Checklist to Ensure Your Website Is (Almost) Hackproof

Secure website sketchLet's be honest! There's no silver bullet to make a website completely hackproof. But yes, we can harden its security to the level that it becomes almost impossible to break inside the secure zone. Majority of web servers use a similar combination of software layers. We're going to look at some of the important factors and methodologies to ensure our website is not vulnerable to malicious intents of the hackers. As I said before, complete immunity from getting hacked is not possible. The following checklist can be followed by a simple guideline to encourage a thorough check of your existing website security measures. Some of the security measures mentioned here are already configured by the web host while others must be implemented by the website owner. Let's quickly go through this important list.

Secure website sketch

Web Server Is Your Weakest Link

Often website owners take all the measures to secure their website code from hackers. All these measures are generally related to the content management system they're using. Unfortunately, your website is as secure as your web server. Despite taking all the measures from your end, your website can easily get hacked if the web server on which it is hosted has some weak link.

Seasoned hackers almost always try to exploit loopholes in the web server configuration. If your hosting company has hardened the security of their servers, the next obvious target is the hosted website itself.

Before signing up for any hosting plan, you must inquire about the security measures they've taken to avert any hacking attempt. If they try to bump your question, it's a clear signal; security of clients' servers is not a prime issue for them. In such cases, it's better to move on to the next web host.

Updated Software Is the Key

Every software contains bugs that are targeted by hackers to penetrate into servers. Developers continuously patch these bugs and shortcomings through new versions of the software. Same applies for various content management systems used by millions of users. That's where some of the webmasters fail by not updating their website software when required.

This also applies to plugins, add-ons and similar helper software that is used in conjunction with the primary website running software. If you want a secure website, keep every layer of software updated to the latest version.

Malware Scanning At Both Levels

Malicious code can often be injected into your website sitting quietly for a long time undetected. It can explode under specific circumstances bringing down the entire website or in some cases an entire server. There are two channels or levels this bad code can be detected and removed preemptively.

The first one is of course at the server level where most of the times; it's the responsibility of the web host to scan for malware. The second step involves website owners to thoroughly check the software for any malicious code before they upload it to the server. One of the best services to do this is Sucuri Security that scans, detects and removes malware from the website software.

Enforcing Strong Password Policy

No matter how secure is your web server and the website configuration, weak login credentials can help intruders gain unauthorized access to your online home. Every now and then, you can hear stories of thousands of accounts getting hacked simply due to weak passwords are chosen by their owners.

The solution to this problem is to formulate a strong password policy. It's not just about creating a strong password, but also about how frequently you change it and store it in a safe location. And beware! Do not generate identical passwords for all your online accounts.

Preemptive Monitoring

You cannot run malware checking scripts continuously on your web server. Apart from periodical malware check, create a monitoring mechanism that continuously checks the health of the server resources and your website up time. There are dozens of powerful web server monitoring systems that can help you automate this task quite easily.

Another effective method to keep an eye on suspicious events or actions happening on your server is to go through raw server logs. These logs help you mine out micro-level events that may raise suspicion.

Blocking Bad Neighborhoods

Several well-known spam bots and such malicious systems continuously scavenge internet looking for vulnerable websites. The best strategy to deal with them is to block them preemptively. There are several methodologies to do that.

One of the popular ways to block these bad intruders is to use .htaccess file. This significantly reduces the probability of your website getting hacked. Apart from the regular .htaccess method, there are several other methods to block spam bots in the form of plugins and add-ons available for prominent content management systems.

Use Encryption - Wherever Possible

If you're planning to run a data sensitive website for lots of vital business information, it's always advisable to encrypt the entire traffic (both ends) through a secure and stable mechanism. Remember, encrypting communication cannot prevent hacking attempts. It is used for protecting sensitive data that can be used to attempt unauthorized intrusion.

Membership websites and eCommerce stores are two of the most common candidates requiring secure and encrypted connections. The easiest way to do that is to use a SSL certificate to let users use HTTPS connections for secure data transfer.

Backup, Backup & Backup

And last but not the least, taking regular backups of your websites keeps you prepared to restore your website as soon as possible once it's down due to a hacking attempt. There are countless website backup strategies that can be employed to safeguard your critical site content.

But, simply taking backups is not enough. You must perform mockup restoration exercise on a dummy site to see how quickly and effectively the backed up content is pushed back again for the visitors.