How to Build Secure Websites – 10 Things to Know
While almost all businesses agree that having a website is crucial for their success, most of them are not very clear on the topic of cybersecurity. There is a major gap in the reality and perception of online security.
People building websites have a shared responsibility to keep the internet safe for everyone. This means that they should take the necessary precautions to ensure that their websites do not pose any kind of security threat to their visitors.
Why is it important to keep your website safe?
Before we address how you can build secure websites, let us see why website security is important:
- It makes good business sense. A website that makes its visitors feel safe will draw more traffic.
- To protect your website from malware and viruses.
- To rank higher on search engines, which in turn gets you more organic traffic.
- To protect your users from phishing mails that can be originated from your hacked website.
- To protect your website from hackers who can steal sensitive data from your website.
Building a website can enhance your brand awareness and provide you a convenient way of interacting with your customers. It is, however, important to pay attention to security when you build your website.
Here, we present a list of 10 things that you should know on how to build secure websites:
Choose a web host with advanced security features
Ensure that the host provides the crucial security features necessary to keep customer and website data safe. Some important features to look for are DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) protection, web application firewall (to prevent attacks from security flaws such as cross-site scripting, security misconfigurations and SQL injection) and 2-factor authentication for logins.
Set up SSL to secure your website
It is critical to secure transactions between the customers and your website. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are the easiest and most effective means of guarding sensitive data transfers.
Cybercriminals can easily get access to information shared by your website visitors if it is transmitted in plain text. SSL helps you in encrypting the communication so that you can protect sensitive information like credit card numbers from being stolen by hackers. Using SSL improves the security of your website and provides a trust signal to your customers, which is critical for the success of your business.
You can make use of a single RapidSSL wildcard certificate to easily protect unlimited number of subdomains. For example, a single RapidSSL wildcard certificate for *.mydomain.net can be used to protect www.mydomain.net, mail.mydomain.net, shop.mydomain.net, blog.mydomain.net, etc.
Pick a secure CMS
Making use of a good CMS (Content Management System) to build your website can be very useful in managing your content. Not only that, most good ones continually advance their protections, by overseeing their software code and sustaining smoother processes. You need to work with a robust CMS to build a secure website.
When vulnerabilities arise, a secure CMS can protect your website and minimize security gaps. These systems provide you with constant updates to strengthen their software, and the latest versions protect you from the recent weaknesses and hacking methods.
Configure different levels for access
Different people bring different expertise to your business. Have distinct levels of control for each of these expert groups so that you can supervise their behavior and keep your website safe. You can prevent crashes and errors by restricting their permissions and actions to specific areas of the website.
Higher-ups in the organization can have more privileges, so that critical changes can only be made by them. This approach will preserve your online presence and prohibit expensive setbacks.
Use secure plugins and addons
Addons and plugins enhance visitor experience but using them without ensuring their credibility can open your site to security hazards. Undertake periodic plugin inspection to reduce the likelihood of defective addons. Make note of the details, reputation and revision history of the addons and plugins used on the website. These website addons need upkeep and periodic maintenance. If they get outdated, they open your website to security risks.
Secure your database server
Database administrators should do the following to secure the database server:
- Make sure that your database server is kept separate from your web server.
- The login credentials should be kept secured and encrypted.
- Different web applications should use different database logins.
- Delete and write permissions should be confined to database users who really need them.
- Secure mechanisms should be used to access data.
- Encrypt sensitive data.
- Object level permissions should be used to provide access to objects and tables.
- Proper mechanisms should be put in place for storage and monitoring of database logs.
Secure your web server
Web server happens to be the most critical component of your website. Do the following to secure it:
- Make sure that the operating system is kept on its own disk partition.
- Separate environments should be dedicated for production, staging and development.
- There should be tight security controls in place for access and permissions to the web server.
- Remote access should be granted selectively and that too on a secure network.
- All the default open ports should be closed.
- Write permissions on the file system should be revoked.
- Web server logs should be enabled and security products such as firewalls should be installed.
Get rid of embedded SQL
Making use of embedded SQL to run your database queries leads to easy inroads for hackers. Make use of encrypted queries and stored procedures where you can to save yourself from SQL injection attacks.
Never use SQL queries in your presentation layer; move them to the server side. If you are building the UI layer, all data transfer should be done by making use of secure APIs, not embedded SQL.
Enforce strong passwords
Simple, easy to guess passwords are a common cause of online data breaches. It is important to enforce strong password practices to secure your website.
- Enforce a minimum length on passwords.
- Enforce the use of one lower case, one upper case, one number and one special character.
- Prohibit use of user ids and names in passwords
- Disallow use of old passwords
- Enforce a periodic password change policy
Implement logs and analytics
While analytics and logs may not prevent your site from being hacked, they are crucial to find and fix the security holes. Logging and tracking activities like logins, browser agents, location, etc. can help you in tracking suspected activity on the website.
Finally, suffering a cyberattack is frustrating, both for you and your customers. So, make use of these tips to build a secure website that protects your business and customers, while providing your visitors with a safe experience.