As we learn more about how to secure your websites, it’s easy to become more relaxed about the whole thing… which is both good and bad. It’s good because it means we have faith in the tools and services we’ve invested in to harden security. It’s bad, however, when we mistake tightening security for a set-it-and-forget-it mentality.
To put it bluntly, hackers are attempting to gain access to your site. That is a proven fact. Think again if you believe your site is too small or new to attract the attention of hackers. Tens of thousands of security attacks occur every minute of every day, and hackers have no regard for the size of the website or business they target.
Unfortunately, all sites have flaws, and hackers are aware of them. If you want to build a strong defense around your site, you must think like a hacker. Determine your site’s weak points and consider the various ways in which they could exploit them. Only then will you be able to effectively repel attacks.
What Are Your Website’s Weakest Points?
What’s the scariest part of it all? Hackers aren’t always specifically looking for your website on the internet (especially if it does happen to be brand new or on the smaller side). Many hackers use BOTS to automate the process of sniffing out vulnerabilities. These BOTS detect the entrance, and the hackers enter. As a result, any site can fall victim.
To keep hackers and their bots at bay, it’s critical to become familiar with the most common flaws.
Any location on your site’s backend or frontend such as WordPress that requires a login and password is a prime target.
- This includes the standard WordPress login page
- Comment Section
- E-Commerce accounts or payment gateways
Hackers are aware that users are not always inclined to create a unique and strong password for each online account they have. If you need to beef up your password, please see our previous blog post.
Comments aren’t just a security risk because of the login component. Comment spam can also be an issue, which is why some people choose to disable comments entirely in WordPress.
Bots spam the comment section with “offers”, “deals” or general trickery to convince you to click on malicious links.
Contact forms, subscription forms, payment forms—any part of your website that requires users to enter their information is a prime target for hackers.
Of course, there’s the obvious approach of breaking in behind the scenes and then grabbing the sensitive data entered into those fields. Hackers can also steal data by monitoring users’
keystrokes—either by hacking into wireless keyboards or by installing keylogging malware on their computer.
Databases are essential components of your website, and if they fall into the wrong hands due to a lack of a secure database password, things can go horribly wrong. Also, while it’s great that WordPress has simplified the naming of files and database structures across all sites, it’s also a major issue because everyone (including hackers) knows that the “wp-” prefix is used to label almost everything. If nothing is changed, your WordPress database is fully exposed and vulnerable to attack.
It is critical to update your CMS core, such as WordPress, to ensure that any CMS updates are processed immediately. As developers release new updates, they also include new security features, and without updating the core, vulnerabilities will be introduced.
You must pay close attention to what is happening with your current set of plugins, as well as keep your eyes and ears open when reviewing new plugins for your site.
Plugins can generally get you into trouble in two ways:
- When they are updated by the developer but you do not upgrade your site (or do it in a timely fashion).
- When you unknowingly install a bogus plugin on your site.
The same is true for themes, though you shouldn’t have to worry about using a forgery. With these, it’s simply a matter of the developer issuing timely updates.
What Do Hackers Want from Your Site?
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “My site is too small/new/local.” “What could hackers possibly want from it?” it’s time to reconsider. Hackers aren’t just out to steal from large corporations. Nope. They are simply looking for any weakness they can exploit.
So, the next time you think to yourself, “I have nothing they’d want,” consider the following opportunities:
Inject Malicious Content
In some cases, hacking simply entails inserting malicious content or code into the front end of your site in the hopes that visitors will click on the errant links. This could occur as a result of comment spam, hijacking your site’s email and sending spam messages to your followers, or actual content submissions.
Another way for hackers to terrorise your visitors is to spread viruses and malware through your site. They can do this by inserting malicious code into the backend or by uploading files for download on the front end. When visitors interact with them, hackers either steal their information or use their computers to distribute viruses to other websites.
Steal Visitors Information
This is obviously the one your visitors are most concerned about, and it’s one you should hope never happens because it’s quite costly. Any security breach is bad for business such as the recent Optus breach, but this one requires you to compensate your visitors and customers for the money and privacy they lost because of the attack. Not to mention their lack of faith in your company.
Using your site to Host Phishing Pages
Phishing on websites is when hackers create a fake page on your site to collect information from visitors who are willing to give it. They can do this by embedding a contact form on the page and collecting information directly, or by redirecting visitors to another website where that information will be lifted.
Overload Web Server
A distributed denial of service (or DDoS) attack occurs when hackers overwhelm your web server with an influx of hits. When they reach that point, your site goes down, and they win. Why would they do such a thing? What could they gain by taking your site offline? It could be for bragging rights, after all. It’s possible that they have a personal vendetta against the brand behind the website. Perhaps the site is just one of many victims in a large-scale attack. Or perhaps they did it to demand a ransom.
Vandalize Your Website
Most of the time, hackers are doing this to establish a reputation for themselves while also harming your brand. One of these defacements affected many sites and persisted which is why it is important to keep your sites core, theme, and plugins up to date.
If you are worried about any of the topics brought up in this article. Don’t worry! You are already stepping in the right direction to prevent hackers by educating yourself. Hosting Australia is here to help you with keeping your site secure and safe. If you are unsure your site is secure, please contact Hosting Australia support and they can provide you with a health check report.