It’s 2021. The world is in the midst of the worst pandemic it has ever seen. Locked down or just avoiding the crowd and exposure to the virus, more people are now visiting your website. If it’s an e-commerce site, the traffic may be heavier than the rest. But is it safe itself, or for the users it attracts?
The stats say it isn’t unless you have the right protocols in place. No matter what type or size your website, it’s always at risk from cybercriminals who are only getting more innovative with time. In fact, about 43% of cybercrimes are against small businesses according to some estimates.
And this is barely scratching the surface. As technologies and web security advance, so do the ways cybercriminals attack your website. But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on taking timely security measures for your site.
If you do proactively sort your website security out routinely, most threats are minimized by folds. If you don’t, and put it off for some ‘later’ time, the threats only increase. This leaves your website vulnerable to powerful cyberattacks that can potentially throw you back by years, both in terms of reputation and finances.
Some eye-popping facts about cyberattacks
According to 2018 web security stats, over 30,000 websites get hacked each day. And in 2019, roughly half of the world’s businesses reported having experienced a cyberattack. And the count of businesses who say they’re well-equipped to handle cyberattacks is only 40%.
Security breaches have only increased over the years. A 2019 report revealed that security breaches had increased by 67% over the past five years. What’s more concerning is that 73% of the black hat hackers (criminals who break into computer networks with malicious intent) say that firewall and antivirus security is irrelevant or obsolete.
In 2013, Forbes reported that an average of 30,000 new websites is hacked every day. Eight years on, one can easily imagine how this number must have peaked. According to McAfee, over 65 million new malware were created by hackers in 2019 alone.
And most of these security breaches tend to go unidentified for months. A 2020 IBM report revealed that it took an average of 280 days to even identify a breach. Moreover, the most common way websites get hacked is by automated tools using which cybercriminals can hit a wider network with little effort.
The global average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million across SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses). To counter that, the industry expects $6 trillion to be spent on global cybersecurity by 2021. And here’s the most troubling fact: The FBI reported a 300% increase in the number of cybercrime cases during Covid-19.
What are the most common website security threats?
Websites are attacked in a variety of ways. And these methods evolve to match the advancing technology and security protocols. So, one method of cybercrime doesn’t tend to last long in this fast-progressing digital world.
But based on today’s trends, we can still pinpoint the major threats that can harm your website and the years of hard work it took you to establish its ranking, repute, and profitability. Here are some of the website security threats to steer clear from:
Spam – more malicious than you think
Who hasn’t received an email from a Nigerian prince offering a share of a massive fortune they can’t get out of the country without your help. According to a CNBC report from last year, the Nigerian prince email scams still rake in over $700,000 a year.
But these are scams. Spam, on the other hand, is often more malicious. Although they come in many forms, the most common type of spam are usually seen in the website comments. In an attempt to build backlinks, bots tend to clutter your website’s comments section with links to other sites.
Why they harm your website is because: a) they’re unsightly and often throw off a potential lead, and b) they may contain phishing links that can harm your website visitors upon clicking. Above all, Google’s crawlers are designed to detect malicious links so it’s easy for your website to get penalized and crush your SEO ranking.
Malware and viruses – a mega threat to your site
Viruses and malware – a composite of ‘malicious software’ – are mostly the same thing and pose a huge risk to your website security. Some estimates suggest that as many as 350,000 malware samples are created each day.
According to Statista, the most common types of malware used in cyberattacks globally include downloader, remote access trojan, bot, password utility, coin miner, keylogger, web shell, privilege escalation, reverse shell, phishing, and worm.
The key purpose of such malware is to access private data or use server resources. While cybercriminals use viruses to hack your site permissions to make money with ads or affiliate links, they also tend to introduce malware to your computer infrastructure in many ways.
DDoS attacks – they choke your servers
DDoS attacks are the only event you’ll hate traffic to your website. How it works is that hackers overload your servers with traffic using fake IP addresses. This sudden bombardment of web traffic denies access to a user trying to visit your website.
DDoS attacks cause your website to crash, instead of benefiting from the heavy traffic. This makes the host scramble to get the server back up and running in haste, leaving it vulnerable to malware.
DDoS attacks are getting more common with websites seeing a 50% increase in the third quarter of 2020 alone. This makes the right protection of your website all the more important.
Search engine blacklist – your SEO nightmares coming true
If you’re sluggish when it comes to your website safety, you won’t be Google’s favorite anymore. The search giant is very clear about one thing: if you can’t keep your website safe, you care little about your business so your SEO ranking deserves to suffer.
Users tend to report your website as unsafe and they can do it for a number of reasons including web page spam, paid links spam, rich snippets spam, malware, phishing, and more. As a result, you can be on Google’s blacklist, getting off from which is not easy.
How to keep your website and its visitors safe
An unsafe website isn’t just bad for your repute and business, it’s also dangerous for the visitors. The impression that coming to your website and exiting with malware on their system (or just a bad taste in their mouth) will create on the visitor can be anybody’s guess.
It’s easy to gauge the security level of your website: if you haven’t done anything to improve its security, it’s definitely vulnerable to cyberattacks. And if you have taken some steps in the past, you have to take palpable measures again because both technology and cybercriminals are becoming more advanced.
Here are some recommendations that will work to keep your website safe from the most common types of cyberattacks.
HTTPS Protocol – the first thing you need to address
If your website URL doesn’t have HTTPS in it, it’s unsafe itself, as well as for the visitors. All threats aside, the tech-savvy users of today also don’t trust a site that doesn’t have this basic security protocol in this advanced age of the internet.
If your website doesn’t have the HTTPS protocol, it also makes it easier for hackers to change information on the page and collect personal information of your website visitors, such as their login information and passwords.
Besides improving security, HTTPS also improves your search ranking. The search giant also rewards websites with HTTPS protocol.
Top it up with SSL Certificates
If you combine your HTTPS with an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate, your site’s security will be enhanced further. SSL Certificates are a must for e-commerce websites where users are sharing more sensitive information like their credit card numbers and contact details.
What do the SSL Certificates do? They encrypt the communication between the server and the user’s web browser. This added safety layer gives your website good protection except for attacks or malware distribution.
But even if it’s a usual, non-e-commerce website, the HTTPS protocol and SSL Certificates are highly recommended.
Stay technologically up-to-date
Just like you need to regularly update your computer or mobile software to run the devices smoothly and bug-free, you also need to upgrade your website regularly. To give your visitors a great experience and make Google’s crawlers love your site, you need to have the latest versions of WordPress software, plugins, CMS, and more.
These updates aren’t just technology advancement or a design facelift, but also come with critical security improvements that you can’t afford to miss. Although it won’t make your security fail-safe, it will still make it harder for hackers to break into or harm your website.
Sticking to the old systems, on the other hand, will increase your site’s vulnerability by folds and can easily catapult your repute and business years into the past. No business, no matter how small or big, would want that to ever happen.
Web hosting plan – choose wisely
Many websites choose to go for shared hosting plans because they’re cheaper. In theory, all users of a shared hosting plan benefit from the security that the server offers. But it’s not as simple.
Imagine sharing an apartment with your friends. Although you have separate rooms, no one is better protected than the other if it’s attacked by the robbers. The same goes for shared hosting plans. So if a site that you share the server with gets attacked, your site isn’t safe either.
So, it’s always better to boost your website security by going for such hosting options as Cloud or VPS. Choose a safe web hosting plan as it will have a huge impact on your site security.
You can also enhance your website security through many other measures including frequently changing your password, securing your personal computer, using tools to monitor your security, limiting user access, backing up your website, and more.