While your website is a critical asset to your businesses’ performance in the modern, digital-first world, it can also subject you to a level of security risk. Websites can be targeted by cybercriminals and “hacked” or otherwise damaged. This can result in your customers being put at risk, creates the risk of reputational risk to you and your business, and potentially expose you to liabilities.

What can I do to protect my website, business, and customers?

The first thing to understand is that website security is not a one-time setup but a continuous process. It’s about protecting your site from hackers, malware, and other cyber threats that can lead to data theft, loss of customer trust, and financial penalties.

Thankfully, you don’t have to be a coding genius. In fact, with the right partners working on your website design and implementation, website security comes down to following best practices and simply being vigilant.

This means following the following eight steps:

1.  Adopting a Defence in Depth Strategy

The first step is to talk to your partners about building a defence in depth strategy. This sounds complex, but really it just involves adopting multiple layers of security measures to protect against various types of cyber attacks. What it means is that if any one layer fails, there are additional layers in place that stop the attack from causing any actual damage.

2. Regular Updates and Patch Management

Keeping your website’s software up-to-date is critical. This includes the latest versions of the CMS, plugins, themes, and third-party services. You’ll find that this means you’ll be making updates every couple of weeks, if not weekly (for the more complex sites). The developers of your platforms and website software will release regular updates that fix security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. It’s important to stay on top of those.

3. Strong Password Policies and Access Control

Another key step is to enforce strong password policies and limit access rights. Only grant the necessary permissions needed to perform specific tasks. For example, while you might want a couple of people to be able to post content to your website, they probably don’t need admin access. That way, if a cyber criminal does successfully breach their password, the criminal won’t have access to your entire admin environment.

4. Utilizing Web Application Firewalls (WAF)

You should consider implementing a piece of technology called a Web Application Firewall (WAF), which subsequently acts as a gatekeeper for your website, filtering out malicious traffic and preventing attacks before they reach your server. This is a great tool for thwarting DDoS attacks, which are one of the most common threats that websites face.

5. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates

This is absolutely critical: Every website should implement SSL certificates to encrypt data transmitted between your website and its visitors, ensuring confidentiality and integrity of the information exchanged. It’s not only a security best practice, but it’s of critical importance for SEO purposes, as Google punishes sites that lack SSL certificates.

6. Regular Security Audits and Penetration Testing

Security cannot be set-and-forget. You should conduct regular security audits to identify and address vulnerabilities. Penetration testing, or ethical hacking, simulates cyber attacks to test your website’s defences. Remember – new threats emerge every day. You can never be totally sure that your website is capable of handling them without actually checking.

7. Backup and Disaster Recovery Plans

The unfortunate reality is that at some stage your website is going to come under attack. The proliferation of threats mean that it’s a case of not “if,” but “when.” Because of this, it’s as important to have the right response ready as it is to have the security in the first place. With a robust backup and recovery process in place, you can quickly restore services after an attack without losing any data, and having minimal downtime.

8. Educating Your Team

Did you know that the #1 reason that cyber attacks are successful is due to human error? And that the most common password is still “password?” Any person that has access to your website should be fully educated on cyber security best practices, and this training should be renewed regularly – think of it like first aid. The more up-to-date your employees are, the safer the entire workplace is.

Remember, cyber security is not just about defending against attacks by installing software or hiring a security company to provide support. The best way to secure your website and business is to create an environment where security is part of the ongoing culture. This doesn’t require special technical capabilities. It just requires discipline, commitment, and the right partnerships with the right experts.