Cyberattacks on websites are ongoing threats that any organization with an online presence must guard against. Threat actors can target a website with the possible intent of gaining access to sensitive data or using the application as a middleman to launch new attacks against website users. Common vectors for these attacks include brute-forcing user accounts, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (XSRF), SQL injection (SQLi), or exploiting a unpatched vulnerability.
Such attacks can lead to:
- Disfiguration of the website
- Loss of website availability or denial of service (DoS) condition
- Compromise of sensitive customer or organization data
- An attacker taking control of the affected website
- Using the website as a starting point for waterhole attacks
Being compromised can damage an organization’s reputation and lead to financial loss due to loss of user trust and fewer website visitors.
Measures to secure your website
Organizations are advised to consider the following measures to secure your website:
- Make sure any software or apps are patched and up-to-date. Organizations can also do this easily by enabling automatic updates, if available.
- Make sure the default passwords are changed for the website, router(s), server(s), and any other connected devices. Use a strong password of at least 12 characters including uppercase, lowercase, numbers and/or special characters.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA), if applicable. This additional verification process helps provide an additional layer of protection and reduces the chances of cybercriminals gaining access to the user’s account.
- Validate user input, such as special characters and null characters, both client-side and server-side.
- Implement reCAPTCHA on your website to prevent spam bots or automated software from interacting with your site online. This can help prevent spammers from overloading your site or online server with millions of bot requests and prevent it from crashing.
- Implement the principle of least privilege and disable unnecessary accounts and privileges.
- Install web application firewalls and security plugins to prevent unauthorized traffic and malicious requests from accessing your network or system. These help protect against threats such as XSS, code injection, or brute force attacks.
- Implement network segmentation and segregation to make it harder for attackers to move laterally within connected networks.
- Use website monitoring services that can send you timely notifications if your website experiences downtime or issues with basic functions. This can help quickly draw attention to mitigation and containment issues.
- Enable system event logging to help investigate suspicious events or issues.
Guarantee the availability and confidentiality of important data
Organizations that regularly back up their important data and keep it offline are less likely to be seriously affected by website attacks. Depending on your organization’s needs, keep regular backup copies of your database and files. It is important that backup data is stored offline and not connected to your systems.
As an additional best practice, encrypt all sensitive data so that even if the data has been stolen, it is more difficult for attackers to physically access the encrypted information.
Follow the household
Regularly monitor and review administrator-level accounts and privileges for access and activities. Delete any database, application, or plug-in files when they are no longer in use. Obsolete accounts should also be deleted. Regularly reviewing and performing these maintenance activities can help remove potential entry points for an attacker to enter your system and detect abnormal activity early.
Respond and recover from an attack on your website
If your website has been attacked, these steps can help you respond and recover:
- Set up a maintenance page to communicate that your website is down and recovery is in progress.
- Take the compromised web server offline to prevent deeper penetration into the organization’s network.
- If a backup web server is available, restore the website with the backup.
- Perform a detailed investigation and forensic analysis on the offline web server to identify the suspected intrusion point.
- Once the root cause is identified, take steps to remove the threat(s) to prevent future website attacks.
- Redeploy the core web server component and monitor for possible future website attacks.
- Take the necessary steps after the incident to strengthen your security defenses and detect vulnerabilities before an attacker does. If done correctly, it will help limit the impact of future attacks on your organization’s operations.