Website security guide: The top 5 threats and how to avoid them

Egle Grasys
Content Writer
website security

Did you know that up to 30,000 websites get hacked every single day? By launching a website, you’re essentially placing yourself on the radars of thousands of hackers, and they tend to strike when you least expect it. As many as 64% of companies worldwide have experienced at least one form of cyberattack in 2023. Even if you’ve gone years without being targeted, it may just be a matter of time before a hacker tries their luck at your website. So now would be a great time to do a quick website security check.

What is website security?

Website security refers to any actions you take or tools you implement to protect your website against cyberattacks, no matter if it’s a private or company page. First things first, to properly secure your site you must know its weak points and understand the risks. Let’s start with a quick website security audit.

How to perform a website safety check

We’ve gathered the most important website security precautions to create a simple site safety checker. Go through it to find out if your page is secure and the customer data – is well-protected.

HTTPS and SSL/TLS Certificates: Ensure your website uses HTTPS with a valid SSL/TLS certificate. This encrypts data between users and your server, protecting it from interception.

Regular software updates: Keep your website's software, plugins, and themes up to date. Cybercrooks love to exploit vulnerabilities of outdated software.

Strong authentication: Implement strong authentication methods, like two-factor authentication (2FA), to prevent unauthorized access to your website user accounts.

Input validation and Content Security Policy (CSP): Check and verify data entered by users and implement a Content Security Policy (CSP) specifying which sources of content are considered safe and can be loaded by your web page. Both security features mitigate the risk of cross-site scripting (XSS) and other code injection attacks.

Vulnerability monitoring and regular backups: Use website security scanners or plugins to scan for vulnerabilities and perform regular backups of your website's data. Backups help you quickly recover from security incidents.

These five points cover some of the most critical aspects of website security and provide a strong foundation for protecting your site and its users from potential threats. Now, when the website security audit is done, get to know the top five security threats.

Threat #1: SQL injection

What is SQL injection? If your website has any input fields, such as login fields or search boxes, it may be vulnerable to SQL injection attacks. This is when a hacker exploits a website’s input field and inserts malicious code into it which overrides the website’s security protocol and allows the hacker to access sensitive information stored on the website.

For example, a hacker can write code that would request the website to return a specific table or another data set stored in the website’s internal database that shouldn’t be available to outsiders. If your website isn’t secured against such attacks, it will provide the hacker with their requested information.

How to avoid it

Validate user input. Input validation means that each user input is screened before being sent to the website. If an unsuitable format, such as a script, is noticed, the request is not sent to the website.

Parameterize your queries. This means creating prepared statements that all search queries must match to be sent to the website. Again, this ensures that malicious code does not go through to the website.

Threat #2: Cross-site scripting (XSS)

What is cross-site scripting? This is another type of injection attack. However, while an SQL injection targets the website, an XSS attack targets the users of the website and their browsers. With cross-site scripting, a hacker inserts malicious code into the user’s browser’s side script, disguising it as reliable code coming from a legitimate website.

Once this code is successfully executed, the hacker can access various cookies or session tokens that can potentially include a user’s sensitive data like bank account information.

How to avoid it

Sanitize HTML. You should never fully trust any input, even if it looks like it’s coming from a reliable user. By sanitizing all input containing HTML, you can eliminate any potential XSS script.

Require users to re-enter their login information. Even if a user has a cookie that contains their login information, requiring them to re-enter their password will help avoid unauthorized access.

Use a Content Security Policy (CSP). This is more of a measure to mitigate rather than fully prevent an XSS attack. Adding a CSP header to your website should help identify reliable domains and block potential cross-site scripting attacks.

Threat #3: Phishing

What is phishing? It refers to a social engineering method where a hacker employs deceptive techniques to extract sensitive data from people or get them to click on a malware-infected link. Cybercriminals do this by disguising themselves as representatives of legitimate organizations and sending out fraudulent messages.

Some phishing scams are more advanced than others. Most of us are familiar with the old “Congratulations, you’ve just won a brand new iPhone! Click here to collect your prize,” and would never fall for it. Well, many phishing scams are far more thought-out, making each website owner vulnerable. For example, spear phishing is a type of phishing that involves research on specific targets, making these scams much more believable.

How to avoid it

Be suspicious of unusual messages. Always be cautious if you receive an email, text message, or phone call with a weird request. For instance, if you receive a random email telling you that you’ve been locked out of your WordPress account and that you should re-enter your details through a provided form, do some digging to find out if that email is legit.

Don’t click on links sent from unknown sources. Hackers are so good at tricking people into clicking on their malware-infected links. They can forge super-convincing emails that look like they’re coming from your friend or create innocent-looking pop-ups. It’s your job never to let your guard down.

Threat #4: Denial-of-service (DDoS) attack

What is a denial-of-service attack? This is a type of attack where malicious actors send a massive amount of traffic to a website to overwhelm the website servers and force the website to crash. The result of this is that nobody can visit the website, causing disruption to the website owner and visitors.

How to avoid it

Increase your website bandwidth. The more traffic your website can handle, the less susceptible it is to a DDoS attack.

Use rate limiting. With rate limiting, you restrict the number of actions that a single user can make, which can prevent a single user from sending thousands of bots to your website.

Use CAPTCHA. CAPTCHA will ensure that only real people can access your website, not bots.

Monitor your website traffic. By spotting a DDoS attack soon enough, you can prevent any damage from happening.

Threat #5: Malware

What is Malware? There are many different types of malware that can be aimed at a website. Some of the most common ones are ransomware, spyware, viruses, worms, and trojans. Phishing is one of the most common ways that websites get infected with malware, but it may also enter a website through other security vulnerabilities (e.g., lack of encryption, code vulnerabilities, or weak passwords).

How to avoid it

Use antivirus software. Antivirus software will spot and isolate malware immediately and prevent it from infecting your device and website.

Use a firewall. This website security tool will allow you to monitor all activity on your website and spot any unauthorized activity, including hackers trying to plant malware.

Watch out for phishing. Phishing is one of the most common ways malware gets planted on a website, so always be vigilant.

Use a secure hosting service. Website hosting security must also be considered. By choosing a secure provider like Hostinger, your website’s susceptibility to malware and other types of cyber attacks will significantly decrease.

Use a password manager. A password manager will help you secure all accounts related to your website, making it much more difficult for hackers to access your website and place malware on it. A company password manager like NordPass is an essential tool if you want to keep your organization safe.

Bottom line

Your website faces these common threats every single day. Being hit by a cyberattack can mean monetary losses at best and closing down your business at worst. Don’t let hackers take away everything you’ve worked so hard for, and start enforcing your website security today.

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