Saturday 15 September 2018

12 Fundamental Actions That Help You Secure Your Website from Hackers

12 Fundamental Actions That Help You Secure Your Website from Hackers

Hacking is a damaging web activity that can turn your server into an interface that will transmit spam email messages to meet certain illegal demands. Such an activity primarily emerges out of a casual attitude on part of website owners who feel that their website can never be hacked. However, this notion is not at all true. Every website can be hacked, causing an immense loss to e-commerce businesses. Given the fact that being safe is better than to feel sorry, here are 12 tips that can prevent your website from getting hacked.

1. "Update" Is The Keyword

Website owners should know for a fact that sites with insecure and outdated software are prone to hacking. Therefore, you should always keep your software updated. Businesses should enable their ‘software update’ option as and when a new CMS (Content Management System) or a plugin is available.

You should also know that hacking is now an automated process. And it is not enough if you initiate weekly or monthly updates since bots constantly look for vulnerable websites. In order to win this battle with bots, you should always update your website as soon as the update is available. WP Updates Notifier is a plugin meant for WordPress websites. This plugin sends an email that an update is now available. Additionally, it is also recommended that you have a website firewall in place to secure your website from hacking disasters. Hence it is very important that you keep your scripts and platform up-to-date.

2. Unlock the Power of "HTTPS"

It is now mandatory for websites to display the HTTPS protocol as a measure of web security. Therefore, it is important that you switch to HTTPS which displays a padlock in the address bar; an indication that your website is safe to communicate and transact. HTTPS is a protocol that demonstrates to visitors that your website comes with an additional encryption standard called the Transport Layer Security (TLS).

HTTPS is also a yardstick of web security, informing the users that your site is supported by a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. If you are looking to add an additional layer of security, you can buy cheap SSL certificate from an authorized CA. This way, you are building additional layers of security to your website, insulating it from all types of hacking attacks.

3. Parameterized Queries – The Perfect Solution to SQL Injection Hacks

Website owners should realize that a number of hacking attacks take place on account of SQL injections. An SQL injection emerges when your website has a form that needs to be filled in by visitors to provide information. It is here that you need to keep a close watch on the various fields of the form.

Forms with open fields can attract the attention of hackers who can effortlessly insert any code. Once this is done, they will secure a gateway to your website. It is for this reason that you should take certain steps to secure your site from SQL injection hacks. However, the simplest means would be to employ parameterized queries. These queries will tighten your code with sufficient parameters that cannot be trespassed by hackers.

4. CSP Helps Build A Strong Wall Against XSS Attacks

Content Security Policy (CSP) is a handy tool that can secure your website from cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. XSS attacks are very common threats to websites. These emerge when hackers try to push damaging JavaScript code on your web pages. This activity harms the visitor pages of your website. In an attempt to safeguard your website from such attacks, you can take the help of CSP.

Through CSP, you can ensure that every function or field that is used for inputting data is made as explicit as possible. That means, you are tightening the code so that hackers cannot slip any infected code on to your webpage. CSP, when added to the header of your webpage will offer an array of directives, informing the browser of safe domains.

5. Complex, Long and Unique Passwords Are Mandatory

If you are of the opinion that strong passwords are required only for financial transactions and email conversations, think twice. The strength of a password is more significant with databases, website servers and admins. A combination of alphabets (upper and lower case), numbers and special characters makes up a strong password. It is important that you have at least 12 password characters so as to secure your website. Another tip here is to avoid having the same password for different website logins. While you create a complex, unique and long password, it is advisable that you keep changing it frequently so that hackers cannot mess with the crucial information of your users.

6. Have A Backup Strategy In Place

A hacked website can throw everything out of gear by wiping out all your data and efforts in building a reliable digital interface. Hence it is always better to be prepared of such damaging activities with certain backup strategies. Given the fact that website owners don’t backup regularly, it is very important that you learn how to avoid your unpatched CMS versions to fall into the hands of hackers. Backing up data and storing it in a place which cannot be accessed by the public is the trick that will protect your site from the damages caused by a hacked website.

7. Secure Your Admin Directories

Admin directories, most of the times become gateways for hackers when they use scripts that can scan all the directories on your web server which are commonly named as ‘login’ or ‘admin’. After that, they will do everything to enter into your folders, ultimately compromising the security of your website. Thus it comes as an intelligent move to rename all your admin folders with random names of your choice so as to conceal them.

8. Website Security Tools Can Also Come To Your Rescue

There are a host of web security tools which are commonly called as Penetration Testing. You can rely on some free tools such as Netsparker, Xenotix XSS Exploit Framework and Through these aides, you can effectively check the moves of hackers who try to compromise the security of your website.

9. Selection of The Right Extensions

Website owners are at an advantage to use the extensibility feature of CMS applications. However, there are an array of add-ons, plugins and extensions that offer the same functionality. That means, you need to make the right choice with regard to the apt extension. To arrive at a decision, here are some benchmarks. Checking out the date when the extension was last updated can support your decision to pick that one. If the update of the extension happened a year ago, then there is every chance that the author of the extension was inactive. Such extensions fail to address your functionality needs and are also incompetent to resolve security issues.

The number of installations coupled with the age of the extension are two other parameters that you need to focus on. Selecting an extension that was developed by a reliable developer is recommended. That means, you need to choose only the legitimate sources from which you can download all your themes and extensions. You should also know that the ‘free’ versions come with malware as most of them are pirated. It is best to avoid such versions and subscribe to the ones that support paid downloads.

10. Understand The Importance of File Permissions

To a layman, a file permission states the actual user of the file and the activities that he can perform on it.

A ‘Read’ (4) permission enables the user to simply view the file contents. A ‘Write’ (2) permission, on the other hand, approves him to make changes to the file. The ‘Execute’ (1) permission allows him to run the script or program. Since each file permission is associated with a number, it becomes easy for you to permit multiple permissions simply by adding the numbers. A ‘read-write-execute’ permission can be granted by setting the user permission to 7.

This numerical representation will involve 3 types of users.

  • Owner: Only one user who has created the file can be owner.
  • Group: A bunch of users to whom a file is assigned will be granted the same permission.
  • Public: All other people

You may argue that CMS installations come with default permissions. However, it is advisable to look into the below explanation concerning file and folder permissions that are default to any website.

The commonly used 666 file permission (allowing the owner, group and public the permission to read and write) can be a potential threat to your website information. This permission allows everyone including hackers the permission to mess with your files. Similar is the case with the ‘777’ folder permission (all the 3 groups of users are permitted to execute the script). This permits any visitor to delete your files or add malware code. Such acts can make your website susceptible to hacking attacks. So, you as a website owner should provide the apt permissions to different users so as to safeguard your website information.

11. Permitting Users to Upload Files – A Strict 'No'

Website owners should be very careful when granting the permission to users to upload files on to their sites. When a seemingly safe file is uploaded by a user, there is every possibility that it might have a script that opens your website, once it is executed. If your website supports a file upload form, then you should be extra cautious with all the files that are being uploaded. In an attempt to prevent such uploads robbing off your website information, you should consider installing a firewall.

In the event you are permitting web files to be uploaded on to your website, you should stick to safe transport commands like SSH or SFTP. Another tip would be to mount your website on one server, allowing your database to run on another server. You should also look at restricting physical access to your server. All these tips can prevent your database server to land in the hands of hackers.

12. Actionable Tips About Server Configuration Files

As the owner of a website, you should know about your web server configuration files which are powerful. You will find these files located in the root web directory. nginx.conf is the configuration file for Nginx servers. If you are using an Apache web server, you have the .htaccess configuration file. These configuration files, while permitting you to execute server rules also help you secure your website. Speaking of configuration files, below are certain rules that you need to follow and attach to your web server.

  • Protect Sensitive Files: Under this head, you can come up with certain rules that can safeguard certain folders and files. You need to be watchful about CMS configuration files which are mounted on your web server, storing sensitive information. It is here that your database login details are stored in plain text. Admin areas should also be locked along with restricting the PHP execution for directories that permit uploads and store images.
  • Prevent Browsing of Directories: It should be your prime motive to limit the information that can be accessed by hackers. When you keep a tab on the browsing of directories, you are preventing hackers to view the contents of your directories.

These two rules, once implemented, safeguard your configuration files preventing them to land in the hands of hackers.

Closing Thoughts

Calling for some forethought, the above-mentioned proactive tips can help you improve the security of your website. While informing you of the probable issues that may crop up at any time, it is very important that you tightly secure your website from various corners. This way, you will able to stop the numerous automated hacking attacks on your website in addition to safeguarding your goodwill in the market.


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