Securing your website is crucial to guarding your data as well as sensitive information from your customers. Taking preventative measures to protect your site can save time and money — and it can also protect your brand reputation.
Cybersecurity attacks and threats have grown in recent years, which makes securing your website all the more important. Security is even more critical for websites with online transactions, such as ecommerce websites, and for websites on widely popular platforms like WordPress.
To secure your website against hackers, you need preventative security measures in place. In this blog, we will examine seven different ways for you to secure your website for free — with everything from free tools to best practices and other tactics to protect your website.
How to Secure a Website for Free
- Install an SSL certificate.
- Update your site regularly.
- Use strong passwords.
- Back up your site regularly.
- Train your staff.
- Scan, scan, scan.
- Use security tools.
1. Install an SSL certificate.
SSL, also known as Secure Sockets Layer, is a protocol that creates an encrypted link between a web server and a web browser. That means any data exchanged between a visitor and website will be secure.
Having an SSL certificate for your WordPress website is a must — especially if you are running an ecommerce store. The SSL certificate will help protect your customers’ sensitive payment information.
Fortunately, you do not need any technical knowledge to have your website secured with SSL. You can easily get an SSL certificate from a hosting provider, domain registrar, or certificate authority (CA). While the prices vary, you can get an SSL certificate for free.
Many hosting companies provide them for free in their hosting packages. For example, if you host your website on HubSpot's CMS Hub, you can secure your content and lead data with a free standard SSL.
2. Update your site regularly.
Outdated software can put your website at risk for viruses, cyber attacks, and other security issues. To help avoid these problems, keep your website up-to-date by regularly checking for any updates or setting up auto-updates. These updates usually contain security patches from developers so it’s essential to make them as soon as possible.
If you’re on WordPress, many hosting providers offer managed hosting, which takes care of updates for you.
For the WordPress core, themes, and plugins, you can choose a built-in option from WordPress which enables auto-updates.
How to Enable Auto-Updates on WordPress
To enable auto-update for your WordPress core software, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Go to Dashboard > Updates.
Step 2: Click on the Enable automatic updates for all new versions of WordPress link.
To enable auto-update for your WordPress plugins, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Go to Dashboard > Plugins > Installed Plugins.
Step 2: There you will see all of the plugins you have installed so far.
Step 3: Click on the Enable auto-updates link given alongside each plugin.
Similarly, to enable auto-updates for your WordPress theme, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes.
Step 2: Select a theme (if you have multiple themes installed on your website, you should update all of them).
Step 3: Then click on the link that appears as Enable auto-updates.
You should also be careful before installing or integrating any third-party extensions or services. Check the reviews or developer's authorization before doing so — otherwise you risk installing a vulnerable plugin or component on your site.
3. Use strong passwords.
Using simple passwords like common words, number sequences, your name, or the name of your website is like inviting hackers into your home. These sorts of passwords make it easy to hack into your website.
Using strong passwords is a simple, free way to protect your website. Strong passwords include:
- A combination of alphabetical and numerical characters
- Capital as well as lower case letters
- Special characters
If you have a hard time coming up with a strong password, your browser can suggest one for you.
You can also use a free password manager like Dashlane to control your passwords on your desktop, laptops, and mobile devices.
Add in Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security layer that strengthens your website’s security. Two-factor authentication works with two different kinds of structures to prevent a malicious hacker from getting access to your website.
The security layer binds your password with a text code, facial or retina recognition, or with your fingerprint as a dual-sided puzzle. Your fingerprint or retina can be captured through a scanner on your mobile device.
Anyone who tries to break into your website will have to solve both puzzles. Two-factor authentication is not a flawless system — but it will improve a website's security.
You can set up 2FA on your site for free for a limited number of users with providers like DUO.
4. Back up your site regularly.
Creating routine backups of your website is not a proactive approach to website security — but it is essential in cases of malicious attacks, hardware failure, or natural disasters. Having a backup of your site means that it can be restored in no time. Without a backup, you risk losing all your data, customizations, and settings.
You can create a backup of your website's core files, media, non-media content, and databases too. Backups will save you the time, money, and effort required in dealing with data loss. You can create backups manually, with a tool, or rely on your hosting provider to do so. Most tools and hosting providers will let you schedule and automate backups.
Nexcess, for example, includes 30-day backups in all its WordPress managed hosting plans.
For a small website, you can choose a backup plan from your hosting provider. Some of them provide automatic data backups for websites for free, or for a small fee. A big and complex website, on the other hand, requires a huge amount of storage space to save backup data. You can purchase cloud storage to have your data available anytime, anywhere.
If you run your site on WordPress, check out our guide How to Backup Your WordPress Site Manually or With a Plugin for step-by-step instructions.
5. Train your staff.
Even the top cyber security companies can be fooled by smart hackers, but sometimes the culprit is found among untrained staff members. Your employees might be the best of the best in their field but they can still make innocent mistakes that open the gates for attacks and viruses.
To avoid these kinds of mistakes, you must train your employees to look out for suspicious activity and beware of clicking any dubious links or emails from unknown senders. Phishing attacks in particular can cause employees to give unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as email addresses, phone numbers, login data, and credit/debit information.
Run a cyber security awareness training program within your organization to guide your team members on how they can protect the data of the company and its customers.
6. Scan, scan, scan.
Regularly scanning your site can ensure you detect any issues or threats before they cause serious damage to your visitor’s user experience or to your brand reputation. There are several free website malware scanning services available, including:
Besides choosing an independent security software, plugin, addon, or company, you can opt for a hosting company that provides malware and virus scanning services for their customers. This option is best for non-ecommerce websites where financial transactions are not made through the website.
Namecheap and Hostwinds are ideal hosting providers for all types of web applications since they have a built-in scanner for malicious activities. WPX and WP Engine are also great for WordPress websites.
7. Use security tools.
You can also secure your website by using free tools. Below we’ll look at some of the most essential security tools that are available and offer both free and premium plans.
Sucuri is a cyber security company. They can help you to secure a website from several critical security issues, such as malware, spyware, trojan, denial-of-service attack, and hackers.
Qualys is also a cyber security company, though it provides security to cloud-based applications and servers. It can help you identify a wide range of security risks and assist you in protecting your web application and IT servers.
UpGuard is another network security company that specializes in securing sensitive data from organizations. UpGuard provides services including third-party risk management, attack surface management, and managed security. It monitors data coming from your vendor or any other party to prevent data leaks.
Detectify provides similar services as UpGuard does, but Detectify provides an AI risk monitor that inspects your website to find any of the two thousand plus security exposures to malicious attacks.
ImmuniWeb is a Swiss-based security company. They have machine learning and AI technology in place to track malicious activity or vulnerabilities for SaaS-based applications. ImmuniWeb inspects a website using many standards, including PCI, DSS, and GDPR compliance, HTTP headers, front-end library vulnerabilities, and a CMS-specific test for WordPress and Drupal sites.
A Checklist for Making Your Website More Secure
Whether you are running a content-based website, ecommerce website, or membership site on HubSpot, WordPress, Magento, Drupal, WooCommerce, Craft CMS, OroCRM, Sylius, or ExpressionEngine, securing your website is crucial.
In order to secure a website for free, you should:
- Install an SSL certificate.
- Update your website on a regular basis or activate automatic updates either from your hosting provider or a third-party add-on.
- Use strong passwords and urge your employees to do so.
- Create regular backups or use automated backup services provided by your hosting provider or a third-party add-on.
- Upskill your employees to tackle and prevent phishing attacks and other cyber attacks.
- Use anti-malware software, which is also built into several hosting plans.
- Leverage free security tools.
Finally, you must choose the best hosting provider that delivers built-in or integrated third-party plugins for automated recovery and backup, automated updates, and regular anti-malware scanning. Also look for features such as an SSL certificate, CDN, auto-scaling, and the option of enterprise hosting for bigger websites.
Last but not least, consider going with a fully managed hosting provider like Nexcess. Fully managed hosting empowers a website with all of the above and dedicated customer support, advanced caching, development sites, containers, and a higher grade of reliability and flexibility.