We‘re going to provide you with the information you need to keep your website secure in our guide on website security. We’ll discuss typical dangers, how to defend your website against them, and the best safe web providers.
Website security is a subject that is rarely discussed, despite the fact that it is quite crucial. Malware, spam, and distributed denial of service attacks, which are used to steal sensitive user information or spread malicious software, are increasingly targeting even small websites.
Let’s begin by going over how data moves from a user to the web server and how that data movement leaves your website vulnerable to assaults.
- A primer on website security
- Threats against websites
- How to Protect Your Website
- Other Advice on Website Security
- Final Reflections
A primer on website security
Prior to discussing how vulnerable your website is and what you can do to defend it, it is important to have a basic understanding of how data is transmitted over the internet.
Hosting a website entails keeping the files for it on a server designed for quick data transfers. You could host your own website, but it wouldn’t be feasible for speed or security without the advanced networking and top-notch server gear that the finest web hosting providers utilize.
When someone visits your website, they establish a connection with that server and start momentarily downloading the files so the content may be shown in their browser.
Data is transferred to and from your server in packets, which are compact collections of data containing the necessary transfer metadata.
That creates openings for weaknesses. A fake packet might download malware onto the machine or the server, and an interception could reveal who is connecting as well as what server they are connecting to.
Those two scenarios are improbable, especially with an encrypted connection, but the procedure demonstrates the significance of website security. Threats from the internet affect not just your website but also your personal files and visitor data.
At each stage of the procedure, there must be protection. Some of it comes from the user, some from your web host, and some from you. In this section, we’ll first examine the threats to your website and then discuss countermeasures.
Threats against websites
The most frequent dangers you’ll encounter after putting up a website are listed below.
The worst thing about spam is that it is generally annoying. However, some spam bots have more nefarious purposes and can overwhelm your server or end up on Google’s blacklist.
The latter will be covered in more detail below.
Bots frequently utilize comment spam to insert backlinks to other websites on your domain. Due to the fact that Google values backlinks, they are utilized to raise search rankings.
Google has taken note of this kind of comment spam and hidden the URLs that participate in it. Nevertheless, the issue continues.
There are two effects of spam. In the lead is speed. The user database on your website might easily become clogged up if users must register in order to remark.
There are plugins you may apply to lessen the problem because WordPress, in particular, gets a ton of comment spam.
A more serious issue is that spam bot links may contain malicious code. These URLs could be clicked by other people, infecting their computers with malware. Additionally, Google’s crawlers are able to detect harmful URLs and assign a risk rating to your website.
Spam should be avoided at all costs in order to maintain your website operating as quickly as possible and to safeguard your users and organic search traffic.
The Operation Payback campaign, which targeted major credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard in opposition to the US government’s effort to restrict Wikileaks, is largely to blame for the increased media attention given to DDoS assaults in recent years.
DDoS attacks aim to prevent other users from accessing a specific website. Attackers saturate a web server with traffic in order to knock it offline, and they frequently keep up the pressure so that the host finds it challenging to get the server back online.
Attacks are typically carried out via spoof IP addresses or botnets, which are massive networks of slave computers that the attacker may access remotely. DDoS attack hysteria has grown along with preventive measures.
Despite the fact that DDoS assaults normally target a single website, ensuring the majority won’t be impacted, they can be a phase in a more sinister strategy where the attacker then uses malware.
Malware and viruses
The largest threat to websites is malware. Malware, sometimes known as malicious software or a “virus,” is a common term for it. Regardless of the name you go by, it seriously endangers both you and your visitors.
For several reasons, websites are better targets for viruses than your computer. They can be used to obtain confidential user information, use web server resources, or show the hacker a message, especially if you have a popular website.
Malware may also be used to make money in other situations. A hacker may obtain extensive user permissions and utilize them to insert affiliate links or advertisements.
In the worst instance, a hacker exploits a website as a platform for the propagation of malware by inserting links into it that, when clicked by a visitor, download a dangerous package onto their computer.
Using a malware monitoring service, which we’ll discuss in a later section, offers the best security. You may check to determine whether there is malware in your files by carefully monitoring the traffic, files, and load times for your website.
WHOIS Domain Registration
A domain is required for every website, and when you register yours, your personal data is associated with it.
Furthermore, finding that information is not difficult for a crafty hacker, making you a virtual target for spam and solicitation.
A domain must have a WHOIS record in order to be registered. Think of it like a real estate purchase.
Both the public and the firm that owns the property need to know who the owners are and how to contact them. How much information you need to provide to register may depend on the country in which you reside.
The nameservers for the URL are one piece of information in the WHOIS data that isn’t as private as your email, name, address, or phone number.
Domain requests are forwarded to the servers that host the URLs via nameservers. For their various hosting types, web hosts frequently keep numerous nameservers up to date.
While a hacker shouldn’t be able to identify the precise server you’re using, it can provide them with information about the region in which you’re located.
Even that tiny fragment could act as a gateway to your web server because it has been repeatedly demonstrated that hackers will use any data they have to the fullest extent possible.
Blacklists on search engines pose an unaddressed threat to your website. Blacklists typically have a beneficial effect, eliminating websites that engage in keyword spamming or have been compromised.
However, even with the best of intentions, your website may get on a blacklist, and once there, it can be challenging to remove yourself.
Users who click through search results need to be protected by search engines. As a result, you will be blacklisted if Google’s crawl bots find anything questionable in your code.
Even while it doesn’t pose a direct security risk, being banned has an impact on your organic search traffic. Poor security measures have the unintended consequence of damaging your website’s reputation and traffic flow in the eyes of search engines.
Let’s look at the precautions you may take to safeguard your website now that you are aware of the typical threats it faces.
How to Protect Your Website
Here are a few quick measures to keep your website safe. Though not all of them are free, they are all manageably simple to apply.
Employ a firewall
In a single word, the internet cannot be trusted. We hope that the server that hosts your website is a reliable one. But it’s used to link your online files to the rest of the unreliable internet.
Going unprotected, especially when hosting websites, allows possible infections to get too close. In this situation, a firewall is useful.
Think of having a brick wall to defend yourself from a fire. A firewall essentially does that. Web servers can secure your website using one of two methods.
Between your server and the rest of the internet are hardware firewalls. As packets enter the server, they are tagged to identify the source of the data.
The firewall can identify which transfers should be made and prevent those that shouldn’t be as this process progresses.
Software firewalls are a common concept, especially among Windows users. Software firewalls keep an eye on things like downloading rates, transfer timings, and incoming IP addresses.
To stop harm, the software blocks traffic that doesn’t fit in the lines it draws.
You have probably used a software firewall if you have installed programs on Windows that connect to the internet.
Combining hardware and software firewalls offers the highest security. Using both offers two levels of monitoring to ensure that the traffic going to and from your website is secure, even though there shouldn’t be a significant security difference between the two.
Enable DDoS defense
Firewalls protect against DDoS assaults by identifying IP spoofing before a real attack can be launched. However, in a botnet, each IP address is distinct. A firewall cannot keep up with the rising volume of what appears to be genuine traffic going to and from your website.
DDoS mitigation, or more precisely DDoS prevention, was created for this reason. DDoS attempts aim to overload a web server and cause it to crash. That traffic can be divided up and routed across a distributed network of servers using a content delivery network like Cloudflare to take the hit.
The CDN can shield your website from outages by intelligently routing traffic without obstructing authorized users. This is helpful because software-based DDoS protection may prevent a rapid increase in traffic even when it is justified, such as following a new product launch or media appearance.
In order to defend your website from DDoS assaults and speed up the delivery of static information, numerous web servers have partnered with Cloudflare. A2 and Bluehost are two examples that come to mind.
Clean up your website and install antivirus software.
There are specific monitoring and cleaning solutions for websites, but you can’t just install AVG and start working (though be sure to read our AVG review to clean your local PC). Utilizing one could mean the difference between a secure website and a vulnerable one.
Usually, you’ll have to pay for them, and if your website has already been compromised, the cost will be high. However, some hosts, like HostGator and iPage, include SiteLock security as part of your hosting subscription. For more information on HostGator and iPage, read our reviews of those companies.
There are several of alternatives if your host doesn’t offer protection. SiteLock is a good option, but Sucuri or Cobweb Security are also options. Both provide no-cost scans of your website.
Although buying one of those programs can be pricey, there are several benefits. You receive ongoing malware detection and eradication, complete hack recovery, monitoring of blacklists, virtual patching, DDoS mitigation, CDN performance, and more.
Purchasing a protection plan should be all you need to keep your website secure if it is within your financial means.
Register a Private Domain
Your name, address, phone number, and more are linked to and made public when you register a domain with WHOIS. On occasion, you can get away with providing less information, but it depends on the nation from which you register.
Unfortunately, private domain registration is a premium service that is necessary for safeguarding both you and your website. Your information will be replaced with theirs by the domain registrar, making it impossible for anyone to search for you online.
For instance, if you choose to register a domain privately through GoDaddy (see our GoDaddy review), GoDaddy’s name, mailing address, phone number, and email will appear in place of yours.
Place an SSL or TLS certificate in place
One of the easiest methods to safeguard your website and its visitors is by installing an SSL certificate on your domain. Unencrypted data transfer gives snoopers the ability to steal, intercept, or compromise your data, making it a gift to them.
This is particularly crucial when sending personal data. A SSL certificate is crucial, for instance, if you operate an online store. Your customers’ credit card information, addresses, names, and more are transmitted thousands of miles without protection if you don’t have one.
Additionally, selling goods online without an SSL certificate would definitely get your website added to Google’s blacklist.
Your web server will connect to your visitor to complete a TLS handshake once you have a certificate configured. A secure connection will be established between the user and the web server to encrypt data moving between them if everything is functioning as it should.
Because to the increased loading time, some SSL certificates are more expensive than others. Some offer slower loading times with increased security, and vice versa. The SSL certificate you require depends on the goal of your website.
Many web providers, including Dreamhost, offer free SSL certificates as part of their services. In the section below on the best safe web hosting, we’ll go into more detail about Dreamhost.
These may also be referred to as TLS, SSL, or SSL/TLS certificates. The TLS protocol, which is now at version 1.2, has replaced SSL as a protocol. TLS and SSL certificates nevertheless function together. It’s complicated, so be sure to read our article on SSL vs. TLS to find out more.
Other Advice on Website Security
Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals, let’s look at some supplemental security tips.
Updates don’t necessarily involve enhancing functionality and introducing new features. Sometimes they’re used to patch up previously undiscovered flaws. Because of this, it’s critical to update your software frequently to ensure that you are protected against the most recent dangers.
This is particularly true for WordPress, as both the platform itself and each plugin you employ pose security risks. For that reason, it’s not a good idea to install WordPress plugins whose authors no longer maintain them. They are not set up to protect against the most recent exploits.
Unfortunately, updating right away is also not the best course of action because new plugin versions may conflict with older ones. It’s crucial to routinely backup your website utilizing online backup services so you may roll back to an earlier version in case of incompatibility.
Although it may seem obvious, ongoing security monitoring is essential for preventing any assaults on your website. Keep an eye out for spam that comes through, sudden surges in traffic, and questionable activity.
WordPress plugins that assist with monitoring abound. The standard alternatives are Jetpack and Akismet Anti-Spam, but plugins like Securi let you delve further. If you’re not utilizing WordPress, adopting common sense and performing regular security audits should work.
Pick Your Server Wisely
The level of security should be the same as long as your web hosting company uses the same security procedures across all of its servers, in theory. But that isn’t the case, and spending more money on a more durable server can actually increase security.
Shared hosting is the problem. Due to the fact that you are sharing a server with numerous other websites, it is intrinsically less secure. Information about your website can be obtained if one of these websites is the target of an attack.
A hacker can access the files of every other website on that server either by reserving IP lookup or by buying a website from your shared server. In the past, a Symlink bypass on the server was used to do that. Since then, the majority of web hosts have patched or upgraded their shared servers to fend off those attacks.
However, hackers are crafty little devils, and new schemes are constantly being developed. Although shared hosting is a less expensive choice for building a website, it has drawbacks in terms of performance and security.
Scan Your Local Computer
Your local computer could pose a significant security risk to your website. Malware can be created to intercept FTP logins and insert harmful code into websites. Bypassing the entire mess is possible with the greatest antivirus software.
Deep scans of your computer should be performed frequently, especially if you frequently download files from the internet. An effective antivirus can give you peace of mind because even executables that appear trustworthy might have unexpected companions.
Our analysis of antivirus software has shown that Bitdefender is the most secure choice. It obtained top scores from the three independent labs we consulted as well as during our in-person testing.
Make a new password
No matter what platform you pick to develop your website on, you will need a username and password to confirm that you are who you say you are. Using a CMS like WordPress puts you at double the risk, especially if you use the same password for both your web server and the CMS.
As with any account, someone may hack your password using brute force or by installing a malicious application, which would then load your database with a ton of dangerous files. Use a password manager for the best defense against that kind of assault.
One of the few security products that both improve protection and simplify the user experience is the password manager. Using a random, one-of-a-kind password for each link in the chain is the key to safeguarding your web hosting accounts, whether it’s your cPanel or WordPress login.
In our analysis of the top 10 password managers, Dashlane came out on top. It can generate lengthy, complex passwords that are nearly impossible for a machine to guess, and it automatically fills up login forms.
Because Dashlane has the greatest security in the business, no one can steal your credentials from the remote server.
Additionally, confirm that two-factor authentication is available from your web server. It’s the most practical approach to increase security without spending more money.
Best hosting for secure websites
Of course, all this DIY stuff is very nice, but there are some web hosting providers that come with excellent protection already installed. Let’s look at some of our top competitors.
At least among web hosting with affordable prices, Dreamhost is one of the most secure. It uses the most recent standards for all of its protocols, and for added security, there are a number of security niceties.
Domain privacy and an SSL certificate are free with every hosting plan. One or the other may be available for free, but Dreamhost was the only provider we could locate that provided both.
Additionally, Dreamhost provides an integrated virus eradication tool. You’ll have to pay a few dollars more each month, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Every week, Dreamhost checks your website for malware and security holes, notifying you via email if any are found. The tool will automatically remove malware from your website if it is discovered.
If you alert DreamHost to a false positive, it will update its database and add any code that was deleted back in.
One of the main reasons Dreamhost made our list of the top WordPress web hosts is security. In our evaluation of Dreamhost, we go into further detail about security precautions, features, and speeds.
All of Bluehost’s plans are praised for being secure web hosts. You receive a number of anti-spam tools, defense against malware and DDoS assaults, a CDN, and an SSL certificate in order to keep your inbox free of clutter.
The least expensive plans are shared plans, which include integration with Cloudflare, SpamExperts, domain privacy, a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate, and automated backup using CodeGuard Basic.
Resource management is another way that Bluehost guards against the dangers associated with shared hosting. Bluehost will relocate a website to a separate hosting environment for analysis if it detects that it is using too many resources.
As a result, your performance remains stable and your server is protected from harmful websites and DDoS attacks.
A larger number of security tools are used by WordPress services. Plans include SiteLock Professional, which offers daily scans, reputation management, automatic malware eradication, and FTP monitoring.
Additionally, SiteLock’s web application firewall, which guards against malicious traffic, will be accessible to you.
In addition to speed and cost, Bluehost is a great option for security. More information on those is available in our in-depth Bluehost review.
Although Kinsta is a more expensive managed WordPress host, its features make up for the price. You receive a security guarantee, which states that if your website is hacked while it is being hosted by Kinsta, it will be cleaned up and fixed at no extra cost to you.
Kinsta employs proactive security to prevent hacks. Every five minutes, or 288 times a day, your website is tested to see if it is up and running to make sure the server hasn’t failed due to a DDoS assault or something else.
Data uploads are encrypted since Kinsta only accepts SFTP and SSH connections.
Kinsta will take a few actions in the event that an attack manages to get past those security measures. The WordPress core will be rebuilt, the SFTP, SSH, and database passwords will be changed, and any malicious themes or plugins will be removed.
It will also scan your files for malware. You can use one of Kinsta’s automatic backups to recover your website if something is accidentally deleted.
Due to its superior security and performance, Kinsta has attracted customers including Ubisoft, General Electric, and Intuit. Check out our Kinsta review for more information.
Hackers frequently target the largest user group they can gain access to. Because of this, maintaining website security is difficult, and your risk grows as your traffic does.
In order to mitigate these problems, web providers have started to implement protection against malware, DDoS attacks, and other threats.
It need not be expensive to implement the most recent security measures. For instance, solutions with useful protection for a few dollars per month are available in our top inexpensive web hosting guide.
That should be sufficient to maintain the security of your website, together with an understanding of internet risks.
What security measures is your website putting in place? Please share your thoughts in the section below, and as always, thanks for reading!