Why Cybersecurity Should Affect Your Web Design


Cybersecurity should be at the core of your design before you consider any other elements of your site. Hacking is a serious problem, especially if you collect sensitive data. Your customers need to know they can rely on you to protect their personal information.

About 64 percent of companies have experienced some type of web-based attack. From the smallest business to the largest corporation, all are at the mercy of hackers if they don't put some security measures in place.

A hacker attack occurs every 39 seconds and impacts one in three Americans. With those statistics in mind, put your site users at ease by implementing the following security measures into your website designs:

1. Collect Less Data

One way to protect your customers is to limit the amount of data you collect and store online. Collect only what is an absolute necessity for you to complete an order. If you don't need their birth date, then don't ask for it. Minimize the information so if the worst happens and you do have a security breach, the hackers get less information than they otherwise would.

Some sites collect all types of information in an attempt to market to their users. While there is value in knowing the names of your customers' children and their ages, this also puts them at risk. This type of information is often used to gain access to sensitive accounts with qualifying questions.

2. Secure Your WordPress Site

About 75 million sites use WordPress as their content management system (CMS). Unfortunately, if not appropriately secured, it is vulnerable to hackers. Take the time to secure your WordPress site.

  • Use complicated usernames and passwords that aren't easy to crack.
  • Use a plugin to block anyone trying to log in with the username admin.
  • Change your dashboard location from wp-admin to something with a different name.
  • Utilize SSL.
  • Add a firewall.

Those are some basic things you can do today to protect your WordPress site. You should delve a bit deeper into the topic of securing your WordPress site and close off any backdoors that allow hackers to gain a foothold.

3. Secure Your WordPress Database Prefix

The default database prefix is wp-. Hackers are well aware that most people will stick with the default settings. You can throw them off and hopefully drive them away by changing the prefix you use for your database. Changing your database prefix isn't complicated, but you should always back your site up before making changes.

Changing your prefix protects you from SQL injection attacks. There are plugins you can install that allow you to quickly change your database prefix without a lot of PHP knowledge, such as Brozzme DB Prefix or iThemes Security.

4. Create a Privacy Policy

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) now requires website owners to list clear policies on how they protect user data and how they use that data — even if you don't live in the EU. If you have even one customer who falls under GDPR, you must be compliant. You've probably noticed that some sites have privacy policies that are so complex you'd have to be a lawyer to understand them.

Don't do that to your site visitors. Keep your language clear and readable, so site visitors understand what you plan to do with the information you collect and the measures you have in place to protect them. Keep privacy policies simple and to the point. It's probably easier than you think to get GDPR compliant, but it is essential to pay attention to this aspect of your security plan.

5. Secure Your Own Devices

One way hackers gain access to websites is through your devices. No matter where you're working, upload files via virtual private networks (VPN). A VPN lets you remotely upload files without using a public network that might be vulnerable to attack. A VPN works similarly to a firewall to encrypt and protect your data from hackers.

If you are working in a public location and using their guest internet access, secure your device by choosing a public location in your Wi-Fi settings. Limit who can see your device to avoid a situation where another patron gains access to your files and thus to your website.

6. Do Frequent Backups

Let's say the worst has happened and a hacker gained control of your site. They've infiltrated every single file and you have no idea how to fix the problem. If you back up your site frequently, this is less of an Armageddon scenario than if you don't. There are programs you can install that run backups on a regular basis and many website hosting companies do their own nightly backups.

No matter how many safeguards you install, there is a possibility hackers will overtake your site. However, if you have a complete backup, then it isn't as much of a problem. You simply work with your hosting company to find the way they entered your site, secure it and wipe out the old data, uploading your backup in its place. Your site is only down a fraction of the time it would otherwise be.

One of the biggest challenges as a designer is getting into the habit of backing up your work every time you make the slightest change. It's easy to forget this step and lose hours of work because a hacker takes over your site. Either set up automated backups or get into the habit of doing one each time you finish changes.

Cybersecurity Matters

The most beautifully designed site in the world isn't useful if it gets hacked. Consider the backend of your website's design to prevent hackers from getting in. Make your site user-friendly, but also consider the type of information you collect and how you can keep it safe for those who entrust you with it. Cybersecurity is just another element of web design that makes your work better than your competitors'.

Lexie is a graphic designer and typography enthusiast. She spends most of her time A/B testing websites and creating style guides. Check out her blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.


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