13 Best Website Security Practices You Must Know in 2019
As the number of online users increases, businesses also need to establish their online presence and image. Thus, websites play a crucial role in establishing and maintaining the online presence of this business. Like traditional business, these websites need to store extensive data about the organization – company profile, annual reports, event details, contact information, etc. But if websites does not comply with the best website security practices, misfortunes occur.
In addition, not having the adequate resources to combat cyber-attacks, they become sitting ducks to these cyber-attacks due to their numerous security vulnerabilities. If these situations continue, it shall inspire many cybercriminals to carry out attacks on web application and website which can cause severe damage to an organization's business health.
So, we have put together the best website security practices in this blog. Read till the end.
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Contents of This Guide
- 1 Importance of Website Security
- 2 Best Website Security Practices: The List
- 2.1 1. Update software
- 2.2 2. Strong password policy
- 2.3 3. Use HTTPS / SSL encryption
- 2.4 4. Validate User Input Data
- 2.5 5. File and Data Management
- 2.6 6. Permissions must be carefully distributed
- 2.7 7. Scan your website for security vulnerabilities
- 2.8 8. Use DDoS mitigation service
- 2.9 9. Use the Address Verification System (AVS) and Credit Card Verification Value (CVV)
- 2.10 10. Regularly Test Configurations
- 2.11 11. Obscure the header information
- 2.12 12. Secure the web server processes
- 2.13 13. Usage of secure cookies
- 3 Conclusion
Importance of Website Security
In an era where enormous chunks of data are being processed by different types of websites, the concept of best website security practices is of great importance. The figure below shows the percentage of websites belonging to different industries and sectors which fail OWASP Top 10 website security vulnerabilities.
Best Website Security Practices: The List
Hence to secure websites from such vulnerabilities, we present a checklist of countermeasures that organizations must follow in order to secure their online presence. They are:
1. Update software
The software running on the web servers must be updated as and when a stable update has been released by the software manufacturer. This way, any unpatched security loophole present in a website would get fixed and the services would run without any harm.
2. Strong password policy
The passwords that are being used by the website to carry out authentication activities must be created in such a manner that it makes cryptanalytic or brute-forcing almost impossible. Use of multi-factor authentications also help. Also, there must be a strict rule to update the password after a regular interval of time in order to enhance the security of the web server and checking on users with mal-intentions.
3. Use HTTPS / SSL encryption
All the pages of the website must hold valid SSL / HTTPS protocol certificate. If not the whole website, at least the web pages that contain any sort of user authentication forms or user input forms. This way, the connection remains secure and the data from forms gets securely transmitted.
4. Validate User Input Data
The data that is being accepted by a website through any sort of form must be validated to ensure that there are no commands being run to carry out XSS or SQL injection attacks. Use well-implemented stored procedures rather than open queries to carry out transactions over the database. This is structural, hence must be practiced during development and updating of website back end.
Also, there must be a strict check of the type of file being uploaded onto your website. There are chances that your website can be compromised if a hacker uploads a PHP shell through any of your upload section and then access the directory of the website. They may tamper and deface the website which could cause disruption in your website performance.
5. File and Data Management
The website files must be backed up either over an online resource such as a cloud server or an offline medium such as hard disk drives or offline servers. The website administrator must also get rid of the files that are no longer in use and are junk. This way, the server on which the website is running becomes light and a cybercriminal cannot DDoS the website by sending PHP requests.
6. Permissions must be carefully distributed
In case a website is being used by different users who are supposed to have different user privileges, then the website administrator must divide the roles carefully so that the right user gets the right amount of privileges. The internal security can be attained through this measure.
7. Scan your website for security vulnerabilities
The website must be scanned frequently by the security engineer or website administrator and any component or activity that seems unusual must be reported by users and scrutinized by the security in-charge. There must be checks for disabling of insecure cipher suites, proper usage of SHA256 for encryption purpose and proper usage of SSL certification.
8. Use DDoS mitigation service
The website administrator must use load balancing software and APIs such as Cloud Flare and F5 Load Balancer to secure the website from any DDoS attack. The unusual surges in traffic over the website must be also be scrutinized and the traffic must be monitored in regular intervals. The website admin must monitor fake traffic surges and prevent damage caused by bots. Also, there must be periodic validation of network and application’s security.
9. Use the Address Verification System (AVS) and Credit Card Verification Value (CVV)
Websites that deal with financial transactions must implement the best practices of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS) strictly. Any carelessness may cause an irrevocable data breach and reputation damage.
10. Regularly Test Configurations
Regular testing of configurations of hardware and software is mandatory in order to detect any unusual behavior. Also, they help in checking the presence of any security loopholes that might be existing in the system or in the code.
In order to enhance the security of the web server, it is important that the configurations are tested on a regular basis against the company's policy. This will help the IT teams an opportunity to fix security loopholes, push data centers to standardize their processes and streamline their workflow. The process of streamlining would help in stronger visualizations and make the decision delivery process more agile.
Configurations of the web server can be tested and improved through updating parameters such as port number or process details in the .conf file. The server's hardware configurations can also be tested for compatibility with various other peripherals and hardware devices. The connections of these devices with the server would provide us with the behavior pattern and analyze which of these devices would be healthy for our website server or not. There are automated configuration testing solutions available for configurations such as HIPAA or PCI.
11. Obscure the header information
The header information that is being transmitted over the connection must be obscured and must not present any identifiable information to visitors. If header information is available over the internet or in specific to the hacker, then it would lead to compromisation of the website security. Since this is not the default configuration, hence most web production servers would possess the headers available, probably unknowingly.
12. Secure the web server processes
The processes that are running on the web server should not run as root or Local System. The default user settings must be changed based on the OS that the server is running. In the case of Linux, processes must have dedicated privileges. In Microsoft systems, the permissions for local or administrator user must be carefully distinguished upon. This way, the eventuality of a compromised web server with compromised resources will reduce.
With so much abundance of data on the internet, it becomes the responsibility of an organization to store and process them in a secure fashion. The only medium through which these organizations can reach out to the global audience is through a website. Hence, whenever a website is being designed, security aspects must be carefully discussed. Because it has been rightly said that prevention is better than cure and thus if a website is secured by following the above measures, then it reduces the burden over a website administrator and makes customers and users relieved about the security of their data.
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By using a combination of HttpOnly cookies and SSL encryption, the information your website stores remains private and secure. The HttpOnly cookie would disable any imposter from client-side to carry out XSS attacks on a user. If your website fails to use safe cookies, then a third party could easily intercept a cookie sent to a client and masquerade that client to the web server. If SSL is deployed over the entire website, then no cookie would be delivered over unencrypted connections.
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If you have ticked the above mentioned the best website security practices, your website will automatically become more immune to cyber-threats. For advanced protection, you can install a web firewall on your website which will confer to your website a continuous & comprehensive monitoring of your website. One such firewall is offered by Astra Web Security. Astra's Firewall is known to block SQLi, XSS, CSRF, bad bots, OWASP top 10 and 100+ other cyber threats.
In addition, the firewall is tailored to protect against known CVE's. It also detects visitor patterns on your website & automatically blocks hackers with malicious intent.