5 Steps to Keeping Your Business Website Secure

Cybercrime of all varieties is one the rise, with website hacking being a particular area of concern. Sophos Labs, one of the leading security software firms in the world, now estimates that close to 30,000 websites are hacked every single day.

While a few hackers are the online equivalent of vandals who simply deface a website for the thrill of it, many are a lot more dangerous. They may steal sensitive business data like customer information, delete information critical to running your business and use your hosting account to send spam. A security breach on your website can quickly destroy the reputation of your business.

Fully undoing the damage caused by hackers is next to impossible. However, you can protect your website and other digital assets to prevent such an attack from happening in the first place. Here's how to do it:


Set Up a Strong Security System

To start, all your personal and business Internet-connected devices should have antivirus and antimalware software installed. The free editions of popular online security suites provide essential protection against the most serious security threats, so even small businesses with a limited technology budget can stay safe. If you can afford it, buying the software is highly recommended, as you'll benefit from more advanced features.

Any software you use on a PC or mobile device should be updated on a regular basis. In addition to bringing bug fixes and better functionality, software updates frequently patch potential security vulnerabilities. Most software will now alert you whenever an update is available to be downloaded, particularly if it addresses an important security issue.

Updating the software powering your website plus any online applications you run is even more important. This includes the CMS your website runs on (WordPress, Joomla, etc.) and any plugins you've added to it. As hackers frequently exploit known vulnerabilities in older versions of server-based software, failing to update yours could leave your website vulnerable.


Encrypt Your Data

If you run an online store or collect personal information through your website, obtaining an SSL certificate for your domain is a valuable investment. SSL certificates help encrypt the data as it travels over the Internet and once it's stored on your databases. Encryption prevents unauthorized parties from reading sensitive information, like customer contact details or payment information.

Obtaining your own SSL certificate that secures your whole domain gives you better opportunities to protect your website when compared to using one provided by a third-party such as a web host or payment processor. You can use your certificate to make your entire website use HTTPS, encrypting any data exchanged between it and visitors.


Be Mindful With Passwords

To access your website, make sure you set up strong passwords, containing upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. For added security, your passwords should be at least 12 characters long. Use a different password for every online system powering your website such as your main hosting account, email, CMS, shopping cart or payment gateway.

Never leave the login and password at the default combination for any online application you run on your server. Hackers use automated tools trying to access a variety of server-side applications using default credentials as a way to gain entry to a website's back end. To further secure your website, your passwords need to be changed on a regular basis.


Train Your Employees

Make sure your employees, particularly those with access to your online assets, are aware of the latest techniques used by cybercriminals. You can put together an online security training module for your staff consisting of freely-available presentations, online articles and videos.

This training should include information on preventing threats to local devices, including ransomware, malware, viruses and rogue apps which have the ability to compromise important company information. Another important element your company's Internet security training needs to cover is recognizing phishing links sent by email or SMS, together with their associated spoof websites.

To safeguard your website from security breaches, remember to remind your employees never to log in to any of its administrative areas while using a device connected to a public Wi-Fi network. These networks are unsafe as data being sent over them can be intercepted by any malicious user with commonly available software tools.


Back Up All Your Data

Even with all the safety precautions, there’s always a chance of something going wrong and your website getting hacked. This is why it is necessary to keep your entire website's data, together with any important business information stored on local computers and backed up regularly. Backups allow for data to be recovered not only if it’s lost due to hacking, but also in case of accidental deletion or damage as a result of a technical problem.

For maximum protection, you should keep at least one copy of your backed up data on storage media in your office (on-site), while also keeping a copy in the cloud with your hosting provider or a secure third-party remote backup service (off-site). Having a remote copy of your data is a smart move, as you'll still have access to your backups if the storage media in your office is stolen, physically damaged or if your usual business premises are inaccessible for an extended period of time due to a natural disaster.

Running automatic daily backups of your website data is recommended. Should hackers delete data in an attack, you can use the backed up data to restore it with minimal data loss once the security breach has been brought under control.


Final Thoughts

Thousands of business websites are hacked on a daily basis. Cybercriminals who break into a site may steal confidential data, deface your website, delete stored information and use your servers to send spam. Due to the serious damage a security breach can inflict on a company's reputation, ever business owner needs to take steps to secure their digital assets.

About the author

Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in the business world. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.


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