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Halt Those Hackers: 7 Ways to Improve Your Website Security

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At one point or another, we’ve all heard about hackers and cyber attacks. But, we also tend to assume that we will never have to deal with any of these issues.

The reality, though, is that there’s a very good chance you will have to deal with a cybersecurity issue at some point. After all, a website is attacked by hackers once every 39 seconds!

Whether you run a website as part of your business or just as a side project, security is of the utmost importance.

Read on to learn more about website security and how you can make sure your website stays safe from hackers and other threats.

Common Website Vulnerabilities

Before we get into the specific strategies you can implement to improve your website security, it’s important to read more about ways that hackers could harm your website and put your users at risk.

Listed below are some common website vulnerabilities of which you ought to be aware:

SQL Injections

This is a type of vulnerability that occurs when an attacker uses application code to corrupt or access content on your database. If they’re successful, they can create, alter, read, or delete data. 

Broken Authentication and Session Management

These terms encompass a broad range of security issues related to maintaining a user’s identity. Essentially, if authentication and session identifiers are not protected, an attacker could hijack a session and assume the user’s identity.

Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfigurations involve a variety of vulnerabilities related to lack of website maintenance or lack of attention to web application configuration. These kinds of issues give hackers access to private data and can totally compromise your website.

Cross-Site Scripting

This involves injecting code into the output of a web application. The client-side scripts of an application are manipulated to hijack user sessions, redirect the user to a malicious site, or deface the website in some way.

Cross-Site Request Forgery

This is a malicious attack that involves tricking a user into performing an unintended action. It allows the attacker access to various web applications, including things like social media and online banking.

Insecure Direct Object References

This issue occurs when a web application exposes a reference and an object like a file, directory, database record, or database key. When the application exposes these objects, hackers can manipulate it and gain access to users’ data.

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Seven Ways to Improve Website Security

There’s a lot that can go wrong with your website from a security perspective. The good news, though, is that there is also a lot you can do to keep your website secure.

Here are seven strategies everyone with a website should be implementing:

1. Update Your Software

One of the best steps you can take to keep your website secure is to make sure you are updating your software on a regular basis. 

When you update your software regularly, you make it harder for hackers to take advantage of security issues.

If you use a managed hosting solution, updates are usually taken care of for you. If you use third-party software on your website, though, you need to be vigilant about updates.

2. Watch Out for Error Messages

Did you know that your error messages could inadvertently be giving hackers important information about your website?

Be cautious about the amount of information you share in these messages.

Avoid providing full exception details — they make attacks like SQL injections a lot easier. Detailed errors should be kept to your server logs. Only show users what they absolutely need to see. 

3. Use Two-Way Validation

Validation ought to be done on both the server side and the browser side.

The browser will catch simple issues (leaving fields empty, inserting text in a numbers-only field, etc.), but it is still possible to bypass these.

Because of this, there should also be deeper validation on the server side to keep malicious code from being inserted into the database.

4. Choose Passwords Carefully

We all know that we ought to choose our passwords carefully. How many of us actually do that, though? 

Use strong passwords for your server and website admin areas. Make sure your users use strong passwords, too. It might be annoying, but setting specific password requirements can help to protect their information and keep your site secure.

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Be sure to always store passwords as encrypted values. Ideally, you’ll do this using a one-way hashing algorithm like SHA.

5. Don’t Allow File Uploads

Be very cautious about allowing users to upload files to your website. This is a major security risk, no matter what you’re allowing the users to upload. Even the most innocent-looking files could contain script that makes your website vulnerable to hackers.

If you do choose to allow file uploads, it’s imperative that you have a thorough vetting system in place to keep undesirable files away from your site.

6. Use HTTPS

HTTPS is a type of internet security protocol. It ensures that users are communicating with the server they expect and prevents people from intercepting or changing the content they’re taking in.

HTTPS is especially important if your website collects data that users will want to keep private, such as credit card numbers or login information.

It’s not difficult or expensive to use HTTPS, either. There are several companies out there that offer free, automated certificates that allow you to enable HTTPS.

7. Install Security Plugins

Finally, make sure you’re installing plugins that help to bolster your website’s security. There are lots of these plugins out there, many of which are free.

SiteLock is another great tool to use, whether you run a CMS-managed website or HTML pages. It provides daily monitoring for malware detection, vulnerability identification, virus scanning, and more.

Need More Website Security Tips?

As you can see, website security is a serious issue, and it’s important to take steps to make sure your website is not vulnerable to hackers.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll have a much easier time maintaining a secure website.

Are you interested in learning more about website security? What about tools and strategies that will help to guard your users’ personal information?

We’ve got lots of articles that cover all kinds of security topics. Start by checking out this one on the importance of using digital signatures.