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Threats to website security are constantly evolving as hackers develop new techniques to exploit vulnerabilities. Site owners and administrators must stay vigilant and proactively protect their online platforms. A multi-layered security strategy is necessary to defend against common attacks such as code injections, malware distribution, denial of service efforts, and stolen credentials on user accounts.

A data breach can compromise sensitive customer information, damage a company’s reputation, and result in fines or legal issues if privacy regulations are violated. Cybercriminals are constantly developing new exploits, so site owners must remain vigilant through ongoing administrative, technical, and organizational security controls.

According to a report by security firm Akamai, web applications encountered over 26.8 billion suspected malicious login attempts and authentication attacks in the first half of 2022 alone (Akamai, 2022). This averages out to about 596 million login attempts daily, highlighting the widespread nature of these threats facing organizations online. The prevalence of compromised or stolen credentials also puts sites at risk of takeovers through credential stuffing attacks, where large databases of username and password combinations are tested for valid pairs.

Web security checklist:

Update software regularly:

Keeping all software and applications on your website up to date is one of the most important security tasks. Outdated software often has well-known vulnerabilities that hackers actively exploit. Make sure you are running the latest stable versions of your CMS (e.g., WordPress, Joomla), plugins, themes, libraries, and server software like PHP, MySQL, or Node.js.

Configure your CMS to automatically apply security updates and critical updates. However, before publishing, manually review and test standard updates to make sure there are no problems on your particular site. Assign a responsible employee to keep an eye on updates and implement them on time.

Taking a proactive approach to updates helps fix vulnerabilities before they can harm. Major breaches tend to involve unpatched systems, so maintaining updated software should be a high priority on your security checklist.

Use SSL certificates:

Enable HTTPS on your website by installing an SSL/TLS certificate. This allows the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol to be used to encrypt communication between the website and the browsers of its visitors. Sensitive data, such as login credentials, payment information, or profile data, cannot be read or intercepted when sent over an unencrypted HTTP connection. Verify your domain ownership during validation and configure the certificate on your web server. Ensure the certificate is renewed before expiration to maintain continuous HTTPS encryption.  Search engines like Google are now ranking HTTPS sites higher in results. Having the HTTPS padlock and “secure” text in browser address bars also builds user trust. So, establishing HTTPS is important both for security and visibility. Make sure it’s properly implemented across your whole site, including subdomains and authenticated pages.

Scan for malware:

Just like anti-virus software protects computers, websites also need regular scanning to check for malware infections. Use a security plugin specifically designed for your CMS to actively scan uploaded files, database records, and theme/plugin code for any malicious code.

Regularly scheduled scans are ideal, such as weekly, to catch any new threats promptly. On-demand scanning is also useful when new files are added or after theme/plugin updates. Configure alerts to notify you of any findings requiring cleanup or restoration from backups.  Keep an eye out for common malware signs – unexpected file modifications, injection of crypto miners or spam scripts, redirection to scam pages. Isolate and clean up infected files right away. Scanning helps remove existing infections before they spread to other visitors through drive-by downloads.

Restrict file permissions:

Tightly control permissions on important website files and folders through your server’s file system. The goal is to allow only necessary modifications by the correct user or group.

Also, deny execute permissions on folders containing code to prevent attacks abusing PHP/Python/Perl scripts. Use a security plugin to simplify setting secure permissions and deploying updates. Proper file ownership and permissions provide defense against vulnerabilities that rely on modifying system software or resources.

Enforce strong passwords and limit login attempts:

It is crucial to enforce secure password policies and limit repeated login attempts to strengthen your website’s defenses. Require all user passwords to be complex, at least 12 characters in length, and unique across accounts. Administrators should implement two-factor authentication for added protection of privileged access. As humans are often the weakest link, educate users about basic password security practices. After a set number of failed login attempts, such as 5 within an hour, CAPTCHAs should be shown to prevent these force attacks. Lock both user and admin accounts temporarily if more attempts occur, such as 10 fails in an hour, until manually unlocked by a site administrator.

Combining these measures raises the bar for hackers while still allowing authentic users access through simple CAPTCHAs or temporary locks instead of permanent blocks. This dual approach enhances password security and limits the impact of credential stuffing or brute-force login attacks.

Back up regularly:

Routinely backing up your website is critical in case files become corrupted, hacked, or deleted accidentally.

Always test recovery of the latest backup to ensure restoration can succeed before needing it in an emergency. Consider backing up to an off-site location as well for additional security through a service that backs up directly to the cloud or your secure storage drive.

Keep at least a month of backups stored offline and labeled to simplify rolling back. Delete older archives to stay within space constraints if needed. A good backup routine provides important protection for times when files are not restorable through other means like version control. Restore testing confirms backups can fulfill their critical role.

Validate user data and inputs:

Validating user-submitted data and inputs is critical to maintaining the security and integrity of a website. All form fields should be verified for required information before allowing submission to ensure incomplete data does not clutter the database. Data types like emails, URLs, and numbers should also be checked for valid formats.

It is also important to protect data by removing special characters, truncating long texts, and encoding outputs to prevent cross-site scripting attacks. Sensitive fields like passwords warrant additional backend checks for sufficient length and complexity rules. File uploads must be limited to approved file extensions and sizes to block malware. Comprehensive validation at frontend and backend interfaces is crucial for input security and data integrity.

Use secure cookies:

Proper security of cookies is important for any website that utilizes user sessions or authenticated areas. All cookies containing sensitive data should be configured with the “secure” flags to prevent their transmission over unencrypted HTTP and shield against cross-site scripting attacks respectively.

Strict access control using solid admin credentials is also key to managing backend areas interacting with cookies. Educating users on basic practices such as closing all browser tabs when finished enhances the overall security of the session implemented through cookies. Comprehensively configuring these technical controls and user guidelines reduces the risks of cookie theft, hijacking, and cross-domain vulnerabilities.

Protect against DoS:

Denial of service attacks aim to overcome website resources and make services unavailable. Implementing proper precautions can help mitigate these risks. A web application firewall and content delivery network provide effective first layers of defense by filtering malicious traffic and absorbing large loads.

Keeping core files, plugins and libraries up to date also prevents exploitation of known vulnerabilities in DoS tools. Restricting large file uploads and prohibiting archives helps control the consumption of disk and memory. A multifaceted approach combining intelligent traffic management, restrictions, caching, infrastructure resilience, monitoring, and patching aids in withstanding volumetric attacks intended to overwhelm resources.


Implementing a comprehensive security strategy through technical, administrative, and user-focused controls is essential for protecting a website and its users from the ever-growing threats posed by hackers. Following the wide range of recommendations outlined here – from securing server configurations and monitoring logs to enforcing strong access controls, input validation, encryption, backup procedures, and updating software regularly – establishes layered defenses that create multiple hurdles for would-be attackers to overcome. While perfect security may not be possible, diligently applying best practice guidelines appropriate for your specific setup raises the bar significantly against the most common exploits and intrusions. Ongoing maintenance through security patching and user education also remain important. With a proactive, diligent approach and defense-in-depth mentality, sites can better safeguard their data, systems, and online communities from harm.

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