When engaging in online business, our primary goal is to acquire new customers and increase sales by promoting our website and encouraging product usage. However, cyber security tends to be overlooked as something complicated and difficult to comprehend. Unfortunately, this can lead to underestimating the importance of security, which is a serious mistake. A security breach can result in significant financial and reputational losses for our company. For instance, a hacking attack can harm our business’s image and lead to monetary damages. It’s essential to prioritize cyber security to safeguard our online business from potential threats.

What is cyber security?

The field of cyber security encompasses a broad range of elements pertaining to our online conduct. This article will specifically address the security of our websites and web applications, which are crucial for driving profits in our business.

There are numerous methods through which an unauthorized individual can gain access to our website, ranging from simple to sophisticated. Common culprits include weak administrator passwords, storing data in unencrypted form, improper checking of user access to resources, faulty forms that mishandle user input, and insecure storage of logged-in user data in the browser, which can be stolen and used for impersonation.

For those interested, we recommend the OWASP Top Ten, a regularly updated list of the 10 most common web application vulnerabilities used in hacking attacks.

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Let’s get on with answering the question of how an attack on your website can affect your business and why it can carry disastrous consequences.

Sensitive data exposure

When customers entrust us with their data, we are committed to protecting it from falling into the wrong hands. When we think of sensitive data, what comes to mind is a payment card number or a password for an online service. However, even if we do not collect such data and its exposure will not result in an unauthorized person gaining access to our customer’s bank account, we still have something to worry about. An email address, phone number, or first and last name is a high prize for hackers. Personal information is used, for example, for fraudulent marketing campaigns involving spam emails or SMS.

The exposure of personal data can lead to legal repercussions, as we may be fined for inadequate protection of such data. Additionally, such incidents can cause significant harm to the reputation of our company, as customers prioritize the safety and privacy of their personal information. It is crucial to establish and maintain a secure environment to foster trust and credibility with our clients.

Sensitive data exposure may result in legal consequences

To prevent personal data exposure, it is critical to assess the information we require and only collect what is necessary. We must also ensure that our application grants access to authorized users exclusively. However, even with robust security measures in place, it is still possible for data breaches to occur. In such cases, encrypting sensitive personal data can provide an additional layer of protection. Encryption makes it difficult for unauthorized individuals to decipher and access the information even if they gain access to the database.

Data loss

Data loss can be just as disastrous as data exposure. For instance, imagine running an online store that becomes infected with malware, leading to the loss of recent order information. This could result in customers who have already paid for products being unable to receive their orders, leading to dissatisfaction and negative feedback. Even if the situation is eventually resolved, the processing time may be delayed, and customers may receive their products late. This can lead to a loss of trust in our store, discouraging future purchases and potentially resulting in unfavorable reviews.

An online store is just an example, but in any online application, the loss of even part of your data can significantly slow down or prevent some of the business processes that provide you with revenue.

To prevent data loss, it is essential to prioritize application security at every level and minimize the risk of successful attacks. However, since it is impossible to guarantee complete protection, regular backups are crucial. The frequency of backups should be determined by the potential damage that could result from losing the latest data. The more severe the consequences, the more frequent backups should be performed.

Since my website is small, security may not seem crucial to me, right?

The issue of web security is usually raised in the context of applications or online stores that collect a lot of data and handle many online processes. One might be misled into believing that landing pages and blogs are not affected by a lack of security. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s consider a scenario where we own a small business website with a blog. At some point, we may come across blog posts that we did not create ourselves. This could indicate that an unauthorized individual has gained access to our website and is publishing content without our knowledge. Despite its seeming unlikelihood, such situations are not uncommon.

Well, okay, but nothing bad for our business happened, right? Someone exploited a vulnerability on our site and started publishing blog posts for fun. We’ll delete the posts, fix the vulnerability, and we’ll be fine. Well, not exactly. Most often such posts are not published for fun, but to achieve specific goals. And usually this is not done by a human, but a bot created for this purpose. For example, it could be an attempt to increase the SEO ranking of a completely different site by posting relevant links on your site. Or an attempt to decrease your site’s ranking on Google. Search engines will quickly detect strange content on your site, and this will significantly degrade your search engine ranking. Fixing broken SEO is difficult and time-consuming. Perhaps your site will never regain a high search engine ranking after such an incident. Someone can also use your site to make malware available to infect your computer, your email inbox, or the devices of site visitors. The malware can take control of your computer or smartphone or steal passwords. On top of that, your domain can get blacklisted. Many antivirus programs check for malware on websites. If they detect them on your site, they will blacklist the domain, and this can also drastically degrade SEO results.

Web security is crucial for SEO
Security issues affect your website’s seo

Malicious code on a website can be used to send spam emails. Mailboxes will quickly detect this fact and start marking messages sent from your domain as spam. After fixing the problem, your messages may end up in spam for a long time or be completely blocked.

These examples illustrate how even a basic website can be exploited for malicious purposes, and a successful hacker attack can result in severe consequences.

How to ensure the security of your website?

We have already addressed several issues related to web security, such as ensuring the protection of sensitive data and regular backups. What else can we do to make our application more difficult to hack?

  • Strong passwords and password managers. It sounds trivial, but using weak passwords is one of the most common reasons for unauthorized access to web applications. Use long and complex passwords. A password manager will help. Thanks to it, we do not have to worry about forgetting the password. In addition, we will avoid the temptation to use the same password in different applications. If users can create accounts in our application, software should force them to use a long, complicated password.
  • 2FA. If we can, let’s introduce two-factor authentication in our application. It can be an authentication code sent via SMS. This is a bit of an inconvenience for users, but it drastically improves security. Even if the password is stolen, access to the application is still secured.
  • Keep software up-to-date. It is extremely important that your application uses the current version of the programming language or framework. The same goes for CMS and plugins. If there is a vulnerability in an outdated version of the software, it is easy to find it and use it against you.
  • Attention to security throughout the application development process. The role of the team responsible for creating the application is to ensure security from the very beginning of development. Any underperformance or taking shortcuts may result in a vulnerability that can be overlooked in the future, when the application is released.

It’s essential to keep in mind that even the most robust security measures cannot guarantee complete protection against security breaches. Therefore, it’s crucial to continuously monitor your website or application for any potential vulnerabilities or security incidents. The sooner such issues are detected, the quicker they can be addressed, resulting in minimal damage and reduced costs.

Unauthorized access can occur due to weak administrator passwords, storing data without encryption, improper user access controls, faulty forms handling user input, and insecure storage of user data in the browser.

You can enhance web application security by regularly updating software, implementing strong and unique passwords, introducing two-factor authentication, ensuring proper access controls, and maintaining security awareness throughout the development process.

Malware on a website can lead to multiple negative outcomes, including decreased search engine ranking, compromised user devices, blacklisting of the website domain, and the distribution of spam emails.