Website Security: How to Protect the Website from Hackers
For most small business owners, website security can be reduced to one main question: how to protect the website from hackers?
Answers are not straightforward since the issue is ever-evolving, complex, and confusing. Website security is not something you set once and forget. Instead, it is a continuous process that needs constant assessment to minimize the risk.
Consider that website security includes all the measures to secure and prevent a website from hacking or cyber-attacks. It is the most crucial part of managing your website. A secure website is crucial to your online presence as a website host. If your website gets hacked, it may lose all its traffic. A clientele data breach, meanwhile, can lead to lawsuits, damaged reputation, and heavy fines.
Understanding how your website got hacked or compromised is vital to protecting and securing your website from attackers.
How do Websites Get Hacked?
Whether you are a Fortune 500 or a small company selling cookies, you are equally at risk of getting your website hacked. Before discussing how to protect the website from hackers, it is important to understand how attacks are carried out and how the site can get compromised.
Brute Force Attacks and Compromised Passwords
In the cybercrime world, a brute-force attack is the simplest way to get access to a server or website or wherever anything is password protected. It is a method that involves repetitive attempts to submit various password combinations with the hope of eventually guessing the correct one and breaking into the website.
Hacking attempts are carried out by attackers using bots or automated software programs. They install them maliciously in compromised computers to boost the power to run such activities.
Users with a weak or compromised credential management system are vulnerable. Whether a hacker is using techniques to guess the password right or trying out a common combination of stolen passwords, compromised credentials are a serious problem. This is why creating and setting a strong password and other additional security systems is important.
It is easy to give in to desire and install a beautiful free theme from the popular search engines. However, have you ever ensured the theme is safe, especially an attractive free one? Many of these free themes are not well-developed or actively supported. This makes them vulnerable to attacks, and hackers have been known to add malicious code to free themes.
Outdated themes are another major source of vulnerabilities. That’s why it’s important to keep your themes updated and remove the ones developers are no longer maintaining. When you remove any theme, remove all the files from the server. Always use high-quality themes from well-respected theme stores and developers.
Check the plugins if you’re wondering how to protect the website from hackers. Plugins play a prominent role in the website development process, particularly in WordPress sites. These special-purpose tools integrate all kinds of functionalities on the website.
But sadly, plugins are the most vulnerable to hacking attacks. The hackers find loopholes within the plugin’s code and use these to gain access to sensitive and confidential information. Protect yourself by keeping plugins up to date and avoid usage of abandoned plugins.
Security Policy Loopholes
Following poor security policies can increase the chances of getting your site hacked. Examples include giving admin access freely, allowing users to create weak passwords, not updating user accounts regularly, and failing to use an SSL (secure) certificate on your website.
Not Updating Software
Perhaps the most common—and the easiest to avoid—security vulnerability is neglecting to update site software, such as WordPress, themes, and plugins.
Attackers can exploit old software that has not been updated for a long time to compromise your entire website. This is why hackers intently seek out old software—which is often recognizable from outside the website.
To prevent these vulnerabilities, set up an automatic system for updating software and sign up for any security announcements your software developers offer. You can also subscribe to WordPress website maintenance service through our site.
Social engineering refers to various malicious activities achieved through human interactions. It tricks the users with psychological manipulation, where they disclose sensitive information.
Social engineering attacks come in different forms. The most common techniques are Baiting, Pretexting, Scareware, Phishing, and Spear Phishing. You need to know such tricks to protect your site from being attacked.
Malware and DDoS attacks
Malware and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks are the most common risks to your website. Hackers may use these dangerous hacking techniques separately or together to attack your website.
A collective name for malicious software, “malware,” is designed intentionally to damage computer systems, data, servers, websites, or networks. Cyber attackers develop these to gain unauthorized access and cause damage to your system. Examples include various malware: Trojan horses, Ransomware, Computer Viruses, Spyware, Worms, Adware, and much more.
DDoS is a malicious act to disrupt the traffic of the target server or network by indefinitely or temporarily disrupting the host connected to the Internet connection. While malware gains backdoor entry to your website and damages your files with a virus, DDoS targets to inundate your website with high fake traffic.
Install a firewall and malware scan system to protect your website from hacking with such malware software.
Cross-site scripting, or XSS attack, is another common attack where the hacker injects a malicious script into your website after you click a compromised link or download a file or attachment. This enables the hacker to add their malicious script to all the pages of your site and redirect the traffic to some other website.
SQL Injection Hacks
A code injection technique, SQL injection, is a technique that is used to attack data-driven applications where a hacker inserts malicious characters or SQL statements into an insecure form. With this, a hacker attempts to exploit your website’s database, gaining access to emails, usernames, and more.
So, Why Do Websites Get Hacked?
Now you know how hackers get access to websites and hack them. However, you may be confused about why. There are numerous reasons for your website to get hacked. Let’s put them under the following categories:
- Financial gain
- Personal challenge
The most common reason for hacking is because of the opportunity for profit. You might think your site doesn’t have anything to offer since it’s limited to some informational pages and posts and possibly some products for sale that the hacker can’t profit from.
Ransom – If you don’t have a website backup, a hacker can back up your site, destroy or deface the live version of it, and demand you pay money in return for restoring the working website.
Weaponized Site – Hackers can use your website as an online weapon. You can witness DDoS attacks targeted at websites where political interests or businesses motivate the attack. Third parties often pay the attackers to get a website or service down to further their agenda. Your website can even be sold as an online weapon, functioning at someone’s command without your knowledge.
Your compromised personal computer or website server can be used as a distributing or storage medium for malicious and illegal content such as pornography, spyware, and much more.
Black hat SEO campaigns can be lucrative in many instances. The hackers insert fake SEO (spam links) into your website without you even realizing it. They abuse your audience by directing them to some third-party website that generates affiliate revenue. Most such cases are related to pharmaceuticals, fashion, pornography, and gambling. Search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing index the fake links, and once these links make it to the result pages of search engines, the attackers start producing revenue.
If you operate an ecommerce site that stores customers’ details, hackers can easily access the details and use or sell your client’s information. Compromised user data information, such as emails, passwords, and login usernames, can be sold on the black market. For instance, your client’s email details can be stolen from your database and sold for spam. A great example is the LinkedIn breach, where details of around 117 million user accounts were compromised, and the information was sold on the black market.
Hacking is sometimes executed for simple reasons unrelated to economic gains. These reasons could be pure boredom, curiosity, a bet, amusement, bragging rights, or maybe some future more significant hacking projects.
Most of these hackers are teenagers and computer-savvy youth with nothing else to do.
This motivation is the hardest to understand and contend with. Hacktivism can be related to nationalism, human rights, religion, anti-globalism, some political agendas, and many more. Most of the hacktivism cases are related to page defacements. The purpose of these attacks is typically more to cause embarrassment to the website owner than to have any effect on on-site users.
Here’s How to Protect the Website from Hackers
Fixing the already hacked website can be daunting as hackers often create secret entry points. This allows them to keep revisiting and re-hacking your website.
Prevention is better than cure. There are security measures you can take to protect your website from hackers.
Keep Software Updated
Update everything from time to time. Ensure you have the latest version of your CMS, themes, and plugins.
Keep yourself well informed regarding the threats and what their targets are. Follow some tech sites and keep track of the latest what is happening.
Harden site access with passwords and usernames strong enough not to be easily guessed.
Install Security Applications
Install highly secure applications such as a firewall, Wordfence, and other security software.
Use encrypted SSL
Transfer users’ personal information between your website and database by an encrypted SSL protocol.
Tighten Network Security
Ensure that your logins automatically expire within a short period of inactivity, change your passwords frequently, create strong passwords, and scan all the devices plugged into the network for malware every time you attach them.
Note: Wondering how to protect the website from hackers? Ask for details on our WordPress website maintenance service.