Website Threats & How to Make Your Website Secure

Website Threats & How to Make Your Website Secure
Published
Oct 19, 2023

Website security is an essential practice to ensure the integrity, availability, and confidentiality of online resources, guarding against potential cyber threats and attacks.

What is website security?

Website security pertains to safeguarding websites and the data they store or transmit. It encompasses measures designed to shield networks and computer systems from potential harm, which can manifest as theft of data, software, or hardware damage. Additionally, web security aims to prevent the misdirection or disruption of services that websites are meant to offer.

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These protective measures involve a multifaceted approach. First, they entail fortifying the underlying infrastructure by implementing robust firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and secure coding practices. Encryption technologies are used to safeguard data in transit, ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential.Β 

Regular updates and patches are vital to address vulnerabilities in software and keep systems secure. Access control mechanisms are also employed, limiting who can make changes or access certain parts of a website. Lastly, continuous monitoring and swift incident response protocols are crucial to detect and mitigate security threats promptly.

Why website security is important?

Website security is not just a technical concern, it is essential for protecting sensitive data from unauthorized entities, safeguarding against revenue loss, maintaining a positive reputation, complying with legal requirements, preserving customer trust, and preventing the escalation of cyber threats.Β 

Having a secure website is of paramount importance for several compelling reasons:

Data protection – Secure websites safeguard sensitive user information, such as personal details, login credentials, and payment data. This protection is vital for maintaining trust and ensuring that confidential information remains private.

Preventing data breaches – A secure website mitigates the risk of data breaches. Data breaches can lead to financial losses, legal liabilities, and damage to a company's reputation.

Trust and credibility – Internet users expect their online interactions to be secure. When visitors see signs of security, like the padlock icon in their browser's address bar, they are more likely to trust your website. Trust is a cornerstone of online success.

SEO Benefits – Search engines, like Google, prioritize secure websites in search results. Having an SSL certificate and using HTTPS can improve your website's search engine rankings, making it more discoverable.

Protection from malware – Secure websites are less susceptible to malware infections. Malware can harm both your website and your visitors' devices, leading to a poor user experience.

Regulatory compliance – Many regions have stringent data protection laws and regulations. A secure website helps you comply with these rules, reducing the risk of legal penalties.

User experience – Secure websites tend to load faster and provide a smoother user experience. This can lead to higher user satisfaction and increased engagement.

Mitigating downtime – Security measures can protect your website from DDoS attacks and other threats that could cause downtime. Downtime can lead to missed opportunities and lost revenue.

E-commerce security – For online businesses, website security is critical. Secure payment gateways and customer trust are essential for the success of e-commerce operations.

Brand reputation – A secure website reflects positively on your brand. Customers are more likely to engage with and recommend businesses they perceive as safe and trustworthy.

Common website security areas you should care about

We assume you read many article regarding the website threats, and how to make your website secure and so on, but never saw the same cyber threats in two articles. That’s because there are many web security areas that depend how important are they for the specific type of websites/businesses.Β 

Here is a list of 8 web threats you should know about;

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1. Cross-site scripting (XSS)Β 

Cross-site scripting is a security vulnerability that allows attackers to inject malicious code into a website. To solve this issue and make your website secure against XSS threats, web designers should implement thorough validation and sanitization of user inputs and ensure proper output encoding to prevent malicious scripts from executing within the user's browser.

XSS occurs when a web application fails to properly verify and sanitize user input. This can take several forms, including input fields, URL parameters, and cookies. When an online application shows user-supplied data without verifying or escaping it, an attacker can inject malicious scripts that execute within the context of the user's browser.

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cross site script, cyber threats, webflow security, wedoflow
Cross-site scripting scenario

Imagine this scenario;

Imagine a website as a restaurant. The menu items on the website are like user inputs, and the customers (users) can write their own reviews (inputs) about the food they've tried. Now, if the restaurant doesn't check the reviews for any harmful substances or objects before serving them to the public, someone with malicious intent could slip in a review that says, "Try the soup, it's 'toxic' in a good way!" The word 'toxic' here is the malicious script, and the website, in this case, doesn't realize it's harmful.

To solve this issue, the restaurant (web designer) should have a strict quality control process in place. They should thoroughly examine every review, ensuring that it doesn't contain any hidden 'ingredients.' This is similar to input validation.Β 

Additionally, they should serve the reviews on the plate (webpage) in a way that customers can't accidentally ingest any harmful 'ingredients.' This is similar to output encoding. Just as a restaurant has rules to ensure the safety of its customers, a website should have security measures in place to protect its users from malicious scripts.

How to Solve XSS website security

Here a few approaches to addressing XSS security concerns:

  • ‍Rigorous input validation – It's essential to implement thorough validation and sanitization of user inputs. Scrutinize and cleanse all user-provided data to eliminate any potentially malicious characters or scripts. Employ server-side validation to reject any suspicious content before it reaches the user's browser.
  • ‍Proper output encoding – Before displaying content created by users, ensure it's adequately encoded to prevent the browser from interpreting it as executable code. This involves converting special characters like < and > into their corresponding HTML entities.
  • ‍Implement Content Security Policy (CSP) – Establish a Content Security Policy specifying trusted sources of content. This helps in reducing the risk of loading scripts from untrusted origins.
  • ‍Adherence to secure coding practices – Encourage your development team to follow secure coding practices. Utilize modern frameworks and libraries that inherently guard against XSS vulnerabilities, ensuring robust protection.

By addressing XSS vulnerabilities in this manner, web designers can fortify their websites against malicious script injections, creating a safer and more trustworthy online experience for users.

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2. SQL code injections

SQL code injection is a security vulnerability that arises when untrusted data is improperly integrated into SQL queries. To enhance website security against SQL code injections, use parameterized statements, validate user inputs, and employ proper data escaping techniques to prevent SQL interpretation.

This vulnerability occurs when a web application doesn't adequately validate or sanitize user inputs. An attacker can insert malicious SQL commands within user input fields or parameters intended for database queries.Β 

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SQL injection

These commands, if executed, can give the attacker unauthorized access to the database, manipulate or extract sensitive information, and even delete or corrupt data.

An allegoric example;

Let us imagine your website as a library, and you have a librarian (the web application) who manages requests for specific books (data) from a vast repository (database). Visitors (users) can ask the librarian to fetch books based on certain criteria (input). Now, SQL code injection would be akin to a clever intruder slipping in a fake book title (malicious SQL command) among the legitimate requests.Β 

If the librarian blindly accepts and fetches that fake book (executes the SQL command), it could lead to chaos in the library, with books disappearing or being rearranged. This demonstrates how a vulnerability can be exploited to disrupt the orderly operation of the library.

How to Solve SQL Code Injection Website Security

Here's a professional approach to mitigate SQL code injection:

  • ‍Parameterized statements – Utilize parameterized statements or prepared statements provided by your database framework or programming language. These statements ensure that user inputs are treated as data and not executable code, making it nearly impossible for an attacker to inject malicious SQL commands.
  • ‍Input validation – Rigorously validate user inputs. Reject any input that doesn't conform to expected formats or is suspicious in nature. This can serve as an initial defense against injection attacks.
  • ‍Escaping data – When input needs to be integrated into SQL queries, employ proper data escaping techniques. This means converting user-provided data into a safe format for inclusion in SQL statements, which prevents SQL interpretation.

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3. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DDoS is a cyberattack where multiple compromised devices, often part of a botnet, flood a target website or server with an overwhelming volume of traffic. The goal is to render the targeted resource inaccessible to legitimate users, essentially causing a digital traffic jam.

DDoS attacks occur when attackers want to disrupt or temporarily disable a website or online service. This can happen for various reasons, including cyber extortion, competition sabotage, or even as a distraction while carrying out other malicious activities.

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Denial of Service – DDoS

To protect your website from DDoS attacks and maintain web security, mitigate this threat by employing traffic filtering, load balancing, and content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure only legitimate traffic reaches your website.

Think of your website as a popular coffee shop. During peak hours, customers queue up to get their favorite brew. Now, imagine a DDoS attack as a group of pranksters forming a human chain right at the entrance, blocking the path for genuine coffee enthusiasts. It's like suddenly having a massive crowd in front of your shop, preventing real customers from getting in.

To solve this, the coffee shop owner could have a bouncer (traffic filtering) at the entrance who identifies and filters out the pranksters, ensuring only coffee lovers get in. Additionally, the shop could have multiple entrances (load balancing) and a network of servers that can replicate the coffee-making process (CDN) to serve more customers quickly.

How to solve DDoS website security

Mitigating DDoS attacks requires a multi-faceted approach:

  • ‍Traffic filtering – Employ specialized DDoS mitigation tools and services that filter incoming traffic to identify and block malicious requests. This helps ensure that only legitimate traffic reaches your website.
  • ‍Load balancing – Implement load balancers to distribute traffic across multiple servers. This can help absorb the impact of a DDoS attack and keep your website accessible.
  • ‍Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) – Utilize CDNs to cache and distribute content across a network of geographically dispersed servers. This reduces the load on your origin server and helps absorb traffic spikes.

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4. Ransomware

Ransomware is a malicious software that encrypts a victim's data or entire system, making it inaccessible. Attackers demand a ransom, usually in cryptocurrency, in exchange for a decryption key that can restore the data. It's a digital hostage situation.

Ransomware strikes when cybercriminals want to extort money or cause disruption. Victims often unknowingly download malware through infected email attachments, malicious links, or compromised software. Once executed, the ransomware encrypts files and demands payment for their release.

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Ransomware scenario

Imagine this scenario;

Imagine your website as a vault storing precious artifacts. Ransomware would be like a gang of virtual burglars breaking in, locking up the treasures with unbreakable locks, and demanding a hefty ransom to release them.Β 

To solve this, think of the vault as being equipped with multiple layers of security - vigilant guards (email security), backup copies of the artifacts (regular backups), and a quick response team (security software) to thwart the burglars' plans.

How to solve Ransomware website security

You can take these measures to prevent ransomware and maintain website security:

  • ‍Regular backups – Maintain up-to-date backups of your website and data. If attacked, you can restore your website without paying the ransom.
  • ‍Email security –  Educate users to avoid opening suspicious emails and attachments. Implement strong email filtering and security systems.
  • ‍Security software – Install and update antivirus and anti-malware software to detect and prevent ransomware.‍
  • User training – Train employees and users to recognize and report potential threats.‍
  • Patch management – Keep all software and systems updated to fix vulnerabilities exploited by ransomware.

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5. SSL/TLS encryptionΒ 

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and its successor TLS (Transport Layer Security) are cryptographic protocols that ensure secure communication over the internet. They encrypt data transferred between a user's browser and a web server, safeguarding it from interception or tampering.

SSL/TLS encryption is employed when sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal details, or financial data, is transmitted between a user's device and a web server. It's crucial for securing online transactions, protecting user privacy, and ensuring data integrity.

ssl/tls encryption of website security, web threats, wedoflow
SSL/TLS encryption

Picture your website as;
A letter being sent via postal service. Without SSL/TLS, it's like sending that letter without sealing it in an envelope. Anyone along the way could easily read or tamper with the contents. However, when you use SSL/TLS encryption, it's as if you're placing the letter in a secure, tamper-evident envelope and ensuring that only the recipient has the key to unlock it. This way, you're guaranteeing the confidentiality and integrity of your message, just as SSL/TLS does for your website's data.

How to Enhance Website Security with SSL/TLS Encryption:

To enhance website security with SSL/TLS encryption:

  • ‍Obtain an SSL/TLS certificate – Acquire a digital certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority (CA) for your website.
  • ‍Install and configure the certificate – Properly install the certificate on your web server and configure it to enable HTTPS, ensuring a secure connection.
  • ‍Use HTTPS – Make sure your website serves content over HTTPS instead of HTTP. This guarantees that data exchanged between the user and server is encrypted.
  • ‍Keep certificates updated – Regularly renew and update SSL/TLS certificates to maintain security.
  • ‍Secure all web pages –  Ensure that all pages of your website are HTTPS-protected, not just login or checkout pages.

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6. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

CSRF is a security vulnerability where an attacker tricks a user into unknowingly executing actions on a website without their consent or knowledge. It typically involves making the user's browser send requests to perform actions, like changing account settings or making unauthorized purchases.

CSRF attacks occur when a user is already logged into a website, and the attacker tricks them into performing actions without their consent. This often happens through deceptive links, images, or scripts on other websites or in emails.

cross-site request forgery - CSRF – Wedoflow
Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

An example for better illustrating;

Imagine your website as a high-security vault, and a user is the keeper of the vault, holding the keys to access it. Now, a CSRF attack would be like a cunning thief handing a disguised key to the keeper, tricking them into unlocking the vault.Β 

To solve this, we equip the keeper with a special key that only works when it precisely matches the real vault key. This extra layer of security makes it nearly impossible for the thief to pull off their trick and keeps the vault safe. In web terms, this "special key" is the anti-CSRF token, enhancing the security of your website and protecting user actions from unauthorized interference.

How to solve CSRF website security

To mitigate CSRF risks and bolster website security follow these practices:

  • ‍Use anti-CSRF tokens – Implement anti-CSRF tokens in your web application. These unique tokens are included in forms and requests and must match the user's session, making it challenging for attackers to forge requests.
  • ‍Implement same-Site cookies – Utilize same-site cookie attributes to restrict cookie access to the originating website, preventing cross-origin requests from affecting user sessions.
  • Require additional authentication – For sensitive actions, prompt users to re-enter their password or provide secondary authentication.
  • Keep software updated – Ensure your web server and application software are up-to-date to minimize security vulnerabilities.

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7. Brute-Force attacks

A Brute-Force Attack is a hacking method where an attacker systematically tries all possible combinations of usernames and passwords until they find the right credentials to access a system or website. It's like attempting to unlock a door by trying every possible key in existence until one fits.

The Brute-force attacks is a continuous attempt and such it occurs when attackers want to gain unauthorized access to a system or website. They're often used to crack passwords, especially for user accounts or administrative access, and they can be executed manually or through automated software.

Brute-Force attacks. how to secure the website? Wedoflow
Brute-Force attacks
How to enhance website security against Brute-Force attacks?

To fortify your website against Brute-Force Attacks, follow these security measures:

  • ‍Use strong passwords – Encourage users to create complex, unique passwords that are difficult to guess.
  • ‍Implement account lockout – Implement mechanisms that temporarily lock accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts to deter attackers.
  • ‍Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) – Require users, especially administrators, to use MFA, which adds an extra layer of security.
  • ‍Rate limit login attempts – Limit the number of login attempts within a specified time frame to slow down automated attackers.
  • ‍Regularly update software – Keep your website's software and plugins up to date to fix known vulnerabilities.

8. Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

Server-Side Request Forgery is a security vulnerability where an attacker tricks a web server into making requests to other servers on the attacker's behalf. These requests can fetch sensitive data or interact with internal systems, potentially leading to data exposure or unauthorized actions.

Web applications that let user input affect server-side requests are subject to SSRF attacks. Because of this, hostile actors may create requests that target internal systems, perhaps resulting in data leaks or system manipulation.

Server-Site Request Forgery (SSRF) – Wedoflow
Server-Site Request Forgery (SSRF)
How to Enhance Website Security against SSRF

To mitigate SSRF risks, you can apply the following security measures;

  • ‍Input validation – Thoroughly validate user input and avoid using it to directly form requests to external servers.
  • ‍Whitelisting – Implement a whitelist of allowed URLs or domains that your server can access. Deny access to any unapproved resources.
  • ‍Network segmentation –  Isolate internal systems from external requests, limiting potential attack vectors.
  • ‍Use safe libraries – When making requests to external servers, use well-vetted and secure libraries and functions to prevent SSRF vulnerabilities.
Conclusion

We should know that website security is a multifaceted endeavor. By addressing these common website threats and implementing robust security practices, you can significantly enhance the security of your website, protect your data, and build trust with your users.

Remember that maintaining an up-to-date and secure website is an ongoing process, and vigilance is key in the ever-evolving landscape of web threats.

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