When it comes to building websites, security should be the priority of all web designers. After all, if your website isn’t secure, then you can’t guarantee that your and your client information is safe from hackers and those with bad intentions. Before we head into tips for building secure websites and the key points to keep in mind when constructing your web page, let’s lay out some of the defining factors of secure websites and, of course, why it’s essential.
Why is Website Security So Important?
You might think that hackers are only looking to take down major bank or corporation websites, but the reality is that every single website that collects any form of identifying information is at risk. Don’t believe us? Check out these numbers:
43% of cyberattacks target small businesses
Just 14% of small businesses prioritize cybersecurity
60% of small companies go out of business just six months after a cyberattack
To put it simply, website security is essential to protect both client and company information. Ensuring that all your data is safe should be enough to convince you that investing in cybersecurity and safe websites is necessary, but here are a few more reasons:
Your business’ reputation is at stake–from both word of mouth and SEO: clients want to trust the companies they use and if your company is known for experiencing hacks or data breaches, word will spread and people won’t feel comfortable entering private information, such as payment details. From an SEO perspective, Google penalizes websites without SSL, making them appear lower in search results and even warning customers when they click on your website.
The number of hacks is rising rapidly: cybersecurity is advancing, yes, but so are cyberattacks and as the technologies and tools we have to protect our websites and private information expand, cyber criminals are becoming increasingly creative and finding new ways to hack. This means that cybersecurity and website safety as a whole is a constantly evolving task, and not one that’s just done once.
Recovering from a cyberattack is expensive: let’s bring money into the equation. In addition to the reputational damage that a cyberattack will bring to your company, you will have to hire outside experts to first remove the bugs or malware and then verify that absolutely every part of your website is clean and hacker-free. This can cost thousands of dollars and lose you valuable time on the market during the days that this clean-up is happening.
There are lots of other reasons why creating secure websites is so crucial, such as protecting the longevity of your business and revenue, but we’ll leave you with one jaw-dropping figure: websites are hacked 30,000 to 50,000 times a day. If you don’t want to be part of this statistic, it’s time to prioritize safe websites.
What Makes a Website Secure?
The aforementioned concerns might seem scary and, well, they are. But thankfully, there are lots of measures you can take to ensure website safety, no matter the size of your business. Secure websites boast the following:
Updated systems: all aspects of your website should be constantly updated, such as your server, CMS, software, and any apps or plugins. Why? Well, the vast majority of updates include important safety changes which address new and specific cyberthreats that have recently arisen.
Most programs offer the option to turn on automatic updates or be notified when updates are available; if this isn’t an option, make sure to regularly check for updates on your own.
Strong login information: you definitely know this already, but weak passwords are a hacker’s dream. Make sure you stay away from simple passwords or generic, company-wide ones, and also advise your customers to create secure and complex passwords.
If you struggle to remember long and complex passwords or need various people in the company to have access to the same account, try using secure password sharing programs like 1Password or LastPass.
HTTPS status: this stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and encrypts the data exchanges between your site and users, ensuring it doesn’t end up with hackers. The “S” at the end of HTTPS (secure) is only granted for websites that have an SSL certificate, which provides additional security.
To figure this out quickly, websites that do have this added security guarantee have https at the beginning of their URL; those that don’t just have http.
Constant review: as we mentioned above, cyberattacks are evolving just as fast as cybersecurity and it’s on you to ensure that your website is constantly reviewed and updated to fight the newest threat.
If you can’t afford an in-house cybersecurity team, try outsourcing to a freelancer or small organization that does this kind of work; there are also online programs that can run an effective scan of your website. No matter what you choose, this safety review should be frequent.
Regular backups: part of creating a secure website is preparing for the worst; this means preparing for what you can do in the case of a hack or data breach. If you backup your website and data with a third party hosting company, you’ll be protected in case you suffer an attack and have your site back in action in just a few hours.
Tips and Tricks for Building a Secure Website
Ready to get started building a secure website? In addition to the identifying factors we listed above, building a secure website is possible with the following steps:
Encrypting your data: websites are made of data and while it’s acceptable to leave general data in the open, personal and sensitive data must be encrypted. What does this mean? Encrypting data basically transforms data into another form so that only people with that specific access can see it. This helps add another layer of security to data storage; data encryption storage isn’t too costly and some database systems today even boast built-in encryption options.
What kinds of data should be encrypted? Here’s a quick list:
Social security numbers
Date of birth information
Requiring complicated passwords and two-factor authentication: did you know that 63% of confirmed data breaches are due to weak passwords? Establishing password requirements can help both your company and client data stay safe; two-factor authentication helps fight against hacks where a password is guessed or stolen by mandating a second verification from another account/device, therefore protecting the user’s account even though the password was entered correctly.
High-quality passwords combine uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers; they also aren’t passwords that have been used in the past.
Keeping track of user access information: this type of security isn’t related to preventive security measures; on the other hand, using tools like Google Analytics to track suspicious login attempts from random locations or browsers can trigger an alarm and alert the user.
Preventing spammers through SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols: each of these tackles a specific issue when it comes to protecting your email domain:
SPF: The Sender Policy Framework allows you to decide exactly which servers can be used to send emails from your domain, eliminating any risk of a third-party accessing your domain remotely and sending fake emails from your company.
DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail, similar to SPF, allows you to define who can send emails from the domain.
DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication is a reporting system that alerts you if anyone tries to send emails through your domain.
Managing the website properly: part of ensuring overall site security is staying alert and aware of what’s going on. Depending on the size of your company, this might be a job for just a few people, or an entire team. However, on a general level, you should:
Make sure you’re up-to-date with exactly who on your team has access to specific login information and limit who can make changes and see sensitive information. Don’t be generous with these permissions and allow access only to those who absolutely need it.
Educate your team about proper cybersecurity practices, ensuring that everyone knows what malware and phishing scams look like and what to do in the case of a hack/data breach.
It seems like a lot of steps, we know! But building safe websites is both possible and necessary, meaning it’s well worth your time and money to ensure that your information and website is secure. And if you’re interested in taking the next steps to building that secure website, our Web Development Bootcamp is exactly what you need! Or if you want to handle more of the cybersecurity side of things, our Cybersecurity Bootcamp will teach you exactly what you need to know to help companies secure their servers and protect user and company information.