Your website is the anchor to your entire online presence. Entrepreneur, small business owner, or freelancer – the online landscape is more competitive than ever before, and everyone has (or needs to have) a website.
As of June 2018, there are approximately 1.89 billion websites in the world. Every single day, 50,000 of those sites get hacked. With these figures in mind, it’s clear that every single website owner should be taking their security seriously.
Getting hacked is disastrous, no matter the size of the breach. A data breach is a data breach, and the customer trust you worked so hard to gain is diminished instantly once their data is compromised.
If you own a website or you’re considering creating one, don’t skimp on security. The phrase ‘better safe than sorry’ comes to mind here. You don’t have to overthink it — just get started with the basics. Here are five foundational tips for enhancing your website’s security.
1. Use an SSL Certificate
An SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate validates the identity of a website and encrypts any information sent to the server. If someone visiting your website tries to send confidential information to the server, the user’s browser accesses the certificate and establishes a secure connection, protecting the integrity of the data being sent or received.
In the past, only websites that collected credit card information or personal data were required to have an SSL certificate. Now, thanks to the Google SSL update, every site should be using an SSL certificate, even if you’re not asking users to share critical details. Without the certificate, your website will be marked as “not secure”. Not only that, but your search rankings could also take a hit — Google has changed their algorithm to regard sites using SSL more positively than those that don’t.
2. Choose a reputable hosting service
This might seem like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how some companies don’t take this decision seriously enough. According to a security infographic from WordPress, 41% of hacked WordPress sites were hacked through a security vulnerability on their hosting platform.
This goes to show you that not all hosting services are created equal – you can’t make the choice on price alone. Consider things like their secure server capabilities, how frequently they do data backups, their power backup system, and of course their customer support reputation. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at PC Magazine’s list for 2018.
3. Regularly back up everything
As secure as your server may be, there is always a chance that it could fail. All of the data on your site, no matter how insignificant you may think it is, should always be protected with a backup. Even though your web hosting provider is regularly backing up your data, uploading it on an external hard drive — preferably in a different location — is also a sensible idea.
In the event your website gets hacked, or worse, your hosting provider’s servers go down (it could happen, think natural disaster or blackout), then you’re backed up data will help you get your site up again quickly.
4. Don’t ignore website updates
We get it, the sheer number of plugin, theme or software updates can be overwhelming and borderline annoying, especially when your inbox is full of all those update emails. But ignoring or deleting the emails isn’t the answer. Your web hosting provider should be applying all of the security updates for the operating system. But if you’re using a CMS like WordPress, make sure that you’re quick to apply the security patches and system updates when you log in.
It’s more than keeping your website glitch free. Running on outdated software leaves your website vulnerable for bad actors to attack – and this kind of attack is completely preventable.
Another way of managing this is eliminating any unnecessary plugins or applications. The more “features” your website has, the more updates you have to manage and the more risk your website is exposed to. The extra plugins or applications could be using code that’s already been compromised by hackers, who are just waiting to get into your site. With this in mind, make sure any unused features or services are completely removed from your site.
5. Use a VPN
A VPN creates a secure, encrypted tunnel between you and a server operated by the service provider. Your data is secure from spying eyes because all of your internet traffic is routed through this tunnel. Normally, people think about using VPNs while abroad to access content restricted to their home country, or to access their work’s office network.
VPNs are a critical component of your security toolkit. If you’re working on your website remotely, on a public Wi-Fi network, or handling large volumes of user data, it’s equally as important to manage your own network security as is it that of the website you’re working on. Creating a secure site is no use if the data you’re vying to protect is vulnerable elsewhere.
Certain VPN providers have been known to log user’s information and sell data to third parties. If you’re concerned about security and unsure which service to choose, try using a review website to find the most reliable option.
Optimize your website security
Here’s the reality: cybercriminals go after all sites, no matter how big or small. You might think your website isn’t worth hacking but websites are compromised all the time. As you build (or maintain) a website for your business, be sure to sort out these website security basics. Here’s a recap:
- Get an SSL certificate
- Choose a reputable web hosting provider
- Regularly backup your data
- Don’t ignore software updates
- Use a VPN
Investing the time, energy and resources to sort out your website security can help deflect most of the common attacks. Protecting your customers’ data and keeping their trust is not jsut worth the expense — it’s priceless.