The Tools You Need for Website Security
It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise sensible business people that have locks on their doors and safes to keep confidential information in, don’t have any security measures at all associated with their website. This seems to cross all businesses and all industries even those associated with security in many instances.
Website security tools should be a basic component of any website, especially if you’re handling financial or other sensitive user data. It doesn’t matter how large or small your website is, if you’ve got a website you’re a target for hackers and without proper security your website is wide open to attack, and is almost inviting hackers in.
Antivirus Software and Malware Scanning
Malware and viruses can infect your computer’s hard drive, and then go from there to your website or your email account. This is why your computer needs good antivirus software. Antivirus software is a program that continually scans your computer for potential attacks. When the software finds something suspicious, it brings the potential threat to your attention and offers to remove it.
A good antivirus software program will be updated periodically to keep up with changing security developments. When a new version is released you’ll often be prompted to update your software program and it is imperative that you do so. The purpose of these updates is to patch weaknesses in the program that have been discovered and protection against new viruses.
It is also an extremely good idea to install some sort of malware monitoring system for you, there are various services out there and there and the one I use will scan one of our client websites every four hours and alert us should it find any issues. It is also backed up with help and support to remove any malware found … and of course the ultimate protection is to have regular (daily) backups of your website.
Your website needs to have a good firewall, this acts as a barrier between your website and everything outside. When an automated program commonly referred to as a bot tries to access your website, it has to be accepted by the firewall, similarly with human visitors. Firewalls protect your website from unauthorized access and can monitor and block unauthorized access to certain parts of your website. For instance should somebody try to access your website administration area who isn’t authorized a firewall can monitor this and automatically lock them out for a specified amount of time. This is one of the first things I add to a website as it increases website security as soon as it is installed.
SSL encryption is usually offered by website hosting companies, SSL stands for ‘secure sockets layer.’ It works like a tunnel through which your data is sent. It encrypts data, encoding it and breaking it down into small packages that are nearly impossible for hackers to crack. If they manage to intercept your data, they can’t easily decipher it and it’s useless to them.
SSL is a protocol that applications such as web browsers can recognize. It automatically encrypts data sent. In order to get SSL encryption, you need an SSL Certificate from a Certification Authority. When you have an SSL Certificate, the secure pages of your website use the HTTPS protocol rather than the ordinary HTTP. The ‘S’ indicates this extra layer of protection. All login pages and any other page where users enter data should use HTTPS.
If you look over this website you will note that every page is encrypted using SSL, I believe the website security benefits far outweigh the negatives and with search engines going the SSL route there could well be many positives, and it certainly helps comply with privacy laws.
Plugins and Add-Ons
Plugins and add-ons are extra bits of code added to your site that perform various functions, these can be well coded or equally badly coded and vulnerable to attack. There are however some excellent plugins which are designed for enhanced website security. There are many different security plugins available, so spend time shopping around. Read reviews online and ask others for recommendations. You need a good security plugin, but don’t load your site down with too many. If your site has too many plugins it actually increases your security risk.
Test Your Website Security
There are website testing tools you can use to see if your site has security weaknesses. These include programs such as NetSparker, Websecurify, Wapiti, and N-Stalker. A program such as these will tell you whether you need to do more to keep your site secure. Check periodically and remember that your site is only as strong as its weakest link and that weakest link might change weekly as hackers get smarter and smarter.
The secret to website security is to constantly monitor, update and review it, as hackers change so should website security.