As a tech enthusiast, IT manager for a larger company, or even brand owner, you’ve probably got enough on your plate without worrying about cyber security too. But the hard reality is that keeping your business website and data safe needs to be a priority these days.
In this next blog, we’ll break down some straightforward yet effective steps you can take to protect your website, blog or online store. While web hosting security can seem complicated, the truth is you don’t need a degree in computer science to get started – just the right mindset and common-sense precautions.
And yes, in case you think your website or business is too small to be targeted, well, hackers are targeting businesses just like yours all the time.
So read on for some basic security practices to help strengthen your web hosting defenses.
Evaluate your risks and threats
As we keep on saying on this blog, first you need to do some research to understand what are the potential vulnerabilities and threats that could affect your business. And you need to asses this before even choosing a hosting provider or securing your website setup.
Common risks include DDoS attacks, malware/virus infections, SQL injections, compromised credentials, and data breaches. Understanding your specific risk profile based on industry, traffic levels, and other factors will help determine appropriate security measures.
Now, your most sensitive assets probably include payment transactions, user data, intellectual property, and backend systems. So, start by assessing what data you need to store, where it’s located, and who has access. All these will minimize your exposure.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What are your regulatory requirements around sensitive data?
- How would website or server downtime impact your business?
- Could data theft, corruption or leaks be financially or reputationally damaging?
So, make sure you evaluate your risks from the beginning as this will help your security planning and resource allocation in the long run.
Choose a secure hosting provider
Once you know the risks your type of business may face, you are ready to start looking for the right hosting provider.
Don’t choose only based on unlimited bandwidth and a cheap price. A few important aspects to look for in terms of security:
– Server infrastructure security: Reliable providers have servers behind firewalls, implement regular OS patching, use intrusion detection, and conduct penetration tests. You should also look for hosts that offer patched servers isolated on private networks with restricted administrative access.
– Web application protections: Web application firewalls, DDoS mitigation, automatic HTTPS/SSL encryption, and content delivery networks incorporated directly into hosting plans strengthen website security. Some great hosts also offer monitoring in real-time for anomalies and attacks.
– Compliance standards: If your business handles sensitive data, then make sure you verify that your chosen host is in compliance with industry regulations, having ISO 27001, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR. If their infrastructure is compliant then your data is legally protected if a data breach happens through no fault of your own.
In other words, you want a hosting provider that prioritizes security at the infrastructure level. So, at least make sure the one you choose operates behind firewalls, uses SSL/TLS encryption for all admin areas by default, and keeps servers patched against vulnerabilities.
Now, if you want to be as protected as possible, we recommend choosing VPS or dedicated hosting options for better protection and control.
Keep your website secure
Now, that was on the web host provider’s end.
Let’s see what you need to do to complement your host’s physical and network security:
– Updates and patches: Keep software like WordPress, plugins, and themes up-to-date to fight known vulnerabilities. Schedule automatic or manual patching on a regular basis. If you choose a dedicated hosting plan, then look for one that includes automatic updates and patches.
– User access controls: Limit admin capabilities only to authorized personnel using strong, unique credentials and change them regularly. Consider multi-factor authentication for sensitive areas. And, make sure you regularly monitor access rights.
– Input validation: Scrub all external variables, forms, and cookies to block SQL injections, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other code/script exploits. Use a web application firewall if possible for advanced protection against exploits.
– File permissions: Lock down write/execute permissions on sensitive file directories to prevent unauthorized changes or access to code.
Always monitor and respond
Visibility into potential issues strengthens your security while having a rapid response mitigates impact.
Here are the main steps you should take:
– Logging and alerts: Review web server, and firewall logs as well as error messages for suspicious traffic patterns or policy violations. Most dedicated hosting plans include log monitoring – upgrade for 24/7 coverage if needed.
– Activity monitoring: Tools like OSSEC, for example, provide real-time alerting if unauthorized changes are detected to critical system files or user profiles. This will help quickly address any anomalies.
– Incident response or disaster recovery plan: No matter which one you choose to have, you need to have a predefined plan with the steps your team needs to take in the event of a breach, hack or malware infection. And make sure you test it regularly to check it’s still effective.
Check out this great guide to the ultimate disaster recovery plan.
Stay on top of security trends and tactics
You may know this, but we’re still going to say it: security is an ongoing process and not a one-time project. So, stay up-to-date on new threats and strengthen your security over time by following these steps:
– Staff training: Educate your team regularly on secure password management, identifying social engineering, handling sensitive data appropriately and how important is they report issues as soon as they notice them.
– Adapt to new threats: Threat actors continuously improve techniques. Stay on top of the latest vulnerabilities and ensure your hosting/website configurations reflect prudent security controls.
– Choose an external security audit: Conduct regular external penetration tests and third-party security reviews to identify weak points before attackers do. This will help address any new vulnerabilities quickly.
Here you have them – these are our best practices for web hosting security. Now, we know that cyber security can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task. But we believe the tips we just covered are basic and practical steps any business can take to strengthen its web hosting environment.
The key is to prioritize security before starting to build your website, select a provider with strong controls already in place, and then layering on additional security tools and measures at the website level.