Even if you’re living under a rock, you’d know by now that website security is a big deal.
A hacked website is bad for business:
• Your site could be down for hours, or even days, impacting sales and revenues.
• Threat actors could install malware onto your visitors’ computers via your site.
• If you store customer information on your server, criminals can steal sensitive data.
• Hackers could redirect visitors from your website, costing you traffic and your reputation.
• A breach could land you in legal hot water, especially if you’re in a highly-regulated industry.
But will boosting your website’s security require your visitors to jump through hoops? Isn’t a poor user experience (UX) bad for business?
The good news is that you don’t have to choose sides. You can enhance your website’s security without compromising the UX. Let’s look at the tools and techniques you can use to make your website experience safer for everyone.
Strengthening website security doesn’t have to be complicated. Your visitors don’t even have to notice the extra steps you’ve taken to beef up your defense. Here are 9 of our favorite methods:
Hackers and bots scan websites to find vulnerabilities caused by outdated software and plugins. Seriously — take all software and plugin update notifications seriously. Many updates include security patches and enhancements developed based on the latest threats and attack techniques.
The longer you wait, the less secure your site will become. Check your dashboard regularly for updates and use a notification plugin to stay current. You can also choose the automatic update option available on some website platforms, so you have one fewer thing to worry about.
Secure socket layer (SSL) is a security protocol that encrypts communication between a web browser and a web server. It helps prevent hackers from intercepting information that your visitors enter into the website.
After installing an SSL certificate, your URL will display as “HTTPS” — a sign of trust for savvy web users. This extra layer of security enhances the user experience. Many people would leave a website or refuse to enter any information if they see that a website URL doesn’t start with “HTTPS.”
Weak passwords can be easily decoded by hackers and increase the chances of exploitation. All users should follow a strict password policy by creating complex, long, and unique passwords. All your team members should understand the importance of using strong passwords and follow the guidelines.
For example, a password should be random (e.g., don’t use birthdays, your dog’s name, or phone numbers) and contain at least 12 characters, including numerals, alphabets, and special characters. Don’t use the same password for other applications, including those for personal use.
Assign users appropriate roles (e.g., admin, user groups, public) so they can only access the information they need and nothing more. For instance, if an “author” got their credential stolen, the hacker won’t be able to access admin functions. This can help you limit the damage of an attack.
Vet your employees and contractors before giving them access to your website’s content management system (CMS) and provide training on how they can use the platform securely. Track who has access to the CMS and their administrative settings. Include removing access privilege as part of your employee offboarding process.
Many bots attack websites that leave their CMS settings on default. Once you have your CMS set up, change the configurations to tighten control over comments, user visibility, and permissions.
One of these settings involves allocating file permission to users. The Read permission only allows users to view the content of a file, and the Write permission enables them to edit the information. Meanwhile, users with the Execute permission can run a script or execute an application.
The last thing you want is for your website to go “poof!” in the blink of an eye. Set up a daily backup routine to protect your data from getting lost due to theft, malware, ransomware, virus, or Trojan horse infection. You can implement automatic backup and use a cloud solution to store the data for added security.
Many hosting companies offer a backup and recovery service to help make restoring data to your website much less painful (because losing your data is bad enough!). Choose a plan with sufficient volume for your storage requirement and consider the file recovery features to make sure it can meet your needs.
Use a secure web hosting service with server security features that can protect your website against incidents like distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which can keep your site down for hours. Some hosting companies offer virtual private servers, which are more secure and stable than shared hosting and more affordable than a dedicated server.
When choosing a hosting company, look for one that offers a secure file transfer protocol (SFTP). Ask about its backup and recovery services and how often they install security and software updates. Also, inquire about its availability and uptime, firewall protection, malware scanning protocol, and DDoS mitigation plan.
A WAF sits between a website server and a data connection. It reads every bit of data that passes through to protect your site from malicious bots, spammers, and attacks. Most WAFs are cloud-based, plug-and-play services that act as a gateway to all incoming traffic and block hacking attempts.
In today’s work-from-anywhere environment, team members could inadvertently create an unsafe pathway to your website server when they use unsecured means (e.g., public WiFi) to connect to the CMS or server. You must ensure that all devices with access to your systems have the proper security configurations.
For example, you should set computer logins to expire after a short period of inactivity. Notify users to change their passwords every three months and scan all devices for malware, outdated software, or incorrect configurations with a mobile device management (MDM) solution.
Today’s consumers are savvy about data security and prefer to interact with businesses and websites that take steps to safeguard their information. An attack on your website can erode trust and drive customers away from your brand.
There are many ways to beef up website security without impacting the user experience. You can implement them seamlessly by integrating security tools into the site development process rather than taking them on as an afterthought.
Don’t just slap a few things together and call it a day. Your website strategy and UX design, which includes how your team interacts with the CMS and backend, must address security from the get-go to ensure that all the pieces work seamlessly to keep your business and visitors safe.
Get in touch to see how we can help you optimize security and UX for your website.