Having a website has become easier than ever due to the proliferation of great tools and services in the web development space. The Content management systems such as (WordPress, Joomla! Drupal, Magento etc.) are highly extensible architectures, rich plugins, and an effective modules that have reduced the need to spend years learning web development before starting to build a website. The ease of launching an online business or personal website is great.
However, there are some negative side effects. Each passing day brings with its news of a brand-new leak of personal information over the Internet. Be it credit card information belonging to millions of users or their email IDs and passwords, personal nude pictures of celebrities, or even a top secret classified government data — the world of hackers has democratized the internet and its lack of security at every possible level. Hackers can turn your ordinary website into a malicious spy bot in a matter of minutes, sending sensitive user data to hackers without you even realizing it. Worse, they can hack into your website databases and destroy or manipulate important informations, injecting your content with malicious links and even hijack the hosting server to be used in botnet DDoS attacks.
There are things that you can do to secure your website from hackers and becoming a target for online vandals. Here’s a roundup of the easiest steps you can take:
♦ Updated Software
You must always keep the operating system software, other application software (such as a content management system), the antimalware solution and the website security solution updated with the latest patches and definitions. Your hosting provider must also keep their software updated – however that control is not in your hands. You must choose a hosting provider who maintains a reputation for providing effective security.
It is crucial to keep all platforms or scripts you’ve installed up-to-date. Hackers aggressively target security flaws in popular web software, and the programs need to be updated to patch security holes. It is important to maintain and update every software product you use.
♦ Protection Against Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks
♦ SQL Injection Attacks
You must always use parameterized queries and avoid standard Transact SQL as this would allow hackers to insert rogue code.
♦ Double Validation of Form Data
It is advisable to perform both browser and server-side validation. The two-level validation process would help block insertion of malicious scripts through data accepting form fields.
♦ File Upload Policy
Based on your business requirement you may need to allow users/ website visitors to upload files or images to your web server. Hackers could upload malicious content to compromise your website. The image could be malware (double extension attacks). You must allow upload of files only with extreme caution. You must remove executable permissions for the file so that it cannot be executed, in order to ensure website security.
♦ Use a Hosting Provider
Hosting your website with a hosting provider frees you from much of the website security risk burden, as they would take care of the website security for the web server. Choosing a secure and reputable web hosting company is very important to your website security. Make sure the host you choose is aware of threats and is devoted to keeping your website secure. Your host should also back up your data to a remote server and make it easy to restore in case your site is hacked. Choose a host who offers ongoing technical support whenever necessary.
When you maintain your own web server, you must employ a robust firewall and restrict outside access only to the ports – 80 and 443.
♦ Separate Database Server
If you can afford, then it would be advisable to maintain separate database server and web servers, as it offers better security to the data.
♦ Ensure HTTPS Security
Always use https for your entire website. This would ensure that users do not communicate with fraudulent servers.
♦ Password Policy
Implement rigorous password policies and ensure that they are followed. Educate all users on the importance of strong passwords. Follow recommended password length of more than 8 characters with a mix of upper- and lower-case alphabets, numericals and special characters. Do not use dictionary words. The longer the password, the stronger is the website security. If you need to store passwords for user authentication, ensure that you always store them in encrypted form. Use a hash algorithm and salt the hash to make it more secure.