How to Secure a Website: 7 Proven Things You Must Do in 2023

When people ask me how to secure a website with 100% certainty, I tell them it’s very simple: just keep it offline.

Once they stop yelling at me, they usually turn the conversation to website builders and content management systems (CMS) to see which option offers the best security.

What they don’t understand is that it doesn’t matter if you use a website builder for your blog or a CMS to drive your business. there will always be an element of risk.

The real problem with this is that the responsibility for managing this risk lies with you. If that wasn’t bad enough, things could go wrong if you try to do everything yourself. Really fast.

That’s why, in this article, I’m sharing my top tips for protecting a website. Don’t worry; These are not the tips you need for a PhD. to implement.

They are simple, valuable strategies that you can implement over the course of an afternoon. Better yet, they work. No matter which approach you choose, each option has already proven itself in real battles against hackers and bots.

Let’s start!

How to Secure a Website: Top Risk Mitigation Strategies

There aren’t many guarantees when it comes to securing a website. Since there is no simple solution that will protect you from hackers forever, it is best to implement these strategies to reduce vulnerabilities while increasing your chances of a quick recovery.

  1. Install an SSL certificate
  2. Implement multi-level login security
  3. Maintain a regular backup schedule
  4. Keep all software up to date
  5. Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
  6. Be an effective site admin
  7. Stay alert

1. Install an SSL certificate and use HTTPS everywhere

If you’re about to create your first website, you might think that data encryption is 007 stuff that only big corporations or investigative journalists need.

However, if you plan to get traffic from Google, you also need an SSL certificate to get a decent ranking. You even need one to collect emails for a newsletter.

If all of this sounds like a bit much, remember that there’s a good reason for all this cloak-and-dagger happening. In the past, all sensitive information your users sent to your server was in clear text. If someone picked up this information, they could read everything. So passwords, bank details, e-mail addresses, everything.

An SSL certificate wraps all of this sensitive information in a layer of encryption so it can’t be read. Using an SSL certificate is The starting point for a secure site. Otherwise, your visitors will see this warning:

Warning for users who visit a website that is not secured by an SSL certificate

That’s why all major website builders like Wix and Squarespace enable HTTPS by default for every website on their network.

For the rest of us, getting an SSL certificate is easy.

Most web hosts these days offer simple tools that allow you to install an SSL certificate in just a few clicks. If so, ask them how to set it up. I’m sure it’s easy. Bluehost, for example, offers Let’s Encrypt certificates available right in the control panel.

Enabling SSL Certification with Bluehost.

If for some reason your host doesn’t offer an easy tool, you can also create a free domain validation certificate Let’s encrypt by following their leaders. When you’re done, go to cPanel or your host’s custom dashboard to install it.

Install an SSL certificate in the cPanel

If you use WordPress, you can use the Really Simple SSL plugin to configure your website to use the SSL certificate once you have it installed:

2. Secure your login page and process

When it comes to login security, there’s a lot to do. But you can go a long way with just two simple implementations: strong passwords and multi-factor authentication.

That’s because strong login security is built on at least two layers. For us it will be something you know (strong password) and something you have (send code via email, phone or call).

Strong passwords are awesome; effectively impossible to brute force and nearly impossible to guess.

But first, do yourself a favor and grab a password manager. For the last three years I have used 1password, and it was a game changer. Why? Two reasons:

  • The password and passphrase generator makes it easy to create (and change regularly) passwords.
  • With a password database I could turn it all off “Remember this password” and automatic login business.

All of this is great for grooming your passwords, what about your users? I recommend using it Password policy manager for WordPress to create enforceable guidelines for strong passwords on WordPress sites.

Once you have a secure password, set it up Multi-Factor Authentication Registrations. It just means that someone has to enter a code that is usually sent to a device when they want to log into your website.

Both Google Authenticator and Authy are easy to set up with most website builders. With Squarespace, for example, you can find the option in the settings.

Enable 2FA to secure a Squarespace site

For WordPress I can recommend Wordfencebut you could also use Google Authenticator by miniOrange plugin.

We also have a guide to two-factor authentication for WordPress.

If you built something from scratch you can use Google’s identity platform to integrate Google Authenticator into your website.

3. Back up your website regularly

Learning how to back up a website can be as simple as creating a backup schedule.

You’re probably thinking that no hacker has ever been deterred by a backup. And you would be right; Backups are a precaution. However, they also provide you with a safe place to recover in a crisis. Each of the popular website builders has a different approach:

  • Wix offers automatic weekly backups your site.
  • Shopify is popular rewind app is one of the few backup apps.
  • Squarespace has limited backup options ranging from creating a duplicate website to exporting the XML file.
  • WordPress users can take advantage of any number of plugins designed to create secure backups.

For WordPress users, I recommend (and use) UpdraftPlus. With the free version, you can back up directly to the cloud without any limitation, including Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3 and more. UpdraftPlus can even help you recover your website in a crisis.

4. Keep all software up to date

I’ll be honest; I love tools like WordPress because themes and plugins make everything easy. Would you like to feature recipes on your website? There are probably a few hundred plugins specifically designed for this purpose. It’s not just WordPress; In Wix and Shopify, apps help you do a lot without typing a single line of code. Sounds great right? Somehow.

They also make it difficult to secure your code. Even a poorly coded third-party product can increase your website’s attack surface. And if you don’t update regularly, you create many vulnerabilities.

However, you can mitigate the vulnerabilities if you:

  • Remove programs you don’t use.
  • Keep the programs you use updated.
  • Only use programs, plugins and themes from developers who have proven that they can maintain their products.
  • Research any networks you plan to integrate with.

If you use WordPress, you will receive notifications in the dashboard when there is an update for the software itself and any themes and plugins you use. You can also take advantage of the auto-update feature that covers all of the above.

For the most secure option, consider a managed hosting plan. Not only will you enjoy hardened security, but you’ll also have someone handling the updates for your entire WordPress site. You can always learn more about managed WordPress hosting when you’re ready to take the plunge.

5. Use a web application firewall (WAF) for proactive protection

If you want to secure a website with the power of Arnold Schwarzenegger, get a Web Application Firewall (WAF).

If you’ve used the Internet for the past 25 years, you’re familiar with firewalls. A web application firewall is similar to the firewall on your computer in that it uses predefined rules to identify and block attacks. This makes them particularly well-suited to weeding out common attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site forgery, and SQL injections, among others.

Even with the ever-changing threat horizon, a WAF is an indispensable tool. You’ll find that most modern WAFs can quickly change and deploy rules as new vulnerabilities are discovered.

As a first line of defense, WAFs come in three main forms:

  • Network based, backed by a hardware firewall – Easily the strongest firewall you can get from elite hosts like Kinsta and website builders like Squarespace.
  • host based – Includes all WAFs integrated into the application itself via a plugin or app.
  • cloud based – the most popular and easy-to-integrate security option.

Again, for WordPress users, Wordfence is probably the best solution.

6. Be an effective site administrator

As a website administrator, there are many tricky things to keep track of, but keeping track of them has a significant impact on how secure a website is.

Let’s take a quick look at them all:

  • user rules: Keep an eye on user roles so you know who has access to data, who can make changes, and what other permissions they have. Only provide users with roles that they need to perform their jobs. Anything beyond that is a vulnerability.
  • Monitor what users are doing and clean up inactive users: WP Activity Log can help you track your users’ behavior to protect against malicious activities.

  • Moderate all comments manually by removing automatic approvals.
  • Reject any comment that contains a link or code. Although no longer common, malicious code in comment sections was once a thing.
  • Restrict the file types that can be uploaded whether in comments or forms.
  • Implement scanning and verification of each upload. Sucuri is the best option for this.

7. Stay alert

If you’ve implemented the above solutions, you’ve already significantly reduced the attack surface that hackers can use to take over your website.

However, if you want to keep this, you must protect your website and any external content you publish on it, such as: B. Ads, scan regularly.

For example, protect yourself from malvertising by partnering with trusted ad networks and scanning and testing all ads before they go live on your site.

One of the market leaders Sucuri SiteCheckis also free and flags all viruses, malware and malicious codes that are affecting the front-end of your website.

Protect a website with Sucuri Site Checker

For mission-critical sites, it would be best if you also created a regular security audit using a two-tiered approach:

Use penetration testing tools like that Pentest Tools website scanner to show the size of your attack surface. With over 25 different scanning tools you can discover problems with your network, sensitive pages indexed by Google and even the strength of your SSL connection.

Carry out vulnerability assessments checked against a checklist covering common security weaknesses:

  • Periodically check for inactive plugins, themes, or other third-party products.
  • Confirm that the tools have been updated with a recent update.
  • Filters users by recent activity and considers removing inactive users.
  • Make a list of users with special access such as FTP access and SSH access and determine if they need it and for how long.

These tactics might be overkill for a simple hobbyist blog, but they can help you avoid problems on important sites.

Secure your website today!

If you run a website, you are not only responsible for the security of your data, but also for the data of your visitors, customers and colleagues. But no pressure.

In the past, providing a secure website might have seemed overwhelming. But today? You don’t need a huge budget or years of programming experience to secure a website and protect your users.

In fact, with our seven-step risk reduction approach, you already know how to effectively secure a website:

  • Install an SSL certificate
  • Implement multi-level login security
  • Maintain a regular backup schedule
  • Keep all software up to date
  • Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
  • Be an effective site admin
  • Stay alert

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