Securing and protecting your website is vital for every business, individual, or service that has an online presence. Even though you may believe your site holds nothing of value, every webserver is a prime target for hackers. Using automated scripts, criminals and syndicates scour the Internet looking for vulnerable websites they can compromise. Once they have managed to breach your platform’s security, they then leverage your service to host illegal sites, send spam, and distribute malware to unsuspecting victims.
You Need a Multi-Faceted Approach
Implementing security measures to protect your website requires a multi-faceted approach. You need to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy and utilize several solutions and tactics to ensure you secure and protect your website. By implementing multiple layers of security, you can safeguard your business and its reputation. It prevents you from becoming another data breach statistic or an unwilling accomplice in online criminal activities.
As hackers typically compromise targets of opportunity, there are several steps you need to take to protect your website. These include keeping your software up to date and ensuring your site is not vulnerable to SQL injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. Implementing Multi-Factor Authentication, leveraging HTTPS, hardening your webserver, and investing in regular offline backups are additional measures you can take to secure and protect your website.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Ensuring the software that runs your website is up to date is vital in securing and protecting your online services. Not only do you need to update the application and database, but you also need to maintain the operating system of the server hosting your site.
If you are hosting your website on a third-party service, the management and maintenance of the underlying platform is their responsibility. However, even though the service provider is accountable for patching and maintaining the server’s operating system, you cannot abdicate this responsibility. If hackers compromise your site by leveraging a webserver vulnerability, your data and brand still suffer the consequences. It is, therefore, a good practice to monitor this service with regular security scans and uptime tools.
The maintenance of the software that runs your web application is ultimately your responsibility. As many sites leverage popular Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Magento, or Umbraco, it is vital that you patch these platforms. When vendors release security updates for these web applications, hackers often reverse engineer the changes to understand the vulnerability the patch remediates. They then use these findings to craft exploits to compromise unpatched systems.
Secure and Protect Your Website from SQL Injection and XSS
SQL Injection vulnerabilities give attackers the ability to manipulate your website’s database through an insecure web form or URL parameter. Using known T-SQL queries, they can insert code, change database tables, and even delete data. They can also extract confidential information from your site, including items such as usernames, passwords, and email addresses. Thankfully, SQL Injection is an older attack vector. Most web application platforms have built-in security mechanisms to protect you and your website from this type of vulnerability. However, it is always a good idea to run a SQL Injection auditing tool to ensure your web application is not at risk.
Cross-site Scripting (XSS) is an attack technique that injects client-side scripts into vulnerable web pages. When a visitor loads the infected page in their browser, malicious code executes in the background that could steal their data or alter the content of the web page. As the modern online user experience builds on user-specific content generated at the time a web page loads, developers must actively validate any input and harden their code. A successful XSS attack relies on real-time user-generated content escaping the confines set by the developer. Setting a Content Security Policy (CSP) header on your web server is an effective defensive mechanism against XSS. As this technology only allows a web page to load external files explicitly defined by the code, it ensures only validated scripts execute in the user’s browser.
The security of your website is only as strong as the authentication mechanisms you have in place that allow access to the server, database, and application hosting your website. Traditionally, sites and services protect access and enforce authentication with a username and password combination. However, with the rise of cloud computing and the exponential increase in online services, hackers now have access to more considerable computing resources and attack targets. Using automated password attack techniques such as password spraying and credential stuffing, they can brute force their way into systems.
Protecting your website from these types of attacks requires a layered defense-in-depth approach. Deploying a solution that requires users to authenticate themselves with two or more factors is a proven way to mitigate the risk of password attacks. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) solutions typically require a password and some other input before granting users access to a system. The second factor generally leverages something the user has, such as their mobile phone or something unique to the user, such as a biometric identifier.
The HTTPS protocol effectively helps secure and protect your website by performing two vital services. It ensures the authenticity of your site and encrypts all network traffic flowing to and from your online platform. This service is made possible by Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and Transport Layer Security (TLS).
PKI leverages certificates that third-party registrars’ issue to domain owners. When you install a certificate on your web server, visitors to your site can trust that they are accessing the site and service they expect. TLS, on the other hand, provides the platform that encrypts all traffic. Not only does it ensure that any information between the client and service is kept confidential and private, but it also mitigates the risk an unauthorized third-party can intercept and access the data.
Secure and Protect Your Server and Data
If you host your site on a self-managed server, you must take the relevant measures to ensure it is not vulnerable to attack. Hardening your web server from potential compromise must form part of the multi-layered defense-in-depth approach needed to secure your online services. You cannot concentrate on protecting your web application and database and neglect your hosting server. Failing to secure it leaves your site vulnerable to attack. Implementing measures such as preventing file uploads, disabling directory transversal, locking down file read and write access, and configuring HTTP security headers mitigate the risk of hackers compromising your server.
In addition to hardening your origin server, protecting your data at the infrastructure level is also a vital layer in your defense-in-depth approach. Measures such as encrypting your data at rest and securing access to it with granular access controls can go a long way in protecting your vital information. In addition to protecting data stored on your server, investing in online backups is another fundamental security requirement. Data backups are your last line of defense. Should you ever lose your origin server either through a disaster incident or malicious attack, you can restore your services from an independent offline copy stored at a separate secure location.
Secure and Protect your Website with Defense-In-Depth
It is vital that you secure and protect your website, but one single security measure or solution is not sufficient. As hackers leverage various independent attack vectors, you need to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy. Utilizing a multi-layered approach minimizes the risk of malicious actors compromising your site, its visitors, and your valuable data.