In this digital, your small business must have an online space to competitively you must compete in the marketplace, and this includes getting a website. Getting a website is essential, but you must put protocols in place to protect it. Statistics stated that 61% of SMBs face a target of cyberattack in 2021.
Securing your small business website is crucial to protect both your data and your customer’s information. You can’t afford to lose a fortune in your data or resources because your website isn’t secured correctly.
As a small business owner, you must have your small business website security checklist that you implement to keep your website safe. If you don’t have one, I will guide you through some essential security protocols and tricks to help you develop a personal website security checklist:
Small Business Website Security Checklist – 10 Best Ideas
1. Use HTTPS
One of the first things on your small business website security checklist is to ensure your website uses HTTPS instead of HTTP. This encrypts data transmitted between the user’s browser and your web server, making it harder for attackers to intercept sensitive information.
If you use HTTP, you can create 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS URLs. This ensures that even if someone tries to access your site via HTTP, they are automatically redirected to the secure HTTPS version.
2. Web Application Firewall (WAF)
A web application firewall (WAF) is one of the essentials that must be in your small business website security checklist. It helps to protect your website from various online threats, including SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. A WAF analyzes incoming traffic and filters out malicious requests before they get to your web server.
You can implement a network firewall at the perimeter of your network infrastructure to control and monitor incoming and outgoing network traffic. Also, you can configure it in a way that allows only necessary ports and protocols while blocking potentially harmful traffic.
It is advised that you consider using cloud-based WAF services provided by companies like AWS, Cloudflare, or Akamai, as they help protect your website from traffic spikes and common web threats.
3. Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are a fundamental aspect of securing your small business website and online accounts. They act as a crucial defense against unauthorized access. In choosing a password, avoid easily guessable information, such as common words, phrases, or patterns (e.g., “password,” “123456,” “qwerty”).
Use common upper and lower-case letters, special characters, and numbers. (e.g.,!, @, #, $, %). Your passwords should be at least 12-16 characters long for added security. Also, your passwords should not be based on easily discoverable personal information, like your name, birthdate, or common dictionary words. Additionally, each of your online accounts should use a unique password. Reusing passwords increases your vulnerability in case one account is compromised.
4. Security Plugins
Another important strategy that should be in your small business website security checklist is security plugins. Security plugins or extensions are a common and effective way to enhance the security of your small business website, especially if you’re using a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.
In choosing a security plugin or extension, only install those from trusted sources, such as the official plugin repositories for your CMS or well-known third-party providers. Specifically, go for plugins that offer firewall protection and malware-scanning features. These plugins help detect and block malicious traffic and code. Also, the plugin should provide enhanced login security, such as login attempt limiting and CAPTCHA challenges to prevent brute-force attacks. In addition, the plugin should support some or all of these functions and include security scanning, access control, two-factor authentication (2FA), file and directory protection, security headers, monitoring and alerts, database security, and backup integration.
5. Data Encryption
Data encryption is a vital aspect of website security, as it protects sensitive information from unauthorized access or interception. Implementing encryption ensures that data transmitted between your website and users, as well as data stored on your server, remains confidential and secure.
This is why it is advised that you implement HTTPS for your website by obtaining and configuring an SSL/TLS certificate, as it encrypts data in transit, making it unreadable to anyone intercepting the traffic. Ensure that the SSL/TLS certificate supports modern encryption protocols and cipher suites while deprecating older, less secure ones.
For sensitive data stored on your server, such as account details, payment information, and any other confidential information, use encryption for them.
6. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Protection
Protecting your small business website from Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks is crucial to prevent attackers from injecting malicious scripts into your web pages. XSS vulnerabilities can compromise user data and the integrity of your website. Validate and sanitize all user inputs on your website, whether they come from forms, URLs, cookies, or any other source. Reject any input that doesn’t conform to expected patterns. Also, implement a Content Security Policy (CSP) to control which sources of content can be loaded on your web pages. This helps prevent the execution of unauthorized scripts. You can configure your CSP only to allow trusted sources and restrict the use of inline scripts.
7. Directory Listing
Preventing directory listing (also known as directory listing disclosure or directory listing vulnerability) is essential for website security. Directory listing occurs when a web server displays the contents of a directory when there is no default index file (e.g., index.html, index.php) present. Attackers can use directory listing to gain insights into your website’s file structure and potentially discover sensitive files.
To prevent directory listing, you must enable default index files. Ensure that each directory on your web server contains a default index file, such as index.html or index.php. These files are displayed when someone accesses the directory’s URL without specifying a specific file. In your web server configuration (e.g., Apache, Nginx), turn off directory listing by default. You can usually do this by setting the appropriate configuration option:
- For Apache, use Options -Indexes in your .htaccess file or server configuration.
- For Nginx, make sure you don’t have autoindex on in your server block.
- If you use a web hosting control panel (e.g., cPanel, Plesk), check for directory listing options and ensure they are disabled for your directories.
You can implement a Web Application Firewall that can block requests attempting to access directory listings. Additionally, regularly scan your website for directory listing vulnerabilities using tools like Nikto, Nessus, or manual testing.
8. Content Security Policy (CSP)
A Content Security Policy (CSP) is a security feature you should include in your small business website security checklist. It helps protect your website against various types of attacks, including data injection attacks and Cross-Site Scripting (XSS). It allows you to specify the sources of content (e.g., scripts, styles, images, fonts) that are considered safe and should be executed or displayed by the user’s browser. CSP adds an extra layer of defense by reducing the risk of code injection and other security vulnerabilities.
CSP uses directives to specify which resources are allowed and which are disallowed. Common directives include:
- default-src: Specifies the default source for all content types.
- style-src: Defines where stylesheets and inline styles can be loaded from.
- img-src: Specifies the sources from which images can be displayed.
- font-src: Controls the sources from which web fonts can be loaded.
- connect-src: Dictates the sources for network requests (e.g., AJAX, WebSockets).
- frame-src: Defines the sources for framing content (e.g., iframes).
- media-src: Specifies the sources for audio and video content.
- object-src: Controls the sources from which object, embed, and applet tags can load content.
Each directive can have multiple sources, and you can use ‘self,’ ‘unsafe-inline,’ ‘unsafe-eval,’ or specific domain names as sources.
9. Regularly Update Software
Regularly updating software is a fundamental practice for maintaining the security and functionality of your small business website and server infrastructure. Software updates, including operating systems, content management systems (CMS), plugins, and third-party libraries, often include critical security patches, bug fixes, and feature enhancements.
One major importance of software updates is that it helps to fix known security vulnerabilities. Always give top priority to security updates, addressing them as soon as they become available. This ensures that your security is always up to par in protecting your website.
10. User Access Control
Implementing user access control is essential for maintaining the security of your small business website. It helps ensure that only authorized users can access specific parts of your website or perform certain actions. While using this feature, avoid granting excessive permissions that could lead to security vulnerabilities.
If you have an extra budget, you can always get a cyber-security specialist to help you manage and oversee the security of your website. However, if your business is still in its infancy or startup stage, and you don’t have extra resources, you can carefully implement these points yourself. If you get stranded at any point, you can always go on YouTube and watch a video on it.