How to create a secure website: 8 website security tips.

Craig Greenup 23/02/24, 09:15

How to create a secure website: 8 website security tips

One of the questions that the Radical team regularly gets asked is how to create a secure website. So we thought we’d devote this post to website security tactics.

Top-notch security is, of course, a must-have website feature. Globally, an estimated 30,000 websites are hacked every day. And 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses.

These businesses end up missing out on sales. They lose valuable data. And they suffer brand damage that makes it harder to attract customers.

So what can you do to prevent hackers from gaining access to your website? You massively reduce the cyber risk to your business by following the website protection tips on this list.

How to create a secure website

  • Choose a secure hosting service
  • Get an SSL certificate
  • Follow design and development best practice
  • Keep software updated
  • Use strong passwords
  • Install security software
  • Conduct regular backups
  • Train your team

Choose a secure hosting service

Different hosting providers offer different levels of website security. The best of the bunch make sure that servers are:

  • secure
  • regularly backed up
  • regularly maintained

This makes it harder for hackers to harm your site.

Cheaper hosting options tend to be less secure, although there are some good deals to be found. We’d always recommend using a dedicated server, so you don’t have to share a server with other businesses and websites.

When you host your website on a dedicated server, you (or your tech team) can configure security settings to perfectly suit your requirements. It also means that fewer people are accessing the server, making it a lot less vulnerable to hacking and data loss.

Get an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate

An SSL helps make a website secure. It creates an encrypted link between your server and a user’s web browser. This means that the data shared between the two is secure.

When you get an SSL certificate for your website, your URLs will start with HTTPS. This stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. The little lock icon will also appear in the browser bar when customers visit your website.

You usually get an SSL certificate when you buy a domain name or sign up to a hosting provider. Most hosts provide an SSL certificate for free as part of their hosting package.

Follow design and development best practice

The design and code you use on your website can impact its safety. So you need to work with designers and developers who understand security best practices.

Here are just a few of the things designers and developers can do to ensure site security:

  • Creating clean code that is readable and easy to maintain – unnecessarily complex code can hide bugs
  • Picking reliably secure website themes and plugins
  • Adding session time-out features and storing user passwords safely so user data is well-protected
  • Restricting user file uploads or setting up a file assessment function so harmful files don’t end up on your website
  • Coding to prevent a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack, one of the most popular hacking methods in use today – it’s where hackers install malicious JavaScript on your website
  • Coding to avoid SQL injection (another common site security issue – where hackers add malicious code in order to manipulate your database)

Keep software updated

Updating your website regularly is good for user experience (UX) – and site SEO. It’s also essential for the security of your website.

Hackers look for vulnerabilities in your website software. Software providers try to remove those vulnerabilities with software and plugin updates.

It’s like hackers are developing better lock pickers. And software providers are staying one step ahead by installing better locks. Fall behind with updates and you leave the door open to cyber criminals.

You should aim to update plugins as soon as new versions become available. And regularly delete any plugins that you no longer use.

You can usually update website software and plugins via your content management system (CMS). But be wary. Updates can change the way your site operates, especially if you’re relying on lots of different plugins playing nicely with one another.

Get web maintenance or development support if you’re unsure that all updated plugins – and therefore your website – will continue to work as they should.

Use strong passwords

Still using 123456? Please, for the love of God, update your password now!

Strong passwords help to make a website secure. So avoid names, dates of birth and simple numerical sequences. And remember that strong passwords always include a combination of:

  • uppercase letters
  • lowercase letters
  • numbers
  • special characters

You should also update your website password regularly. If remembering your passwords proves tricky, you can use a password manager, like Google Password Manager.

This tool generates and remembers super-strong passwords for your website (and any other sites you visit). It also comes with a built-in tool called Password Checkup that you can use to identify weak and reused passwords.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is another option. This is where you combine a password with another layer of defence – like a code sent to your smartphone, a fingerprint scan or facial recognition.

2FA tends to slow down the login process a little. But it’s a really good way to improve website security.

Use security software

Another way to make a website secure? Install security software that acts as a first line of defence.

You can get security plugins that monitor your site. They’ll alert you to safety issues and protect your site from malware and hacking attempts.

Like the other plugins you use on your site, it’s vital that you keep security plugins updated. As soon as a new version becomes available, you need to update the version you have on your site.

Here at Radical, we recommend Cloudflare website protection. This software scans and protects your site.

It comes with a web application firewall (WAF) that acts as a barrier between your website and the internet.

It also detects malicious bots and unnatural traffic. Then, using a content delivery network (CDN), it prevents Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks from impacting your website.

Conduct regular backups

Even the best site security measures aren’t 100% effective. So regular website backups add another layer of insurance.

Backups ensure that that – should the worst happen – you can revert back to an earlier version of your site without losing too much data. You can quickly restore data, website settings and customisations.

Your website host will often provide backups as part of their service. Here at Radical, we offer daily backups for clients who choose our website hosting service.

Train your team

According to IBM, human error is the main cause of 95% of cybersecurity breaches.

Everyone makes mistakes. But when it comes to your website, you need to find ways to minimise the risk of your staff making one.

Your team might choose weak passwords or reuse passwords across different accounts. They may click on a phishing email by mistake. Or forget to install a security update on their device.

Everyone with access to your website needs to understand your security protocol. So take the time to train your team in cyber safety – and refresh their knowledge regularly to ensure security stays front of mind.

You should also review website permissions – what each user account is able to do. If someone only needs to work on a particular area of the site, give them access to that bit and nothing else.

Final thoughts

Knowing how to create a secure website is essential for any website owner. Whether you do web security yourself – or enlist tech support – it’s something you have to keep on top of.

Cybercriminals are always developing new ways to attack websites. So to keep your site, your business and your customers safe, you need to stay one step ahead.

Start by choosing a hosting provider with good protections, getting an SSL certificate and working with designers and devs who know their stuff.

Then maintain site security with strong passwords, security software, regular updates, backups and team training.

One last tip? Avoid using public Wi-Fi hotspots when logging into your website’s content management system (CMS). Your email account and any other sites where you’re entering personal or financial information are best avoided, too. Public Wi-Fi is a prime target for hackers. So only log on when you have a secure, private internet connection.

Website security FAQs

How do you ensure e-commerce site security?

When you run an e-commerce website, you process a lot of sensitive customer data. So you need to give e-commerce site security extra special thought.

Follow the advice above. But also conduct regular audits and consider penetration testing. That way you can be confident that your security features are robust.

How can I protect a WordPress site?

To protect a WordPress site, all the usual site security tactics apply. SSL certificates, careful password management, malware scans and so on.

You can also make it harder for hackers to log into your WordPress admin accounts and access your WordPress website database by rearranging things a little.

You can change:

  • your database file prefix
  • the default “admin” username
  • your WordPress website login URL

By moving away from default versions, you make life harder for hackers. You can also add a security question to your WordPress login screen.

Can a website be 100% secure?

No. A website can never be 100% secure.

Web security is all about deterring and preventing hackers from attacking your site. It’s a way to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack. But hackers may still find a way in.

That being said, when you use an SSL certificate, strong passwords, updated software and other security tactics, you make your site a lot less vulnerable.

Why is site security so important?

Site security is important because cyber-attacks require a ton of time and money to rectify. Site downtime hits your bottom line. And – if you’re obliged to tell your customers about a breach – you suffer brand damage too.

But site security isn’t just about preventing a huge headache for your business. It comes with a couple of added benefits.

First, customers are wary of unsecure sites. Knowing that your site is secure reassures them. So they’re more likely to trust your company and shop on your website.

Second, Google and other search engines prefer secure websites. Make your website secure and it’s more likely to reach those search engine result page (SERP) top spots.