Deploying a website on the Internet means exposing that website to hackers for attempts like port scanning, packet sniffing and data mining.
You might also get some legitimate traffic if you're lucky, but not if someone takes down or defaces your site first. Most of us know to look for the padlock icon when browsing to ensure a site is secure, but that only scratches the surface of what can be done to protect a web server.
Even SSL can be done in many ways; some are much better than others. For example, cookies store sensitive information from websites; securing these can prevent impersonation.
Additionally, setting a handful of configuration options can protect your entire website presence against manual and automated cyber-attacks, keeping your customer's data safe from compromise.
Here are steps to harden your website and significantly increase the resiliency of your web server.
##1. Install SSL certificates
SSL certificates will help secure your website and encrypt data transfers between the server and the device. When your site is fully secured with an SSL certificate, you will see a padlock symbol indicating that your website is secure. This symbol will serve as a trust signal to your website visitors.
Likewise, your website's URL will have HTTPS when it is secured with an SSL certificate, and if it doesn't have an SSL certificate, the URL will have HTTP, which indicates that the site is not secure. In addition, a website that is not secured will not have the padlock symbol, and you will see the text, Not Secure before the URL. Therefore, you must ensure that all your website pages are secured.
##2. Secure Your Passwords and Update Them Regularly
It is mandatory to create strong passwords to boost website security and prevent hackers from getting their hands on your website. In most cases, weak passwords are the reason behind hacks. So make sure you create unique usernames and passwords for your admin and other accounts. It is also essential to update passwords regularly.
If you find it hard to update passwords manually, you can use a password generator to simplify the process. Password generators like LastPass will let you generate strong passwords that are hard to guess.
You can choose to generate passwords with letters, numbers, special characters, etc. Keep it a practice to update passwords every two months or quarterly to keep your website secure. Password generators will also store your passwords so that you can remember all your passwords.
##3. Keep Software Updated
Every time there is a software update, ensure you pay attention to it and update the software without fail. Hackers generally look for known vulnerabilities in websites and exploit them.
Software patches help keep your website secure by plugging and addressing security vulnerabilities. Be it plugins, third-party applications, or other software you use in your company, take all update requests seriously and install updates as soon as possible.
Software patches will secure your website and ensure hackers don't get their hands on it. Hackers generally target websites with older versions of software that have vulnerabilities.
##4. Web Application Scanning
Scanning your website is one of the most effective ways to detect loopholes that might be exploitable by hackers. Tools like Nmap helps to discover ports, both open, closed, and filtered ports, to strengthen the web application's security with the results.
Also, Burpsuite is one of the most used tools for scanning, not limited to scanning other features, which detect flaws like XSS, and SQL injection, among others.
##5. Deploy a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
A shield is placed between the web application and the Internet by deploying a WAF in front of a web application. It helps protect web applications by filtering and monitoring HTTP traffic between a web application and the Internet. A WAF operates through a set of rules called policies.
These policies aim to protect against vulnerabilities in the application by filtering out malicious traffic. A WAF is based on a blocklist (negative security model) that protects against known attacks. Think of a blocklist WAF as a blocklist on your mobile phone instructed to deny calls from any number in the list.
##6. Protect Against SQL Injection
Protecting your website against SQL injection is as essential as having secure passwords and keeping your website updated. With most databases being managed by SQL, hackers try to gain access to sensitive information through SQL injection.
In this type of attack, hackers add malicious code to a database query, through which they gain access to sensitive data.
Input validation and parameterized queries are the best ways to prevent SQL injection. Having a web application firewall will also protect your website against SQL injection.
##7. Use Anti-Malware Software
If you still need anti-malware software for your website, it is time to get one. Malware detectors and anti-malware software will make sure your site does not get infected by malware.
Hackers can use malware to steal sensitive customer data, hold your website for ransom, or steal money. With malware being a critical website security problem, it is mandatory to take the required steps to secure your website against malware.
Thousands of malicious programs are being discovered daily, so we recommend securing your website with anti-malware software. SUCURI and Astra Security are a few trusted malware software providers.
##8. Use Secure Cookies
Cookies stored on web browsers are used to identify website users' sessions. Cookies generally contain sensitive data, so it is crucial to keep them secure.
An SSL connection is required to transmit secure cookies, preventing cookies with sensitive information from being stolen by cybercriminals in transit between the server and the browser.
As cookies are not delivered over unencrypted connections, it is mandatory to ensure sitewide SSL to use secure cookies.
##9. Backup Your Website
Regular website backups are crucial for website security. Website backup is vital as you can restore your website if your website happens to get hacked—most hosting services like GoDaddy offer website backup services.
If your hosting provider offers this service for free, you need not worry about backing up your website manually, as the hosting service will automatically do it. However, if this service is unavailable, you can manually back up your website regularly.
Likewise, if your site runs on WordPress, you can use plugins like VaultPress to automate website backups. Remember also to update these plugins whenever there is an update available.
##10. Enable HTTP Strict Transport Security
Enabling HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) is the best way to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks. This measure will ensure that browsers communicate with websites only over SSL, and all HTTP://requests will automatically be converted to HTTPS:// requests.
Failure to implement HSTS is more likely to make your website a victim of man-in-the-middle attacks. Hackers can easily alter the domain name and redirect visitors to a fake website that resembles an accurate site.
This security checklist helped you understand how to secure your website and all your confidential data. Finding the right hosting provider that offers security features to keep your website and your user's data secure is the best way to ensure your website is secure.