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How To Secure A Website: 7 Proven Ways To Protect Your Site

WRITTEN BY
Jao Gavino
UPDATED
May 25, 2024

 

While today’s hyperconnected world offers a myriad of opportunities, unfortunately, the threats are just as many. Like everything that is connected to the World Wide Web, your website can be attacked.

 

So if you want to protect it from various threats and keep it secure for you and everyone else who visits it, you’ve come to the right place. Without further ado, here are 7 ways you can enhance your website’s security.

 

 

1. Get an SSL Certificate for Your Site

 

One of the first steps that you should take if you’re looking to secure your website is to ensure that it uses the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol. To do this, you’ll need to get an SSL certificate.

 

For those who don’t know, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol that keeps an internet connection secure, encrypting any sensitive data that is sent through that connection and preventing any attackers from reading or modifying that data.

 

That being said, an SSL certificate is basically a digital file that you install onto your website that tells browsers that they can trust your website and that any information sent or received will be encrypted via SSL.

 

Without an SSL certificate, browsers will show visitors a warning message whenever they visit your site, potentially scaring them away.

 

error message for site without SSL certificate

Your site’s visitors will run into errors like this if you don’t get an SSL certificate.

 

Luckily, most web hosting services offer an SSL certificate as part of their security features. For example, Hostinger’s plans come with a free SSL certificate, among other benefits, such as DDoS protection.

 

HTTPS and SSL are two protocols that work in tandem to ensure that all of the data that goes through your site is encrypted and safe from any would-be hackers. What’s more, using these two protocols on your site will also be very beneficial for SEO, pushing your site further up the Google rankings.

 

 

2. Strengthen Your Passwords

 

use strong usernames and passwords

 

Another simple step that goes a long way towards fortifying your digital castle is to make sure that your passwords are uncrackable. A strong password uses words or phrases interspersed with a combination of letters (with varying capitalization), numbers, and symbols.

 

Never use your birthday, anniversary, the name of a pet, or any other information that an attacker may be able to find via a simple Google search.

 

A truly uncrackable password, however, may be so long and complex that it would be quite difficult to remember.

 

If you use multiple passwords, this problem grows exponentially: How are you supposed to memorize 15 different passwords for 15 different accounts? What if you’re the type to change your password every month or two?

 

Many people find it helpful to hook themselves up with a reputable password manager. This app generates, encrypts, and stores your passwords for you, ensuring that you never have to worry about memorizing a password ever again.

 

One additional security measure that you can add on top of your password is two-factor authentication (2FA), which will require you to present two separate forms of identification to access an account.

 

For example, Gmail’s 2FA requires you to input your username and password as well as confirm that you are logging in via another device, such as your phone, adding yet another layer of security that hackers would need to circumvent.

 

 

3. Protect Your Users

 

If your site allows visitors to create their own accounts, remember to extend your security policies to include your users as well. A website that leaves its users vulnerable to attack will start losing customers faster than you can say “what does 2FA mean again?”

 

Thankfully, securing not only your website but also your users’ login credentials is a pretty straightforward task.

 

For example, if you run a WordPress e-commerce site that requires users to create an account to make a purchase, you can use the Password Policy Manager plugin to create, customize, and enforce strong and secure password policies for your users’ passwords.

 

Don’t forget to include a 2FA option for your users as well. For example, miniOrange’s Google Authenticator plugin allows your users to set up 2FA via Google Authenticator, Duo Authenticator, and Microsoft Authenticator, among others, ensuring an additional layer of protection for your site’s users.

 

 

4. Update Your Software, Themes, and Plugins

 

Updating your website’s software, themes, and plugins is another quick and easy method to secure your website. Outdated software puts your website at risk, as numerous vulnerabilities and backdoors are routinely patched out via these updates.

 

Fortunately, most website builders automatically handle these updates for you, making software updates a pain-free process.

 

If you’re using a platform such as WordPress, however, you may need to run these updates yourself. Thankfully, WordPress allows for automatic updates, which you can set up as follows:

 

How to set up automatic updates for WordPress’s core software

 

To automatically update WordPress’s core software, do the following:

 

First, go to WordPress’s Dashboard, and click on “Updates.”

 

Wordpress new version update

Click on the Updates tab (in the orange rectangle) to manage your site’s updates.

 

Then, go ahead and check if it says “This site is automatically kept up to date with each new version of WordPress.” If it does, then automatic updates are already enabled.

 

WordPress is automatically update

If the text indicated by the orange arrow is there, you don’t have to do anything else!

 

If it doesn’t say this, click on the hyperlink that says “Enable automatic updates for all new versions of WordPress.

 

enable auto updates for all WordPress version

Click on the link indicated by the orange arrow to enable automatic updates. (Credit: HubSpot Blog)

 

How to set up automatic updates for your plugins

 

To enable automatic updates for your site’s plugins, perform the following steps:

 

Go to the Dashboard, click on “Plugins,” and then on “Installed Plugins.”

 

installed plugins in wordpress

Click on the links in the orange rectangles to view your plugins.

 

The updates that you currently have installed will be displayed on the right side of the window. You can then go through each plugin and click on the “Enable auto-updates” link alongside each of them to make them download updates automatically.

 

enable auto-update plugins

Go through your plugins, and click on the links in the orange rectangle to make them update automatically.

 

How to set up automatic updates for your theme

 

To automatically update your WordPress theme, do each of these steps:

 

Go to your WordPress Dashboard, and navigate to “Appearance” and then “Themes.”

 

your WordPress installed themes

Click on the links inside the orange rectangles to view your installed themes.

 

Click on one of your installed themes, and then click on the link that says “Enable auto-updates.”

 

enable auto-update plugins

Click on the link in orange rectangle to enable automatic updates for your themes.

 

If you have multiple themes, go through each of them, and repeat the previous step (i.e., enabling auto-updates for each of them).

 

Once you’ve set up the automatic updates for your site’s components, you’ve taken a major stride toward a more secure website!

 

 

5. Back Up Your Site Regularly

 

Backing up your site is another important step to take when securing your website. If you don’t back your site up, any damage that is done to your site—whether via a cyberattack or just human error—could potentially be irreversible.

 

Backups can be done automatically or manually. However, you’re better off just setting up automatic backups: They’re easy to set up, and you won’t have to worry about forgetting to back up your site every week or so.

 

laptop with cloud as background wallpaper

Having a backup of your website on the cloud ensures that you can get it back up and running anytime and anywhere.

 

  • Hostinger: Lower tier plans only offer weekly backup.
  • Dreamhost: DreamPress plan offers on-demand backups.
  • Bluehost: Choice Plus plan offers daily backups.

 

 

6. Utilize Anti-Malware Software

 

Malware is a general term for any malicious software that can infect your computer or website. It can be used to steal personal information and money or even take control of your computer.

 

As such, having anti-malware software in place helps you keep your site secure from hackers who want to steal information from visitors or infect their computers with viruses and other nasty things.

 

We’ve already mentioned Hostinger above, and their robust security suite also includes malware detection and removal services, saving you from any malware-related headaches and leaving you to manage your website in peace.

 

 

7. Choose a Secure and Reliable Web Host

 

Picking your web host is like choosing the materials to build your online home with: Build it up with brick and mortar, and it’ll flourish and withstand all kinds of calamities; build it with sticks and string, however, and the slightest breeze will send the whole thing toppling down.

 

Choosing the right web host, therefore, is not a task to be taken lightly. A good rule of thumb is to not settle for the cheapest one; instead, carefully weigh your priorities, and pick one that strikes a fine balance between reliability, security, and affordability.

 

There are plenty of web hosts to choose from, but for those with security at the top of their list of priorities, we’ve listed the security features that you should look for in a web host.

 

 

The Most Secure Web Hosts for a Threat-Free Website

 

As we’ve stated above, choosing the right web host is quite important. You’ll want to make sure that the company has been around for a while and has a track record of security.

 

Similarly, you’d also want a host that has reliable customer support: If your site goes down, you want someone there to help fix it as soon as possible.

 

However, you might not have the time to vet each and every hosting service out there. Well, fear not, dear reader—we’ve been testing out web hosts since 2014, and here are our top three recommendations:

 

1. Hostinger

 

Hostinger homepage

 

Hostinger’s services start at $2.99 a month, and as we’ve stated above, they offer a pretty hefty suite of security features. They also offer 24/7 customer support via live chat, free weekly backups, and speedy servers with global coverage. They’re a very good pick if you want a service that offers premium hosting features for an affordable price.

 

2. DreamHost

 

DreamHost homepage

 

At $2.95 per month, DreamHost comes with an official WordPress endorsement, outstanding speed (within the US), and an excellent security suite. If you’re setting up a WordPress site that caters mainly to the US, DreamHost is the perfect choice.

 

3. HostPapa

 

HostPapa homepage

 

Finally, HostPapa boasts great server speeds in Europe and North America, a free knowledge base of videos and tutorials, and a great support team, all bundled at a starting cost of $3.95 per month. This is a pretty good choice for web hosting newbies, as they even offer a one-on-one video or phone session to help you get started!

 

If none of these options tickle your fancy, worry not! We’ve reviewed more than 45 different hosting services and compiled a handy list of the best web hosts.

 

 

Keep Your Website Safe and Secure!

 

With the tips that we’ve listed, you’re more than ready to build a safe and secure website. Back up your site regularly, constantly monitor any potential vulnerabilities, and remember this quote from Stéphane Nappo, Global Chief Information Security Officer at Groupe SEB:

 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and a few minutes of a cyber-incident to ruin it.”

 

Mess up even once with your site’s security, and you may lose customers for good; take good care of them, however, and they’ll take care of you, ensuring your site’s success for years, if not decades, to come.