You got your website up and running. Congratulations on that! It is very likely that you learned a lot many things in this process – even if you didn’t do everything on your own. It is doesn’t hurt know about security issues as well. After all, security is an essential aspect of running your website. You cannot afford to neglect it. It is, therefore, beneficial if you educate yourself about it. In this article, we will explain a few security issues and what they mean.
Why Is Security important?
What do you do when you purchase a new car, a home, or even a new mobile phone? You take care of these assets so that they are protected. Taking care of their security means you invest money in insurance, adopt safety measures, and also change your behavior if it puts your assets at risk. Similarly, your website is the asset that you should actively protect. You will have to pay more for financial losses if your asset is attacked. Time and frustration have no fixed monetary value but they cost huge. Your best option is to save your website before it gets attacked. Website security is important in this regard.
Who will attack your website? For starters, there are millions of hackers storming the internet every day and millions of websites do get hacked. Your website doesn’t to be a popular one or old one to get attacked. Just launching your website is enough to attract hackers. There are several automated scripts that run across the internet looking for security vulnerabilities. If your site is having one, hackers can easily break into your website.
What can hackers do? There is no limit to what a hacker can do once he has access to your website. They can steal all sorts of data that can include customer data, your financial information, and other credentials.
Apart from stealing, hackers take complete control of your website, leaving you completely powerless to do anything. There is a chance that you will lose all your data permanently. Think about all the hard work you put in. All of it can vanish in thin air once your website is hacked.
Therefore, website security is very important. There are many ways your website can become vulnerable to security threats. You need to make sure that there are adequate measures in place to address such threats.
What are the types of attacks you should be aware of? Here are the top 10 security attacks explained.
Let’s get started.
- Brute Force Attack
- Path Traversal
- File Upload Vulnerabilities
- Remote File Inclusion
- SQL Injection
- Password Attack
- Cross-Site Scripting
DDoS stands for “Distributed Denial of Service” attack. The purpose of a DDoS attack is to make the target website inaccessible to users. A successful DDoS attack means the website under attack is no more available online. DDoS is a non-intrusive type of attack. Here, the goal is not to breach into the website but to attack it with multiple requests and take it offline or slow it down by flooding the network.
How is this attack carried out? For the sake of understanding, let’s a web server can handle 1k requests per minute. Hackers then send 5k-10k requests to the web server, which it obviously cannot handle. Another way is to send bogus requests. Either way, the website is then not available to legitimate users. As a result, the website is as good as offline since users can no longer access it. Hackers use compromised computers, systems, websites, and an army of zombie devices called ‘botnets’. These botnets attack the target website and take it down. They do these by overloading the system.
What are the effects of a successful DDoS attack? With DDoS attacks, hackers cannot steal the website data. The goal is to affect website traffic by making the website inaccessible. Once the DDoS attack is successful, there can be the following harmful consequences to your business that include but are not limited to the following:
- The site will not be accessible by you or your visitors.
- You will lose loyal web users during the attack.
- Users will not be able to access any of the content on your website.
- If you are having an online store or WooCommerce shop, you may lose a lot of money due to disrupted business.
- If your website offers services of various kinds, there will be a disruption of services.
- If you are a blogger, you will lose revenue from ads and content distribution.
- The credibility of your website and in turn, your business is affected.
- You need to hire security professionals to get back your site back online which adds additional expenditure.
You can take preventive measures against DDoS attacks. Communicate with a security expert to know what can be done to avoid this kind of attack. You can also reach out to us. Our team of experts can guide you.
2. Brute Force Attack
Brute Force literally means the use of force without using much intelligence. And these attacks are indeed like that. A brute force attack is like “guesswork”, where a lot of guessing of the right username and password combination takes place. Once the attacker has the right combination of username and password, he/she can access your website and all the data in it. It is very difficult to catch the perpetrator once he gains access to your website. The best time to stop such attacks is when it is in process.
How does this attack take place? The attacker takes the help of a bot (a computer, a piece of code, or artificial intelligence) and it then tries various credentials until it finds the right one. This process is similar to trying plenty of keys to the lock in the hope of eventually finding the one that fits. In a basic attack, the attacker uses a dictionary of common passwords and tries it on the targeted website. An 8 character alphanumeric password – capitals and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters – can be cracked within two hours. You might be surprised then how easy it is to crack weak password – username combinations.
How to prevent brute force attacks?
There are a couple of ways you can strengthen your security against brute force attacks. Here are a few things you can try for yourself:
Have a longer password: More characters in a password make it hard to crack the password. Longer passwords take more time in brute force cracking.
Make the password more complex: More options for each character also increase the time to brute force crack. Complex passwords are hard to crack
Limit login attempts: You can limit login attempts with the help of a plugin. Brute force attacks increment a counter of failed login attempts on most directory services – a good defense against brute force attacks is to lock out users after a few failed attempts, thus nullifying a brute force attack in progress.
Implement Captcha: Captcha is a common system to verify a human is a human on websites. Captcha or ReCaptcha can stop brute force attacks in progress.
Use multi-factor authentication: Multi-factor authentication adds a second layer of security to each login attempt that requires a human intervention, which can stop a brute force attack from success. There are many two-factor authentication plugins available in the WordPress plugin repository that you can use for your WordPress website.
There is no such thing as a full-proof password. With a brute force attack, any password can be cracked. The only question is how much time it takes to crack the password. You can certainly have a password that will take months to be cracked. Adopt adequate security measures for your website, and you should be fine from these attacks.
Malware is short for ‘malicious software’. Malware is a threat to your cybersecurity. Such software can be installed on your system without your knowledge. Malware is used to gain access to confidential data, credentials, financial information, customer data, and the website’s administrative privileges.
There are a few types of malware that you should know.
Virus: Viruses can corrupt your system and make it inaccessible. A virus can also be used to steal information, create botnets, harm computers, networks, and systems, steal money, render advertisements, and more. A virus can copy itself and spread to other computers.
Worm: Worm is a common malware that takes advantage of security vulnerabilities. A Worm is a standalone program that replicates itself to infect other computers. Unlike a virus, a worm does not need human interaction to spread. Worms can delete files on a host system, encrypt data for a ransomware attack, steal information, delete files, and create botnets.
Trojan Horse: Trojan horse is a type of threat that takes place when a malicious code enters your system disguised as a normal, harmless file or program to trick you into downloading and installing malware. The moment you install a Trojan, cyber criminals can get access to your system. Once a cyber criminal has successful access to your website, he or she can steal data, install more malware, modify files, monitor user activity, destroy data, steal financial information, conduct denial of service (DoS) attacks on targeted web addresses, and more.
Spyware: As the name suggests, this type of malware spies on you. It tracks your browsing, keystrokes, and other activities that occur on your website. This information can then be used against you. Spyware takes advantage of security vulnerabilities and can often come bundled with a trojan horse.
Ransomware: These are one of the ugliest types of malware. Ransomware literally asks ransom from the victim. This type of malware holds your precious data and threatens to destroy it if the ransom is not paid. During ransomware attacks, access is restricted and many of the files are encrypted to bar access. The system restores to the original state only after the ransom is paid.
What can you do to prevent a malware attack? You need to continuously monitor your website and your system for malware. There are many security plugins for WordPress that provide malware scanning. Using antivirus software is also effective in detecting malware on your system.
4. Path Traversal
Path Traversal, also known as ‘Directory Traversal’, “directory climbing”, and “backtracking”, is an attack that attempts to access files and directories that are outside the web root folder. Such directories may include administrative directories such as ‘config’ or other crucial files. With Path Traversal, the attacker can gain access to restricted directories and files. It is also possible to execute commands outside of the web server’s root directory when this type of attack is successful.
The web server itself can have security vulnerabilities that can make it susceptible to path reversal attacks. You can web vulnerability scanner to check if your web server is vulnerable or not.
5. File Upload Vulnerabilities
File upload vulnerability is a major problem commonly associated with web-based applications. This type of vulnerability allows the attacker to upload a file with malicious code that can be executed on the server. Ultimately, the attacker can access the system. For this, a simple PHP file that is uploaded to the server without any restrictions can suffice. Many times, websites do not validate the type of file being uploaded to their web server. Attackers take advantage of this negligence.
6. Remote File Inclusion
Remote File Inclusion or RFI, for short, is a tactic that exploits web applications that dynamically include external files or scripts. The attacker’s goal is to exploit such vulnerabilities to insert malware into your system and gain access to your website. Like other cyber attacks, Remote File Inclusion can result in information theft, website takeover, or compromised servers. A dedicated security solution is needed to mitigate such attacks. Many experts advise never to include files based on user input. This may not always be possible. Therefore, It is advisable that you have a security check of your website for vulnerabilities.
7. SQL Injection
SQL injection is a common hacking technique. In this method, a malicious code is injected into your database using different techniques or methods. SQL databases include MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server, among others. Once the attackers get access to your database, they can modify, add, or delete data. It is also easier to gain access to the user credentials once SQL injection succeeds. In some cases, this type of attack can also be used to perform a denial of service (DoS) attack. The attackers can also get access to all the data on the database server. This can pose a significant risk of damage if there is financial data on your database server.
8. Password Attack
The name says it all. A password attack means an attack that is performed by using your password. This is the most common type of attack. The method by which password can be obtained may vary but the outcome is always the same: the attacker has your password and it can be used to gain access to your system and website. A password attack usually does not require malware. A brute force attack is also a method to find the password.
How can you prevent a password attack? Here are some tips that can help:
Secure Passwords: Keep your passwords safe and confidential.
Use Strong Password: Create a strong password by using a combination of characters that includes upper case letters, lower case letters, symbols, and numbers.
Never repeat a password: Never use a password repeatedly. It means no two websites should have the same password. Use a different password for each place. Having a common password will help the attacker to breach into your other accounts as well.
Don’t Use Common Passwords: Google ‘most commonly used passwords’ and do not use any variations of those as your password.
Frequently Change Your Passwords: Do not keep the same password that you used months ago. Ideally, you should change your password every 30 days. Modern financial institutions make it mandatory to change passwords every 3 months.
A password attack is a simple but effective type of security attack. Once the perpetrator succeeds in gaining access to your user account, all hell can break loose. You can lose your precious data and your website.
9. Cross-site Scripting
When you go fishing, you throw a bait to the fishes, and eventually one of them goes for it and you grab your fish. Phishing, although it sounds like fishing, is somewhat different. It is similar to fishing in that the attacker uses bait to lure users into submitting their information. The only difference is that the bait is a digital one, mostly in the form of a website that poses as an authentic and trusted one. Deception is the core of phishing attacks. These types of attacks often use emails as well.
Most of phishing scams are related to bank emails. You receive an email that looks like from your bank. Once open the link you are taken to a fake portal where your credentials are asked. This way, the criminals get your information. Phishing is one of the most widespread cyber attacks.
How to avoid phishing attacks?
Simply don’t open email links that ask you to enter your credentials. Never visit banks or financial websites from your email links. Make sure you have visited the authentic website. Careful browsing can prevent you from being a victim of phishing attacks.
So this was our list of common security attacks you should be aware of. We hope this article added to your knowledge. If you are concerned with the security of your WordPress website, you can reach out to us. We would love to help. Leave us a comment if you have anything more to add.