Once you set up a website for your brand or company, you’re done, right? Your website is so incredibly well designed and swanky, that people will be running over each other to flock to your website, and find out about your company, right? Not quite. Your work isn’t done yet, actually.
After the website designing and development is finally completed and ready to be launched, there’s one more very important issue you have to deal with. The state of your website’s security, and the potential for threats to your website. Cause if you don’t, you might not be so sure your website is gonna be up and running, functioning the way you want it to, for very long, not to mention the viewers of your website can be at risk, too. Without a strong and secure security protocol in place, your website is going to be open to threats from hackers and a plethora of risks, that can completely destroy your site’s reputation, viewer base and the very foundation of your website, not to mention the potential of it being involved in shady illegal actions.
These are some of the most dangerous malware threats of all, Citadel and Zeus being the most infamous ones, and are capable of stealing bank account logins, and then cleaning out those accounts entirely! This is the riskiest for ECommerce websites, where innumerable transactions happen on a daily basis. Zeus itself is believed to have been used to steal more than $120 million from infected accounts!
Hackers can get complete administrative access and rights to a computer or network, using these. They are so powerful, in fact, that the hacker can take over the entire system, and access, modify, edit and basically do anything the admin managing it can. Over an extended period, this can extend from stealing sensitive information, manipulating or deleting files, to changing login passwords, and even modifying the security settings themselves!
These tools are also a very potent threat to security, all the more because they’re extremely difficult to be detected by antivirus systems, and can steal each and everything that is typed using a keyboard or a touchscreen, from passwords, pin codes, and even social security numbers. According to a recent test, only 1 out of 44 popular antivirus softwares was able to detect even the simplest version of the malware!
This is another rising malware tool which is a favourite of hackers, Cryptolocker being the most notorious. These tools encrypt all the data on an infected computer, and then display a message demanding a ransom or fee for decrypting that data, failing which, the decryption key is deleted, and the files are lost forever. It is believed that a relatively small cyber gang has made over $27 million from its victims, using Cryptolocker!
It isn’t that the malwares themselves do the entire job each time. These tools, for example, can include Trojan downloaders and droppers which basically set up the means for hackers to commit the crime. They give a hacker the choice of which virus or malware they want to upload to an infected system or network. For instance, the Blackhole Exploit Kit was immensely used in 2013 to upload the Zeus banking Trojan into innumerable systems.
These, on the other hand, are more passive malwares. They take control of infected systems, even millions of them at once sometimes, but instead of attacking the host computers, they use their resources to assist in a vast number of other crimes, like distributing or hiding stolen data, child pornography, or even attacking other computers.
Just by themselves, each of these malwares are potent enough to crash your website or carry on malicious background activities, but several businesses become victims of attacks from all of them together, at the same time. As a result of that, webmasters lose their valuable consumer base, since their visitors’ browsers trigger an alarm whenever they try to visit an infected site. Search engines like Google and Bing might also blacklist the website if the presence of any kind of malicious code is detected while crawling the website, not to mention, the infected computer along with all the data in it is compromised, which can even result in identity theft. The severity of the impact these can have on your website, is a very serious concern, and companies need to stay constantly vigilant, implementing layers of toughened security protocols specifically designed to safeguard against such threats.
You might choose a shared server over a dedicated one for your website, to save expenses, but you would be opening your website up to a huge number of risks in doing that. With so many different sites running on the same machine, using the same programs and scripts to run applications common to all of them, a lax in security on anyone’s part can result in any one of those sites to be compromised, causing your site and all of its data to be at risk as well. Also, with multiple sites sharing the same common server, hackers get that many more gateways to gain access to your files.
Security is a constantly evolving field, as new vulnerabilities are discovered every day, and after implementing safeguards to combat them, software patches are released as soon as possible. You need to keep your website server software fully updated, as soon as one is available. You also need to check the frequency of security updates and speed of patching that the hosting company is offering. Most hosting companies have the latest and most advanced softwares running, but unless they keep monitoring and updating them regularly, your site’s security policy is rendered completely worthless, as it is extremely easy for experienced hackers to exploit known software vulnerabilities.
It should be a must for each and every webmaster, to keep a backup of his or her website files. In case of any kind of data loss, or your site becoming inaccessible, you should not have to lose all of your valuable and sensitive data, or build everything from scratch. Instead, you should use a service like Carbonite, Mozy, or Dropbox to regularly back up your website files as well as your database files.
With hackers inventing newer and more advanced ways of hacking password-protected accounts, you need to ensure that you use a strong password, which is more about the complexity than just the length of the password. Using a combination of digits, alphabets, and special symbols to create a password that has no obvious connection to your website is the best way to ensure it has the least chance to be cracked. You should also make sure to never use any unsecured networks to connect to the internet, and if you do, to at least use a secured website proxy.
You should implement SSL encryption on your entire website, especially the login page, and transaction pages. This makes anything entered in those pages completely meaningless to any third party which might succeed in intercepting that information. To take maximum precautions, you should also treat all inputs to a webpage as malicious in intent, and working with an experienced and reputed penetration testing company, implement code sanitization on each and every input field.
You should use scanners like SiteLock, CloudFlare, and Sucuri Sitecheck to periodically scan your website for malicious or suspicious pieces of code, or malwares, as well as double checking all outgoing and incoming emails using online spam checkers to ensure they do not have any embedded malware in them.
Most web hosting companies offer a wide number of services to their customers. However, each and every additional application hosted on your server is simply another opportunity for a hacker to exploy to break into your site, as these programs have varied levels of vulnerabilities of their own. If you do not explicitly need a service, you need to make sure that it is not installed on your server. You should also check to make sure that there are no suspicious links on your website that you are unaware about, as spammers can use them to hijack web traffic and redirect it to their own website. You can type “site:yourdomain.com” in a Google search, replacing “yourdomain.com” with your actual domain to see if anything suspicious is detected.
You also need to establish a strict system which monitors and controls who can access and modify your website’s files. Additionally, there needs to be a solid, failproof policy between your company and your hosting provider, by which you are notified if any changes are made to anything on your server, where it was made from, and when, be it website files or programs and scripts running in the background. Any such change can cause a security vulnerability, and you need to be properly informed about who is accountable, so that you can take any necessary action, if necessary.
Apart from virtual security, you need to check your server and host’s physical security as well. Ensure that the access to the server room is strictly monitored and restricted, and that any old or failed hard drive is completely destroyed, or its data wiped, to prevent any kind of data theft that could even leave you legally at risk. You should also make sure your web host complies with ISO/IEC 27001 and 27002, standards of virtual and physical information security.
In the unforeseen event of a data leak or theft, whether it’s your fault or not, you might be held responsible. This is made even worse by the fact that data protection guidelines are different in different areas, and constantly keep changing. In order to avoid the prolonged legal mess and unnecessary complication, your organisation needs to set up a Personally Identifiable Information (PII) protection and responsibility policy clearly stated in the legal agreement with your hosting company, so that they cannot shift the blame to you in case of a data theft. However, if a data leak or theft does occur, even if the hosting company takes on the responsibility, your company would still take a big PR hit.
If the worst comes to happen, you would at least want to be notified as soon as possible. You can add your website to a malware detecting service, for example Sophos WebAlert, which will monitor your website 24×7 and notify you instantly, if it detects any unauthorized intrusion or anomaly on your website. On such an event of your site being compromised, you would at least be aware at the earliest, so that you can take rapid action and fix it. website security threats
So ultimately, with a combination of constant alertness and monitoring, as well as taking advantage of the right tools, the latest technology, and proper knowledge, you will be able to have a much more robust security system that can safeguard your website against any kind of malpractice.