Why Website Security is Important and How to Effectively Protect Your Sites

6 Reasons Why Website Security is Important Plus 12 Effective Tips to Protect Your Sites

The internet is one of the most essential elements of day-to-day life all over the world. People rely on it for business, entertainment, education, communication, commerce, news, and more. In fact, according to an MIT report, the average American spends around 24 hours a week connected to the internet.

A global survey by Hootsuite found that people in other countries spent even more time online – with people in the Philippines averaging 10 hours a day online, and UK and Europeans averaging close to 8 hours a day online. With all that time and so many people connected – there’s always going to be exposed to cyber threats – specifically those related to the security of important personal or business data.

It’s not enough to just know what the biggest website security dangers are. It is vital to understand why it is important to take website security threats seriously and take steps to protect your digital assets, information, and the customers or audiences you serve.

Having a professional handle your online security systems is critical in avoiding data breaches that can cause heavy fines, lawsuits, and business reputation destruction.

Reason No.1
Hackers Attack Every 39 Seconds

A study conducted by Michel Cukier, Clark School assistant professor of mechanical engineering and affiliate of the Clark School’s Center for Risk and Reliability and Institute for Systems Research shows that on average every 39 seconds hackers attack and try to steal sensitive information.

The study found that hackers use a type of malicious code that runs a list of the most common usernames and passwords attempting to break into a computer that has internet access.

Fortunately, as prevalent as this website security threat is, one of the best defenses against it is also one of the most simple – creating a strong password.

Successful Password Tips

  1. When it comes to setting up a password, one of the best practices to have in mind is to NOT use familiar phrases or consecutive numbers.
    Over 23 million people use the password “123456”
    Of course, it is easy and simple to remember a consecutive string of numbers “123456” or a phrase like “I love you Maria” and then try to use those as passwords, but when it comes to protecting important information these types of passwords are useless and only take a few seconds to hack.
  2. Another best practice to keep in mind is never using the same password twice.
    It may seem like basic information, but it is incredibly surprising just how frequently users repeat the same password on multiple accounts. Hackers know this… and use it to their advantage.
    Experienced web security professionals can not only guide you through strong password set up, but can also recommend password management software and/or guide you through other options for log-in credentials, including facial recognition, thumbprint scanners, and two-step verifications.

Reason No.2
Cyber Attacks Were the Most Feared Crime for Americans in 2019

Like it or not, we live and work in a digital jungle, and like in any jungle, the digital one is filled with dangers – both known and hidden. Cyber predators spend every second of every day trying to steal sensitive information from any and all types of databases – all usually with the same purpose in mind… identity fraud.

It is such a prolific website security problem that it comes as no surprise that having credit cards and personal information is stolen is what Americans reported as one of their biggest fears of criminal activity in 2019.

More than being mugged or even murdered, a survey showed that 72% of Americans that worry about having their personal, credit card, or financial information stolen by hackers.

There is no understating how important this statistic is for business owners with e-commerce websites. Digital transactions rely upon customers’ confidence by providing this information online with the belief it will remain private and secure. If they lose that confidence and certainty, they will most definitely shop elsewhere.

Crimes Americans Worry About Most 2019
Crimes Americans worry about most in 2019

On a Worldwide scale, data breaches and more specifically identity theft was the leader in the cyberattack realm with an astonishing 65%. As shown in the graph below.

Distribution Global Data Breach Incidents 2018
Distribution Global Data Breach Incidents 2018, by type

Tips for Preventing Cyber Identity Theft

  1. Make the move to HTTPS
    When you look at the typical web address bar, URLs most commonly begin with http:// or https:///. Many browsers now abbreviate this part of the URL, and some web security software or widgets may show a lock icon instead or in combination with the full URL. What the “s” in https actually means is that the site is hosted on a “secure” server – one with encryption that protects outside users from lifting information like credit card numbers, passwords, personal information, and other data. It also ensures that users are not redirected to look-alike or phishing sites, because the site maintains a security certificate authenticating it as the original/intended site.
    If you’re not currently using HTTPS and you’re asking customers to provide payment or other data, you’re also inviting hackers to take any and all information that is communicated to and from your site.
    Get in touch with your hosting company to ask about migrating to HTTPS, or contact a reputable web security professional to do it for you. You and your customers will be glad you did. We can help you migrate your website to HTTPS.
  2. If you do need to process payments online, strongly consider using an already-verified payment gateway like PayPal or Verified by Visa to provide an extra layer of protection for your customers. These payment providers and others like them eliminate the need for payment information to be stored on your website, and often plug-and-play very easily into most website infrastructure.

Reason No.3
Data Breaches In the U.S. Have Been Increasing Steadily Since 2005.

Statistica.com also did a study that shows a troubling (and growing) trend in the number of data breaches made by hackers each year. Even with some periods of lower-than-usual activity, the number of breaches and people at risk continues to climb. In 2019 alone, close to 1.5 billion data breaches occurred – impacting nearly 165 million records, each of which with the potential to endanger someone’s sensitive data.

Anuual Number Data Breaches Us
The annual number of data breaches and exposed records in the United States from 2005 to 2019 (in millions)

Two more studies conducted in the United States by Statista.com in 2018 had revealed that 32.7% of respondents had experienced a hack of their social media or email accounts, and that in that same year, 14% of respondents stated that their online accounts had been cyber-attacked more than once.

Tips for Protecting Your Users

  1. Besides taking necessary precautions like HTTPS, and regularly maintaining security protocols on your servers or data.. One of the best ways to help protect your users is to make sure your users are actively involved in their own safety. Require strong passwords. Use 2-step verification like email or cell phone text messages to make certain users are who they say they are. An extra “annoying” email or text is far less bothersome than stolen data.
  2. Consider including measures like captchas to eliminate machine-based attacks or ‘bots’ that attempt to guess passwords. These simple, inexpensive widgets can help eliminate a significant number of hackers’ easiest scams and attacks.

Reason No.4
Retail and Finance are Industries Targeted Most by Website Hacker

A two-year study by Trustwave.com showed the level to which multiple different industries were subject to website security issues including weak security measures and poor staff training regarding online safety. There is also another study done by trustvame.com that shows that e-commerce sites accounted for 25% of all hacker activity.

Most Affected Enterprises Malware Attacks
Most affected enterprises environments affected by malware attacks and other malicious software

Retail was the most heavily targeted in both years, followed closely by finance. It makes logical sense that this would be the case considering that both industries deal with financial, credit card, and banking information more often than other business sectors. After all, hackers are looking for a way to make a monetary gain from their crimes. Going directly after information related to money is a fast way to achieve this.

While it’s true that hackers can and will hack anything, it is important that businesses and website owners in high-risk industries need to take extra care to protect their digital assets and data.

Tips for Avoiding Hackers

  1. Keep software up to date. If you’re running cloud-based solutions or work with a managed hosting solution, this task essentially takes care of itself. But, if you do happen to run third-party software in any part of your business, make sure to update regularly and install security patches and other ‘packets.’ These are solutions to known hacking vulnerabilities, and ignoring them leaves you and your customers exposed.
  2. Don’t allow user uploads unless absolutely necessary. What seems like a profile photo could actually contain a hidden script that infiltrates your data behind the scenes. If you must accept uploads, restrict the types of files that can be submitted and consider using file validation software to ensure files are “clean.”

Reason No.5
Hackers Are After Your Customers

Malicious software or malware is the name given to programs/software that are designed to give cybercriminals access to otherwise unauthorized areas of your website backend, your databases, or other digital assets. Most often, malware comes from accessing infected websites, spam mail, or downloading what seems to be a PDF, though many other techniques are used too. Once malware sneaks its way in, the hacked website can infect all the users that access your site and the virus spreads and hackers gain more and more sensitive information and so they have the perfect opportunity to commit identity theft and use credit card information.
Most of these processes are automated and done by hacking tools.

CNN estimates that there are nearly 1 million new malware threats launched every day.

So, simply ignoring the problem and hoping it won’t impact you is a dangerous gamble.

Tips for Protect Your Site from Malware

  1. In addition to previously mentioned tips like migrating to HTTPS and updating systems and software regularly, installing a Web Application Firewall (WAF) can help keep unwanted and uninvited intruder programs at bay. It looks at the source of the traffic to identify authentic users or programs like payment gateways and also flags and blocks bots and likely hacker activity.
  2. Utilize website scanning tools. Viruses, malware, and hackers are sneaky. Often, you won’t notice they’re there until the damage is done. Thankfully, there are scanning software solutions that search for and identifies unusual or harmful code and flags it for removal. Many tools even include their own removal applications to further simplify the process.

Reason No. 6
Hacked Websites Can Lose Up to 98% of Their Traffic

An average of 50,000 websites are hacked every day.
If yours happens to be one of them you can lose up to 98% of your traffic.
Here’s how it happens:

Let’s say that your potential customers visit your website and are infected with a malware like in “Reason No. 5.” If this happens, Google and other search engines can blacklist your website… that’s in addition to your customers losing faith in your products and services. This lethal combination can decrease your website traffic up to 98%, destroy your business and your reputation.

Google and other search engines have started to warn their users and restrict them from accessing potentially harmful websites. A number of security programs and anti-virus software do the same thing. Starting in July 2018, all websites without SSL(HTTPS) were tagged as insecure and also received an SEO penalty (starting to see why switching to HTTPS is so important?). As well, Google has removed more than 80% of hacked websites from its search results.

With over 1.5 billion websites on the net today, people rely on search engines when it comes to finding information and successfully navigating to their site of choice. This means that webmasters must pay more and more attention to SEO best practices and these means constantly maintaining and updating web security.

Tips for maintaining safe web traffic

  1. Once lost, SEO and search engine listings are expensive, if not impossible, to repair. There are billions of sites, and not enough time or manpower available for someone to flip a switch on “accidental” breaches. The best defense, in this case, is a good offense. Be proactive in implementing security measures for your website. Don’t wait until an attack happens.
  2. Do periodic “checkups” to see how your site is faring. Pay attention to where your traffic is coming from and look for inconsistencies. Report these to your hosting provider or your in-house security team or security partners.

Conclusion on Why Website Security is Important

Clearly, internet-based crimes are here to stay. It’s absolutely right and sensible to be worried about it and want to take precautions. It may be easier to think that your site isn’t at risk because all you collect is passwords and addresses – but that’s all it takes for an ambitious hacker to use that little bit of information to hack other sites and get a little bit more, a little bit more, and a little bit more until they have a complete identity profile they can steal and use for all sorts of illegal purposes.

Your website is more than just a tool for communicating with your customers or audience. It is literally the digital front door of your brand. Having proper website security in place is like having a doorman that welcomes invited guests to a safe experience and also keeps criminals from entering and ruining things for everyone.

Working with qualified internet and website security specialists allows your digital experience to be one that people enjoy, search engines rank well, and that generates profitability to your brand.

Leave a comment