Basic Website Security for Small Businesses

Find more content for web amateurs and pros alike at brenkoweb.

Preventing cyberattacks is a top priority for small businesses today. 63 percent of small and medium-sized businesses experienced a data breach in 2019 and 28 percent of all 2019 data breaches involved a small business.

The result is lost productivity and high costs for small businesses already operating on thin margins. When an attack targets an online store or small business website, the company's reputation also takes a hit: Not only do search engine rankings suffer when a website is compromised, but nearly one in four Americans will stop doing business with a company that's been hacked.

With these numbers, it's no surprise that small business owners are increasingly interested in improving website security. But where to start? This guide walks through the basic cybersecurity protections every small business website needs.

4 Common Website Threats

Viruses, malware, and ransomware

Viruses, malware, and ransomware are types of malicious files. Hackers embed malware in website ads and links. When someone clicks the infected link, malicious files get downloaded onto their computer.

DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service attacks can overload a website with traffic until it crashes. Attackers must first infect devices and create a botnet before attacking a target.

SQL injections

SQL databases store web data. When hackers gain access to SQL databases, they inject malicious commands into websites.

Cross-site scripting

Cross-site scripting attacks, or XSS, occur when malicious scripts are inserted into websites. These client-side scripts use cookies and other information to steal user data.

How to Improve Website Security

Now you understand why it's important to protect small business websites. Now, it's time to take action. These are the basic steps every small business owner should take to secure their website.

Perform a security audit

Before small business owners can improve website security, they need to know where they stand. Unfortunately, many small businesses never take the step of performing a security audit because they can't afford managed IT services. Freelance cybersecurity services provide a low-cost alternative for small businesses. Small businesses performing an initial security audit should choose a freelancer that offers periodic monitoring.

Practice password security

Brute force attacks occur when attackers use trial and error to log into accounts, and they're surprisingly effective. Prevent brute force attacks by requiring strong passwords that use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and limiting login attempts. Small businesses should also require employees to change passwords often and use unique passwords for each account.

Get an SSL certificate

SSL certificates show that a website uses a secure encrypted connection. Websites with SSL certificates rank higher in both search results and customer trust. SSL certificates are especially important for websites that transmit financial data or personally identifiable information.

Use (and update) plugins

Security plugins are an easy way to monitor the security of a small business website. WordPress security plugins scan for vulnerabilities and block threats. However, plugins themselves become a security threat when they're not updated. Updating plugins and software on schedule prevents hackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities.

Backup your website

Prevention is the most important step in protecting businesses from cyberattacks. However, owners also need to plan for the worst. That includes backing up website files to prevent lost content, lost transactions, and downtime. With automated backup tools, small businesses can get back online ASAP after a breach without worrying about manual backups.

As more companies do business online, good website security practices will only grow more important. Whether you're a small business owner, a web professional, or both, make sure you're prioritizing cybersecurity in everything you do. With a few basic measures, you can fight back against cybercrime and protect your bottom line.


Image via Pexels