Chris Wiegman Chris Wiegman

Website Security Is More Than Just Prevention

There’s a myth among website owners that real security involves preventing problems and nothing more. While of course you want to do your best to make sure no one gets into your site, if you stop at prevention you’re going to get in trouble. Instead, real security depends on two other areas at least as and, in some cases, more important than prevention. Take away any of the three and you’re asking for the kind of trouble that can cost you far more than a headache. You’re asking for the kind of trouble that can cost you your customers.

Nothing Can Prevent Every Attack On Your Site

The first thing to remember is that no matter how good you or your software is nothing can protect a site from every attack. In the race between hackers and security each side can claim the lead at various points and your security system isn’t going to help you if the bad guys are currently in the lead.

A race between the good guys and the bad however isn’t always a bad thing. Paying attention and knowing what you need to do to stay in the lead and, more importantly, knowing what to do when all else fails is what matters. It is this scenario that leads us to the next step for what to do when prevention fails.

Detect the Attack

When your best defenses are breached you need to know about it and you need to know before your customers or Google does.

Until you know that your site has been hacked there is nothing you, as the site owner, can do about the situation. On the other hand, if your customers discover they’ve been compromised by your site or Google finds malware on your site before you do you’re going to be in for a very bumpy ride.

The key to detection is vigilance. You know your site better than anyone and it is therefore up to you to monitor it for anything out of the ordinary. Is it suddenly running slow? Are you suddenly being bombarded by spam comments or emails? These are all signs that there is a problem. The moment something feels off run or there is something strange in the Better WP Security logs or those of another product run your site through a scanning service such as Sucuri to see for certain if something is wrong.

Recover Your Site

Once you know there has been a problem you can begin to recover from it.

While there are a number of steps to take to recover a site and a number of services that can help you with it the best thing you can do as a site owner is have a plan in place before you need it. Know what service you trust and how to contact them or make sure you’re well versed in cleaning up your site on your own. The faster you can get it going again the less business you’re going to lose.

During the recovery process you’re going to need to look at things besides the ability to repair any damage the hack may have caused.

First, have a backup. There is absolutely no excuse for not having a backup of all of your data. In the event your site is hacked it will be safe to assume that all of the data on your site has been compromised and, as such, you will need a good backup to prevent losing anything permanently.

Second, have a plain html page ready to put up in place of your main site. Make sure it has your logo, a message that you’ll be back soon, and some contact information. You don’t need to tell folks you’ve been hacked, yet, but you do need to prevent them from being infected by anything that might be on your site. Fortunately most hacks are to the applications on your site (WordPress itself or whatever other system you’re using) so know how to access the files from your hosting company and have something ready to put in place of the normal site.

Third, when your site is back up be honest. Tell folks what happened and, if you have any of their data, make sure you let them know to change it. As is clear by all the hacks in the news lately being honest and telling people what happened and what you’re going to do to prevent it in the future can go a long way to helping you maintain your customers’ trust and, as a result, can go a long way to helping you keep them as your customers.

Real Security = Prevent + Detect + Recover

When it comes down to it preventing an attack on your website is necessary and vitally important. However as even the best prevention can’t account for every attack it is equally vital to be able to detect an attack early and to recover from it with a minimal loss of data and, most importantly, with a minimum loss of customers.