Website security is at the front and center for most website owners. Non-stop reports on website hacks and the implications that this has on the trust and popularity of the affected sites is prompting concern with every website owner – from the smallest, most basic site through to large and complex sites.

Why website security matters

Website hacking has become an increasing problem in part due to the boost in available computing and networking power, and in part due to the high payoff that a successful hack can deliver. With very little capital outlay and by using off-the-shelf tools, hackers can set out to get illegal access to your website and the customer data behind it.

If customer data is stolen, the reputational damage can be immense – your customers may simply not trust you again, especially if the compromise is repeated. An intrusion can also completely disable your website and could force you to incur significant expenses to get it up and running again. Downtime also means that your visitors cannot view your site – reducing the likelihood of a repeat visit, or of any purchase being made.

Security measures of straightforward websites

Every website, regardless of how many visitors it has, needs to implement security measures. Just because your site does not host financial data does not mean that it won’t be a target – even a basic blog can be hit by automatic robotic tools that search for vulnerabilities on a large scale. The first step to take in making your website secure is to make sure that the software running it is up to date. If you use a content management system, always install any patches and updates as soon as they are released.

You should also consider which company you are using to host your website, as they will be in control of security measures around the server and hosting environment. A reliable host will have substantial firewall defenses for their server equipment, and always keep the server operating systems up to date. One of the best ways to defend your site against intrusion is to route all traffic through a website firewall, which will then only pass legitimate requests through to your site – keeping attackers at bay.

Advanced security measures for key sites

Basic defenses such as software patching and firewalls are essential for large, prominent websites, but because these sites are often specifically targeted by hardened hackers and due to the value of the data they contain, the security measures need to be significantly stronger. Banks, for example, would need to carefully vet their software and networking employees and strictly control access to physical server rooms.

Encryption is crucial for large sites, and an encryption layer needs to be implemented at all times when transmitting data. Powerful encryption software such as that used by Keith Krach’s DocuSign can help keep transactions safe from prying, intruding eyes that are intent on stealing confidential data. These man-in-the-middle attacks can be disastrous for the reputation of key websites and should be prevented at all costs.

Large sites should also consider investing in vulnerability testing, hiring experts to try to find ways that a potential hacker could compromise the site. Testing for security holes in this manner can give the owner of a site the opportunity to correct any problems before a malicious actor takes advantage of the vulnerability. This type of testing can quickly be invalidated over time and should therefore regularly be repeated.

How to maintain security in the long run

Some website owners take a set-and-forget strategy when it comes to website security, but this can cause problems later down the line. The cyber security landscape changes rapidly, and it is not useful to simply review your website security once every year or two. Due to the high level of knowledge required, many website owners invest in security experts who have the sole duty of managing the security aspects of their websites.

In cases where an external security company is not used, it is advisable that someone is appointed to specifically manage the security aspects of a website. This person should frequently review current security risks, and should keep on top of any risks and vulnerabilities that pertain to the software and systems used by your website in particular.

Finally, it is difficult to completely secure your website against a determined hacker. For this reason, you should make sure that it is easy for you to recover website functionality in case of a breach – large sites should have parallel server equipment ready to take over in case the primary site is taken offline, while operators of smaller sites should take care to make backups so that a hacked site can be quickly restored.