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Top 10 Expert Tips to Secure Your Website

Daniel Blechynden
Most secure website builders
An important feature to look for when you choose a website builder is the security features it has to offer for your business' website. Customers are reassured by signs like the green padlock symbol that accompanies an HTTPS site and SSL certificate seals because then they know that their personal details will be kept private, especially if there are concerns it's a hackable website.

Although estimates of the exact numbers vary, it’s safe to say that tens of thousands of websites suffer some form of hack every day.

A recent report by digital security leader Sophos outlines numerous new techniques that malicious entities are employing to break into your systems. 

Many of the best website builders come with integrated security tools to help you look after your site. But despite this, you will still need to perform various security tasks on your own to ensure your website, files, and visitors are protected at all times. The following 10 tips touch on some of the most important things to focus on. 

1. Use a Reliable Website Creation Platform

Using the right website builder or content management system (CMS) will go a long way towards maintaining site security. Poorly designed and less reputable platforms can exhibit security vulnerabilities and provide a gateway for hackers to enter your site and steal important data. 

Website builders such as Wix present strong options for the security-conscious developer entering the industry for the first time. If you would rather go with another option, consider the following. 

  • The platform’s reputation when it comes to security and security practices. 
  • What sort of malware scanning and removal tools are included. 
  • How much flexibility you have to implement your own security practices. 
  • Whether or not there are plugins for enhancing your security. 

If you go with a CMS like WordPress.org rather than a website builder, you will need to ensure that you select a host with a focus on security. 

2. Add Security Plugins to Your Site

Most website builders and CMSs come with some sort of plugin or extension library that you can use to add functionality to your website. In many cases, you will find an array of useful extensions that you can use to boost your site’s security. 

For example, a quick search for “security” in the WordPress.org plugin library reveals over 1000 different plugins. These range from anti-spam extensions to advanced malware scanners and firewalls. We’d recommend only using highly-rated plugins to reduce the risk of security vulnerabilities. 

Website builders such as Wix and HostGator tend to offer fewer security plugins. However, this is usually because they already employ strong, fully-managed security strategies so that you don’t have to worry. 

3. Keep Your Software Up to Date

Failing to update your software and apply security patches is a serious issue that can leave you vulnerable to a security breach. There are a few things to keep in mind here, particularly if you’re using a CMS like WordPress coupled with third-party plugins and themes. 

  • Hosting updates: If you’re using a hosting provider and a CMS rather than an all-in-one website builder, you will need to ensure you’re keeping your software up to date. In many cases, this is done automatically, but not always. 
  • Plugin updates: Failing to update your plugins regularly can leave you vulnerable. We’d suggest turning automatic updates on if possible. 
  • Updating all other software: Something as simple as failing to update to the latest version of WordPress can create major security issues. 

Last, but not least, you absolutely must ensure that all security programs and software are running the latest version. If you don’t they may not effectively detect or be able to deal with certain kinds of malware. 

4. Use a High-Quality SSL Certificate

Secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates are designed to encrypt data during transmission, protecting visitor information and preventing it from falling into the wrong hands. 

When you add an SSL certificate to your website, HTTPS will be appended to the start of your URL. A green tick, lock, or some other symbol will also appear in the browser address bar. This signals that the website you’re viewing is secure.

Adding an SSL certificate is a must if you don’t want to be penalized by the search engines. According to a Google update from 2018, all Google Chrome users will be notified if they attempt to access an unsecure site. Your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts will also suffer, and it’s very hard to achieve a high search engine ranking without SSL security. 

5. Implement Regular Automatic Backups

No matter how well you think that you’re securing your website, there’s still a chance that a security breach could happen. If it does, your content and site data could be corrupted or lost entirely. 

This could be devastating to an unprepared user. However, the implementation of automatic backups could save you a significant amount of time and money. If your website and its content is lost, you will simply be able to restore it with your most recent unaffected backup. 

Most reliable website creation platforms include backup options. With WordPress, you might benefit from backups with your hosting plan. Otherwise, you can add an automatic backup plugin. Website builders often come with automatic backups included in their packages. 

6. Be Careful Accepting File Uploads

If you don’t take significant precautions, accepting file uploads could be extremely damaging to your website and its security. In simple terms, hackers can take advantage of file upload pages to add a malicious script to your site. When this is executed, it will provide access to your server, your website and its files, your consumer data, or something else. 

There are a few different steps that you can take to reduce the risk when accepting file uploads. On the most basic level, you can use a plugin or security extension to check files before they’re uploaded to your server. You could also store them in an isolated environment, have your database on a separate server to your website, and/or use an advanced firewall to reduce your risk of attack. 

7. Use Strong Passwords

You’re asked to add an email address and password to create a new account, and you add the same old simple password that you use for everything. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, this is something that a large percentage of people do, and it can leave you vulnerable. 

Instead, we’d suggest using a separate, randomly-generated password for each new account. Use a password manager to store them, and ensure you change them regularly so you can remain protected. There are numerous password generators available to help you create strong passwords, and we’d recommend taking advantage of them. 

8. Use a Third-Party Site Security Tool

Website security tools can prove to be extremely useful for those looking to keep their site safe from hackers. They are designed to test potential security vulnerabilities on your website, helping you to identify and remediate problems. 

For example, a security tool may attempt to execute fake “malware” scripts to gain access to your site. If these are successfully executed, you will be notified and provided with information about the exact problem and the potential ways to resolve it. 

There are numerous popular online security tools, but you should always be very careful using these. Check a tool's reputation extensively before employing it, or you risk unknowingly opening the door for a hacker yourself. 

9. Be Aware of Human Error

Research suggests that up to 95% of cybersecurity breaches can be attributed to human error rather than poor security practices. Experienced hackers will target the weakest links in your company or organization, attempting to deliver malware or gain access to your website through any of numerous different methods. 

There are a few things that you can do to significantly reduce your risk on this front. 

  • Never open links in emails from unknown senders. 
  • Ensure you never grant website access to anyone you don’t trust fully. 
  • Double check anyone you employ to help you fix technical issues. 

You should also be wary of using public internet connections, as these are usually very easy to hack. 

10. Use a Web Application Firewall

Adding a cloud-based web application firewall (WAF) to your website is a great way to extend your security efforts. When it is installed, all traffic entering your website will have to pass through the firewall, which is designed to filter out hacking attempts, spammers, bots, and other unwanted entities. 

Powerful WAFs are usually available under a software as a service (SaaS) model. This means that you will need to pay a subscription fee, but it’s usually worth it—especially if your hosting provider doesn’t have its own firewall.

Conclusion

Website security is an essential consideration, but unfortunately, it’s one that many businesses neglect. Without the right security practices, you leave your website and any associated data vulnerable to hacking and malware infection. 

Here, we’ve outlined 10 important things to do to maintain site security. Follow the security best practices recommended by your host, website builder, and/or CMS. Take advantage of third-party programs, keep your software up to date, and take steps to reduce the risk of human error. 

The bottom line: You can never spend too much time improving your website’s security. Keeping out hackers can be difficult, and the results of a data breach could be devastating for your business. 

Daniel Blechynden
Contributing to the likes of top10.com, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide, Daniel’s writing focuses on technology, science, and dependable reviews. He has been a regular critic of software and products from various industries for several years, often utilizing his academic background in the sciences.