Website Security Checklist for National Cyber Security Awareness Month

National Cyber Security Awareness Month: Your Website Security Checklist

In an age where the digital landscape is continually evolving, the need to safeguard your business’s website against online threats has never been greater. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, an annual event that serves as a reminder of the ever-growing threats that websites, no matter how big or small, face in our online world. 

As a business owner, you bear the responsibility of safeguarding your customers, suppliers and partners to ultimately protect your own business. Cyber criminals continually adapt to exploit vulnerabilities, making it essential to stay ahead of the curve to ensure your website is robust and secure. 

Whilst web security is not every business owner’s area of expertise, there are a few specific measures that must be in place to help protect your business online and, by extension, your customers. In this article, we've put together a checklist outlining key security elements, from SSL certificates to DDoS attack mitigation and user data validation, each playing a pivotal role in safeguarding your digital assets. 

1. Ensure your website has a valid SSL certificate

You may have noticed the little padlock icon that sits in the address bar of your browser, that’s an indication that a website is secured with a digital certificate. The SSL certificate authenticates a website’s identity, establishing a secure connection between a user’s browser and the website, ensuring that private information such as personal data and login details remain confidential and protected.

As well as the padlock icon, the presence of "https" in a website's URL indicates that the website is using an SSL certificate. If your website does have an SSL certificate, it’s also worth checking if the certificate is valid and is issued by a trusted Certificate Authority (CA).

SSL Certificate | Website Security Checklist
SSL Certificate | Website Security Checklist
CMS Update | Website Security Checklist
CMS Update | Website Security Checklist

2. Regularly update your CMS software and plugins

Keeping your CMS and plugins up to date ensures that you have the latest security patches and features, reducing the risk of vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyber criminals.

When updates are not regularly maintained, they may contain known security flaws that hackers can exploit, leaving your website vulnerable to data breaches and other security issues.

The best way to stay protected is to check for any updates and schedule regular updates. This is best performed by a professional who can stage or test updates before going live on the website, to avoid disruption to your website.

3. Check that the server your website is hosted on is up to date

Similarly, to CMS updates, server updates often include security patches and improvements which help to safeguard your website. Ignoring these updates can also leave it vulnerable to malicious actors, which can lead to service disruptions and other security issues that can be detrimental to your website and customers.

Testing in a controlled environment and ensuring backup procedures are in place before making changes to the live server are best practices when conducting regular updates to the server.

Website Security Checklist
Website Security Checklist

4. Conduct regular server scans

Conducting regular server scans is crucial to maintain website security. Server scans help identify vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and potential security issues before they can be exploited. Similarly, to ensuring updates are regularly performed on the server, this proactive approach is essential for a robust security.

5. Automate website backups

Automated backups provide a safety net for your website, ensuring that essential information is regularly and securely saved. This reduces the risk of data loss due to unforeseen events, such as cyber attacks or technical failures.

Manual backups are often subject to human error and are more likely to be conducted inconsistently, making them less reliable for maintaining the integrity of your business's data.

The solution is to work with a website professional who conducts regular backups. It’s worth asking your website provider if they have defined backup schedules, and if the backups are stored securely offsite, ready to be restored in the event of data loss.

Website Backups | Website Security Checklist
Website Backups | Website Security Checklist
Use secure passwords | Website Security Checklist
Use secure passwords | Website Security Checklist

6. Use secure passwords, and regularly update them

Strong passwords are the first line of defence against unauthorised access and data breaches. A strong password typically includes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. It should be unique, making it harder for cybercriminals to guess or crack.

To enhance your business's password security, consider implementing the following practices:

  • Encourage employees and users to create strong, unique passwords.

  • Set policies for regular password updates, such as every 60 to 90 days.

  • Implement two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra layer of security.

  • Educate your team about the dangers of password sharing or reuse.

  • Use a reputable password manager to help users generate and securely store complex passwords.

7. Defend against DDoS attacks with a CDN

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks is a type of cyber crime where the attacker floods a server with internet traffic to overwhelm the infrastructure, causing the site the slow down or crash, so actual users cannot access the website. This can lead to disruption, revenue loss, and a damage to your reputation.

Using a content delivery network (CDN), such as Cloudflare can help protect against DDoS attacks, thanks to its advanced DDoS protection and security services.

Website Security Checklist
Website Security Checklist

8. Validate user data in online forms

Form validation occurs when users enter data in a form on your website and the browser and/or web server checks if the data inputted is in the correct format.

Failing to validate user data can lead to several issues and is one of the main causes of security vulnerabilities. These include inaccurate information, incomplete records, and security vulnerabilities.

To ensure data integrity in online forms, consider whether your website has server-side validation to prevent malicious input, provides real-time feedback to users and employs strict validation rules for different data types (e.g., email addresses, phone numbers, dates).

9. Restrict user permissions on your website

User permissions determine what individuals can view, edit and add to your website CMS. Limiting user permissions is a proactive measure to reduce the potential for unauthorised access, data breaches, and the accidental mishandling of sensitive information.

When it comes to user permissions for website security, there are a few best practices to adhere to, such as, apply the principle of least privilege, granting users minimal access needed for their tasks, regularly auditing user permissions to align with roles and responsibilities and educating your team on permission restrictions to prevent unauthorised access and enhance website security.

Navigating the world of website security is complex and time consuming, especially when you have other priorities to focus on such as growing your business. Let us take care of your website hosting and support, ensuring its security and reliability. Protect your online presence with our expertise, contact us today.

Restrict user permissions | Website Security Checklist
Restrict user permissions | Website Security Checklist