Think for a moment about the last time you didn’t feel safe. Maybe you were in a bad neighborhood, or you were in a foreign country, and simply felt uncomfortable. As humans, we’re wired to get to comfort as quickly as possible. The feeling of being unsafe sends us running for the hills. Therein lies the importance of website security – your customers are judging you based on your appearance as well as how they feel when they are looking at your website. And, if they don’t feel safe they won’t stick around!

Around seven percent of web searches are leading users to a malicious website according to 99Firms. The site also stated that 71 percent of breaches on websites are financially motivated. Before you assume your business is too small to be impacted by statistics like this, you should know the site reported 43 percent data breaches happened to small businesses. The simple fact is, when money is the motive, anyone can be a target for a cybercriminal. And that is just what a breach of your own website can cost you – money!

When your customers don’t feel safe on your website, they don’t want to buy from you. The potential damage to your reputation from a single breach can be enough to put you out of business. With that in mind, let’s explore how website security can impact your business reputation, and what you can do to protect your website as well as your company and your customers.

Elements of a Brand’s Reputation

For your business to have a good reputation in 2021 you need the following elements:

  • Honesty and integrity
  • Keep your promises
  • Consistency
  • Transparency
  • Good online reviews
  • Positive public perception
  • Keep security top of mind

Perhaps Reputation 911 said it best when they shared reputation management is more important now than ever before. Managing a business’s reputation requires the consistent monitoring and management of your online presence with the goal being a positive perception from the public. So what does all of this have to do with website security?

Website Security is Directly Related to Trust

When a customer makes a purchase on your website, signs up for a user account, or does anything else with your business online, they are saying, “I trust you with my information.” Having a website that is safe and secure for them to interact with helps you establish, earn and keep that trust.

Customers are becoming more savvy, and are looking for proof that the businesses they are interacting with are safe. They are looking for the “s” in the http of your website address because they know the “s” means secure. It’s also why they are looking for security seals on websites, and padlocks in the addresses typed into their web address bars. They want assurances that your company is doing everything it can to protect the data transmitted by them to you.

Your Brand Reputation Demands Strong Website Security

When people are saying positive things about your business online and leaving positive reviews, you’re more likely to enjoy new and repeat customers. Once the public knows, likes, and trusts you, sales become much easier. Now imagine that every time someone looks up your business online they see reports and headlines like this:

  • “100s of Credit Card Records Lost to Hackers in Data Breach”
  • “Company Loses Access to Private Data of All Customers”
  • “Clients of Mr. M’s Business Should Check Their Credit Report After Theft”
  • “Sensitive Data Leaked in X Business Ransomware Case”

Would you ever want to work with a company that has headlines/reports like this associated with their name? Probably not!

Bottom Line – How your business is perceived by your current and potential customers can be the difference between making more sales, and closing your doors forever. That’s why if website security is not top of mind for you, it should be!

Protect Your Rep – How to Secure Your Website

It would be easy to go on and on about how your website’s security is directly related to your reputation, and why you need to keep your website safe for the sake of your customers, vendors, employees, etc… Rather than coming off as a broken record at this point, let’s instead look at how to secure your website so you can protect your business’s public perception.

The good news is it’s not as difficult, expensive, or time-consuming as you might think. You don’t have to hire a complete IT team, chief security officer, or spend thousands of dollars right out of the gate. Here’s how to get started:

1. Work on Your Password Strength

To log into your website’s content management system (CMS), you will need a login and password, and in a way this information is your first line of website security defense. If you want to protect your password from hackers, you must ensure that it’s a unique one that’s not easy to crack.

In other words, don’t use a password that someone can easily guess while trying to access your site. Though you may be tempted to use your phone number or your date of birth because they are easy for you to remember, these are two of the first pieces of data a smart cyber criminal will try first.

You also want to avoid using surnames, maiden names, and pretty much any data that you’ve shared publicly on Facebook as your password. The best passwords have a combination of letters, numbers, and characters. However, it also should not be one you use on other accounts.

Pro Tip: While working on your password and making it stronger, go ahead and change the name “admin” to something else.

It’s important to note that hackers are smarter than we’d like to think they are. If your login username is [email protected], that’s the first account cybercriminals are going to try and crack the password of! They know if they can get into that account, they likely will gain full access to your entire “virtual kingdom.”

Another important tip about passwords is to use multi-factor authentication for logging in. At a minimum you want to use two-factor authentication. This will require an additional credential for getting into your website – the most common of which being a special code that is sent to your phone via SMS. Other means of multi-factor authentication can include needing a code sent to your email, scanning a special QR code, using an application on your smartphone or another smart device, receiving a phone call, a thumbprint, a retinal scan, the list goes on…

Limit the Access to Your Website

What does limiting access mean exactly? It means restricting who can access the backend of your website. This means only granting administrative access to the individuals who really need it, and assigning controls that limit access to all other users.

For example, if you have customers creating profiles to do business with you, they don’t need the same level of access the owner of the company does. For that matter, even most of your employees won’t need that level of access.

Manage your list of users, identify those who are no longer active and remove them. The less people who can access your website’s backend, the better.

Update Your Website’s Software Regularly

Your unfriendly neighborly hacker doesn’t want you to know this because they are relying on you to forget to update your plugins and software. When you update these things, you make it harder for nefarious individuals to wiggle their way in. Each update typically comes with what’s known in the website security industry as a patch. These “patches” plug up the holes in security. When you don’t plug the hole, hackers can sneak in and exploit that vulnerability.

Speaking of updates – it would also be beneficial for you to regularly update the backup copy of your website. The biggest benefit of this is that if somehow a hacker manages to sneak in, you can delete everything and load a clean copy of your website. Should you have to take this step, it’s also a good idea to go ahead and change your login credentials.

Pro Tip: Consider using security plugins on your website that offer protection from multiple login attempts, DDoS attacks, spam comments, etc…

Be Careful with The Files You Allow to Be Uploaded

Your business may require that you allow users to upload files with sensitive data. While this makes things easier for customers who need to send you data, it’s also a security threat in that a hacker could exploit the opportunity by loading a malicious file. To protect your website from potential threats caused by file uploads:

  • Set limits on the maximum size of files accepted
  • Scan each uploaded file for malware
  • Use software that changes the file name and encrypts the data so that the would-be hacker can’t find it again
  • Implement a web application firewall (WAF) to block dangerous traffic
  • Limit the number of uploads as well

Additional Ways to Keep Your Website Safe

Your Customers Are Relying On Your Website Security

Hopefully this post has inspired you to protect your business’s reputation, and to be more strategic about your website security. While the methods of safety shared here today won’t secure you from all threats, they will certainly help. And, when used in combination with multiple items on this list, your website security game will be that much stronger. Every lock you can add to your virtual doors helps.

Author’s Bio

Ron Doss is a Senior Web Security Analyst and content contributor at SiteLock, a global cybersecurity company, based in Scottsdale, Arizona. With over 10 years’ experience in web design and hosting, as well as 5 years focused on web security, Ron specializes in finding and removing malware along with dispelling other website security issues that harm websites. When he’s not ridding the world of malware and making the web a safer and better place, he’s pwning n00bs while online gaming and yeeting his life savings on meme stocks.