How to Guard a Website Against Common Types of Threats
Websites are often the targets of cybercriminals, hackers, and other opportunists because of their valuable and vulnerable nature. If a website is unsecured, even a technically unskilled criminal could easily gain control of it, hold it hostage, or prevent it from functioning properly. As a business owner, this should concern you—especially considering roughly 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect your website.
Types of Vulnerabilities
These are some of the most common forms of vulnerability that could affect your website:
- Unauthorized control. If someone gains access to your login credentials, they could hypothetically seize control of your site, publishing content you don’t approve or deleting your assets. Even if you’ve backed everything up, this can be devastating.
- Ransomware. Ransomware is designed to prevent a web application from being used, while extorting the owner for a fee to release the device. This type of attack has become especially common in hospitals.
- Malware. General-purpose malware could affect your site as well, preventing it from being used or forcing it to operate in a way you don’t approve.
- DDoS and similar attacks. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks leverage the power of bots to overwhelm a server, preventing web service from being provided to your actual visitors and customers.
- Fraud. Every website is vulnerable to fraud in some way, though this threat is difficult to protect against with higher cybersecurity alone.
Now how can you guard against them?
A Web Application Firewall
First, you could make use of a web application firewall. A firewall is a type of application meant to safeguard your tech; in this case, it protects your web application. Ultimately, there are four types of features that a web application firewall provides:
- Threat identification and blacklisting. First, a good firewall will screen incoming traffic and other website-related activity for suspicious behavior. It will also proactively scan for the hallmarks of malware, ransomware, and other types of threats. Like a bodyguard, if it detects something wrong, it’s going to prevent the threat from getting any further.
- Friendly traffic whitelisting. The flip side of this functionality is friendly traffic whitelisting; a good web application firewall will not interfere with the traffic that you’re supposed to be getting. You can define strict parameters for the type of traffic you expect, and block out everything else.
- Behavior analytics. Most modern firewalls are also equipped with some kind of behavioral analytics; it will monitor the activity of users and bots on your site, and flag any causes for concern.
- Administrative tools. There are also built-in administrative tools that give you more control over how your site is being used—both by your employees and by users.
Updates and Patches
It’s a simple step, but one that’s incredibly important to take. Keep all your systems as up-to-date as possible, updating whenever you have the opportunity. If you use a website builder, pay attention to core software updates and updates to any plugins you’re using. If you rely on third-party applications, download patches and updates as soon as they’re available. These are introduced to keep your application secure, so don’t neglect them.
The Human Factor
Don’t forget that most hacks and data breaches are attributable to human error. There isn’t a mastermind cybercriminal brute-forcing their way through your defenses; instead, there’s someone sly enough to trick your employees into giving up their password, or an employee who attaches an unknown flash drive to their work computer.
You can mitigate threats by educating employees on best practices for website security, including:
- Choose strong passwords. If your password is “password,” you’re pretty much asking to be hacked. Choose long passwords with a mix of different characters.
- Change passwords regularly. It’s not enough to pick a strong password and lean on it forever. You have to change your passwords regularly if you’re going to remain secure.
- Recognize and avoid schemes. Employees also need to be educated about common types of schemes that can be used to glean login credentials or otherwise gain access to your site. For example, email-based phishing schemes are common, as are deliberate attempts to get an employee’s password.
- ● Avoid unfamiliar devices and networks. Unsecured networks are major points of vulnerability; encourage your employees to only use private, secured networks for their work-related activities. Similarly, employees should not trust unfamiliar email attachments, flash drives, or other external sources of information.
There’s no way to completely protect your website from all threats, but with a good firewall, regular updates, and a team of employees who know what they’re doing, you’ll protect yourself from most high-level concerns. Prevention is always better than crisis management, so be proactive with these changes.