A Guide To Boosting Website Security

In a real brick-and-mortar store, it’s easy for customers to feel confident about making a purchase. They can see and interact with items, checking their condition and reading any specification lists. They’re also able to supervise the checkout process, ensuring that credit cards are used responsibly by the clerk. And then they leave, holding both a purchase and a receipt confirming the transaction took place.
Things are very different online. There’s no human interaction on a website and no way to build a rapport. Card details are typed into a web browser before being sent through the ether to a mysterious third-party platform. Unless it’s an immediate download, products are dispatched at an arbitrary future date, even though payment was instantly banked. It’s all very impersonal – and potentially alienating.

The Importance Of Keeping Your Customers Safe Online

The war against cybercrime has become one of the 21st century’s main battlegrounds, and the United States is on the frontline. In 2016 over a thousand data breaches were reported across the States, compared to just 38 in the United Kingdom. 
One in ten US consumers has experienced a cyberattack through their home network. While the government spent $14 billion on cybersecurity last year – a substantial amount – this is still less than the $16 billion American consumers lost to identity fraud alone.
Research from Symantec suggests 43% of attacks on businesses target small companies, so your startup or garage enterprise is as much at risk as high-profile victims like Equifax or Target. Keeping your customers secure is vital for your future prosperity, not least since 60% of small businesses cease trading within six months of a cyberattack. But how do you protect the general public against unseen (and constantly evolving) threats?

The threat is real

First, accept that your firm will eventually be targeted by cybercriminals. Most companies will find their website security being challenged sooner rather than later, even if firewalls or malware detection software successfully repel attacks at source. 
The best defense involves choosing a web hosting partner offering the latest protections. Midphase’s global data centers are staffed 24/7 by IT professionals and equipped with exceptional security measures. 
Meeting security compliance standards expected of banks and government institutions, our high-speed servers can withstand brute force DDoS attacks. Even if one server hosting your website goes down, we have copies of every file and folder in multiple online locations.

A united front

We can, however, only do so much to support website security on behalf of individual clients. Our customers also have a role to play, from choosing a robust website template to ensuring plugins and add-ons are kept up to date. Software revisions often address security flaws – if the developers know about vulnerabilities, hackers will have found out about them, too. Contact forms represent a known weak spot, but platforms like WordPress are loaded with low-cost plugins built to repel spam and reject attempts at gaining access to the site.
Effective website security extends into areas like SSL certificates, which enable websites to transmit securely across https protocols. It involves asking customers to use two-factor authentication for sensitive or financial activities. It means never asking people for their passwords in an email, and ensuring every inbound SMS or letter proves its authenticity. You can’t do much to stop phishing emails impersonating your brand, but you can repeatedly inform your customers they’ll never be asked for passwords or other sensitive information.
Customers recognize and appreciate efforts to keep them secure, and their loyalty to a firm will increase if it’s got their best interests at heart. Optimizing website security isn’t just a necessary evil – it’s a way of differentiating your brand from less conscientious competitors.

How to build customer confidence

Since neither of those adjectives will instinctively appeal to cautious consumers, it’s vital for website owners and administrators to build trust wherever possible. And as the only visible face of many modern brands, websites are the battleground where trust is won and lost. 
For an ecommerce platform to have any hope of success, it needs to convey appropriate sentiments and messages – both explicitly and implicitly. Every web page and transaction stage has to guide and reassure customers through each step in the process.
Below are five critical attributes required from a secure website, if customers are to feel confident about trusting it with their hard-earned dollars:

#1. Establish brand identity.

Use first-person terminology throughout the site, and publish an About Us page explaining the brand’s history. A ‘Who We Are’ page should include pen portraits of senior staffers, ideally below smiling photos. An FAQ ought to outline procedures for product returns and complaints, preferably written with a touch of self-deprecating humor. 
Send emails from named individuals rather than generic addresses such as ‘sales@’, and ensure that incoming messages are responded to in an equally personal fashion. It’s advisable to prominently list any association memberships or accreditations, ideally with logos.

#2. Incorporate SSL Certificates.

Although it was technically replaced in 1999 by the newer Transport Layer Security protocol, SSL is still used to describe a securely encrypted connection between a server and a terminal. Consumers recognize the three hallmarks of SSL Certificates – a green address bar, a padlock icon or an HTTPS domain. Midphase supports SSL installation via customer control panels, while SSL certificates are bundled in free with our Business hosting package. We will discuss SSL Certificates in greater detail later in this helpful guide. 

#3. Use a legitimate ecommerce gateway.

Almost as important as offering SSL Certificates, recognized ecommerce portals reassure people about submitting sensitive financial data. Delegating tax calculations and client account verification to a third party makes the retailer’s life easier, while customers are reassured by brands like PayPal or Amazon Payments. Optimized payment processing services are streamlined and reliable, accepting all major cards and dovetailing with ecommerce carts. Critically, gateways should be as robust on a 4G mobile device as on a PC or Mac connected to wifi.

#4. Extensively beta test before publishing the site.

There’s a well-known cliché about never getting a second chance to make a first impression, and it’s particularly pertinent with ecommerce sites. If a customer transaction fails significant reputational damage will ensue. Rigorously beta test every possible transaction variant, using as many browsers and devices as possible. 
Do form fields display oddly on Kindles? Do Linux-powered computers process payments faster than Chromebooks, and if so, why? What happens if a customer attempts to navigate back mid-checkout to add more items, or if their connection drops as payment is sent?

#5. Choose a dependable hosting partner.

You could host a website on a stripped-down PC, connected to a high-speed fiber line and left to its own devices. However, not only is this single-server setup prone to downtime, but it’s also relatively insecure. By contrast, choosing a firm like Midphase to host a website ensures security in dedicated data centers manned 24/7 by our data security experts. 
Cutting-edge servers and unlimited bandwidth keep sites live around the clock, while SiteLock malware detection software repels everything from bot attacks to hackers. Few businesses survive significant data loss, and today’s consumers are very aware of security issues. It’s best to attack security threats head-on and be prepared for whatever comes your way. 

Protect Site Visitors With A Quick Security Check

Running a website can be a lot of work. However, all your effort will be for nothing if your reputation ends up ruined by security flaws. Website visitors must feel secure while visiting your pages, especially if you are running an ecommerce website or online store. 
To be sure that your website security meets site visitors’ expectations, it is recommended that you perform periodic security checks. Run the security checks below against your website to weed out any vulnerabilities that may stop your website in its tracks. After all, the only vulnerabilities you can fix are the ones you know about.

#1. Are all of your website elements up to date?

Updating your website will fix any security slip-ups that may have developed since your last update. WordPress websites are especially vulnerable to update mishaps. The plugins you use for various tasks can effectively act as open doors for hackers if the latest version isn’t installed. Regularly scanning your website for anything that may be out of date can secure any of your accounts that might be risky.  

#2. Have you changed your passwords recently?

Changing passwords on a routine basis is a great idea for any account, not just websites. The best rule when creating passwords is simply the longer the better. Make sure that it is at least eight characters long (12 to 16 is even better) and that you are not using a word that can be directly found in the dictionary.
A popular tactic is to create sentences mixed with alphanumerics. For example, if your typical password is supersecure1, you could create the password 5up3r53cur34cc0unt (super secure account). The second password is far more secure because of the additional characters and because the words are not a dictionary in that format.

#3. Do you have an SSL Certificate protecting website visitors?

SSL Certificates work by encrypting data as it passes between the server where it is stored and your website visitors’ screens. You will recognize an SSL Certificate by the green lock on the left-hand side of an address bar. If the green lock symbol is present, then the site is secure against man-in-the-middle attacks, where data is captured while in transit. 
SSL certificates encrypt data and can only be translated by the proper recipient. Search engines frown upon any website not protected by SSL encryption. All Midphase web hosting packages include an SSL certificate to protect the personal information submitted by website visitors and to help your organic search value. See more about SSL Certificates below.

#4. Is your malware protector finding any trouble spots?

Midphase loves SiteLock malware detector. By installing SiteLock you can protect your website with daily scans of up to 2500 pages. SiteLock regularly performs website application scans, SQL injection scans, FTP scans, and file change monitoring. Employing professional malware protection puts your mind at ease, knowing that you are proactively securing your website on a daily basis.

#5. Are you protected against DDoS attacks?

Cloudflare is a service available in your control panel to boost speeds and protect against denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Remember that Cloudflare is absolutely free for Midphase clients. Simply add the service and you will supercharge your website to protect from hackers and spammers while simultaneously boosting website performance.  
Security may be the single most important aspect of your website’s reputation. One attack can deem your website as unsafe territory, and search engines will then prevent visitors from entering your digital space. By regularly scanning your website for any security flaws and vulnerabilities, you can prevent any security mishaps that could slow your traffic to a dead stop.

How Does an SSL Protect My Website?

One of the most economical and secure ways to protect your website is to deploy an SSL Certificate. You will gain the instant ability to roll out protected URLs with the http:// to show visitors you value their data protection.

How Do SSL Certificates Work?

If you are in doubt as to what an SSL Certificate can do for your website, consider this helpful explanation from Symantec. Below you will see the step-by-step process of establishing a digital handshake between a browser and a server.

How SSL Certificates establish connectivity

  1. A browser attempts to connect to a website secured with SSL
  2. The browser requests that the web server identify itself
  3. The server sends the browser a copy of its SSL certificate
  4. The browser checks whether it trusts the SSL certificate. If so, it sends a message to the server
  5. The server sends back a digitally signed acknowledgment to start an encrypted session
  6. Encrypted data is shared between the browser and the server

By installing an SSL Certificate, your site receives a permanent security guard and the additional level of security protects users in an online transaction and encrypts data during transmission. According to Symantec, an SSL Certificate provides you with a “trillion year head start over a hacker.” 
They explain that “at current computing speeds, a hacker with the time, tools, and motivation to attack using brute force would require a trillion years to break into a session protected by an SGC-enabled certificate.” The report continues, “To enable strong encryption for the most site visitors, choose an SSL Certificate that enables 128-bit minimum encryption for 99.9 percent of website visitors.”

Additional SSL Certificate benefits

  • Credentials to establish identity online.
  • Authentication generates trust in the credential.
  • Website visitors can see proof that you protect their data.
  • A green padlock in your website URL.
  • A URL beginning with http:// displaying your security settings.
  • Increased search engine optimization and higher placement in search engine results.

Get An SSL Certificate From Midphase

SSL Certificates on Midphase platforms are:

  • Signed by Comodo
  • 99.3% compatibility with browsers
  • 128-bit encryption

Don’t wait any longer. Be sure that your website enjoys the benefits of encryption. Avoid risking your website’s reputation as well as you and your customer’s data.