Website security is a major issue in a world where malicious attacks, identity theft and viruses are all too commonly placed. The question is, “how can one protect their website while providing adequate security?” The best answer is by selecting a web host with the best security services available for a reasonable price along with taking some of your own precautionary measures. In doing so, you rest easy knowing you took every step possible to ensure your site is indeed safe and secure.
Web Host Security Services
It’s a fact if you’re going to run a website, you are going to have to deal with security breaches at some point. No matter how much you wish this wasn’t the case, hackers will find your website one way or another. Website hosts provide a number of features to anyone seeking their services, but the focus for any site owner is security. The confusion and uncertainty, however, comes in knowing exactly what security measures to expect. The following will give a potential website owner a firm basis of what to look for in web host security services and how these measures protect one’s site. I know we shouldn’t have to deal with unwelcomed intruders, but we do need to keep them out of our sites. Prevention is the best preventative measure we can take, and having a solid plan in place will save you lots of headaches later on down the road.
The last thing a website owner wants is site downtime for any reason, whether that is a server crash, performance issues or site errors. Fortunately, most web hosts provide a strong defense against issues such as these in the form of network monitoring. This is not to say that monitoring the network will prevent a server crash or site errors, it simply decreases the likelihood. In fact, network monitoring is perhaps the best way to identify many of the issues threatening websites. In some cases, that may be something as simple as heavy traffic or something as serious as a malicious attack. That being said, one should ensure any web host one is considering does indeed provide 24/7 network monitoring services. The alternative could result in a costly loss of revenue.
There are a handful of websites that will monitor your servers for a small monthly fee, and this can be a worthwhile investment if you have the extra funds. Typically, they can monitor your website’s uptime 24/7 and send you a report to your email showing you any unwanted downtime. Furthermore, you can log in to the backend settings of your server and look for possible problems or issues which may have made your server unstable during that time period.
In many cases, web hosts provide a failsafe or a security measure that ensures, even should the unthinkable happen and disaster befalls the website, nothing is lost. After all, one of the greatest concerns for website owners is the following: Should the server crash or fall prey to a virus, all the site data is lost. Thanks to data or site backup, this is rarely the case. In simple terms, this procedure copies the data on one server and stores the backup files elsewhere, making sure backup files are not corrupted or lost by a compromised server. Of course, due to the amount of data generated in a single day, one does want to ensure one’s web host provides daily backup to keep data safe and secure.
If you’re operating your website on the WordPress platform, there are a number of premium plugins that you can purchase for a one-time licensing fee that will automatically back up your important data. From time to time, you can back up your data on an external hard drive. Also, you can even burn the site backups on DVD’s as an extra added security measure.
Multi-layer Firewall Protection
A term many people are familiar with after dealing with computers and the Internet for years is “firewall”. Generally speaking, a firewall is put into place to prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data, such as customer names, Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. For this reason, web hosts use a multi-layer firewall, a security feature that does the same thing as a simple firewall on a much grander scale. The difference is that a multi-layer firewall is more of a security system, one that links several security settings on various levels. In other words, a hacker must fight through several security settings to reach any data, those multiple layers providing peace of mind to website owners and users.
All too often people assume their e-mail is secure, especially when dealing with an e-mail system provided by a web host. However, one may indeed want to look into what security measures web hosts provide, what e-mail protocols and SPAM filtering they’ve implemented in order to protect one’s customers, one’s website and oneself. Ideally, web hosts who provide POP3/SMTP/IMAP and SPAM filtering are the ones to go with. These protocols go a long way to protecting website owners, website clients and websites. More to the point, the encryption methods these protocols use help to ensure that sensitive information is less likely to fall into unauthorized hands, giving website owners and customers a peace of mind.
On the contrary, a lot of web hosts do not support large amounts of emails on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. If you use more than 10% of their resources on a virtual private server you might receive an email stating that your web hosting account has been suspended. In the unfortunate event that this happens to you, there is an easy fix. You can reroute your mail servers using “MX records” to push your mail servers through Gmail or simply use Gmail for your email account and disable your POP3/SMTP/IMAP.
Virus protection is perhaps one of the most sought after and expected security measure web hosts can provide, yet it is the one most fail to offer. This may well be due to the simple fact new viruses are created and introduced to the Internet more often than people realize. In short, they are difficult to keep up with and require that antivirus defenses are updated on a constant basis. Viruses also represent one of the greatest risks to websites, their owners and their clients. The good news is that there are indeed web hosts who offer virus protection at a reasonable price. One may spend more time finding such a web host, but the extra security measures are well worth the effort.
Individual Security Measures
A website owner has every right to expect a web host to use the best possible means to keep one’s site secure. However, one can take precautionary steps, ensuring the site’s security is high and decreasing the chances of security breaches by hackers. An individual doesn’t need a degree in IT Security to implement these steps, either. All one needs is a little knowhow and the determination to do everything possible to protect one’s website, one’s customers and oneself.
Directories are an everyday part of any website, one that most assume does not represent a potential security risk. That being said, the first step to doing all one can to protect one’s own site is considering everything is at risk. In short, if there is a way to implement a security measure, you should indeed do exactly that, most especially with any directory that you want to remain private. The good news is security measures for directories are as simple as password protecting the files. Taking this easy step ensures if a hacker guesses the directory name, the unauthorized individual must now figure out the password to gain access to the file. Admittedly, there is a slim chance a hacker will succeed, but it is more likely that a password will keep private directories – private.
If you want to take security one step further, you can install a script on your server that will deny access if your login or password was guessed 5-7 times. Your hosting provider should offer a number of options to help minimize the amount of attacks, thus preventing hackers from using their automated programs to hack into your website.
Security updates often seem like nothing more than the bane of a site owner’s existence, many people believing they’re too busy to bother. Unfortunately, ignoring these updates is a grievous mistake that leaves the site exposed to hacker attacks. The purpose of a security update is to patch weaknesses or holes the web host discovered in their own security measures. By not installing the update, a site owner is effectively leaving the backdoor wide open and inviting in everyone willing to take advantage of the hole in security. As irritating as those updates may seem, a website owner is indeed advised to take the time to keep up with each and every one.
However, you can install updates to WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc. which should help minimize the risk of viruses infecting your website. These updates or patches are specifically geared towards combating entry points which hackers use to install malicious programs on your site. Having an outdated framework for your website leaves you vulnerable to viruses, worms and trojans.
As expressed earlier, directories can pose a problem for websites if the owners do not take proper precautions. In this particular case, the issue is caused when a directory file doesn’t have the benefit of a recognized homepage file, such as default.html or index.htm. Without the homepage file, anyone who types in the directory name will be provided with a list of all the files in that directory. Needless to say, this issue creates a serious breach in website security that web hosts cannot protect against. A problem one can solve by using the .htaccess file, this trick disables the directory listing. Now, you can feel secure in knowing your directory listings are safe and users with malicious intent will get nothing more than an error for their efforts.
Countless websites use forms of some kind. Website owners unaware this may well lead to security problems. Simply put, form fields that are not properly coded allow hackers to input SQL queries or scripting codes that open not only the site to attacks, but customers as well. There are solutions, though. In other words, simple tricks an owner can implement to make sure forms cannot be used to hack the site or clients. For example, when the owner creates the form, they should ensure that they’re using the max length for each field, making it difficult for users to input too much data. Another sound piece of advice is to not include an e-mail address field, preventing SPAM spiders. There are indeed other measures a website owner can and should use like researching this subject and keeping up-to-date. Overall, a little added effort is well worth the time.
Perhaps the best piece of advice any website owner can receive concerning website security is to make good use of the KISS protocol. The KISS protocol is, simply put, Keep It Simple, Stupid. This means that rather than creating a website with every extra thing one can imagine, one should keep the website clean, functional and simple. Ironically enough, the simpler the website design, the fewer security holes, breaches and weaknesses. All those fancy bells and whistles undeniably make for a very beautiful, interactive website, but site owners and clients are more interested in site security in the end. A website that is not secure is a website that has no future.
In conclusion there are a ton of steps you can take to ensure that your website is as secure as possible – some of them which a good web hosting company will offer, and some which you might have to hire outside help or do yourself. They do take a little bit of added effort, but can really save you from a massive headache later on down the road.