How To Prevent Your Website From Being Hacked

How To Prevent Your Website From Being Hacked

Whether you have an e-commerce site such as Shopify, an online portfolio or a WordPress blog that helps you to promote your goods and services, your website is the key component to your online presence. As such, you need to make sure you protect it like you would any of your other physical belongings.

Unfortunately, websites are a key target for hackers and cybercriminals. There are some who want to steal information, insert malware that can break your site or hijack your website and hold it for ransom. This can be a real problem, especially if you rely on your website for your business.

But don’t panic just yet. There are several things you can do to protect your website – and we’re here to tell you about them. Below, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide which walks you through the steps you can take to help prevent your website from being hacked. We’ve pulled together our top 11 tips – the rest is up to you!

Choose a great host

One of the best ways to protect your website is by choosing the right hosting platform. Some are more effective and security-conscious than others, and some will do all they can to alert you to hackers and help you out if your website is breached. Problem is, there are lots of different hosting options out there and it can be tricky to choose the right one to go with.

The best thing to do in this situation is to spend some time researching what the different hosting platforms can offer you. Factors that may influence your final decision are budget, the type of CMS you’re using (for example GoDaddy offers a very good WordPress 1-click integration option) and the security features you’re looking for.

Just be sure you don’t rush the decision, take your time to choose the perfect host as this will give your website the best chance at a strong security system. But it’s also worth remembering that you can switch hosts at a later date if you’re experiencing any issues.

Always use a strong, secure password

It doesn’t matter how many times we’re told about the importance of strong, unique passwords, there will always be people out there who use basic passwords (such as ‘password’) when setting up their website or use the same password that they use for everything else. Choosing a strong password really is one of the simplest ways to keep your site secure – and it doesn’t require a lot of effort.

If you’re concerned about forgetting your password, why not consider investing in a password manager? These tools can generate and protect your passwords for you and can only be accessed with a master passcode. This means you only have to remember one code instead of lots of different passwords.

It’s also a good idea to update your passwords regularly, again, the password manager can be a really handy tool in doing this. It’s recommended that you change your passwords every few months if possible for extra security.

Use two-factor authentication

As well as strong passwords it can also be a good idea to implement two-factor authentication.

This method of security has become very popular in recent years and makes it harder for hackers to gain access to your website. For example, you might have noticed that when making a bank transfer or logging into your email account, you’re asked not only for your username and password, but you also receive a one-time code to enter to make sure it’s actually you that’s logging in. Usually, you receive this code via SMS or another email address.

It also means that if someone does try to break in, you might be alerted quicker and be able to address the problem before they can access any sensitive information. Let’s say you suddenly receive a one-time login code via SMS but you’re not trying to log in to your website, this is a red flag that someone is trying to hack your system and you can therefore address this right away.

Make sure you keep your software up to date

No matter which platform you have used to create and host your website, you need to make sure that you’re running regular updates on everything involved. This means regularly checking whether you need to update the operating system, plugins and even security software. Outdated systems can have bugs and failures that leave your website vulnerable to hackers.

Updates allow you to fix these issues so you need to make sure you do this as quickly as possible. In some instances, you’ll be able to switch on automatic updates and this can be a really good idea if you’re a bit forgetful.

Install the appropriate security systems

There are several security features that you should add to your website to help protect it from hackers. First of all, it’s a good idea to install a firewall as this acts as a gateway for all incoming traffic to your site. Installing a web application firewall (WAF) is your best option and what this does is it can block any attempts by hackers to access your site. Best of all, these don’t have to be expensive, there’s plenty of budget options available out there.

There are also a handful of other security applications and plugins (particularly on WordPress) that you can add to your site to bolster your security efforts, these might differ depending on how you’ve chosen to host your site. For example, you can get a plugin that hides your CMS, making it harder for hackers to attempt to break into your site as they don’t know which platform you’re using. Some of these applications are free while others cost a small fee, but spend some time doing your research to find out which ones or best.

Don’t go crazy with the plugins

While some plugins are great and can really boost the appearance and functionality of your website (not to mention some are for security reasons), these can also pose a risk. Like we’ve said, outdated plugins need to be updated as soon as possible, but more than this, you should be very selective about what plugins you install in the first place.

The more you add, the bigger the risks and chances of something going wrong. As such, it’s best to only install those that you really need or that add real value to your website. And even when adding plugins, be more selective about the ones you choose. Go for ones that have good reviews and ratings and if in doubt, do some research on your chosen plugin before hitting the install button.

Limit the number of login attempts

Though most hackers are more sophisticated than this, some will might attempt a brute force attack of trying thousands of different username and passwords on your site in a bid to gain access. If you limit the amount of failed login attempts, you can stop this from happening. You should be able to change your settings to do this and it means that after a set number (often three) attempts, any hackers will be blocked and their attempts to access your site unsuccessful.

Use an encrypted SSL

By using an encrypted SSL, you can protect your data as it passes between your site and your database. This not only helps to protect your sensitive information but it also makes it harder for hackers to access your site or intercept its traffic without authorisation. Google tends to favour sites that use an encrypted SSL protocol as it shows they are more secure and trustworthy, so this can also help to boost your SEO.

Set up permissions or new accounts for multiple users

If you use your website for business, it’s entirely possible that you have multiple people accessing, editing and using the site. For example, on a WordPress or Wix site, you might have several people uploading blog content. While this might be necessary to keep things running smoothly, it can also pose a security threat. After all, human error is one of the biggest causes of data breaches and hackings and all it takes is one tiny mistake from a member of your team.

As such, it pays to set up multiple user accounts or make sure that permissions have been set, so only those with the authority can access sensitive information. In the case of sites like WordPress and Shopify, you’ll be able to create new logins for your team and set permissions for different users. This also means you can restrict the features, edits and information they have access too, so should someone gain access via their account, they will be limited to what they can do/see. 

Be careful with file uploads

Another way that hackers can gain access to your website is through file uploads, so you need to make sure you’re being extra cautious. Hackers can use these files to upload malicious malware to your systems, which can ultimately bring down your site – not good! So it’s vital that you’re checking all files before you upload them and not just letting anyone have access to these uploads.

If possible, it’s best not to allow uploads to your website or to have just one dedicated member who can log in and add files once they’ve been checked for harmful viruses and malware. You can also set maximum sizes for your file uploads and only allow specific files to go on your webpages (jpegs for example). Being aware and taking extra precautions when uploading – or not allowing uploads directly to your website at all – can be a key step in protecting your site from crafty hackers.

Backup your data regularly

Sadly, malcriminals continue to find new and more sophisticated ways to hack and scam people and to break into websites. This means that even if you follow all the rules above, you might still be one of the unlucky ones. Though, if you’re doing all you can by following these steps, you’ll massively reduce the likelihood of your website being hacked.

That said, just in case your security attempts aren’t successful, it pays to make sure you regularly backup your site. The more frequently you can do this, the better. This means that should your site become compromised, you can deal with the problem and restore it to its former glory with relatively little drama.

The key points to take away from this guide

Like we said right at the start, your website can be a huge part of your online presence and of your business, as such, you need to make sure it is protected and you’re doing all you can to prevent it from being hacked. However, we’re aware that there has been a lot of information in this guide, so we thought we’d end by pulling together the key points for security so that they stay fresh in your mind. Remember, in order to protect your website from hackers you need to:

  • Start by choosing the right host for your website
  • Always make sure you use strong, secure passwords and change these regularly – password managers can help you with this
  • It’s a good idea to set up two-factor authentication
  • Make sure you keep all your software as up to date as possible – including security systems, your CMS and any plugins you have
  • Install the appropriate security systems – such as anti-malware, firewalls and security plugins
  • Don’t go crazy with the plugins as these increase the risk of a breach
  • Limit the number of login attempts to get into your website
  • Use an encrypted SSL
  • Set up permissions or new accounts for multiple users
  • Be careful with file uploads – be sure to check every file before it is uploaded or avoid uploads altogether
  • Backup your data regularly just in case all of the above is unsuccessful

These steps can make a huge difference to the security of your website. The more you do the better you’ll be able to protect your site from being hacked.

David Robertson