Today we are overwhelmed with the devastation of flooding in our area. Many are without homes and businesses as the flood waters rise to a possible record high today. Even though this happens often in our area and warning signs are available that it is coming, the destruction of property and loss that occurs is devastating. Having a plan to cope with this type of disaster is helpful even though some things may never be replaced. The same is true of your website and Internet presence.
Maybe you don’t think your website has any information that is worthy of stealing or being hacked, but websites are often compromised not to steal data, but to gain access to a server as an email relay for spam. Hackers write automated scripts to search the Internet in an attempt to exploit known website security issues in software. By gaining access to your server and pirating your email account, you may get blacklisted by email servers. If your server is open to uploads, they can gain access to uploading scripts which may spread a virus using your account or your website. Yes, your host does their best to avoid this intrusion on your server and can aid in fixing it, but the best plan is for you to help ensure it never happens.
Here are six helpful tips for keeping your website safe from hackers and protecting it if a natural disaster occurs.
Having several backups in place is a key element to retrieving your site if it were to go down. Make sure to keep backups in several different places. Your hosting company should periodically backup their servers which in turn will backup your site data. You can download a copy of your site and upload it to a cloud database. However, not all of your backups should be online. If the Internet were to fail, servers go down and cloud technology may fail. It is imperative to have a way to replace your website without relying on someone else. I suggest downloading a full copy of your website with all the files and keeping it on an external hard drive. Remember your site will be more than just the pages, it will include your images, extra files, documents, code and more. Be sure to keep a current copy of all the files and data that is necessary to upload your complete website. Depending on how often your content is changed and updated, making a back up once a week is usually a good rule of thumb.
Being notified when there is a possible security breach on your website can be overwhelming. Most of the time, these alerts are just a necessary annoyance, but these alerts will also let you know when someone is trying to hack into your site (or server) and when your backup is complete. Receiving several notifications a day either by email or text can be valuable to keeping you informed. These notifications will send key information when someone signs in or updates a page or your website has some type of activity that is pertinent to the server. If you have multiple users updating your site or signing into a designated area, it is definitely a must. Ask your web designer to include this or make sure your host is monitoring this activity.
Keep your software up to date. The software industry does a good job of keeping hackers and unwanted visitors out of their code, but with ever evolving technology, it’s a never ending job. Making sure your software is up-to-date will ensure you have the latest fixes for any known issues. Go ahead and opt-in to reporting any issues or errors you have as this will help your software developers know when there is a breach of security for several users and be able to fix the issue in a timely manner.
Keep Website Current
Don’t leave your website dormant. Make sure to keep some type of content updated on your website every few weeks. Hackers know when a website is just sitting with no interaction. This is an easy target for them as it may seem no one is paying attention to a site with limited activity. Plus, is it will help your SEO ranking to update your content frequently!
Keeping it simple when it comes to passwords is never a good idea. If you keep your password simple and easy to remember, it will be much easier for hackers to figure out as well. Passwords should be at least 12 characters long. They need to include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Password keeping software is available to help you remember your passwords. Popular software includes LastPass, KeePass or 1Password. Changing your password every 60 to 90 days is also a good idea. It may keep your potential hackers confused, plus it keeps your account active and not dormant.
Error messages appear when your website is not able to load content for a visitor. These are usually pre-configured in your software or by your hosting company. Make sure they do not include valuable information that a hacker can use to gain access to your server. If you don’t know, just ask. Your hosting company or web designer will know.
No one cares about your reputation more than you. Your online presence is your responsibility. You buy insurance for disaster relief for property, you need to do the same for your online presence. Hire someone to help you know you are protected from disaster and then keep a list for yourself. Ultimately, if your site goes down, you are the one that will want it back up and running as soon as possible. The #1 tip to keeping your reputation close at hand is to keep several current backups where you can access them quickly. Hopefully, disaster will never strike you on the web. But if it does, the best option is to have a plan to recover.