Website Security: How To Secure Your Site From Hackers

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Website security is as complex as anything you can think of. Creating a website for your business is great, but you must know that afterward, protecting your website from malicious attacks should take priority. It doesn’t matter if your website is still brand new or established.

Although there are some very prominent names on the list of cyber-attack victims. These cybercriminals have attacked some of the biggest corporate giants like Sony, Equifax, and Yahoo. Most hacks don’t just involve large corporations, small businesses are also at risk.

Dire Website Security Breaching Statistics

There are an average of 556 million cybercrime victims every year (over 1.5 million cyber victims per day), a Verizon data breach investigation report shows that 43% of hacks happen to smaller businesses.

According to stats by IT Governance, hackers breached over 20.9 million records in March 2021 alone!

There are 300,000 new pieces of malware created daily. (Source: Web Arx Security)

It will cost companies around the world $6 trillion to fix breaches in 2021. (Source: Cybercrime Magazine)

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Ransomware (a type of malicious software designed to block access to a website until a sum of money is paid) spiked by 150% in 2020. (Source: Help Net Security)

Looking at these dire statistics, how sure are you with regards to the security of your website?

cybercrime yearly victims

In my years of digital marketing consultancy, I have come across many clients whose websites were breached by hackers and cybercriminals. In this article, we shall look into what website security is all about and how to protect your website from hackers, drawing from my vast web design experience.

What is Website Security All About

Website security refers to any measure taken to make sure that a website data isn’t exposed to hackers and cybercriminals for any form of exploitation. It’s all about protecting your website and all its data from hackers and dangerous malware that might break your site. It is a fundamental part of web design.

70% of the top 10 e-commerce WordPress plugins are subject to attacks.

Who Is Attacking Your Website?

Individual Hackers

They manually attack one site at a time. They are slow but thorough. These hackers will continue their hacking trend going into 2022, and that’s a good reason to take your website security very seriously.

Single Bots

These are single automated COMPUTER systems that can attack a website at a time or simultaneously attack a small number of websites. Their attacks are usually sophisticated and dangerous.

Botnet

botnet

This is a group of computers, hundreds or even thousands simultaneously carrying out highly attacks on multiple websites very rapidly. Though their attacks are not very sophisticated, they are complex because they originate from multiple IPs.

How Are Websites Attacked

Many websites get attacked and this also includes WordPress websites. As sophisticated as WordPress websites are, they are still vulnerable to these malicious attacks.

We will list some of the WordPress security vulnerabilities that hackers can take advantage of to hack WordPress sites. The following are the most frequent WordPress security vulnerabilities, according to WPScan Vulnerability Database.

  • Cross-site request fraud (CSRF) – which forces users to perform unwanted actions in a trusted website application, is known as Cross-Site Request Forgery.
  • Distributed denial of service (DDoS) – an attack that disables online services by flooding them in with unwanted connections and rendering a site inaccessible, is called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS).

DDoS attack

  • Authentication bypass – Hackers can gain access to your website’s resources by bypassing authentication.
  • SQL injection (SQLi) – Forces the system to execute malicious SQL queries, and manipulate the data in the database.
  • Cross-site scripting, or XSS – Injects malicious code into the site to make it a malware transporter.
  • Local file inclusion (LFI) – Forces the site to process malicious files that have been placed on the server.
  • Remote Code Execution (RCE) – which is the ability of a hacker has to gain access to your website and make code changes, in this case, their geographical location notwithstanding.
  • PHP Object Injection – which is when a hacker executes malicious code on a remote server by taking advantage of a script that contains system functions.
  • Remote File Inclusion (RFI) – this happens when web applications that reference external scripts dynamically can be targeted if they contain vulnerabilities.
  • Hackers can gain access through old apps into the recent via unmaintained (old) web applications that are hosted on the same hosting accounts.
  • Privilege Escalation – this is when a non-admin user finds an unscrupulous way to escalate their privileges to admin-level access.
  • Brute force attacks – through the login page, by trying various common usernames.
  • Through shared hosting – by installing a shell on your website through the world-writable directories. Also, the WP-Config.php world-reachable can give an attacker on the same shared hosting access to your database. Then again, world-writable files can allow an attacker to carry out code attacks on your site.
  • XMLRPC Service – which works by brute force login, DDoS attacks launches via XMLRPC, eg. Trackbacks.
  • Source Code Repository Config Files – Sometimes, private sources are placed on git subdirectories, where hackers get hold of them. These sensitive subdirectories can be contained in the .svn.
  • Ransomware – This is a type of malicious attack that cybercriminals inject into a website that restricts its users from accessing it until they are paid a ransom to unlock it. Ransomware displays an on-screen alert to visitors of the website in an attempt to extort money from the owner.

Ransomware

How Hackers Get Information

Most cyber attackers get information on which and how to hack into a website mostly through reconnaissance, using any of the following sources:

  • OS Recon with port scans and OS fingerprinting
  • Enumerating website CMS themes and plugins
  • Publicly displayed CMS version
  • Author Scans
  • Automated tools scanning
  • Open Source Intelligence Sites (OSINT)
  • Examining Server response headers
  • Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

Why Your Website Must Be Secure

Securing your website is not an optional task no matter what kind of business you are running. If you ignore the security of your website, you would most likely end up with one of the problems mentioned below.

Your Hosting Provider Will Close Your Hacked Account

Hosting providers are obliged to suspend or close hacked accounts to prevent the attack from spilling over to other accounts. Even when some will allow you a few days to remedy it, the damage had been done.

Hackers Re-Route Traffic from the hacked website to other websites where they steal your site traffic and customers and damage your website reputation.

Search Engines Blacklist hacked websites

Because it won’t be safe for their own servers, search engines like Google will block or even deindex your hacked website.

You may Get Into Legal Issues

Assuming the hackers steal sensitive customer information or commit outright fraud on your clients, the clients may start legal issues with you.

In attacks targeted at CMS for hacking, WordPress has the most with about 505 vulnerabilities related to WordPress alone.

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Importance of Website Security

Website security is important in two ways – for the website and for its visitor. There are a lot of problems that having website security can protect you from and we will be listing them in this section.

For Websites, having website security will help to –

  • Prevent DDoS attacks. These attacks can cause your site to be inaccessible or slow down completely. It’s very devastating to eCommerce websites.
  • Stop Malware from breaking into your site. Malware is short for “malicious malware” and it’s a common threat that can be used to steal customer data, send spam, or allow cybercriminals access to your site.
  • Keep your website from being blacklisted. Your site could be removed from search engine results if it was hacked.
  • Prevent Cybercriminals from exploiting your website vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals have the ability to access sites and data stored thereby exploiting weaknesses in sites, such as an outdated plugin.
  • Keep your website from being defaced. This attack will replace your website’s content with malicious cybercriminals’ content.
  • Prevent your site from being taken down. Most hosting companies will want to take down any website that has been hacked from their server.

Protect website from malware

For Website Visitors, Website security helps them in the following way.

  • Prevents visitor data from being stolen. Cybercriminals often target customer or visitor data on websites, from email addresses to payment information.
  • Prevents Phishing schemes. Phishing does not just occur in email. Some attacks can also take place on web pages that appear legitimate but are intended to trick users into giving sensitive information.
  • Malicious redirects. Some attacks may redirect users from the website they were trying to visit a malicious site.
  • Session hijacking. Cyberattacks can overtake a user’s session, forcing them to do unwelcome actions on a website.
  • SEO Spam. SEO Spam can include unusual links, pages, comments, and other information on a website to confuse visitors and drive traffic towards malicious websites.

20% of the top 50 WordPress plugins are vulnerable to different web attacks like SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and brute-force attacks.

Top Website Security Service Providers To Protect Your Site From Hackers

#1: imArena WordPress Website Audit and Security

Our very own tested WordPress security audit and security hardening service.

audit and secure your site

Click to Audit and tighten your website security

#2: Astra Web Security

Astra Web Security provides holistic security solutions for websites through malware removal, real-time monitoring, threat protection, website protection, and more. It eliminates the need to worry about malware and SQLi, XSS attacks, comments spam, brute force, and other threats.

According to Astra, the plugin can stop up to 1,000,000 threats per day from customers’ websites and has detected up to 100,000 vulnerabilities in client applications.

Astra can be installed as an extension using simple, self-served steps that take less than five minutes. This means that you don’t need to modify DNS settings like other security plugins. Web Application Firewall protects your website with a machine learning-powered malware scanner that scans on-demand, instant malware cleanup, and community Security & Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing to identify all flaws & business logic issues.

Astra security solutions are used by many prestigious brands such as Gillette, Ford, African Union, Ford, Oman Airways, among others.

Features of Astra Website Security

  • It can be installed as a WordPress plugin. There is no need for DNS settings to be changed.
  • It provides immediate malware cleanup and a solid firewall that stops attacks such as SQLi, XSS, or Code Injection.
  • It offers a complete security audit, including business error logic, for your WordPress website.
  • The Intuitive Dashboard records all attacks and allows you to block or whitelist a country, IP range, or URL. It also offers continuous blacklist monitoring and reputation monitoring. Hourly admin login notifications are available.
  • This platform provides a secure and safe way to report vulnerabilities on your site, while Astra engineers validate every issue reported.

In 2014 alone, more than 240,000 websites got cracked.

#3: Sucuri Website Security

Sucuri, a world leader in website security, also has a WordPress security plugin specially made for WordPress websites. Although the Sucuri plugin can be used by all WordPress users for free, certain features require a subscription such as a Website Application Firewall (WAF).

sucuri security banner signup

The free version of Sucuri allows you to scan your website with all the tools necessary to remove threats and maintain your site’s smooth operation.

Features of Sucuri Website Security

To improve web security, Sucuri has the following features:

  • Security activity auditing records, monitors, and logs all security events in the Sucuri Cloud to prevent hackers from wiping your security logs.
  • File integrity monitoring records the best state of your files during integration. This includes core files and themes as well as plugins. Administrators can then detect security breaches.
  • SiteCheck remotely scans your site for malware using SiteCheck.
  • Some plans offer advanced DDoS protection.
  • Blocklist monitoring syncs with blocklist engines such as Norton and AVG to check and confirm that your website is flagged for security issues.
  • Security hardening effectively reduces vulnerabilities and closes all doors to potential attacks.
  • Removing malware from hacked websites
  • If you are locked out, you can access your hack website.
  • Security actions after a security breach confirm what must be done (see instructions below).
  • Website owners are notified about security breaches by security notifications

#4: WordFence Website Security Plugin

Wordfence Security is also a popular website security plugin. This plugin combines simplicity with powerful protection tools such as strong login security features and security incident recovery tools. Wordfence’s main advantage is its ability to provide insight into traffic trends and hack attempts.

wordfence security

Wordfence is one of the most impressive free web security solutions. It offers everything you need, from firewall blocks to protect against brute force attacks.

Features of Wordfence Website Security

  • It includes a complete firewall suite that includes tools for country blocking and manual blocking as well as brute force protection, real-time threat defense, and web application firewall.
  • The plugin’s scan section protects against malware, real-time threats, and spam. It scans all files, not just WordPress files, for malware.
  • It can monitor live traffic and display information such as logins and logouts, Google crawl activity, and human visitors.
  • It gives you access to unique tools such as the ability to sign in using your cell phone or password auditing.
  • It has comment spam filters 
  • It monitors your plugins and will let you know if any have been deleted from the WordPress plugin repository which usually happens due to unsafe or hacked plugins.
  • The free version works well for small websites.

In Conclusion

As you must have concluded after reading this article on Website security, there is a barrage of ways through which hackers and cybercriminals can breach your website and harm you. You must not wait for it to happen before you start struggling to remedy it.

I advise that you take proactive steps by protecting your online assets now before it happens. It’s always easier and cheaper that way. You can leverage premium security service providers like Astra Website Security, Sucuri Website Security, or Labinator WordPress Security to guard against these criminals.

If you need to discuss your website security challenges or fears with an experienced digital marketing consultant, feel free to reach out to me. I and my team here at imArena.net will offer you the best advice for your website.

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