to Test Website Security?
So, you’ve protected your website completely. How to check the protection level? The most widespread way is to use particular tools that can find vulnerabilities.
There are various services that you can use for testing. They tend to utilize scripts like SQL injections to hack your platform. Such services are secure. In case of vulnerability, they send you a notification.
Below you can find the most popular tools.
This tool tends to scan websites for vulnerabilities. Probely can offer ways to fix them.
Interestingly, Probely uses the API-First development approach, offering all the functions through the APIs. As a result, it allows automating security testing.
It’s possible to use the service to check for GDPR and HIPAA compliance requirements.
OpenVAS is one of the most popular security tools. It’s able to identify more than 25,000 vulnerabilities. However, it’s quite complicated to configure this tool.
OpenVAS offers a scanning tool called Greenbone Security Assistant.
This tool offers a free trial period, so that you can see the platform's capabilities. The primary purpose of Netsparker is to test SQL injections and XSS. The tool can be used for all kinds of websites and web apps.
At the end of the testing, you can get a report with all the vulnerabilities of the websites.
This security tool allows testing the website or web application for malware, blacklisting, and so on. It’s possible to use SiteGuarding for such platforms as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and others.
Moreover, this service can help you remove vulnerabilities from the website.
Acunetix provides a free trial period, so it’s possible to test the tool for 14 days.
This security tool allows finding various vulnerabilities. Acunetix works with the scripts in PHP, APS.NET, and ASP languages.
As you can see, security is vital for any type of website or web app. It’s not enough to develop a website; you also need to check its security carefully. We’ve discussed various tools that can assist you in detecting vulnerabilities.
About the Author
Vitaly Kuprenko is a technical writer at Cleveroad. It's a web and mobile app development company in Ukraine. He enjoys telling about tech innovations and digital ways to boost businesses.