How to secure a website

Website security is the methods and protocols used to defend websites against a range of cyber threats.

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Learn what website security is
  • Understand the importance of securing a website
  • Explore best practices to secure a website

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What is website security?

Website security is the practice, methods, and protocol aimed at protecting and securing a website and its data. The methods are designed to prevent a wide range of cyber security threats, such as DDoS attacks, SQL injection attacks or malware. Cyber security threats can have wide and devastating impact for businesses, such as economic costs, such as loss in revenue and expenses for remediation, damaged brand reputation from poor media coverage and loss of trust, and regulatory costs such as significant fines for failing to protect PII data in accordance with GDPR or HIPAA.

Why is website security important?

Implementing website security measures are critical to protecting businesses from cyber attacks. Blocking potential threats help organizations:

  • Protect sensitive data. Websites often contain or host sensitive personal information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, or financial details (like credit card information). Compromised data can lead to a significant loss of customer trust, legal issues, and potential financial losses.
  • Avoid business disruption. Attackers can cause website outages or slow down performance through targeted bot attacks or DDoS attacks, resulting in significant business disruption. This can be costly for businesses in ecommerce.
  • Comply with regulatory requirements. Most businesses are accountable to a variety of federal and international regulations, including HIPAA, Payment Card Industry, and GDPR. Non-compliance will result in heavy fines and penalties.
  • Improve SEO and website visibility. Search engines such as Google or Bing penalize businesses for infected or unsecured websites. By taking steps to secure their websites, businesses can boost their SEO and ensure their websites will be indexed properly.

How to secure a website?

There are many ways to secure a website. Many of the best practices fall within four categories: technical measures, coding and design, access control and user management, and backup and recovery plans.

  1. Technical measures include implementing solutions and tools to protect a website, such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates for encryption, web application firewalls (WAF) to filter and block malicious traffic, security plugins or software to scan for threats, content delivery networks (CDN) to block DDoS attacks, and enacting regular updates and patches to the CMS, plugins, and website themes.
  2. Coding and design best practices can minimize security risks. Examples include input validating to protect against SQL injection attacks, user password safe storage, secure user authentication and session management, and minimizing the use of third-party code.
  3. Access control and user management is the practice of managing who has access to the backend of the website. Examples of access control include using strong passwords and changing them regularly, implementing two-factor authentication, limiting administrative access, regularly reviewing user access, and removing unnecessary user permissions.
  4. Backup and recovery plans help businesses prepare for the worse-case scenarios. Best practices look like regular data backups, testing backup recovery procedures, and making sure backup data are secure.

How does Cloudflare help secure websites?

Cloudflare offers many web security services, including DDoS mitigation, a Web Application Firewall, API protection and more. To try them out, sign up for a Cloudflare plan.