Now, more than ever, web security matters. With the ever increasing rate of technological expansion comes increased attempts to breach security and steal information. Don’t let this happen to you. By designing your website with security in mind from the beginning, you can ensure you’re protected.

What Threats do you Need to be Concerned With?

In order to design sites properly, you need to begin by understanding any potential threats. Websites are inherently vulnerable to a wide range of threats, one of the most common ones being vulnerabilities to cross-site scripting (XSS). XSS is a class of attack that enables a malicious user to inject client-side scripts, using the website as a channel, into other users’ browsers.

Using the combination of an XSS attack and social engineering techniques, hackers can cause a lot more damage by stealing cookies, keylogging, and identity theft.

This also enables them to login as the user and view information as the user would, allowing them full access to view credit card details, contact information, or even change passwords.

Websites use databases, which is why, SQL injections are a real threat. These injections allow databases to be accessed, modified, or deleted regardless of the user’s permissions.

Consequences of a successful SQL injection include spoofing identities, creation of new profiles with administrator rights, accessing all information on the server, or destroying any/all data to make it unusable. This vulnerability exists if user input passed on to an underlying SQL statement can change its meaning.

Another important threat to address is Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF). This attack involves both the website as well as the web browser. More specifically, the browser’s authentication functionality.

Using the web browsing applications authentication vulnerabilities, users who are logged in to a particular site can fall prey to the attacker. Once logged in, it provides the attacker the ability to in a way “forge signatures” and perform actions which are not intended by the victim.

However, it should be noted that the users who are merely surfing through the site and not really logged in, would be safe from the attack.

Clickjacking is a threat that can quickly cause a system to spiral out of control. An attacker could either hack a legitimate website, or trick a user to visit an infected site where certain actions are controlled by the attacker. For example, a “submit” button may not submit information to the intended destination, or a close button “X” may actually trigger certain unwanted actions such as activating your camera, microphone, etc.

This can be used, for instance, on a banking site to get login information.

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks occur due to flooding a target website with requests with such volume that the website suffers disruptions for legitimate users.

While this list is not comprehensive, it does give you an idea of what threats exist and how each of them can affect you. By learning more about these security threats,  you can begin to design your website to minimize the risk of these issues occurring.

What’s at Risk?

Whether it’s money, records, time, or even customers, a breach could impact many areas of your business. Data breaches have resulted in significant costs for impacted organizations, and it’s only getting worse, including  loss in total revenues.

Even if you don’t suffer financial loss, you could still lose data. Valuable information like social security numbers, financial records, and even medical records have been stolen during breaches.

Many customers lose faith in an organization impacted by a breach. In some cases, organizations have lost more than 20% of their customer base.

Because it can take a significant amount of company time to to identify and resolve. In some cases, network outages are unavoidable.

Designing Your Website With Security in Mind

Building your website to be secure from the ground up will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Why risk vulnerabilities down the road when you can build your site to be inherently resilient to them in the first place? There are a few key ways you can design your site for security from the get-go.

Choose Your CMS

Nowadays, CMS solutions like WordPress do a lot of the coding work for you. However, choosing which CMS, if any, is a critical first step. They each have their own security issues and benefits, so you’ll need to evaluate all the options and design the site using all necessary features of the CMS, along with its plugins and extensions, so as to make the website as secure as possible.

Get A Web Host with Hardened Servers and Managed Services

While relatively straightforward, getting a web host is an important next step. Many offer server security features, which can better protect your website data. You should review and research several web hosting companies and based on various factors such as downtime, response rate of downtime, downtime causes, customer service quality, benefits offered as part of package such as managed services, SSL certificates, data storage and scalability options, backups, supported web applications, PCI compliance to name just a few. Your business must be prepared in the event of an unforeseen crash.

Hosts that offer multiple environments for development, staging, and live offer additional protection, allowing you to update and maintain the components of your website without any downtime. This is critical to ensuring you are always staying up to date with the latest software security patches.

And you will want to make sure that any web host you use offers backups. This can protect your site in the event of a disaster, either through error or through malicious intent.

Implement A Web Application Firewall

The more traffic and reputation that your site develops, the more hackers it is likely to attract. There are even automated bots that constantly scan for vulnerable sites, especially new ones. Adding a web application firewall (WAF) is one of the ways you can defend against these automated threats.

Encrypt Your Connections

If your website requires registration, or if there’s any form of a transaction, you absolutely need to encrypt those connections. By using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, you can create a secure handshake between your site and your clients’ devices. This means that no third party can hijack that connection.

Start From The Beginning

There is no such thing as foolproof code that will protect against all vulnerabilities. However, you can ensure you have a competent coder and a penetration tester who can do thorough testing to ensure no vulnerabilities go unnoticed. Any one of these vulnerabilities could result in a data breach, with the the power to permanently cripple your business’ reputation.

Secure your database queries against SQL injections. Design it so that users cannot alter them, in any way, or you could risk massive issues down the line.

Keep Your Logins Secure

Make sure your login information is both robust, and unique. Password security requires that you change your password at regular intervals (30, 60, 90 days). Applications such as LastPass allow you to securely store and share login information without actually revealing your passwords. If required, use reCaptcha on certain webpages. Identity theft is one of the biggest threats, and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Maintaining your website’s security is critical to the long-term success of your organization. If you suffer a breach, it could permanently harm your company’s reputation. In fact, some businesses have even closed as a result. Do everything possible to make your website secure. By staying aware of the vulnerabilities, as well as the methods of combating them, you’ll be well equipped with a secure website.

Posted by Curtis Priest

Curtis Priest is the CEO at Pixelcarve Inc. He has pursued his passion to pioneer new interactive technologies for rich digital media. With the ultimate goal of serving greater business interests such as revenue and brand growth, he has a strong focus on improving the user experience, building enhanced usability and navigation, and truly reforming how a user is engaged by content.