We all know website downtime is a real drag. However, the situation can go from annoying to scary in a hurry when you’re dealing with a malicious attack. A report published recently by KPMG called the Cyber Vulnerability Index, found that a staggering number of global organizations have massive data leaks that create huge payload opps for virtual criminals.
Sure, there’s more of an incentive for hackers to go after the big dogs. There’s also greater risk of punishment if they’re discovered. In addition, huge corporations have more security features installed on websites that make hacking harder for cyber attackers. That’s why owners of smaller websites and companies should be especially vigilant – they’re not the juiciest target on the menu, but they’re certainly considered some low-hanging fruit just ripe for the picking.
Large companies and small-time webmasters alike would do well to employ a few best practices to reduce website downtime caused by cyber-attacks.
#1 – Size Up Your Security Situation
The KMPG study revealed a rather alarming stat: 75% of the top companies in the world are unwittingly leaving sensitive data exposed. This is info that would-be intruders would capitalize on in a heartbeat if given the right opportunity.
HackerTarget.com and UnmaskParasites.com are among the rainbow of free tools you can use to size up your security situation, and they’re just a Google search away. These free tools check things such as malicious injections on your website, domain profiling, SQL injection tests, Nikto server scans, and more.
Although they’re very handy and many quite thorough, they may still miss a carefully executed attack by a real pro. If you’ve checked it all and you’re still stumped, hire a freelance programmer to investigate your website line by line to find the offending code.
#2 – Do Some Housekeeping
Checking your website for hacks and evil scripts is definitely an important activity, but routinely scrubbing your virtual tracks from the ‘net is vital as well. This means reducing your website’s current exposure level at all costs. Check everything published on your site, and clean up any extraneous metadata such as email addresses, application version information, and IP addresses. This will give hackers less information to go on if they try to attack your site.
The less publically displayed information the better. Cyber attackers are, by their very nature, opportunistic. This means the harder you make it for the criminals to access data about your website, the harder it will be for them to find the goods on their own, and the greater the chance they’ll move on to an easier mark.
#3 – Strong Passwords are Still King
Symantec, the maker of the famous Norton Antivirus Software, published a study about Internet security with a few killer tips about locking down a website. Surprisingly, one of the simplest solutions is still the most effective: strong passwords.
#4 – Update, Update, Update
We’ve covered the fact that cyber attackers are opportunists. That’s why one of the most common schemes involves exploiting known security holes before patches are made and webmasters apply them. There’s yet another easy fix for this issue – check for updates for all software related to your website. If you have a blog, keep your plugins updated as well.
For bonus points, keep an eye out for known security vulnerabilities and seek out patches before they’re universally offered. The faster you update your website, the safer it will be.
#5 – Get the Whole Team on Board
There’s no point in practicing website security if everyone’s not onboard. If you’re the sole webmaster in the house, then you have nothing to worry about. You can investigate, password-protect, and cruise for patches to your heart’s content.
However, if you have a website with multiple authors and/or contributors – a graphics person, a coder, a social media guru, whatever – you need everyone on the same page about security practices to protect your site. Give everyone limited access that only allows them to perform their job. No more, no less. Instruct everyone to follow the same security guidelines and set up safe passwords as well.
When you look out for your website’s security, you’ll not only experience less downtime, you’ll also protect an asset you’ve worked hard to build.