Six Tips to Strengthen Website Security and Increase Resilience

This article discusses the importance of website security in light of growing cyber threats and provides six practical tips for enhancing website security.

Introduction

Cyber security concerns continue to rise for businesses of all sizes, across every sector. The more reliant on technology your organisation becomes, the more likely you are to fall victim to a cyber attack or security breach.

In fact, 59% of medium-sized businesses and 69% of large businesses in the UK have reported a security breach or attack in the past 12 months. These numbers should serve as a stark wake-up call if you aren’t already approaching security with the level of responsibility it requires.

For marketers, a significant element of the risk here lies with your website, and the web platform that site is built on. Your website is one of the most important, and most valuable, digital touchpoints you have between your brand and your target audience. But your website platform brings with it a range of vulnerabilities that can lead to security issues if not handled appropriately.

With such a high volume of sensitive company and customer data passing through your site each day, it’s vital to keep your web platform, and website, secure and protected from cyber threats.

Why Website Security is More Important Than Ever

Not only is the likelihood of a security breach ever-increasing, but so too is the impact a breach can have on your business. Again, with so much sensitive data and mission-critical processes now existing in a digital-first context, settling for sub-standard protection will now result in more severe consequences in the event of a cyber attack.

For especially severe GDPR violations for instance, the fine framework can be up to 20 million euros, or in the case of an undertaking, up to 4 % of their total global turnover of the preceding fiscal year, whichever is higher.

For example, as reported by Cybersecurity Ventures, the cost of global cyber crime is expected to hit $8 trillion in 2023, and may grow to $10.5 trillion by 2025.

Cyber crime and data breaches cost businesses a staggering amount of money each year. Of course, in an increasingly vigilant and data-conscious world, allowing your website to fall victim to a cyber attack will also cause harmful reputational damage as well, affecting your business in a variety of ways.

And cyber security vulnerabilities and threats will only continue to intensify in the coming years. With that in mind, the emphasis is on you to ensure you’re protecting your website by working in the most security-conscious way possible.

The Marketer’s Guide to Web Security

Learn more about how to improve your website security, without sacrificing website performance or user experience by accessing our FREE eBook.

Tips and Best Practices to Strengthen Website Security

To ensure your website security can live up to the necessary standards, you’ll need to implement measures to keep your site safe from unauthorised access, data breaches, and various other attacks. To achieve this, here are some useful tips and best practices that will allow you to strengthen your website security and protect your data.

1. Be Proactive, Rather Than Reactive

One of the golden rules for cyber security in general; you must be proactive rather than reactive. If you sit back and wait until a security incident occurs before taking action, the consequences could be disastrous. When you only ever react to security issues and potential vulnerabilities, the likelihood – and the damage – of a security incident will be much more severe.

For a WordPress website there are a number of items you can implement to ensure you stay ahead of the risks and resolve potential threats before they’re allowed to have an impact:

1. Regular Updates and Maintenance:

  • WordPress Core: Ensure that the WordPress core is updated to the latest version as soon as updates are released. These updates often contain security patches for known vulnerabilities.
  • Plugins and Themes: Update all plugins and themes regularly. Outdated plugins and themes are a common vector for attacks.
  • Removal of Unused Plugins/Themes: Delete any plugins or themes that are not in use to reduce the attack surface.
  • Regular Backups: Set up automatic backups of the website. In case of a security incident, having a recent backup will enable a quicker recovery.

2. Implement Security Measures:

  • Firewall: Utilise a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to filter, monitor, and block malicious traffic before it reaches the WordPress website.
    SSL Certificate: Install an SSL certificate to encrypt data in transit between the user and the server. This is crucial for protecting sensitive information.
  • Strong Passwords: Enforce strong passwords for all user accounts, and use a password manager to store them securely.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implement 2FA to provide an additional layer of security beyond just the password.
  • User Permissions: Assign the least amount of privilege necessary to each user role to minimise potential damage in case an account is compromised.

Being proactive will allow you to stay ahead of the risks and resolve potential threats before they’re allowed to have an impact.

2. Find a Secure Hosting Environment

The environment in which your web platform is hosted has a significant influence on how secure and well protected your website is. It’s crucial to host your site in a secure environment overseen by an experienced, trustworthy hosting provider.

The hosting provider you choose should have robust, proactive security measures – ideally enterprise-grade – as non-negotiable aspects of their service offering. Some examples of these measures include automated monitoring and reporting, 24/7 support, 99.9% up-time, back-up and disaster recovery, data encryption, and compliance with security regulations.

We are a WP Engine Partner because they are SOC-2 compliant and meet the standards for Security and Availability Trust Services Categories, and have a dedicated security team that scans the risk and compliance landscape to ensure any site hosting with them is prevented from being compromised.

They also offer Global Edge Security which is a high-performance advanced security solution offered in partnership with Cloudflare. With DDoS protection and a WAF with built-in expert rule sets from the combined intelligence of Cloudflare and WP Engine, Global Edge Security offers best security protection against top OWASP security vulnerabilities, nefarious acts, and DDoS attacks that threaten to black out your digital business.

3. Educate Users and Build Awareness

Your users pose a significant threat to your security. This is because many users today lack awareness, knowledge, and governance regarding website security best practices.

It’s important to ensure your wider team is educated on the importance of this issue, whether that’s by introducing more explicit policies and processes, or investing in some form of security training. Businesses that overlook the importance of having security-conscious users will be more likely to suffer breaches or various other issues.

Often, this is a cultural issue, and one that benefits from a company-wide initiative that places more emphasis on the responsibility of users to help protect the organisation.

Looking specifically at your website, though, a key step here is to ensure any internal developers follow secure development practices. This will require basic coding best practices to be enforced, like validating input, escaping output, sanitising data, and using secure protocols.

Developers should also avoid working with negative practices, such as hard-coding credentials and using default settings. The necessary best practices should also be reflected in the tools and testing processes your developers use on their code.

4. Introduce Additional Security Measures Wherever Possible

Following on from the previous point, it’s also wise to introduce additional security measures wherever possible to counter-act any bad behaviour from non-technical users as well. Some examples of this include multi-factor authentication, the enforcement of stronger passwords, and identity and access management tools that can control permissions for each individual user.

These additional measures have become more important than ever as more users are now working remotely, using multiple devices to do their work, and being targeted by highly sophisticated cyber attacks.

When building websites, we deploy WordFence Login Security. This tool integrates Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), an essential feature that necessitates a second form of identification besides the password, making unauthorised access exceedingly difficult.

The 2FA can be executed through various methods such as SMS, authenticator apps, or even hardware tokens, offering flexibility based on the security requirements and preferences. Moreover, WordFence provides an array of hardening options for WordPress, including robust login attempt limitations to thwart brute force attacks, and options to change the default login URL, making it obscure for potential attackers.

5. Maintain Compliance

As mentioned earlier, every business is legally obligated to protect the data of its users, partners, and anyone else involved. Failure to do so will have severe consequences.

This makes compliance with security-specific regulations a top priority for any marketer or website owner. Compliance with general data protection regulations (GDPR) is another important part of this.

GDPR mandates stringent data protection measures to ensure the privacy and security of individuals’ data. Adhering to these regulations not only fosters trust between businesses and customers but also safeguards businesses from legal repercussions. The laws under GDPR are designed to give individuals better control over their personal data while ensuring transparency in how this data is handled by organisations.

The financial ramifications for non-compliance can be acute, with fines reaching up to €20 million or 4% of the company’s annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

Beyond the financial penalty, a data leak due to non-compliance could significantly tarnish the reputation of your business. Customers, upon learning their data has been mishandled or exposed, may lose trust and take their business elsewhere. Moreover, the negative publicity following a data breach could have long-term detrimental effects on the company’s brand image and customer loyalty.

In a digital age where data security is a prime concern, adherence to GDPR regulations is not just a legal obligation but a critical component of a trustworthy and customer-centric business operation.

6. Test Your Web Platform on a Regular Basis

If you don’t test your web platform regularly, you won’t catch security vulnerabilities or bugs that could leave you susceptible to cyber threats.

Using tools like WPScan or Wordfence can help identify known vulnerabilities in the WordPress core, plugins, and themes. It’s advisable to ensure all software is up-to-date to benefit from the latest security patches.

However, simply scanning the platform is not enough these days. It’s crucial to run regular, comprehensive tests that address all the potential ways a security breach could occur.

For instance, penetration testing simulates cyber attacks that cyber criminals may use to gain access to your platform, giving you a more realistic look at your website’s resilience. This is a great example of going above and beyond the standard tests to build up your website security.

You should also look to test your platform any time updates are made to the software, as this can cause new vulnerabilities to creep in under the radar.

How to Keep Your Website Secure and Protected

Learn more about proactive measures to protect your data and the potential financial and reputational consequences of security breaches.

A Secure Website is a Moving Target

When it comes to website security, it’s wise to anticipate and prepare for the absolute worst outcomes, rather than hoping you’ll be one of the lucky ones.

Following the six tips and best practices detailed in this article will allow you to mitigate common website security risks and gain additional protection from potential threats.

Get in Touch

If you’d like to find out more about how we could help you improve your website security, drop us a line and we’ll be in touch soon!

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