Your website is a valuable business asset, no matter if you’re an established ecommerce brand or a local small business. But the online world is rife with hackers and cybersecurity threats.
These hackers target businesses big and small, and countless online stores, SaaS startups, agency websites, and publications fall prey to cyberattacks each day. One successful breach can be all it takes to put you out of business.
And the last thing you want is to compromise your customers’ data due to a cybersecurity slip.
So, like it or not, it’s your top priority to safeguard your small business’ website against cybersecurity threats. For that, you need to have:
Near-impenetrable login credentials and protocols
Creating strong login credentials may sound super obvious to you, but many people use predictable passwords with some meaning attached to them, such as a name, initials or birth date of a loved one.
Sure, such passwords are convenient to remember, but they make a hacker’s job almost too easy.
So, rather than coming up with an easy-to-remember password on your own, consider using a random password generator to produce a super-strong password, which is almost impossible to guess. This is a great way to protect your business website against brute force attacks.
Furthermore, a login on your website’s backend that remains valid for more than a few days is a threat to your customer data. So, let logins expire after a few hours of inactivity.
It can be annoying to log in several times a day, but it’s better to bear this minor inconvenience than having the wrong person access all your invaluable customer data and business information.
Next, be prudent about sharing your login privileges. Only a few select employees you fully trust should have the login rights. And if an employee with credentials is no longer associated with your business, make sure to revise the credentials in a timely manner.
Also, to further safeguard your site against brute force attacks, set a strict limit on the allowable number of login attempts. If you’re using WordPress, install a plugin like Limit Login Attempts Reloaded or WP Limit Login Attempts to easily limit the number of attempts to a maximum of three or five.
While on the subject of WordPress...
Latest version of CMS, plugins and themes
Odds are, your business website is running on a Content Management System (CMS). Using a CMS like WordPress is a great way to manage your site more efficiently, but a CMS comes with vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.
For example, WordPress powers over 35% of the internet and is still growing in popularity. However, with this popularity and extensive customization (using plugins and themes) comes vulnerabilities that make WordPress a prime target for hackers.
Hundreds of thousands of WordPress sites fall victim to hackers each year and guess what? WordPress in itself is a secure CMS.
But all the extensions you install to make life easier, in the form of plugins and themes, are potential gateways for hackers. The weak areas of these add-ons are usually fixed by the developers before too long, but the site owners fail to update on time.
Simply put, ensure that your CMS and its themes and plugins are always up-to-date with the latest version. Also, avoid accessing your CMS from public Wi-Fi networks, such as from airports or malls, as these are not secure and the data is not encrypted.
But if you do have to use a public Wi-Fi network for some urgent work, or for streaming entertainment platforms like Peacock while waiting at the airport, make sure to use a VPN on your device.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for data encryption
Essentially, an SSL certificate encrypts all the data sent to your site’s servers. It keeps all online exchanges secure and private as the data travels the public internet. Think of it as sealing a letter in an envelope before sending it through the mail.
For instance, if you’re running an online store and require potential customers to enter their credit card information during checkout, or have a SaaS business that requires the visitors’ personal information (say, email address) for lead generation, this exchange of data must be secure.
What’s more, an SSL certificate is considered so vital that Google uses them as a ranking factor and without one, your site won’t do well in terms of search rankings. Besides, seeing a green padlock with “https://” immediately boosts your website’s credibility in the eyes of visitors.
Thus, you absolutely need to have an active SSL certificate on your business website. Typically, if you’re using a reputable web hosting provider, an SSL comes as standard, among other crucial security measures such as DDoS protection, network monitoring and remote backup.
As your hosting provider’s security protocols will be your first line of defense against hackers, pick your provider carefully.
Frequent backups, malware scans, and vulnerability tests
You’re likely tired of hearing this, but taking frequent backups of your website is indispensable. It’s like eating your veggies — you know it’s a good thing to do but don’t really want to do it.
If your website gets hacked, the best way to quickly bounce back is to restore your last backup. Even if all your files are stored safely on hard drives in data centers around the globe, those hard drives can still fail. So, frequent backups are non-negotiable.
While some hosting service providers perform automatic backups for you, almost none of them do it on the ideal frequency (daily or at most, weekly). So, take it upon yourself to ensure frequent backups are scheduled.
Next, perform regular security scans and vulnerability tests of your website. It will help hunt down and remove malware, usability errors, and outdated plugins hackers can exploit.
Also, conduct vulnerability tests using a vulnerability scanning tool to reveal your site’s soft spots. New vulnerabilities emerge all the time, and something that was secure last week may not be safe today. So, test your website as often as you can.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) for added security
The strongest of strong passwords can be broken into. So, rather than requiring a single password to successfully log in to your website’s backend, 2FA means you’ve sent a verification code to your registered phone or email to verify that the person logging in is indeed you.
Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) provides you with an added layer of security every time someone tries to log in to your website. A plugin such as Google Authenticator will do the trick.
Over to you
Safeguarding your business website against cybersecurity threats is absolutely imperative for you and your potential customers. Not to mention a well-guarded website presents a safe and trustworthy environment for business to take place, improving the visitor-to-customer conversion rate.
So, don’t procrastinate. Start implementing the best practices outlined above right away.
About The Author
Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He likes sharing his knowledge in a wide range of domains ranging from business, marketing, technology, and ecommerce to human capital management and much more. His work is featured in several authoritative publications. Connect with him on Twitter at @belanigaurav.