A Guide on How to Improve Website Security

If you operate any sort of online business, then trust is one of your golden words. You want consumers to trust you as a brand or business, and know that you are reliable and that your products, and any after-sales support, will meet their expectations. And your website security is an integral part of providing a positive online customer experience.

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People look to unbiased reviews to establish trust, but there’s a more foundational level to trust. People need to know that they can trust your website; that they will be secure when browsing it; and that any data they provide, from location to personal details, will also be secure. 

Of course, perhaps the most important thing they look for is that your website is secure when it comes to making payments and that their card details are given the highest levels of protection. You would look to the best digital marketing strategies to grow your business, so why not also look at the best security solutions to protect it? 

Knowing how to improve website security is something you should really focus on, whether you are building a new site or buying an existing one. It’s something that should be monitored and updated (when needed) on a regular basis. To give you some solid ideas to work from, we look at some of the best ways to improve website security. 

How to improve website security: 9 top tips

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1. Ensure you choose a secure web host 

The first step in improving website security is to pick a robust web host with good security features. In many ways, this is your first line of defense against security problems. If you are just setting up a website, then it’s worth looking at what different hosts offer in terms of server security features. If you have an existing website, it’s worth auditing what your host provides. 

You should refer to this checklist to be sure that any web host is a good choice:

  • Do they offer SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) as standard?
  • Does the host use a Rootkit scanner
  • Do they have disabled FTP Use by Unknown User?
  • How often do they update or upgrade their security measures?
  • Does the host offer backup of your files?

2. Choose secure passwords

It may seem basic advice, but poor use of passwords can lead to your website being hacked. People often fall into bad habits when it comes to passwords, using the same password for different things so it’s easier to remember. You should always create a unique password for every new log-in request made. 

Make your passwords complicated and random, and, if you need to, store them somewhere safe (not the website directory!) Try and avoid using any personal info as part of your password (mum or pet’s name, etc.); using a long combination of letters and numbers is always good. Make sure you change any important passwords regularly and that your staff does the same. 

3. Add an SSL Certificate and change to HTTPS

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If you want people to trust your site, then these two factors are crucial. SSL (secure sockets layer) allows customer data to transfer from your site to your database. It encrypts that data so that unauthorized individuals can’t access it. Having an SSL certificate will instill confidence in your customers that their data is protected. 

If you currently have HTTP, then your site is not 100% secure. Switching to HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) means you have a protocol that provides higher levels of internet security. HTTPS helps prevent any outside agencies from intercepting or interrupting data and info while it’s in transit. 

4. Be cautious with admin privileges and other access

It may seem natural to grant some of your staff either user access or admin privileges. After all, you may need product updates, design changes, A/B testing carried out, and so on. However, it can sometimes be the case that employees are not always as careful as you would hope, and this can lead to security issues. 

So, how can you improve website security when it comes to these issues? The first step is to keep a close record of anyone with access privileges. The second thing to do is ensure that any staff members with access are up to date on security measures. That may mean putting together a short course (and regular refreshers) on how to protect your site. 

5. Update and upgrade

It’s important that you don’t become complacent about the status of any software or plugins you use on your site. What was secure last year (sometimes, even last month) may not be secure today. In one study, only 6% of websites were operating with fully updated software. Those pop-up update prompts may seem intrusive, but they’re crucial to your site’s security. 

Hackers are constantly updating the tools they use, and exploiting vulnerabilities from out-of-date software and plugins is one of their favorite tactics. Updates usually address these vulnerabilities and will contain security enhancements that address the most recently identified risks. If you can, enable automatic updates. You likely update other tools, such as project management communication tools, so do the same with anything linked to your site. 

6. Backup your site and all data

Can you imagine arriving at the office one day to find your website, and all your info, completely gone? Can you imagine the work that starting from scratch would entail? This is why backing up your website should be one of your priorities from day one. Making regular backups means that, if the worst happens, you can easily recover lost or damaged files and data.

Any info you choose to back up should be stored on a different server to your website so that it’s compartmentalized from any attack. Ideally, it should be stored on a hard drive with no internet access. Another option is to choose secure cloud storage that comes with its own stringent security measures. If you want to be really careful, backup your backup!

7. Install a firewall 

Firewalls add an extra layer of protection to your website. The specific firewall you want is a WAF (web application firewall). A WAF provides a sort of buffer zone between your website’s server and any data connections. The WAF reads all the data that passes through it and identifies any potentially malicious scripts that are attempting to access your site. 

You will find that most WAFs are provided as cloud-based SaaS. You can choose one as a plug-and-play service on a monthly plan. It can serve as a gatekeeper, checking the user’s IP fraud score and blocking any hacking attempts, such as spam attempts or malicious bots.. Having a WAF in place is a great example of how to improve website security.

8. Change any CMS default settings

People tend to think of hackers as shadowy figures in rooms with multiple computers (thanks, Hollywood!). In fact, more and more hacking attempts are automated processes. A lot of these automated attacks are relying on organizations leaving their CMS settings at default, making it easier for them to gain access to your site and system. 

As soon as you choose your CMS, you should also change the default settings on that CMS. This is a major step in reducing the chance of successful attacks. Some of the primary settings you should change include permissions and user visibility. Customize your user settings and also permission settings, and you enhance your security immediately. It also helps – from a trust perspective – to ensure your content marketing is high quality.

9. Tighten every aspect of your network security 

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Knowing how to improve your website security extends beyond your actual website. Think of your website, and thus website security, as a roundabout with multiple roads leading onto it. That means that anyone in your employ who is using your organization’s network may be leaving an open road into your website. 

Once you have addressed any issues around your website, extend your analysis to your network as a whole. If hackers can access your network, they may find a way into your website via the servers. Consider the following network security measures:

  • Set a time limit on log-ins so that they expire after a set period of inactivity. 
  • Set automatic reminders for staff to change passwords; every month or quarter is advised. 
  • Educate staff on basic password security. 
  • Carry out regular scans for malware on any and all devices connected to your network. 

The takeaway

Too often, organizations can focus on their enterprise digital strategy while neglecting the basics of website security. Everything matters when it comes to your online business, and constantly thinking about how to improve website security should go hand in hand with other developments you look at. 
When it comes to considering ecommerce website development, security should be your major priority. There is little point in having a beautifully designed site with wonderful content if your site, and customers’ data, are not secure from malicious attacks.

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