Cyber attacks have become increasingly rampant in the past few years, with the attacks becoming more dangerous and sophisticated. These progressive security breaches on websites and web servers belonging to companies, government agencies, small businesses, and individuals have continued to elicit fear amongst these institutions.
The thought of having hackers gain access to your data and infiltrating systems can be traumatising. Unfortunately, the prevalence of cyber attacks continues to expand globally. Over 50% of companies across the world experience cyber attacks in a single year, while 43% of all cyber attacks are launched against small businesses every year.
“We are giving away too much biometric data. If a bad guy wants your biometric data, remember this: he doesn’t need your actual fingerprint, just the data that represents your fingerprint. That will be unique, one of a kind.” — Mike Muscatel, Sr. Information Security Manager, Snyder’s-Lance, at Secure World Boston
The state of cyber crime in the world verifies the need to have web security to curb cyber criminals from infiltrating your website and web servers. And although hackers have a myriad of exploits that they use to attack your website, there are methods that you can employ to secure your web server. This guide will provide you with basic knowledge of what you need to do to achieve web server security.
Common Cyber Security Threats
Hackers are very inventive. They are always looking for new ways to breach your website security and gain access to your data and secure information. Some of the common cyber security threats that you are likely to encounter include;
● Computer Viruses
One of the most prevalent cyber security threats is a computer virus. One study has revealed that over 33% of computers used in homes are infested with computer malware, most of which are computer viruses. A computer virus is designed to alter the functionality of a network without permission. The virus replicates itself throughout the computer to cause damage. It performs a self-execution by attaching itself to a file or program. Viruses gain access to computers through downloads, email attachments, or even file sharing. These viruses can cause damage equivalent to stealing or corrupting data, breaching passwords, formatting your hard drive, and sending spams.
● Phishing Attacks
A phishing attack masquerades as a legitimate person or entity with an intent to steal data, passwords, financial information, and other login credentials. This attack often appears in the form of text messages, instant messages, or emails. The attacker lures the recipient of these messages or emails to click on sent links. Clicking on these links gives cyber criminal access to credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, and critical organisational data. Phishing attacks have been some of the most successful cyber security threats used by hackers to steal funds and making unauthorised payments.
● Trojan horse
Hackers develop a Trojan horse attack as malicious software hidden behind a legitimate program. Victims of Trojan are tricked in a social engineering format where they can run it on their systems willingly. This can be in the form of an email from a trusted source encouraging you to click on a given attachment. Once Trojan is loaded and executed into your websites or web servers, it offers cybercriminals access to your data through the backdoor. They also gain access to passwords and webcams. Trojan viruses exist in numerous formats, and they are known to be the basis for most computer worms and viruses.
● DDoS and DoS Attacks
In terms of the way they work, a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are similar. The difference is that while a DoS attack uses a single internet connection and one computer to attack one system, a DDoS attack uses multiple internet connections and computers. In these attacks, legitimate users are denied access to a website by hackers who flood the attacked website with packets. Usually, the flooding entails numerous requests than the server can handle forcing the server to shut down.
While a DoS attack can be managed once detected, it is impossible to control a DDoS attack. Unfortunately, once attackers achieve to make a DDoS attack, your web server and computers become vulnerable to malware. This means that cybercriminals can have access to every sensitive data to your company or business.
● Spyware Threat
Spyware is malicious software that is installed in your computer without your consent. This malware monitors your browsing patterns and online activities. On this basis, spyware will install a program on your computer which is accompanied by ads or pop-ups. This program contains keyloggers which are used to capture personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and email addresses. Often, spyware and adware clauses are written under the Terms and Conditions agreements when installing a particular program. It is vital to read through these agreements to ensure that your web server and systems are safe from cyber attacks.
How to SetUp a Secure Web Server
Securing a web server is not easy, but there are always steps that you can take to boost your web security. Here are some seven tips on how to get started in securing your web server.
● Have Secure Passwords
People are always inclined towards using passwords that are easy for them to remember. But that is where the security problem begins. It is typical to find people who use the same password across every account that they own. A recent report indicated that over 81% of data breaches in companies were as a result of using weak passwords. Some employees reuse passwords at their place of work.
What this means is that a breach of one platform would give way to hackers to breach all the other platforms with that same password. It is essential to enforce a culture of strong passwords, especially when it has to do with your website. Most companies, today, are adhering to the recommended password practices and requirements to ensure that employees use strong passwords. A strong password should belong, with a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. It also demands to avoid the use of personal names and predictable characters such as 123456, which remains to be the most common password of all time.
● Use a Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A VPS acts as a standalone dedicated server which has own server resources and operating system. The aspect of hosting your website on a VPS means that the server dedicated for your website is reserved only for you. A VPS runs as a server within another server. This provides you with a balance of privacy, affordability, and security. Shared hosting is not similar to VPS hosting. Shared hosting means sharing one or more servers with other servers, which is not a secure option.
● Use HTTPS
Using https protocol not only improves your website’s ranking on search engines such as Google but it also considered to be trustworthy and secure by consumers. The transfer of personal information and data between the server and your website is more secure when an https protocol is used and combined with an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. This is because the https protocol prevents cyber criminals from changing or intercepting the content being transited within online platforms. Without https, they can steal data and information such as passwords and usernames by manipulating one of the page user’s information available on the website.
● Keep Your Software Up to Date
Keeping your software up to date is a basic safety requirement. Whether a third party developed your software or you developed it yourself, your website must run on updated software. Using an outdated version of your software makes it vulnerable to cyber attacks. Hackers are always screening through websites to see whether they can trace an unsafe software. Updating your software releases patches as well as fixing security flaws which hackers use to infiltrate your systems. Software updates also fix bugs, glitches, and holes in the code which form a basis of exploitation by hackers.
● Evaluate Your Hosting Plan
Web hosting is a crucial aspect when it comes to web security. Receiving a secure server from a reliable web hosting provider means that you will enjoy security around the same level as well. There are two basic plans of web hosting, include regular hosting and shared hosting. Regular hosting is where your web application runs on a dedicated server that is reserved for your website only. Shared hosting, on the other hand, is hosting where a web application runs in a server together with other web applications for other websites.
A shared server is a good choice because it is relatively cheaper and affordable. However, when security is a concern, regular hosting should be the ultimate choice. This is because the fact that a server is shared amongst various websites, in the event of a cyber attack, the effects of the attack will be distributed across all the websites. Regular web hosting is ideal because you will have full control over the decisions made as it pertains to your server. Sometimes web hosting providers of shared hosting make decisions that are likely to place the security of all websites in jeopardy, something that can be avoided.
● Code Reviews
Insecure codes can expose your website to attacks such as SQL injection. Performing code reviews regularly will help you to cover loops and flaws that make your web and web server vulnerable to cyber attacks.
● Regulate File Uploads
Allowing web users or visitors to upload files to your website can place it at risk of receiving vulnerabilities such as computer viruses, worms, or the trojan horse. Some of these exploits hide behind files, which could be beyond control once they infiltrate your systems. If uploading files is a requirement for your website, you can redirect all uploaded files to a folder in a separate location.
Websites and web servers cannot be entirely secure as hackers are always on the move for new methods to breach web securities. However, you can make it difficult for cyber criminals by implementing most of the security measures indicated in this article.