website security - how to save your website from hackers

It’s surprising how business owners invest heavily into all aspects of their business except for their website security. It’s especially surprising, given how cyber crime is increasing at an alarming rate today. Most businesses don’t do enough about securing their websites because they labour under the misconception that their websites do not host anything that could be of any value to the attackers or that cyber crimes are limited to just theft. Truth is, if you leave your website unsecured, it will become exposed to a number of cyber crimes ranging from theft, manhandling, destruction, deletion and much more. It is almost like leaving the doors of your home open for strangers. Hence, it becomes extremely important to protect websites from becoming vulnerable and falling prey to malicious hackers. Follow the steps listed below to ensure that your website is well protected.

Keep Your Website Platform and Software Updated
Keeping all the website software updated is the first step towards securing your website. Un-updated software is one of the biggest reasons for websites getting hacked. The moment hackers find a security hole in the software, they will be quick to abuse it. Joomla, WordPress, Umbraco and other CMS providers keep releasing new patches and updates to plug any security holes in their software. Update your software whenever a new version is released. For managed hosting solutions, the hassles are less as the hosting companies ensure that their systems are up-to-date. It is also essential to clean your website of old and unused plugins since those are the weak spots which hackers target.
You can also use tools like RubyGems, Composer or npm to manage software dependencies. Often, developers tend to overlook the security vulnerabilities of a package while working on them. An easy way to solve this issue is by installing tools like Gemnasium which will notify you every time your software faces vulnerability and requires your attention. 

Keep Out SQL Injection
SQL injection attackers use URL parameters or a web form field to gain access and control over website database. It is easy for hackers to insert rogue codes in your query if you are using standard Transact SQL. Once the attackers have control over your database they can manipulate it to extract information, or even delete the data. The best way to prevent these attacks is by using queries that have multiple parameters. Parameterised queries are part of almost all web languages where you can choose and implement values of your own. 
While working on the website, it is important to ensure that the content is well protected even when it is in transit. Web hackers often intercept and manipulate data in transit before it reaches the server. Attacks can start with simple breaches – when attackers posing as website users steal cookie authentication requests and use that to take over login sessions. HTTPS is a proven method to avert these kinds of attacks. HTTPS ensures encryption of private or sensitive data so that it doesn’t land in the wrong hands. You can use automated frameworks and platforms to set up HTTPS easily without spending a fortune on it. SSL certificate, for example, is used to ensure safe transfer of data between websites and servers. Google has recently started notifying websites if they don’t use HTTPS and takes it a step further by boosting your SEO ranking if it does. These certificates are inexpensive but secure ways of protecting your website information.

Install a Web Application Firewall
Installing a web application firewall is like putting a protective shield over your website. WAF or web application firewall can be both software or hardware based. There are several cloud based security providers who are making safety applications available in the market today. These applications contain enterprise level security measures but at much reduced prices. These solutions monitor the quality of incoming traffic to your website to ensure that no malpractioners are targeting your website. WAF is that defence line which protects your website against a range of attacks including SQL injections, cross site scripting, SPAM, brute force attacks and more. With cloud based plug-and-play web application firewall, you won’t even need security experts to look over the process – the applications are quite self-functioning. 
Hide Your Admin Directories
Hackers often target website sources and admin directories to hack into a system. Admin directories contain all kinds of crucial information- from the data that ensures a smooth running of your website to the permissions and conditions that rule how users interact with your website. Needless to say, if hackers gain access to this file, they can cause serious damage to your business. Hackers can use really simple tricks like running a script through your web directories to scan files with ‘admin’ or ‘login’ written on it. Locating these files make it easier for them to hack into it. As a counter trick, what you can do is – rename these files cleverly so that hackers won’t identify them as the admin directory. Pick inconspicuous names that dont give themselves away. As an extra precautionary step, make sure only your webmasters know the location and details of this file.
Prevent Cross-Site Scripting
Cross site scripting attacks your website by injecting malicious javascript into your site and infecting visitors who are exposed to that code. Similar to SQL injection, cross site scripting can be prevented by using parameterised queries. Use these parameters to define the inputs clearly so that no foreign codes can slip in. Front-end frameworks like Angular and Ember provide XSS protection. Tools like content security policy can also protect your site from cross site scripting. 
Secure File Uploads
If you are allowing your website users to upload files (whether to change the avatar or more), you are essentially making your website susceptible to hacking. Even if you use security systems to check through your website regularly, file uploads can cause serious damage by giving hackers complete access to your site data. Of course, the best way to deal with this is by blocking access to uploaded files but alternately, you can also store these files outside your root directory. This way you can access them through scripts and limit access for users. 
Always check the file extensions but don’t just count on that as there are ways for the threat files to get through.
Securing your website is not just a moral obligation but a legal requirement sometimes, especially if it has sensitive user data. Attacks can happen anytime and if it happens it will be fast, leaving you no room for preparation – so prepare in advance. Adding even small, inexpensive security measures can go a long way in preventing attacks. Website owners must take cyber security as seriously as they take sales or customer relationship management (if not more). Include these aforementioned steps in your security process to ensure that your website is not an easy target for hackers.



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