Website Security Consultant - Morgan Dubie

Website Security Best Practices 2023

Website Security Best Practices 2023
In today's digital age, website security has become more important than ever. With cyber attacks on the rise, it's essential that website owners take steps to protect their sites and the sensitive data they collect from visitors.

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In this article, we’ll explore some of the best practices for website security that you can use to secure your website from harm.

22 Best Practices for Website Security

I’ve created a list of everything a website owner should know when protecting their website from harm.

1. Keep software up to date

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve website security is to keep software up to date. This includes the content management system (CMS) you use and any plugins, themes, or other software your site relies on. Updates often include security patches that address known vulnerabilities, so failing to update can leave your site open to attack.

To ensure that your software is always up to date, you should regularly check for updates and install them as soon as they become available. Many CMS platforms offer automated updates you can enable, so you don’t have to worry about manually checking. Additionally, it would be best if you uninstalled any software that you no longer need or use, as this can reduce your site’s attack surface.

2. Use strong passwords

Another basic but important website security best practice is to use strong passwords. Weak passwords are a common vulnerability attackers can exploit to gain access to your site, so using long, complex, and unique passwords is important.

A strong password should be at least 12 characters long and include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using common words or phrases, and don’t reuse passwords across different sites or accounts. Using a password manager to securely generate and store complex passwords would be best.

3. Implement multi-factor authentication

In addition to using strong passwords, you should implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. MFA adds an extra layer of security to your site by requiring users to provide a second form of authentication, such as a code sent via SMS or created by an authentication app, in addition to their password.

MFA can help prevent unauthorized access even if a password is compromised. It is a valuable security measure for any site that collects sensitive data or allows users to log in. Most popular CMS platforms offer MFA as an optional security feature that you can enable.

4. Back up data regularly

Regularly tidying up your website data is crucial in case of a security breach or other disaster. Regular backups ensure you can quickly restore your site to a previous state if necessary, minimizing the impact of an attack or other issue.

You should create backups of your website data at least once a week and store them securely in a separate location from your website. This can be in the cloud, on an external hard drive, or another secure storage device. Many CMS platforms offer built-in backup solutions that you can use, or you can use a third-party backup service for added peace of mind.

5. Use SSL/TLS certificates

Using HTTPS encryption is another best practice for website security. HTTPS encrypts data in transit between a user’s browser and your site’s server, protecting it from interception and tampering.

You must obtain an SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA) to use HTTPS. Once you’ve obtained a certificate, install it on your web server and configure your site to use HTTPS. You can use tools like Let’s Encrypt or Cloudflare to obtain a free SSL/TLS certificate for your site.

6. Implement web application firewalls (WAFS)

Firewalls are an essential security measure that can help protect your site from unauthorized access and attacks. A firewall is a network security system that monitors and controls the incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. Firewalls can be implemented as software or hardware and can be used to protect your website from various threats, including malware, viruses, and brute-force attacks.

Most web hosting providers offer firewall protection as part of their services, but you can also implement a firewall on your website server or use a third-party firewall service. When configuring your firewall, set rules that allow only necessary traffic to pass through and block all other traffic.

7. Limit file uploads

Allowing users to upload files to your website can be convenient but also introduce security risks. Malicious files, such as malware or viruses, can be uploaded to your site, threatening other users or your site’s security.

Limiting file uploads and only allowing certain file types are best to mitigate this risk. Using reputable antivirus software, you should also scan all uploaded files for viruses or malware. Additionally, you can consider implementing a file size limit or requiring users to sign in before uploading files.

8. Use secure hosting

Your website hosting provider plays a significant role in your site’s security. When you choose a hosting company, picking one that takes security seriously and implements measures to protect your site from attacks is essential.

Look for a hosting provider that offers regular backups, SSL/TLS certificates, firewalls, and other security features. Additionally, consider using a dedicated or virtual private server (VPS) instead of shared hosting, which can provide additional security benefits.

9. Monitor your site

Regularly monitoring your site is an important part of maintaining website security. This includes checking your site for unusual activity, such as unauthorized logins or changes to site files. You can use website monitoring tools to automate this process and receive alerts if suspicious activity is detected.

Regularly review your website logs to identify security issues or vulnerabilities. Website logs can provide valuable information about your site’s traffic and help you identify patterns or anomalies that may indicate a security threat.

10. Educate users

Educating your site’s users about website security best practices is important. This includes encouraging users to use strong passwords, enable MFA, and avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown files.

You can also provide resources and information about website security on your site, such as a security policy or FAQs about security measures you’ve implemented. Educating users about website security can help prevent security breaches and ensure your site remains safe and secure.

11. Regularly scanning for vulnerabilities

Regularly scanning for vulnerabilities is another important safety step that can help you find and fix possible security issues before hackers attack. These checks can be done either manually or automatically with special tools, and they can help you find weaknesses in your site’s software, settings, and web applications.

You can use free or paid vulnerability scanners to do these checks and get a good idea of your site’s security. If any security weaknesses are found, it’s important to fix them quickly to stop hackers from taking advantage of them.

12. Limit access to your website

Limiting access to your website is another effective way to maintain website security. Limiting access to your site can reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. You can limit access to your site by implementing user authentication and authorization, such as restricting access to certain pages or functions to authorized users only.

Additionally, you should limit access to your site’s backend or admin panel to authorized users only. This can be done by using strong password policies and two-factor authentication.

13. Educate yourself and your team

Educating yourself and your team about website security best practices is another critical aspect of website security. By understanding the risks and best practices for website security, you can better protect your site from cyber-attacks and data breaches.

You can educate yourself and your team by attending webinars, reading articles and blogs about website security, and taking online courses. Make sure to stay up to date with the latest security trends and technologies to ensure that your site remains protected.

14. Utilize cyber incident response planning and be prepared

It’s essential to have a plan in place for security incidents. Despite your best efforts to maintain website security, there’s always a risk of a security incident. A plan can help you respond quickly and effectively to security incidents and minimize their impact on your site.

Your security incident plan should include steps for detecting and responding to security incidents, notifying users and stakeholders of the incident, and restoring your site to normal operation. Test your security incident plan regularly to ensure it works correctly and that your team knows what to do during a security incident.

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15. Implement security plugins and extensions

Security plugins and extensions can be installed on your website to add an extra layer of protection against cyber attacks. These plugins and extensions can help you detect and block malicious traffic, prevent unauthorized access, and protect your site from common vulnerabilities.

Popular security plugins and extensions include Sucuri, MalCare, and Bulletproof Security. Choose a plugin or extension compatible with your website’s platform that provides the necessary features.

16. Use secure coding practices

Secure coding practices can help prevent common web-based attacks such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting.

Use secure coding practices when developing your website’s code, and encourage your developers to do the same. Additionally, use code analysis and security testing tools to identify and address vulnerabilities in your code.

17. Conduct regular website security audits

Conducting a website security audit is critical to safeguarding your website against cyber threats. This audit involves reviewing your website’s security policies, procedures, and technologies to identify vulnerabilities and potential risks.

You can conduct a security audit internally or hire a professional cybersecurity firm to perform the audit for you. Regardless of who conducts the audit, the audit must cover all aspects of website security, including:

  • network security
  • application security
  • access controls
  • data protection
  • cyber incident response

18. Implement access controls

Implementing access controls is another important aspect of website security. Access controls ensure only authorized users can access your website’s resources and data.

You can implement access controls using various methods, such as role-based access control (RBAC), attribute-based access control (ABAC), and mandatory access control (MAC). Access controls, such as the network, application, and data layers, can be enforced at various levels.

19. Implement security headers

Using security headers is another best practice for website security. Security headers are information that can be added to HTTP responses to help protect against web-based attacks.

Some common security headers include Content Security Policy (CSP), Strict Transport Security (STS), and X-Frame-Options. Use these headers on your website, and configure them appropriately to provide the best possible protection.

20. Conduct regular vulnerability assessments and website pen testing

Checking for security weaknesses and trying to hack your website can help you find and fix any security problems.

Checking for security weaknesses involves scanning your site’s systems and applications for weaknesses while trying to hack your website means trying to use those weaknesses to access your site’s resources and data. In the end, it’s important to check for security weaknesses and try to hack your website regularly to fix any problems you find.

21. Use a content delivery network (CDN)

Using a content delivery network (CDN) is another best practice for website security. CDNs can help protect your website from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and improve its performance and availability.

A CDN distributes your site’s content across multiple servers in different locations. This ensures your website’s content can be delivered quickly and reliably to users worldwide.

22. Hire a security professional

Security professionals possess the knowledge and expertise to identify and address vulnerabilities and threats to your website’s security. Therefore, if you want to enhance your website security, hiring a security professional to conduct vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, and security monitoring on your website is worth considering.

By working with a security professional, you can develop and implement a comprehensive website security strategy tailored to your needs.

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Morgan Dubie

Morgan Dubie

Morgan Dubie is a professional cybersecurity analyst with years of experience and an immense passion for helping people. Call Morgan today to learn how she can keep you safe.

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About Me

I’m Morgan, and I created my self-titled website security blog to teach you how to protect your website.