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A Security Checklist for Web Developers (5 Points)

  • Nov 04, 2020
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  • by Brad Litwin

No matter how strong your development skills are, having a web security checklist is crucial. It’s common for web professionals to pay more attention to design, functionality, and other immediate concerns. However, if your top-tier solutions aren’t secure, you’ll have a hard time keeping clients.

With the increasing menace of hackers online, web security has become an even hotter topic than ever before. This is why you’ll want to provide secure authentication and encrypt all connections on your web development projects, along with following other best practices.

In this post, we’ll share a web security checklist for developers to help foolproof your applications. However, we’ll first quickly examine why security should be a top priority. Let’s get started!

Why Web Security Is Important in Development

It’s estimated that a cyberattack occurs somewhere on the internet every 39 seconds. What’s more, about 68 percent of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing. When malicious software infects a website, it can easily gather data or even hijack all its computer resources.

In other words, attackers can gain access to sensitive data that belong to both existing and new site visitors. Apart from stealing their information, automated hacking tools can also infect computers. Due to the thousands of new malware created daily, you’ll need to stay at the top of your game to keep your site – and your clients’ – continuously protected.

The financial impact of web attacks is significant as well. It’s generally way more expensive to carry out a site cleanup that it is to keep online assets protected. Since a lot of user information is at risk during cyberattacks, companies stand to lose huge sums of money in the process.

In fact, data breach costs are now said to exceed 20 percent of a business’ revenue on average. It’s also believed that cybercrime will cost the world approximately $6 trillion dollars by 2021. Even if you manage to contain the financial and technical damages caused by cyberattacks, your customer base will still be affected negatively.

On average, it takes about 314 days to fully contain a data breach. Your site may be down most of this time and your customer loyalty and credibility will take a significant hit. Some organizations lose as much as 20 percent of their customer bases in the process.

With all these important factors at risk, it becomes imperative to pay close attention and protect your projects. Let’s consider the standard web security checklist we recommend you follow in order to maintain a tight ship.

A Security Checklist for Web Developers (5 Points)

Building your clients’ websites with security in mind will save you, your clients, and their sites’ end-users a great deal of trouble. Here’s a five-point web security checklist that can help you keep your projects secure.

1. Choose a Secure Web Host

The security of your websites and applications begins with your web host. It’s almost impossible to have a secure project if your provider doesn’t use hardened servers and properly managed services.

When choosing a web host, it’s important to compare your options based on how well they manage their servers and what tools they offer to safeguard your projects. Although it’s almost impossible to offer 100 percent assurance, a secure provider will generally provide the following:

  • Secure Operating System (OS) and software
  • Reliable backups and restore functionality
  • Support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol
  • Industry-standard uptime
  • Malware scanning and protection
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack mitigation
  • Firewall implementation

Typically, web hosts enlist SSL certificates as one of their main offers. This feature is critical for encrypting the connection between your website’s server and visitors’ browsers. Another feature your web host must include is the ability to scan for malicious software.

For e-commerce site owners, it’s important to consider your web host’s compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standard. This protects customers’ information for all types of card payments. If your host does not support it directly, then it must be compatible with other third-party providers of PCI-compliant shopping cart APIs.

2. Encrypt All Connections and Secure User Logins

Once you’ve chosen a secure web host, the next point you need to consider is encrypting all your connections. This is especially important for websites that require any form of registration or transaction.

As we already mentioned, using an SSL certificate is a prime place to start. You can further secure your site by implementing Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS).

Protecting pages requiring authentication should also be a major priority. Incorporate a highly protective password standard that requires users to register with secure credentials.

It is also important to store passwords on your site using strong encryption. Technologies such as ‘bcrpyt’ make it impossible to retrieve passwords in the event of a data breach.

Likewise, if auto-registration is enabled on your site, be sure to provide only unique, unpredictable usernames. Other equally important factors to consider include OAuth implementation and password reset tokens.

3. Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

A WAF is an extremely powerful tool that can save you and your business a great deal of hassle. It’s very useful for detecting and preventing attacks, especially from automated bots.

The primary use of a firewall is to monitor Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) traffic, which is significantly more susceptible to security risks than HTTPS traffic. Our ModSecurity firewall and similar tools efficiently mitigate common attacks such as SQL injections, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), cross-site forgery, and more.

In essence, when you deploy a WAF, a shield is generated between your web application and the internet. Every web client must pass through it before reaching the server. A set of pre-defined rules filters out malicious traffic and protect sites from vulnerabilities.

4. Keep Your Database Secure

Another security loophole hackers can easily exploit is the website database. Typically, you’ll have to store a lot of information (about your business and customers) on your web application’s server. However, make sure to store only the data you truly need.

Always treat sensitive data such as credit card details, email addresses, and other identifying information as carefully as possible. It can become costly if mismanaged. As a rule of thumb, endeavor to encrypt all data that identifies users.

Some low-cost options to consider include encryption at rest such as Amazon’s AWS Aurora. This will efficiently secure on-disk data. Similarly, you may want to curate a list of all the tools you use for storing client information. This may include databases, document systems, GitHub, Dropbox, and more.

If you or your business is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you’ll want to dedicate time and resources to fully comprehend and adhere to its requirements. Google lost a whopping $57 million thanks to this in 2019. These policies may apply differently to various web development projects.

5. Try to Hack Yourself

The last box you need to tick on this web security checklist is to try to hack your own project. Since this is what attackers and their bots aim to do, the best way to stay ahead of them is to try it first. Hacking yourself is a way of self-auditing your web applications to see how they fare against common cyber attacks.

You can start by performing penetration testing. Also known as a ‘pen test’, this involves attempting to breach your application systems (APIs, servers, etc.)

Even after testing your own app, you may also want to run it by other developers and beta users to explore its functionality beyond normal use. You can consult this detailed Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) checklist to see various ways to test your projects.

Conclusion

For every business to be truly profitable on all online platforms, top-notch security is an important factor that must be catered to. As a web developer, it’s your duty to deliver this on all your projects.

Let’s take one more look at the important points you’ll want to bear in mind to secure your web development projects:

  1. Choose a secure web host.
  2. Encrypt all connections and secure user logins.
  3. Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF).
  4. Keep your database secure.
  5. Try to hack yourself.

Are you currently facing any security challenges on your website? Check out our other blog posts and knowledge base for more tips!

Featured Image Credit: Unsplash.

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