- Jul 14, 2020
- by Brad Litwin
Protecting your platform against hackers is a complex but necessary task for running a successful website. There are many factors that influence cybersecurity, and overlooking any one of them may result in devastating consequences.
Fortunately, there are several clear steps you can take to protect your site from malicious intent, many of which require minimal effort or investment. By securing your users’ data as well as your content, you’ll also protect your reputation.
In this article, we’ll first discuss why your site may be vulnerable to hackers. Then we’ll explore just a few of the ways you can protect your site from malicious intent, including Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and SQL injection prevention. Let’s go!
Why Your Website May Be Vulnerable to Hackers
One of the reasons website security is both important and difficult to implement is that there are a wide variety of ways malicious hackers can harm your site. Some of the most common attacks include:
- Brute force attacks: Hackers user bots to repeatedly test random login credentials until they gain entry to your site.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks: Bots are used to cause high-traffic volume that overwhelms your site’s server, causing it to crash.
- SQL injection: Used to retrieve sensitive information from your website’s database.
- Malware: Malicious code hidden in your site’s files, which may infect your users’ browsers and/or computers, steal data, or otherwise compromise your site’s security.
However, these are far from the only ways hackers sabotage websites. For instance, they may also gain access to your content or data through vulnerabilities in third-party software, such as WordPress plugins.
Additionally, shared hosting can sometimes cause security concerns. If another site on your server becomes compromised, it’s possible the attacker will be able to gain access to your site as well. This is why some prefer to use a Virtual Private Server (VPS) for added protection.
This list is by no means exhausted, but we can only cover so many potential threats in one post. Fortunately, you can find many other articles related to website security on the A2 Hosting blog.
3 Methods to Protect Your Site from Malicious Intent
Just as we can’t cover every possible website security vulnerability in this post, we also can’t provide a comprehensive list of security tips. There are simply too many to consider! Instead, we’re going to discuss three ways to protect your site from malicious intent that you may have overlooked.
1. Enable 2FA to Prevent Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks, especially on your website’s administrator account, can give hackers complete access to the back end of your site. There, they wreak havoc in a variety of forms, including stealing data, hiding malware, or destroying content.
A quick way to stop a brute force attack in its tracks is to implement 2FA on your site. This security method requires users to authenticate their identity in multiple ways before granting them access to your site.
Each user will still have a username and password. However, they’ll also set up a secondary authentication method. Some of the most common ones include:
- A text message containing a code the user must enter on your site
- An email containing a code the user must enter on your site
- An app that will send a push notification asking the user to confirm their login attempt
You can configure 2FA to work for every login attempt or just ones from unfamiliar IP addresses. Either way, hackers need a valid user’s login credentials, and also their email password or their physical smartphone in order to get into your site – an unlikely scenario.
You may also want to set up 2FA for your hosting account. After all, it contains your billing information as well as details on how to access your server.
2. Protect Against SQL Injection With a Web Application Firewall (WAF)
SQL injection occurs when malicious actors enter SQL code into a form on your website. This may include your login page, a contact form, or even the comments sections of your blog posts.
When the form is submitted, your database processes the input. This is a very simple way for hackers to add or run malicious code to your database. In some cases, this returns sensitive data the hacker wants, while in others it may destroy your database entirely.
One of the simplest ways to prevent SQL injection is to set up a WAF. Your firewall will filter out any malicious strings so that SQL injections never reach your database.
At A2 Hosting, we make setting up a WAF for your site easy. We’ve partnered with Sucuri to provide quality security features to our customers:
Sucuri’s firewall uses data collected across its network to spot suspicious activity and shut it down before it harms your site. You can easily log in to your A2 Hosting account and contact us to add this feature to your account.
3. Avoid Displaying Detailed Error Messages On Your Site
Detailed error messages can be helpful for troubleshooting issues on your website as well as for development purposes. However, they can also share your website’s vulnerabilities with hackers who can then exploit them and gain access to your site.
Here’s an example. Say a malicious user attempts to access a file in your site’s directory they don’t have access to. If the resulting error message simply reads, “File not found”, the attacker doesn’t have any additional information that might help them accomplish their goal.
However, an error message such as “access denied” tells the user that they’ve found the file’s location, and just need a way to break in to retrieve the data they want. They might be able to trigger other error messages to learn more about your site’s directory structure, too.
Triggering error messages yourself is a simple way to test whether they might reveal information that could be beneficial to hackers. However, a detailed code review by a developer is the only way to be entirely sure that more intricate errors are not sharing key details.
A solution for this is to prevent PHP errors from displaying in users’ browsers. You can accomplish this by adding the following directive to your .htaccess file:
php_flag display_errors off
Of course, you’ll need to remember to save your changes once you’re done.
Stopping attacks against your website is not always easy, especially because there are so many different ways for hackers to gain entry. However, by following a few simple best practices, you can create a well-rounded security strategy.
In this post, we’ve covered a few ways you can protect your site from malicious intent that you may have overlooked:
- Enable 2FA to prevent brute force attacks on your site and hosting account.
- Protect against SQL injections with a WAF.
- Avoid displaying detailed error messages that might give hackers hints about potential weaknesses in your site.
Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.