In our previous article titled: Website Security in Canada: How To Keep Your Site Safe, we introduced you to all this issue of having a secure website. Inside, we discussed interesting stats on how cybercrime is fairing here in Canada.
In this guide, we expand and introduce even more practical tips to help you keep your assets secure, especially your website.
Without wasting much time, let’s get right into it. But if you’d wish to catch up, go ahead and start with that article.
Who knows, you might even pick up some tips to help you keep scammers and malicious users at bay.
That said, there are a few key things you can do to make your online experience safer, and here are some of them.
a). Get password management tools
First things first, what is a password manager?
As per its name, a password manager will also help you keep track of which passwords belong to which accounts. This means that when the need arises, you can easily change them if one of your accounts is ever breached.
And that’s not all.
Most decent password managers allow you to create strong, unique passwords for all of your online accounts and never have to worry about forgetting them.
And most importantly, using a password manager can help cut down on the number of phishing emails and other scams you may be susceptible to because criminals will no longer have access to your account passwords.
A good example is the LastPass password manager. This tool will notify you when your password is weak, and what to do to make it strong.
If that sounds interesting, it is easy to get started. Most of them run freemium plans, which means you get a restricted free plan with an option to upgrade if you want more features.
Other than LastPass, here are some other password managers worth looking into:
Make sure to consider the features each tool offers before you sign up.
b). Pick a reliable hosting provider
To put it plainly, choose a hosting provider in Canada that is reliable and offers a high level of security for your website.
Your website security is as strong as your hosting provider. Considering the weight of this, here are some things you should keep in mind when selecting a hosting provider:
- Make sure the hosting provider has a good reputation for providing high-quality security measures. Look for certifications such as ISO27001 and PCI DSS, or consult with an independent third party to ensure that the provider meets your specific needs.
- Be sure to check the host provider’s SSL certificate coverage. A good SSL certificate will encrypt all traffic between your website and the web server, protecting your information from prying eyes.
- Ensure your chosen web host provider has a robust backup and disaster recovery plan in place. This will ensure that your website is always available, even in the event of a server outage or other unforeseen incidents.
Most importantly, in case your hosting provider offers support based on your plans, be sure to sign up for a hosting plan that includes 24/7 customer support. This way, you can rest assured knowing that someone is always there to help if you run into any problems.
c). Refrain from hosting multiple sites on one server
We know, it is tempting in your quest to save money, you may opt to host multiple sites on one server.
However, this is not a good idea for several reasons.
First, it is more difficult to secure one server than multiple servers. If one site on the shared server is hacked, then all of the sites on that server are vulnerable.
Second, if one site gets a lot of traffic, it can slow down all of the other sites on the same server (this is because of the shared resources).
Or even worse, you do something that gets your server IP address blacklisted, say, on Google. What this means is that all the sites sharing that IP will be affected.
In simple terms, it is not worth the risk. Instead, consider acquiring other hosting plans. And be sure to talk to your hosting provider to put your sites under different servers.
d). Keep regular website backups
Having a regular website backup can save you time and hassle in the event of a disaster. This is especially true if you have a restore point set up – which allows you to quickly revert to a previous version of your website should something go wrong.
And the opposite is true.
Not having backups can also lead to headaches down the road, as restoring a website from an old backup may not be possible or require professional assistance.
Luckily, there are many different services available for backing up websites. Some popular options include:
All you have to do is choose a service that meets your needs and fits into your workflow.
For example, if you work in an office with shared folders, then Dropbox might be the best option for you. If you need more control over your backups, then Google Drive or One might be better choices.
And Backup is simple as downloading your site files and uploading them to your backup location.
If this sounds like a lot of work, there are automated ways to get it done. For example, if you are using WordPress CMS, consider installing the UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration plugin.
e). Separate the database from the file server
This can be the line between going to jail because you couldn’t keep your customers’ data safe.
You see, separating the database from the web server is a simple but effective way to improve website security.
Here, unauthorized users (aka hackers) will have less access to sensitive data and are less likely to be successful in exploiting vulnerabilities on either platform.
In addition, this approach can help ensure that if one platform fails, data can still be accessed using a different file server.
Talk of killing two birds with one stone.
While it is easier said than done thanks to costs, it is worth considering. After all, if you are handling that much sensitive data, it means you must be making money, right😉?
f). Invest in an SSL to encrypt data
Are you worried about your data being intercepted in transit? Do you want to ensure that your customers’ personal information remains confidential? If so, then you should consider investing in an SSL certificate.
In the article: Why Do You Need an SSL Certificate in Canada? We talk about some of the reasons why getting an SSL certificate might be the best decision you will ever make.
In a nutshell, an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a standard that enables websites to encrypt their traffic as it travels over the Internet. This means that not even the site’s operators can read the data passing through their servers.
Now, there are two main types of SSL certificates: self-signed and signed by a trusted third party. Self-signed certificates are easier to set up, but they are less secure than certificates signed by a third party. The main benefit of a signed certificate is that it provides greater security.
And depending on the main purpose of your website, you may have to choose the right SSL. To do that adequately, you need to weigh several factors, including the sensitivity of your data.
Whichever you end up getting, an SSL is a must-have in the 21st Century. And even Google now takes it consideration website security on its search engine result pages (SERPs).
g). Don’t go live with defaults
When you installed WordPress (or whichever CMS you are currently using) did you notice the default settings it came with?
For example, WordPress’s default username is ‘admin’ and so is the password.
Default passwords and usernames are a big security risk. If someone breaks into your site, they can easily access your admin area and eventually log you out of your own site!
Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to improve website security:
- Change your admin username and password regularly. This will make it more difficult for anyone to guess or crack your login credentials.
- Use a strong password generator that includes at least 8 characters, upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use easily guessed words like “password” or easily accessible personal information like your birthdate or social security number.
- Activate two-factor authentication (2FA) on your admin account if possible. No one’s going to access your account without the second verification, even if they have the right password.
If you want to take this to another level, change the default login page. Usually, WordPress’ login page is something like wp-login.php. You can re-route this to somewhere else only you know.
h). Turn off the features you don’t need
Are there features on your website that you don’t need but are turned on either way?
Maybe there are inactive plugins or themes installed that you can uninstall to improve website security. Or maybe you just don’t use them often enough to justify the added burden on your server and bandwidth.
Each of these presents a security risk that can be exploited by hackers. You see, features that are turned on but not actively used still need to communicate with the server, which takes up resources.
The more features you have turned on, the greater your website’s attack surface is.
So it’s crucial to review all the features on your website and make sure they’re absolutely necessary.
i). Update/patch regularly
Another one of the most important things you can do to keep your website safe is to update your software regularly.
And this should cover both your operating system and any installed applications.
You see, outdated software is one of the leading causes of website security vulnerabilities, and this can be easily avoided by staying up-to-date.
Besides that, you should also install any security patches that are released for your software. These patches often address specific security vulnerabilities, so they can help keep your website safe from attack.
And this shouldn’t be done at your discretion. Be sure to install patches as soon as they are released; don’t wait for your next scheduled update.
If you are not sure how to update your software or apply security patches, contact your hosting provider or IT department for assistance. They can help you make sure that your website is as secure as possible.
j). Build layers of security around your site
Building layers of security around your site can help protect you and your users from malicious actors.
All we’ve covered so far works towards achieving this in the long run. Additionally, there are a few things you can do to push it even further:
- Use a secure hostname: When users connect to your site, make sure they are connecting to the correct server address. Use a secure hostname, which will encrypt the user’s connection and prevent third-party access to your site.
- Use HTTPS: When users visit your site over HTTPS, their data is encrypted and protected from prying eyes. This is especially important for sensitive information like credit card numbers or login credentials. That’s where SSL we talked about comes in.
- Protect user accounts: Make sure all user accounts on your site are password-protected and updated regularly. If an attacker gains access to one user account, they may be able to gain access to other accounts on the same site as well.
- Use a web application firewall: A web application firewall (WAF) can help protect your site from common attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
Most importantly, be proactive and stay on top of developing threats around your industry. You always be in the know of what current vulnerabilities are being exploited and how you can keep your online business safe.
When it comes to keeping your website safe, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
First and foremost, make sure that your website is running the latest versions of all software. This includes your operating system, web server software, and any applications or plugins you may be using. Outdated software is one of the most common ways that hackers gain access to websites.
Another essential step is to keep all of your passwords strong and secure. Avoid using easily guessed words or phrases, and make sure to use a different password for each account. If you are not sure how to create a strong password, there are plenty of online resources that can help you out.
Again, stay up-to-date on security news and advisories.