Cybercriminals and Internet fraudsters are singling out e-commerce sites and blogs of small businesses for their unscrupulous attacks. Nevertheless, as a business website owner, you can enact some simple precautions to thwart the evil designs of these unwanted intruders.
The “Fort Disco” Botnet’s Brute-Force Tactic
Both small business networks, as well as, their websites are under relentless attack. Recently, in a synchronised attack labelled “Fort Disco”, cybercriminals employed an ingenious, 25,000-node botnet of contaminated Windows systems to scrutinise the Internet for susceptible business websites. The hackers then used a small selection of common passwords in their attempt to guess the administrative password of these small business websites.
The Perils of Using Under-Strength Usernames & Passwords
Most of the websites that succumbed to the brute-force used in the Fort Disco attack had been built on Datalife Engine, Joomla and WordPress. Even though this tactic was only marginally successful, this campaign netted over 6,000 sites that used “Admin” or “Username” as their Username and “123456”, “12345678”, or “password” as their Password.
Cybercriminals are Intent on Gaining Access to Your Server
While stealing money remains the number one objective of cyber criminals, they do look to misuse small enterprises’ resources, as well. You need to recognize that your blog runs on a server. You have to understand that even if there’s no particularly useful content in the blog itself, cybercriminals will make desperate attempts to gain access to the server that hosts your blog.
Focus on Protecting Your Enterprise’s Online Assets
As a budget-conscious small business owner, protecting your online assets may not be your priority. Therefore, using a hosted Web service, not merely a hosting provider may resolve this issue. Acclaimed services such as Blogger, CopyPress, TypePad, and WordPress offer website-in-the-cloud facilities for small businesses. Nevertheless, these service providers leave many of the administrative tasks unattended that makes your business website vulnerable to attack. Here, you need to acknowledge that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for your enterprise’s Web Hosting needs.
At Aykira, we take superlative care of the security needs of your business website. Our superior Hosting Service attends to all the administrative tasks of your business website and safeguards it against attacks by cybercriminals.
Precautions to be Taken to Strengthen the Security of Your Business Website
Regardless of whether your enterprise runs its own Web service or uses third-party service, following the precautions listed below strengthens your enterprise’s Web security.
Precaution #1: Use Strong Password to Safeguard Administrative Access
In the current high cybercriminal activity environment, using a simple password leaves your business website vulnerable. The websites that succumbed to the brute force Fort Disco campaign used trivial passwords, such as, the website’s domain, 123456, admin, dictionary words, or 12345678. Even an amateur hacker can successfully pass through this security check swiftly.
A strong password or a more reliable two-factor authentication minimizes the risk of your business website’s vulnerability against attacks that exploit this lowest hanging fruit. Numerous plug-ins permit two-factor authentication; however, website administrators need to work a little bit harder. If for any reason, you cannot implement two-factor authentication, incorporate symbols or miscellaneous characters into your password to make it immune to attacks by brute-force password applications.
Precaution #2: Take Domain-Name Service Seriously
Another key area of a small enterprise’s online presence is the DNS (Domain-Name Service). Small enterprises need to manage and safeguard their own domains. Besides, they need to protect the certificates they rely on, as well.
Most often, small enterprises purchase their domains and don’t give much thought to who’s managing or running it. Here, you need to understand that a cyber criminal who compromises a registrar account steals the identity of literally any website.
At Aykira, we organise and safeguard your enterprise’s domain name registration using either an extra PIN code or two-factor authentication.
Precaution #3: Configure Your Web Services Once, Patch Multiple Times
You need to configure your web services ─ on-premise or hosted ─ placing utmost emphasis on security. Many small businesses get their WordPress installation functional. Subsequently, they fail to secure it or patch it regularly.
Small business owners install WordPress on their Web servers using default Red Hat or default Ubuntu. They don’t understand the significance of removing unwanted services or locking down the essential ones. For instance, the vital SSH (Secure Shell) must never be left open to the world.
Once you have configured WordPress properly, you need to patch and update your website regularly. A publicly linked Web server operating on a susceptible version of an acclaimed content management system has a restrictive lifespan.
Precaution #4: Implement Adequate Web Form Security
The most vulnerable spot of a small business enterprise’s website has been its contact or comment form. Hackers submit malicious code via this route and attempt to exploit the website’s backend software vulnerabilities. Larger enterprises have become wise to this ingenious infiltration strategy. They have successfully thwarted the attempts by hackers to exploit this loophole by implementing form security. All form inputs are validated before submission. Malicious codes are rejected outright or automatically stripped before they hit the server.
Unlike large enterprises, small businesses have been slower in securing their business website forms. If you’ve committed this blunder in your website design, you’re vulnerable to potential current and future attacks. You need to pair security certificates and form verification with every path of administrator contact and user interaction presently included in your website’s design.
Precaution #5: Increase Your Vigilance Level
Not being adequately vigilant hurts the security of your website. You must monitor the access reports and server logs of your website constantly. You’ll be able to recognise trends, identify break-in attempts, and spot key security vulnerabilities.
Besides posting fresh content and making new designs, website administration also includes monitoring your website activity and access to combat hackers. Preventive maintenance and vigilance thwarts content loss, data theft, and other serious issues.
Precaution #6: Avoid Cheap Hosting
With numerous sub $2 hosting packages to choose from, it’s no wonder that small businesses succumb to this overwhelming temptation. Nevertheless, as far as the services of these Web hosts go, you merely get your money’s worth.
These Web hosting enterprises typically pack infinite number of Websites on one server. Website load times are excruciatingly slow, and this hurts your business terribly. If a server crashes (they do often, unfailingly), and your hosting enterprise lacks redundancy, your business website crashes, too. With inexpensive hosting service, the responsibility of backing up your website lies squarely with you. Hence, a server crash can hurt you doubly.
IP address is another contentious issue associated with inexpensive shared hosting. You share your IP address with hundreds of other website owners. This could cause grave loss to your business if Internet spammers and cybercriminals share your server for carrying out their nefarious activities. It’s possible. Cheap hosting attracts them.
It’s akin to establishing your business bang in the centre of a seedy location. If an “adult” business in your neighbourhood is raided, the entire neighbourhood is shut down. Hence, the Websites sharing the common IP address get hit ─ including yours.
At Aykira, we eliminate all the administrative headaches involved in the maintenance of your business website. We take care of the configuration, update schedules, and backups. We monitor your server logs and access reports, too. We pair your website’s security certificate and form verification with every path of administrator contact and user interaction. We scrutinise the source code of your website to spot security flaws that may permit unauthorised access.
Why WordPress Core is Absolutely Secure?
The WordPress security debate needs to be cleared up ─ permanently. Despite the scepticism and hatred, the core of WordPress is unquestionably one of the most reliable and secure platform to put your business website on. Full Stop.
The Spotless Track Record of WordPress
Since February 2013, the WordPress core has been entirely free of any major vulnerability. For over a year, the WordPress team has ensured that its core has not suffered any vulnerability across any of its up-to-date installation on all the hosting enterprises across the Internet. In open-source software, this is unheard of, unprecedented, and phenomenal.
If you’re still doubtful and unconvinced, that’s perfectly understandable and reasonable, too. At times, it’s difficult to pay no attention to rumours. I have developed a safe WordPress plug-in and spent close to two decades learning the most recent methods of augmenting Internet security. Nevertheless, I’ll merely dig into this deeper and present some facts.
The Origin of the WordPress Security Issues
In 2009, a series of security vectors in WordPress were exploited. The web publishing community criticised WordPress relentlessly for this string of security lapses. The Internet acknowledged that WordPress could grow exponentially. Bloggers directed their ire at WordPress hoping that its team would respond by making it secure enough for its burgeoning user-base.
The Internet was merely goading WordPress to make its security bulletproof for end-users before it got overly popular.
The Exemplary Response of WordPress
In the ensuing months, the response from WordPress core developers was exemplary. They tightened up security and released patches to ensure that WordPress was the most secure CMS on the Internet. All this happened almost five years ago. In terms of technological modernization, this period is an eternity.
The Summer of 2009: Red-Letter Period of WordPress Innovation
The WordPress core team unveiled a series of 4 groundbreaking security patches within a few weeks. The team systematically dealt with the remaining security vectors swiftly. Shortly thereafter, the WordPress codebase resembled Fort Knox.
The Problems That WordPress Website Owners Faced During This Period
Website owners had to update whenever WordPress released a security patch. And this was quite often. Totally, six . It began with WordPress 2.8.1 on 9th July and ended with WordPress 2.8.6 one week prior to Thanksgiving. This is undoubtedly plenty of updating ─ by any yardstick.
Ignoring the Most Recent Update Proved Perilous
Even though updating WordPress has always been uncomplicated, updating once in a few weeks can be painful. Each new security update necessitates testing the update against themes and plug-ins before pushing it “Live”. The next update cycle meant repeating everything.
Remember, software is only as secure as the most recent version; you cannot neglect updating the latest version.
Nevertheless, in the latter half of 2009, everyone wasn’t updating ─ at least, not regularly. Several of the out-of-date business websites got hacked. I handled a ton of cleanup jobs for my clients during this period. This is precisely the reason we emphasise the importance of keeping your business website up-to-date. Up-to-date software guarantees website security. Out-of-date software continues to remain a sitting duck for hackers.
Implementing the Latest WordPress Updates Offers Immunity
Even in the recent brute force, large botnet “Fort Disco” attack, WordPress website owners who had set strong passwords, were vigilant about website security, and were running the most recent version of WordPress core remained unscathed.
WordPress Security: A Shared Responsibility
Business website security is unmistakably a shared responsibility. It involves you, as well as, WordPress. WordPress will play its part ─ to perfection. Remember to do yours, too.
There’re a few simple but indispensable measures that website owners must stick to for ensuring optimum security. Staying vigilant about security, setting strong passwords, and having the most recent version running are elementary. We’ll discuss a few mistakes you’ll need to avoid making in WordPress.
Common WordPress Mistakes & Their Solutions
Discussed here are the most common errors that WordPress users make. I have provided solutions for each one of them to help you fix them.
Mistake #1: Not Changing the “Username”
This expensive mistake falls under two categories. In the first category, business website owners use “admin” as their Username. Since “admin” is the favourite Username that small businesses opt for, hackers target these “easy-to-hack” websites first.
Solution: Never choose “admin” as your username. If you’ve already chosen “admin” as your WordPress username, follow these simple steps to change.
- Use your admin account and login to your WordPress admin panel.
- On your dashboard panel, under the “users” area, click “Add New User”.
- Complete the form and select “administrator” in the “Role” option. Enter a strong password. Check its strength.
- Click “Add New User” after you finish.
- Login once more by using your fresh WordPress administrator username.
- Go to “Users” area.
- Select the box of your old “admin” username. Tick this box and choose the “Delete” option.
- Next, you’ll be questioned about the content posted under the old “admin” username. Choose the option “attribute posts & links to:” and opt for your fresh administrator password. Later, click “Confirm Deletion”.
In the second category, business website owners retain unused user accounts. For instance, whenever you hire a webmaster to add content to your WordPress website, you must remove the temporary account after the service ends.
Solution: Delete a user account you don’t need any longer.
Important Tip: Ensure that the admin username that’s displayed is different from your real WordPress username. This is especially important if your admin user posts content. This ploy thwarts hackers effectively.
Mistake #2: Not Backing-up Your Website
Website hosting service providers do backup your business website. Nevertheless, this backup is primarily for their benefit. All your backup files are inevitably jumbled together in one particular server. Besides, your service provider may not perform backups to match the precise moment you incorporate changes to your business website.
Solution: Log in to your website’s cPanel. Execute a full backup. Do this regularly.
Mistake #3: Creating Numerous Categories
The architecture of your business website affects its SEO. Numerous categories hurt your website load time.
Solution: “Tags” is a key feature of WordPress. The “Tag” option is similar to the “Category” option. It permits you to group posts depending on your keywords. Restrict the use of categories and use tags generously to group different posts.
Mistake #4: Ignoring the Most Recent WordPress Updates
This can cause immense damage and loss. WordPress releases updates for safeguarding website security. Ignoring them can be detrimental for your business.
Solution: Check your WordPress Dashboard for any fresh updates. An alternative solution is using Softaculous for installing WordPress. Softaculous will send you email notification whenever there’s a new WordPress update for the installed scripts.
Mistake #5: Ignoring the Most Recent WordPress Plug-ins
Plug-in developers release updates for your benefit. Many WordPress users miss out on the great features of some exceptional WordPress plug-ins. For instance, if your business website uses innumerable images, you will experience slow load time. To resolve this issue, install a caching plug-in to reduce the image file sizes while maintaining the quality of your images.
Solution: Check the features of the new plug-in before your download it.
At Aykira, we have released a FREE PLUG-IN for WordPress that handles setting up Google Analytics.
Mistake #6: Retaining Unused WordPress Plug-ins
Many WordPress users make the mistake of retaining unused plug-ins on their websites. Redundant plug-ins merely slow down your website load time.
Solution: Retain only the plug-ins you use actively on your website. To accelerate your business website load time, you must remove all redundant WordPress plug-ins.
At Aykira, we focus on working with you closely to advance your business interests. We take superlative care of the security needs of your business website. Our reliable, superior Hosting Service attends to all the administrative tasks of your business website and safeguards it against attacks by cyber criminals.