Don’t Let Hackers Bring You Down!

Security Tips for Small Business Websites

The internet can be a confusing place for the small business owner or entrepreneur to be in 2020. You’ve got a business to run and in many cases, you really don’t have the time, the energy or the knowledge to figure out what’s working or not working on your website. On a Monday morning the last thing you want to be questioning is whether or not people are visiting your website, if it’s showing up on Google, if the shopping cart works, and was that shade of green you chose for the home page the right one. It’s a lot to try and keep up with. 

One question that seems to slip through the cracks with most small business websites and blogs is the question about online security. Does your website have the proper measures in place to keep your site and your data secure and safe from hackers? This is, no doubt, an important subject, but it’s probably not the first thing on your mind. Why is this? 

The most common thought process in regards to the issue of website security is something along the lines of, “Well, there’s no way my business is anywhere large enough to attract that kind of attention.” Or maybe, “Hackers won’t pay any mind to a dinky little site like mine.”

Security is a real problem for businesses of ALL sizes

But the harsh reality of the situation is that no website is truly safe from hackers. Way back in September, 2013, Forbes put out a report stating that there were over 30,000 websites being hacked on a daily basis. By last year, that number had TRIPLED to 90,000 sites per day. And many small business owners mistakenly believe that hackers have no interest in their websites, simply because they aren’t conglomerates or Fortune 500 companies. 

A 2019 SMB Cyberthreat Study conducted by Keeper Security found that 66% of senior decision-makers at small businesses don’t think they will be the target of online criminal activity. 60% Have no digital defense plan in place at all. Unfortunately, the 90,000 websites a day that are getting hacked are predominately legitimate small businesses. In fact, according to Security magazine, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds.

So, you’re probably wondering, why do hackers hack?

There are a variety of reasons why hackers hack. The list includes stealing services or valuable data, using your computer for everything from storage for illicit material to using it as part of a DDoS attack where many computers are controlled in an attempt to bring an individual computer or network down, credit card fraud, and hacking for a publicity stunt. There are cases where hackers are just hacking for the challenge, thrill, and excitement of the act itself.

As an owner or manager of a website, what kind of hacks and safety threats do you have to be concerned with? 

Here are the 6 attacks most commonly used hacker attacks and security threats:

  • Distributed Denial Of Service (DDOS)

These types of computer attacks are usually aimed at networks. They try to bring it down by flooding it with requests and “pings,” which causes resources to shut down or crash.

  • Trojan Horse

This type of hack is software disguised to look like something else, like freeware or shareware, and is installed by you on your system. Trojan Horses usually contain a “back door,” which allows someone to enter your system and control it.

  • Virus

Most common type of hack, a virus spreads itself over and over again in an attempt to destroy or attack the host system.

  • Worm

A combination of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and a virus attack, a worm replicates itself while consuming resources until the system finally overloads and crashes.

  • Infected Websites

These are malicious sites that use certain technology to trigger your web browser to perform unwanted functions in your system.

  • Phishing Schemes

One form of malicious code hackers can plant into unsuspecting websites could actually change the content of your site by adding spam or additional pages. This is usually done as a phishing scheme, to trick users into parting with personal data and credit card information. 

These kinds of hacker attacks can really hit your website out of left field, and cause serious issues for your online business. Hackers aren’t slowing down either, cybercrime is actually more profitable than the worldwide illegal drug trade. The profit from illegal drug activities amounted to approximately $400 billion annually. Compare that to the $600 billion cybercriminals earned in 2018, as reported by Cybersecurity Ventures. Don’t say it can’t happen to you!

So the big question for small business becomes, how can you protect yourself and your website from these kind of attacks? There are simple procedures that can add a layer of protection to your site and make it harder for hackers to get in.

Top 5 ways to protect your website from security risks and hacking attacks:

  • Use reputable companies when creating/hosting your website

Purchase or use themes and plugins from known authors and companies with good reputations and positive feedback. Free is great, but there is a lot at stake here, so you really need to know the various companies you’re dealing with. Also be sure that all of your software, themes, and plugins are up-to-date.

  • Use SSL encryptions

If you’re passing personal information like credit card data, make sure you’re using an SSL to encrypt your web traffic. 

  • Perform regular scans of your website to test for malware and security threats

Use a web hosting company that is providing additional security measures to keep your web properties safe. At a minimum, they should be performing scans of your website to test for a variety of malware and security threats. You can also use a third party company like Sucuri that regularly scans your website for malware, hacks, and blacklist status. Plans start at $199 a year.

  • Back up your website on a daily basis

Make daily backups up your website and any online data or files, in case you need to restore it in the event of an attack or ransomware, where your accounts and networks would be held hostage for large sums of money. Website backups are not just for protecting yourself in case of a hack. Unfortunately, stuff happens. Files accidentally get deleted, hardware hiccups and fails. You never know when you could be in a situation where you would need to do an emergency restoration of your entire website. If you’ve spent more than a couple hundred dollars on a website, you should be backing things up on a regular basis. Regular backups should be done daily or more frequently, depending on how often you change information on your site. If you are serious about your online presence, you need to protect it, and step one is always having a backup of your site you can get your hands on at a moment’s notice.

  • Monitor your website for uptime and performance

A top notch hosting company should have website monitoring as part of their service. It’s possible that different types of monitoring might be available at different levels of service. If you’re not sure exactly what your hosting company is offering, be sure and ask. In case your web host doesn’t offer website monitoring, you can sign up for a service on your own. There are different types of services to monitor if your website is available. Pingdom, starting at $42.12 a month, monitors your site for uptime, page speed, and transactions to help you gain insight into your website’s performance. If something goes wrong, you can get an email or a text message on your smart phone alerting you to the problem. An easy to read uptime report gives you a clear-cut overview of your site’s performance over a selection of dates.

Every website owner or manager should ponder the question, “What would the cost be to my business if my site went down due to a hack?” Another consideration is how badly would your reputation be damaged if your site leaked sensitive data about your customers or infected their computers?

Every small business website should be kept secure, and checked for possible threats or breaches on a daily basis, no exceptions! If this seems like a lot to process and think about (after all, you’ve got a business to run), look for a web hosting environment that builds these types of security checks and safety procedures into their service packages. Yes, it can cost a bit more on the front end, but it can highly reduce your chances of getting hacked and having to deal with the downtime of cleaning up an infected site. 

Follow these steps to keep your website safe from hacks and security threats. 

If you’ve had a security breach on your company’s website, share your experience and suggestions for helping others stay safe.

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