Securing Your Website From Hackers

Welcome to 2013, where the year is fresh and there are more hackers on the web than ever before.  Let’s talk more in-depth on why you need a secure website and, more importantly, how to secure your website. Hackers are on the move, and their numbers are growing stronger each day. There are so many of them that we now place more money into fixing what they break than we do trying to catch the actual person. It is just less of a hassle. As a website designer/website owner, why do you care? After all, that’s not in your job description. Well, since you’re in charge of the website, consider it the fine print that you didn’t see.

Your website is only as secure as you make it (or more importantly what you don’t make it). “What do the hackers want with my site? I have no valuable information over here.” Everyone has valuable information. It doesn’t matter if you have credit card numbers or pricing information stored in the server about your latest roofing projects. It’s there, and they want it. Think of your closest competitors: how much are they willing to pay for the inside scoop on your company? If they are willing to pay, it’s valuable. So let’s get into what to secure, why to secure it, and how it’s done.


Yes, I know: you’ve heard this lecture before. Your password isn’t strong enough, you have to change it after a set time, or maybe it’s just easily accessible. Well, here it is again. Your password is that code required to get into your valuable, and sometimes personal, information. Well, if you make the password to your website 8 characters and all it says is your name, initials, or family members, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure that out. A simple Google search could find some of that out. Passwords are the front-line defense of your website. If the login isn’t secure, neither are you or your business. To make a secure password there are loads of requirements: length, characters (uppercase, lowercase, special characters), and most importantly it is not supposed to be a dictionary word. We all know the length should be 12 characters, and we’ve all heard the character lecture before; but what about this “no dictionary words” rule? This seems impossible doesn’t it? Your name is in fact a dictionary word. Here’s an easy way around this: make your password some sort of phrase or combination of words that really have no relevance to you, but one that you’ll remember. For example, howoldryu?4?. “How” and “old” may be dictionary words, but the odds of a password cracker guessing that entire phrase is unlikely. Brute force attacks would guess it eventually, but not for weeks.

Viruses, Malware, and Google?

Viruses and malware are out there, and your website is perfect for spreading it around. Every visitor to your site could download a virus just by being there. The reason they don’t is you keep it keep it secure…don’t you? Google Webmaster Tools is a great tool, made by the Big Daddy himself. With Google’s Webmaster Tools, you can check loads of things on your site, such as 404 pages and viruses. Wait, what was that last one? This tool will alert you when malware infects your site. We all do not want to be on Google’s bad side, so make sure when you see these alerts you deal with them immediately. Google will blacklist you, and traffic will drop significantly. If that didn’t persuade you enough, consider the lawsuits people will be filing if they find out they got the virus from your site! Not pretty.


If your site does in fact process transactions, your URL better say https at the front. If it says http, take a look at this article and find out how to get a more secure site. It is a complicated process, but if you process and store credit card information, then having this information encrypted is a must! No, changing is not free, and there is no legal way of getting a free change. If your website does not do purchases, it is still a good idea to change to https anyway if you have personal information. Examine your website and think of the visitors and what information they gave you. Stored or not, does it need to be encrypted? If so, take https into high consideration.

Software Code

“Hey there man, I’m no programmer!” Programmer or not, most (if not all) software has flaws in it. This is partly why programs and applications update so frequently. They could have been made aware of a backdoor/vulnerability and updated the code so you can be more secure. Keep your software up-to-date, or you’ll never get this important update.

On the topic of software, consider some website security programs, such as Symantec’s Protection Suite Enterprise Edition. Symantec is one of the leading security companies out there, and as far as their protection goes, you’re getting your money’s worth. Be sure to place an antivirus/antimalware program on your pc, while constantly scanning it for malware.

Good news and bad news. The bad news is your website is never fully secure, as anything is breakable. The good news is the more secure your website is, the less likely a hacker will target you. Why go through the hassle of attacking a secure website, when you can attack a nonsecure website and save yourself the trouble? Keep your website safe from hackers and give your visitors peace of mind when they visit. An unhappy visitor will not purchase a thing from you. This is a lot to keep track of when you have more business-related things to do, I know. You may need to hire someone to do this for you, if you do not think you’ll have time. Every website needs security, and that includes yours!

Author Bio: Ryan Gavin is an associate with Ignition72, a web design agency in Baltimore. Ryan is a web enthusiast with a focus on website design.

Norton Online Living Report for 2009

The Norton Online living report is a large study with data from 12 countries and interviews with over 9000 parents and children. The survey results deal with safety issues, parental control issues, time spent online, relationships, learning benefits (or drawbacks) from online living, and how much value is attached to online living. More . . .

The second annual Norton Online Living Report (available March 17, 2009 at 11:30 AM EST,) explores the way online living has changed social lives. The study came from Symantic, the makers of the Norton anti virus and secuity software.

The online living report is a large study with data from 12 countries and interviews with over 9000 parents and children. The survey results deal with safety issues, parental control issues, time spent online, relationships, learning benefits (or drawbacks) from online living, and how much value is attached to online living.

Seventy percent of people worldwide say that the Internet has improved their relationships. These results include the use of email, webcams, social networking, online photo sharing, Instant Messaging and Twitter-like services.

The findings show that family relationships, in particular, are improved with online use. Seventy-one percent report that keeping in touch is easier, 53% report it improves communication, and 45% report that family relationships overall are improved with the Internet. A small segment of that group, which Norton calls the “We Family” reports that family use leads to more satisfaction with family life and stronger family bonds.

The night life of adults is changed by the online world.

Nearly 60% of online adults have made a friend this way, and have an average of 41 online friends. Three in four have gone on to meet someone they originally met online in person, and 56% have used the Internet to reconnect with old friends.

The survey looked at kids online use from both the kids’ and the parents’ perspectives. The results were sometimes very different. This is unchanged from last year’s survey, after which parents were urged to try to get a better understanding of what their kids were actually doing online.

Kids are now spending an average of 39 hours a month online. That’s about twice the time online that most parents think their kids are spending. The report shows

• 86% of kids send text messages
• Kids spend 3 hours/week texting
• 73% of kids email from their phones
• 23% of kids use a Twitter-like service
• 93% of kids socialize with family and friends online
• Kids spend 5 hours a week socializing online, the same as adults
• 55% of kids have made friends online, and have an average of 37 online friends

With kids, the issue is often safety. One-third of kids report their parents don’t always know what they are looking at online. One in five parents have caught their child doing something they do not approve of online. Remedies like parental controls are in place in about one-third of all homes. However, 70% of parents are now actively talking to their kids about online safety.

• 7 in 10 kids have rules for Internet use
• 78% of kids say they always follow these rules; 4 in 5 parents agree

The report emphasized that online safety talks are not a one-time thing. As kids grow they become involved in different sites with new challenges. It’s important to have “The Talk” about online safety frequently.

In terms of online security, most people—adults included—fall short.

The days when a virus scanner was enough to stay safe are long gone, but 79% of Internet users still rely on this to stay safe. Worse, 22% have no security software installed at all.
• 1 in 4 report a lack of confidence that their personal information online is secure
• 21% do not run virus scans frequently
• 33% do not avoid giving out personal information
• 55% do not back up their files

In addition, 50% visit sites that are not secure and do not keep their passwords secure.

The report gives three steps to ensure online safety. Point one is pretty obvious coming from an Internet security company, but all are worth consideration.

1. Choose a comprehensive Internet security suite including security plus backup. Antivirus is not enough for the average online user in today’s threat filled environment. Backup your irreplaceable photos and documents.
2. Use common sense – don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, don’t share personal information, don’t open or click on links in emails from people you don’t know.
3. Get a tune-up for your PC. You get a tune-up from your car at least twice a year, you use your PC as much so it makes sense to protect it from crashes and performance problems.

In spite of the dangers—the hacking, crashing and viruses—most people say having access to the Internet is worth the risk. When BlogHer took its benchmark survey in 2008, many women said they would give up a lot of things before giving up the Internet. The Norton study found that it isn’t only sex and chocolate people will give up before the Internet: people are now saying they would give up their CARS before giving up the Internet.

• Online adults (89%) and online children (90%) overwhelmingly agree that the benefits of using the Internet outweigh the risks
• Adults would give up their cars or digital music players before giving up Internet access

There is variation in the results by country. Here are some highlights, selected from a great range of findings for each location.

• U.S. kids have an average of 83 online friends, the highest number among the 12 countries surveyed.
• Of the 12 countries surveyed, kids in Brazil spend the most time online (70 hours/month), while parents in Brazil believe their kids spend 56 hours/month online.
• At 89%, online adults in Canada report the highest level of parental responsibility for protecting their children online.
• Parental confidence in the UK is extremely high – 81% are confident they know what their child is looking at online; the children report a different story. 69% of kids report their parents know what they are doing online.
• At 78%, kids in France were most likely to report that online messaging techniques and texting make learning to write well more difficult for children.
• Online adults in Germany report the highest level of socializing with family or friends in the real world at 23 hours per week.
• Italy reports the most agreement between how often a parent reports knowing where a child is online and the percentage of time a child reports the parents know where they are, (77% parents vs. 78% kids).
• Sweden is the only country where the Internet as something they couldn’t live without did not make the top three list; instead the top three were cell phone (46%), television (46%) and car (39%).
• At 83%, online adults in China say they are among the first of their friends and family to check out a new technology, the highest of the countries surveyed and compared to 62% overall.In China, adults (47%) and parents (43%) are by far most likely to report that the Internet actually makes educating their children harder. This finding is somewhat surprising considering that adults, parents, and youth in China consistently emphasize the benefits of the Internet on learning.
• Online parents in Japan are least likely to set parental controls (18%), monitor their children online (10%), or discuss safe online habits (10%).
• Of all countries surveyed, online adults in India report the most man hours per week sending text messages from a phone (4).
• Among all the countries surveyed, Australia’s online parents report knowing what their children are looking online the most often (86%); however Australian youth report their parents only know what they are looking at 65% of the time. This is the largest gap in all countries.

Cross posted at BlogHer.