Recent studies have indicated that over 50% of hacking incidents are targeted toward SME business’ websites, and over 45% of website owners do not exercise security measures on their websites. Therefore, if you are a business owner, you should pay sufficient attention to ensure your website is protected against cyberattacks. You should never underestimate the impact of cyberattacks and start to prioritize website security before it affects your SEO Performance. Let’s take a closer look on some of the most common website security issues, how they impact you as a business owner, and how you can enhance your website’s security to minimize the risks caused by these cyber threats.
Top 3 Website Security Issues & Vulnerabilities
Here are the most common website security issues encountered by SME business owners:
1. SQL Injections
A programming language known as Structured Query Language (SQL) enables users to access stored data on a particular site at a quicker speed. SQL is the commonly preferred language of database management by website platform providers. Unfortunately, although it has a certain degree of security, malicious parties can still use it to exploit your site.
How SQL Injections Affect Your Site
Hackers can directly access and modify your website’s database during an SQL injection. In addition, they are able to generate new accounts on your site and conduct other malicious acts, such as adding unauthorized links and content onto your website, edit and delete data from your site. As most blogging site platforms are created to promote community-like engagement amongst users, these sites are more vulnerable to such attacks. For example, when the site visitors submitted their information through lead forms or contact forms, and fields of payment details, SQL injections are made possible where hackers enter information in these forms to submit the code that will run and make changes from within.
SECURITY TIPS: Be sceptical and scrutinize any form submitted through your website!
As there could be “visitors with bad intentions” who try to submit information directly into your SQL database. You can restrict special characters in any type of submission from site visitors. Reducing the use of symbols helps decrease the risk of malicious codes being inserted. Security plugins and Captcha from your site’s provider can also help to minimize attempts of SQL injections.
2. Cross-Site Scripting
When cyber attackers put malicious code into the backend code of their targeted websites, it is known as Cross-Site Scripting (XSS). It is quite similar to SQL injections, but XSS mainly aims at planting code that will run in your files to affect your web page’s functionality.
How XSS Affects Your Site
Hackers can post camouflaged links to another fake website or display a forged contact form to steal information from the site visitors if they successfully gain access to the front-end display of your web page. For example, plugins such as website display themes are outdated or not well maintained. In that case, hackers can take advantage of this issue to gain access to files controlling your website’s front end.
SECURITY TIPS: Staying updated at all times is the key!
Ensure the core plugins and themes are always running on their most updated versions, and be cautious when running any third-party software on your website. You can also use the web application firewall (WAF) to prevent XSS, which filters the traffic to obstruct unapproved visitors from outside networks going into your system. You can look for trusted WAF plugins to protect your website from SQL injections, XSS, and other relevant cyberattacks.
3. Broken Authentication & Session Management
Many websites require users to sign in to their accounts through username and password before users can use the services provided by these websites or purchase products via these sites. When users sign in with their respective usernames and password, each user will be assigned a unique session ID which acts like a key to the user’s identity on the server. Without proper security, cyber attackers can easily imitate a valid user to access that user’s account, which causes broken authentication and session management issues.
The Impact of Broken Authentication & Session Management
To explain more thoroughly, when a user signs in to a website, information has to be sent between the visitor and the server. Unencrypted information (e.g., session ID or visitor credentials) sent as plain text will increase its chances of being intercepted by attackers who, in turn impersonate the visitor. Such a situation can quickly occur when operating on a public network (e.g., wi-fi in a café or shopping mall) that runs a higher risk of being intercepted.
- Never Display Visitor’s Session ID in a URL: Anyone with access to the URL can access the session.
- Pre-set Session Logout Time: You may pre-set an automatic session logout timing, for instance, 1 or 2 minutes of idleness or inactivity. The session length depends on the type of services you offer on your website.
- Set a Stronger Password & Authentication Policy: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and Passkeys (e.g. biometrics or PIN) are practical ways to protect your users from password compromise. In addition, you can encourage users to create a stronger password by setting a more stringent requirement (e.g. set minimum password strength, password needs to be renewed every 6 months, barring of common passwords, limit the number of failed sign-in attempts, etc.)
5 Reasons Why Website Security is Crucial
Here are 5 valid reasons why you should kickstart your website security measures immediately:
1. Your website may be as vulnerable as other sites
Studies have shown that an average of 30,000 websites are targeted by hackers daily. This means that your website is also at risk of cyberattacks. In addition, an unsecured website is subject to credibility loss and the risk of penalty from Google.
2. Google may backlist your website
Once a website gets backlisted by Search Engines due to credibility loss, the site will lose up to 95% of its organic traffic.
3. A negative impact on your website’s SEO ranking
Google is likely to suggest your website to users if it is secured, which will affect your SEO ranking.
4. Customer data leaked
A website hacked will lead to customer data and information being leaked, resulting in a loss of credibility and business reputation from your customers.
5. Loss of trust from your customers
Customers will be less likely to revisit your website if viruses have attacked them after browsing your website.
Case Study: A Hacked Website and Its Consequences
What happen: The website was detected with a malware issue
Impact: The SEO performance dropped dramatically
What to do:
- Request the website developer to remove the malware injection
- Submit the malware URL link in Google Search Console
Main Concerns: The longer the issue is left unattended or not rectified promptly, the SEO ranking will significantly decrease. Worst case scenario, Google will bar the entire website where users can no longer find it on the search engine! This means SEO performance needs to be re-start from scratch!
In summary, here are some essential practices to enhance website security:
Install SSL certificate: Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) gives an extra layer of protection from hackers accessing information from the website.
Install security plugins: The security plugin prevents and protects from cyberattacks. It will also detect & notify any unusual activities on your website.
Use strong passwords: With the advancement of technology, more than 5 or 6 passwords are required to protect your site. Create stronger passwords to keep hackers away!