Article

Claire Watt
Claire Watt 23 November 2020

5 Ways to Protect Your Website in 2020

Protecting your website and client data from hackers is not an option, it is a legal obligation and one which could make or break the brand of your business. It is important, in marketing and beyond, that we maintain an awareness of current trends in the online security sector and the ever innovative ways in which hackers will attempt to access your server. This is an ongoing process.

While many people believe the completion of their website is the end of the story, this is just the beginning. The next challenge is to protect your site from hackers and malware infections. We will now take a look at five simple ways to protect your website in 2020 - in isolation they are useful but cumulatively they will secure both your website and reputation.

How to Avoid Brute Force Hackers

WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems on the internet today – behind one in five self-hosted websites. The standard package includes a default login page and “Admin” account, both well known to hackers. Those attempting to gain access to your web server will often use brute force software, using the standard login page.

They will then attempt to access the “Admin” account, trying an array of popular passwords. These automated systems can plough through thousands of passwords until they exhaust their list. There are simple actions you can take to protect yourself from WordPress brute force hackers:-

  • Change the standard login page URL
  • Rename the Admin account
  • Use non-standard passwords

While we have used WordPress as an example, these are additional security measures which can be used across many different websites.

It is Important to Keep all Software Up-to-Date

You will have noticed many software and widget/plug-in providers regularly release new versions. If you have multiple sites, it can sometimes become tedious and time-consuming to install every update. This prompts the question, why are these packages updated on a regular basis?

Many of these updates will improve services but the majority revolve around enhanced security. Keeping ever more innovative hackers at bay is a constant battle. So, it is imperative that you update all software and widget/plug-ins as new versions become available. Failure to do so may leave your website open to new attack strategies, which could involve stealing data, crashing your site or injecting malicious code.

Using HTTPS and SSL Certificates is Now Standard

There are numerous search engine algorithms used to rank websites for particular terms and subject matter. Over the last few years we have seen a significant increase in the influence of HTTPS and SSL certificates as a means of encrypting data between websites and users.

These are now leading factors in the ranking process and those sites failing to incorporate HTTPS and SSL certificates will see their rankings fall. Search engine such as Google now display on-screen warnings to highlight sites which are not using the latest industry protocol.

HTTPS/SSL certificates offer a two tier system covering server/user communications. The HTTPS protocol ensures that all information is encrypted. So even in the event of a hacker gaining access to the data flow, the information would be of no use to them.

The SSL certificate is a two-way system which ensures that the website you have been directed to is the correct one. This is confirmed via an industry database and a file on your host server which contains an authorisation code. If there is any issue with the website SSL certificate, this would be flagged on screen, and you would be encouraged to leave immediately.

Regular Backups Are an Important Way to Protect Your Website

It is no secret that regular backups are an essential element of any website security. While the idea of being hacked is unpalatable, unfortunately it is a fact of life for many online entrepreneurs. Numerous web hosting companies now offer regular backup services as standard as a means of attracting long-term business.

As there is no point saving a site backup on your website server, which could be rendered useless in the event of an attack, where should you save your regular backups?

There are two specific options:-

  • An isolated web server

Many companies save customer backups on isolated hosting servers unconnected to the site server. This ensures that if the web hosting server is compromised, it is simply a case of restoring the latest backup from the isolated server. 

  • Cloud servers

More hosting companies are now using cloud servers as a means of retaining multiple copies of websites. In the event of a hosting issue, or unauthorised access, the website URL would simply be redirected to another cloud server, holding a copy of the website.

Ignore GDPR Compliance at Your Peril

Data protection is a vital element of any website today and often prompts the question, what is GDPR compliance? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was brought in by the European Union in May 2018.

This regulation lays down the law for all websites regarding the protection of client data. There are separate procedures, records to be maintained and potentially huge fines for those who fail to follow the regulations. Data protection will only tighten as we go forward.

Using Firewalls to Protect Your Site From Hacking Attempts

As a matter of course you should install up-to-date firewall software to protect your website from unauthorised access. The firewall is able to analyse all incoming/outgoing data from your server. Using a form of artificial intelligence, the software is able to recognise the signs of a potential attack and block access. It may involve something as simple as redirecting rogue traffic to a “safe area” or locking down your hosting server.

The ability to analyse data coming and going from your host server is a vital element of the fight against hacking. It is important to ensure that your firewall software is up-to-date so that you are protected from emerging threats.

Summary

The level of security afforded to your website will depend upon the type of business you operate. The more confidential/private data you hold about your clients, the greater the regulatory burden. It is important to abide by these regulations to maintain your online business and avoid potentially huge fines.

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