Look out! We’re talking about the most boring topic that any small business owner can face — cybersecurity — specifically on your website. But it’s important. Because some of us seem to think we’re impenetrable.
It should come as no surprise that a professional hacker can break through any barrier. Zero-day attacks are common these days, so it’s critical to harden and protect your site as much as possible. While an SSL certificate is certainly important, it is only one piece of the puzzle.
In this article, I’ll debunk a few SSL myths, discuss the types of hacks that can still happen, and discuss how you can improve an HTTPS site beyond installing an SSL certificate.
So, are SSL Certificates “Hacker Proof”
Well — not really.
When it comes to safeguarding your customers’ information, an SSL certificate is essential. Encrypting their data in transit can help keep it safe from being intercepted by attackers along the way. Having said that, this does not protect the origin. While SSL has advantages, there are numerous other flaws that hackers can exploit whenever possible. It is critical to essentially put a wedge between anything that could be infected.
Injecting malicious code into a site is one of the many types of attacks used by hackers, such as injecting a credit card skimmer. When it comes to these types of infections, attackers can gain access in a variety of ways, but it’s important to understand how to prevent a hacker from gaining access through various attacks such as Brute Force attacks, phishing, outdated plugins, themes, software, and so on. So, in order to be as hacker-proof as possible, you’ll need to account for the wide range of attacks that may come your way.
That’s where PCI Compliance and SSLs come in and work together.
In today’s online world, it’s critical for any website that accepts credit card information to be PCI compliant. Installing an SSL certificate should be one of the first steps a site owner takes in this regard. An SSL certificate will help reassure customers that their sensitive credentials are encrypted during transit on your website, thereby increasing trust. When HTTPS is used, a padlock should appear in a site visitor’s address bar, indicating that sensitive information passed through the site will be less of a concern than on non-HTTPS websites.
As a site visitor, you should also check to see if you’re using safe sites. One of the most important aspects of internet access is the use of reputable anti-virus software for your operating system. In today’s online world, bad actors could lurk around every corner. Because of these risks, you’ll want to make sure you have some extra security measures in place for the browser(s) being used.
But then again, anti-virus software can be an awful experience, slowing down computers, causing annoying false positive reports that get in the way of your work and often do nothing more than give you a false sense of security.
It all begins, really, with taking control of security on your website, because we’re not really talking about your computer security. We’re talking about preventing hackers from getting in and messing with your website.
Because site visitors are more cautious online, you, as a site owner, should become more proactive in terms of your website’s overall security, both on the front-end and back-end. While a site scanner plugin is sometimes useful for that, if it only scans the front end of your site, it may be unable to detect hidden backdoors. It’s also something that regular website visitors don’t even understand. So while it might make you feel better, it’s probably having zero effect on your visitors. Consider these scans to be a house with a security system facing the outside. While it can detect robbers coming at you on the outside, it can’t see what is already happening on the inside. That’s what a server-side scanner can do.
Scanning the site is important, but so is monitoring the traffic that’s hitting your website.
Malicious requests have the potential to overwhelm your server’s resources, resulting in major downtime. Everyone wants 100% uptime and super-fast page load times. Configuring a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and/or Web Application Firewall (WAF) in these cases will help relieve stress on the hosting server while also acting as a middleman between potential threats and the origin server. Free services like Cloudflare and Jetpack for WordPress are great for this. And there are reasonably priced premium setups that can do even more — but the free version is fine for most of us.
Aside from these two pillars of website security, there is a long list of items to consider when hardening your CMS (Content Management System). That’s what WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc are. Just different kinds of content management systems to run a website. This checklist also applies to maintaining a regular maintenance schedule. Overall, you want to make sure that you, as a site owner or personal developer, are as up to date as possible. Each system will have its own recommendations on what to keep an eye on and what to harden up. Joomla has the excellent AdminTools, WordPress has various plugins like Wordfence and Defender.
So what do you have to do as a website owner or someone who looks after other people’s websites? If you’re on Wix, Squarespace or Shopify, just change your password occasionally.
If you’re on WordPress, Joomla, OpenCart, Magento or Drupal?
Well, maintaining your website means facing up to a number of priorities and responsibilities. It’s a good idea to try to assure site visitors and potential customers that it is dependable and trustworthy. Many cybersecurity practises may appear foreign, if not intimidating, to the vast majority of people who regularly use the internet. So keep your language simple and use your relationship with your customers to assure them that you’re looking after their data, the purchases and their cyber safety by being ahead of the problems that come with cybercrime before they become problems.
Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Business Station, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.