Is Your Website Really Secure?

By Ten Squared, posted on the 10th of September, 2021 · 3 minute read

Website security is so important today, and this is for more than one reason. Not only is website security important in keeping you and your information protected, it is also important in protecting your customers, ensuring customers feel they can trust you and make sure search engines feel comfortable sending their customers to your website.

So, are attacks really a big threat? Unfortunately, yes and depending on exactly how poor your security is, private information may even be indexed by Google meaning someone can accidentally stumble across it. Believe me, we have seen this happen. Of even greater concern is the scary ranking of Australia being number six for significant cyberattacks.

The good news is that there are things you can do to protect your business and your customers. As most hacking attempts are opportunistic and simply exploit common vulnerabilities in websites, by keeping on top of small vulnerabilities you will already be in a much better position. Here are five other things you can do to keep your website secure:

1. Opt for Dedicated Hosting

Hosting can have large implications not only for security but for both website speed and reliability, so this is definitely something you should consider regardless of your website security. Hosting traditionally comes in two forms, dedicated hosting and shared hosting. Each of these fundamentally serves the exact same purpose but differ in how they execute it. Of course, the role of your server is to store your information and provide it to your users as they come to explore your website. Understandably, the more resources your hosting has to dedicate to your site alone, the faster information can be presented to your user. Hence, dedicated hosting means that the entire server is dedicated to a single customer, while shared hosting is when multiple customers share the same server.

When purchasing dedicated hosting you will pay a little bit more, however you can decide exactly what resources you need. When you choose a dedicated server you will gain greater bandwidth which will result in faster page speed. If you manage your dedicated server properly you can have a secure website, this is because you are the only person in control of that server and with that in control of the security of the server. Compared to shared hosting whereby the actions of another shared user can impact the security of your server, this is no longer a concern with dedicated hosting.

2. Manage Sensitive Information Correctly

Believe it or not, poor passwords are the number one cause of websites being compromised. This means it might be time to retire your passwords such as "abcd1234" and "password". All your user information should be kept secret, each person who has access to the backend of your website should have their own unique logins and their passwords should of course include a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and characters. This is a simple way to ensure you make it as hard as possible for someone to guess your passwords and compromise your website.

3. Keep Everything Up To Date

The best part of using plugins on your website is that you get access to a range of different features that would otherwise cost thousands to develop and really elevate your website. To allow you to add these features, many of these plugins need access to the backend of your website, almost like creating them a tiny door so they can make any changes they need to make and the best part is all you have to do is plug them in... This door also means that if the plugin is not secure individuals may be able to compromise the plugin and use that little door to access information within your website.

It is vital to appreciate that when you do use plugins there is an entire team behind each of them, monitoring security breaches and repairing any vulnerabilities. Once a vulnerability is exposed, an update will come soon after to remove the vulnerability ensuring hackers cannot use these known vulnerabilities to access your website. Hence, it is imperative that you keep your plugins up to date!

When deciding whether or not to use a plugin it is essential to identify the quality of the plugin. Larger plugins that have thousands of users are probably safe to use, however, with smaller plugins there is no guarantee that they are safe. Hence, do a little research before you attach these plugins to your website.

Another thing to consider is whether updating the plugins will affect your website, hence, before you update your plugins on your live website, we recommend using a test environment to ensure everything goes smoothly, updating plugins can cause design issues or break the functionality of the website, hence highlighting the importance of this step. If everything is ok then you can proceed to update them on your real website.

4. Backup Your Website

Backups can truly save you if something goes wrong. The important thing to remember is that you might not realise something is wrong for months sometimes longer. For instance, we came across a company that had a virus embedded in the code of their website, whilst simple, there was a single line of code within the virus that stated "do not show this on any networks where someone has logged in as an admin" hence, people within the company were never presented with the spam message and so it went undetected for months. The only way to find it was to go through the code searching for it, something that you only do if you know it is there.

When you have a website backup, you can use this to restore the website to its form before it was either compromised or had a virus installed on it.

5. Keep Your SSL Certificate Up To Date

First off, how can you check if you have an SSL certificate? This can be done quite easily, look at your website URL and look to see if it says HTTP:// or HTTPS://, if everything is set up correctly, no matter what URL your users land on they will be redirected to the HTTPS:// version of your website.

What happens if you don't have the S? This S simply identifies whether or not your website has a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate, whilst originally only something important for eCommerce brands, it is now recommended for all websites as Google has identified it as an important part of your website infrastructure. The main feature this provides is the encryptions of data as it moves between locations, this prevents the information from being intercepted keeping your information safe.

Not only is this step important for the security of the information your website sends, but it is also a key metric that Google uses to rank your website on its search result, hence, this is definitely something any website owner should have.

Summary

Website security should be an essential step in creating a great website. Following these five steps will ensure your website has good foundations and with regular reviews will remain secure for years. As your website can also potentially be used as a door to your internal information you can also rest easy knowing your doors are locked.

Photo by Matthew Henry