Have you already been hacked? 2023 website security tips.

Last Modified: May 4, 2024

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How strong is your current website security? Have you already been hacked?  How do you know if hackers are trying to hack your website?  Or what would you do if they did? Unfortunately, without adequate and regular security testing and website maintenance you are at risk.  With hacking, sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is not.  However, there are several signs that you can look out for to identify if hackers are trying to hack your website.

Signs to look out for that hackers are trying to hack your website:

Increased traffic: 

A sudden increase in traffic to your website may be a sign of a hacker’s attempt to overload your website’s server with requests.

Strange requests: 

Hackers often send unusual requests to your website, such as requests for unusual file types or unusual parameters in a URL.

Suspicious login attempts: 

If you notice multiple login attempts from unusual locations, this could indicate that someone is trying to access your website’s login page.

Unknown users: 

If you notice new user accounts on your website that you did not create, this could indicate that a hacker has gained access to your website’s user database.

Defaced website: 

If your website’s content is replaced with hacker’s message, this indicates that they have successfully hacked into your website.

Suspicious network traffic: 

Monitoring network traffic to and from your website can help identify unusual or suspicious traffic patterns that could indicate an attempted or successful attack.

All of the above are common indicators of a hacking attempt, or worse, hacking success. These signs and signals are easily detected when regular security testing is in place, and there is a dedicated person in your team keeping up with website security. 

Why website security is so important?

Website security is more important than ever because the internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives, and as more and more activities are carried out online, the risks of cyberattacks have increased significantly. Here are some of the reasons why website security is so important:

Protection of confidential information: 

Websites often collect sensitive information from users and customers such as personal identification information, payment details, and login credentials. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can be used for malicious purposes such as identity theft, financial fraud, or other cybercrimes.

If you have an ecommerce website – you are especially at risk. Processing of credit card data falls under the PCI data regulations. And if you haven’t heard of them before – this is a problem.

Many customers think (under false assumptions) that Shopify or Woocommerce or other platforms provide a level of protection from hacking or credit card theft / fraud. The real answer is that you are responsible for this information, and if your website is not being regularly updated with security patches, you could be at risk.

A statement direct from Shopify regarding PCI compliance (payment card industry compliance) “PCI DSS compliance is a requirement for ecommerce stores that keep credit card information, handle any financial transactions, or accept payments using credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards, and other forms of payment. If you don’t comply, you risk being fined or having your account shut down.” 

This basically means Shopify is pushing the compliance back onto you. There are products out there that can help with PCI compliance and management but without someone regularly checking in on your site, and making sure your security is in check you may not comply and risk your site not only being hacked, but shut down completely.  

Prevention of cyberattacks: 

Hackers use various techniques to gain unauthorised access to websites, such as injecting malicious code, SQL injections, and brute force attacks. Without proper website security measures in place, websites are vulnerable to these types of attacks.

When these attacks occur usually you will not know. Many reputable website developers (like us!) will install security plugins and software to prevent DDOS or unwanted attacks, but without logging in regularly to check, you may not even know they are occurring.

Maintaining business reputation: 

A successful cyberattack on a website can damage a company’s reputation and lead to loss of customers. Websites that have been hacked can display incorrect or inappropriate content, deface the website, or steal sensitive information.

We recently had a client contact us, clearly and justifiably distressed, that their website had been hacked and replaced with an online casino. Not the best look for a company selling wellness products. 

Since designing the website, they had opted not to have a website security and maintenance contract in place and wanted to self manage. Seems easy enough, however even though the website had only been handed over months prior, there were numerous website security updates to be actioned in the site, that their team had not actioned. 

Those website security updates were in response to the alarming increase in DDOS and other malicious attacks on businesses of all sizes. Without these updates actioned, a hacker was easily able to completely hijack their website. 

Luckily in this case we were able to action the website security updates and make some adjustments in line with new regulations, to get their site back up online quickly. But this is not always the case.

Compliance with regulations: 

Websites that collect or store user data are often required to comply with various regulations such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in legal and financial penalties.

Protection against financial losses: 

Cyberattacks can be costly to businesses, resulting in loss of revenue, customer trust, and legal fees. Implementing proper web security measures can help prevent these financial losses.

Overall, website security is essential to protect both the website owner and its users from the numerous cyber threats that exist in today’s online environment.

The fact is cyber-attacks are increasing at an alarming rate. If hackers can get into some of the largest corporations websites globally, like Latitude FinancialQueensland University and Medibank – then the likelihood is we are ALL at risk.

What you can do to make your website more secure:

Protecting your website from hackers requires a multi-layered approach that includes several website security measures. Here are some steps you can take to protect your website from hackers:

Use strong passwords:

Ensure that all user accounts on your website have strong passwords that are difficult to guess. Consider using a password manager to generate and store strong passwords. Never reuse the same password. 

When logging in to your website or any online platform, it is essential to ensure that you use a secure network to protect your login credentials, including usernames and passwords. Hackers often use unsecured networks to steal login credentials and gain unauthorised access to websites and user data.

Also – don’t give your passwords to anyone else! Including website developers like us or whoever you work with. Most platforms allow you to grant user access to your website or domain to third parties, which means you don’t have to give your own personal logins to anyone else. 

Two-factor authorisation:

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an additional layer of security that can be used to make your website more secure. It requires users to provide two forms of identification to access their accounts, typically a password and a unique code that is sent to their phone or generated by an authentication app.

2FA is not always a standard feature that a website designer would implement on your site when building it, we activate the feature for clients with admin access, but often they opt to not set it up. 

Keep your software up to date: 

Ensure that your website’s software, including its operating system (for many of our clients this is WordPress), web server (where your website hosting is) are all up to date with the latest security patches and updates. Keeping your software up to date is essential to enhancing website security. It helps to protect against known vulnerabilities, improves stability and functionality, ensures compatibility, and supports compliance requirements.

When we hand over client websites we offer security and maintenance contracts at minimal cost so they can have peace of mind, and an instant fix if something does ever go wrong. 

Implement HTTPS: 

Use HTTPS to encrypt data transmissions between your website and its users. It encrypts data, provides authentication, establishes trust, improves SEO, and helps with compliance. This prevents attackers from intercepting and reading sensitive information sent over the network. Implementing HTTPS is essential for website security in 2023.

Soto Group websites all come with HTTPS as a standard, and we do not deploy websites without one, however often when it comes time to renew HTTPS clients may not realise the significance of it, and opt out of the cost. Understanding that a HTTPS not only helps with security, but with your SEO and organic positioning can help businesses prioritise and plan for the cost of a HTTPS certificate (many hosting providers offer this for free, but some charge a few hundred dollars for it).

Use a web application firewall

A web application firewall (WAF) is an essential tool for enhancing website security and can help protect your website from common web-based attacks, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and other injection attacks. These attacks are common methods used by hackers to gain unauthorised access to your website, steal data or install malware.

Some server providers offer this as a standard (we know some great ones that do) but many charge it as an extra cost. Knowing this when you are choosing your hosting provider, or entrusting your web development partner to offer reliable hosting service providers can help you mitigate this risk.

Implement access control: 

Implementing access control is critical to website security. It allows you to limit access to sensitive data, authenticate user identities, manage user accounts and permissions, track user activity, and comply with industry standards and regulations.

When we hand over websites to our customers, we typically have one admin login (which should only be accessed by ONE user) and a number of restricted access logins. This means some staff can post blog articles, or make minor aesthetic changes, but not have access to your site that puts you at risk.

Regularly backup your website: 

Regularly backing up your website is an essential aspect of website security and ensures that you can restore your website if it is compromised. It can help protect against data loss in case of security breaches, server crashes, or any other unforeseen circumstances that may cause data loss. 

Regular backups can also help you to restore your website to a known, secure state before a security breach occurred. This can help you to identify and address security vulnerabilities and protect against future attacks.

Some website hosting partners automatically backup your site, but if you are not doing it already, do you know who is? If anyone?

Use anti-malware software: 

Using anti-malware software is an effective way to enhance website security and to detect and remove malware from your website. Anti-malware software helps to protect your website against various types of malware, including viruses, worms, and Trojan horses. These malicious software programs can cause significant damage to your website, including data theft, data destruction, and website downtime.

Choose plugins and extensions for your website carefully:

Choosing the right plugins and extensions for your website is an important part of maintaining its security. Choose plugins and extensions from reputable sources, such as the official WordPress repository, to ensure that they have been vetted and tested for security vulnerabilities.

You should keep plugins up to date and delete any not in use. However, for someone without website management experience this may be difficult to do. Updating plugins can also cause websites to crash, due to updates creating incompatibilities with other plugins. This is usually where your web developer or web management team can carefully manage potential conflicts to ensure no website downtime

Avoid using plugins or extensions that are no longer supported or have not been updated in a long time, as they may contain security vulnerabilities that have not been addressed.  Make sure that the plugin or extension is regularly updated by the developer to address any security vulnerabilities or other issues that may arise. Check the reviews and ratings of the plugin or extension to see if other users have reported any security issues or problems with the plugin.

Keep the number of plugins to a minimum: 

Only install the plugins and extensions that you need, as each one adds additional code to your website that can increase the risk of security vulnerabilities. Keeping the number of plugins to a minimum can help reduce the attack surface of your website and make it easier to manage and maintain.

Always use secure networks:

Using secure networks is crucial for website security as it helps to protect your website from attacks that can compromise your website’s data, sensitive information, and even your user’s data.  Using secure networks helps to prevent eavesdropping by hackers or unauthorised users who may try to intercept data transmitted between your website and its users. Secure networks can help to prevent network-based attacks such as man-in-the-middle attacks, DNS spoofing, and phishing attacks, which can compromise your website’s security and users’ data.

Use more than one email address:

Using more than one email address can help to enhance website security, as it allows you to separate different types of communication and reduce the risk of email-based attacks.  By using different email addresses for different types of communication, such as personal and business emails, you can reduce the risk of cross-contamination between different types of messages. This can help to prevent attackers from gaining access to sensitive information by compromising a single email account. Hackers can use your email address to launch brute force attacks on your website, where they attempt to guess your login credentials and gain access to your website.

Be cautious about posting your email address online

Posting your email address online can put you at risk of various cyber threats and affect your website security. When you post your email address online, it can become visible to spammers and attackers who may use it to send you unsolicited emails or phishing attacks. These emails can be used to trick you into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information.

If you are setting up business profiles or listings for your company – do not use an email address that is linked to important logins. You can create an alias account (i.e. marketing@xxxx.com ) that will allow you to still setup accounts, but without any risk to your critical website assets.

Educate yourself and your team: 

Train yourself and your team to keep an eye on your website every day and to recognise and avoid phishing attacks, social engineering, and other forms of cyberattacks.

Our team put these insights together to help you and your team make the right choices when it comes to website security and avoiding hackers and unnecessary business risk. These are just some of the steps you can take to enhance your website security and to protect your website from hackers. 

It’s important to regularly assess your website’s security measures and update them as necessary to stay ahead of any emerging threats. 

We understand that many clients do not have the capacity nor the technical skills internally to constantly manage and monitor their website. This is why we provide simple packages to ensure your risk is minimised and your team is not burdened with a task that will become deprioritised.

If you are interested in website security and maintenance packages reach out to the Soto Group team today. 

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