Entrepreneurs

Council Post: Is Your Small Business Website Secure?

By Daniel Griggs, the founder of ATX The Brand, a tech agency focused on solving problems, building businesses and strengthening communities.

It is now easier than ever for business owners to create a company website, but it’s not so simple to build a secure site that will protect user data and financial information.

Over the past decade, content management systems like WordPress and sites developed on platforms such as Laravel have become more popular. This has led to hackers taking advantage of template-based and custom websites to steal data from business owners who are unaware of the security measures necessary to protect their online assets.

As the founder and CEO of a web and app development and digital marketing agency, I encounter many entrepreneurs and business owners who have been victims of hacking, fraud and cybersecurity breaches. Often, companies that built their original websites using content management systems (CMS) come to us for customized coding and development in order to make their sites and apps more secure.

What does a security breach look like?

There are several common ways that hackers infiltrate a website. For example, we had one client seek out our services because their previous website code had been hacked and altered so that the website redirected to an adult entertainment site. Any time a user typed this company’s domain name into their browser, the alternate website would appear. 

In another scenario, a home services company was experiencing issues with its website loading. As it turned out, someone had inserted malicious files that copied themselves over and over, leading to lags and connection issues. Similarly, we worked with a software as a service (SaaS) company that allowed customers to set up user accounts on its website. A malicious bot began creating fake accounts, leading to issues with the server and impacting the site loading speed. By the time this client came to us for help, the bot had created more than 40,000 fake accounts. 

These types of issues are not just frustrating for business owners, but they can seriously harm a company’s reputation and its bottom line. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable because their websites are more likely to be developed using a CMS and they often don’t have the IT staff needed to resolve these issues quickly when or if they arise.

How can you protect your website against security threats?

If you are unsure whether your small business is protected from cybersecurity threats, here are five website security best practices to take into consideration:

Is your website hosted on a secure server with an SSL certificate? If you collect private information from site users, you need a hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS), which prevents the interception of data. Additionally, SSL will encrypt information so that it cannot be breached.

Does your website require complex passwords? Requiring all users to use complex passwords when signing into your site will help prevent their accounts from being hacked. For example, you can require users to use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and special characters in their passwords.

Do you have a firewall in place? Firewalls can block duplicate internet protocol (IP) addresses automatically, which prevents spammers and hackers from registering multiple accounts from the same computer.

Does your website contain custom coding? Unfortunately, website templates built through CMS like WordPress can be more susceptible to hacking. Custom coding is much more difficult to breach.

Are your plugins up to date? Failing to update your software and plugins can result in security vulnerabilities and issues on your website.

A DIY website may seem appealing for small business owners, but building your own site using a CMS and third-party plugins opens you up to possible security risks. A cybersecurity breach can be extremely detrimental and can affect your business for days, weeks and even months. If you don’t have the resources to fix the issue, you may need to have your site completely redesigned and redeveloped, which will also cut into your business revenue. 

While there is no foolproof method to protect your site from hackers, custom coding and following the security measures described above are the best ways to reduce vulnerabilities and protect your customer information and company data.

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