In today’s cybercrime scenario, ensuring website security has become more difficult and troublesome due to the increasing hacking attempts and malware infections. One could follow the best security practices and be updated on the latest cyber threats, and still, get compromised by a seemingly small oversight. So, there’s a lot that can – and ought to – be done to keep up a website secure as hackers are constantly developing new mechanisms to break through the strongest barriers. At the same time, it is important to audit these security protocols from time to time.
According to a study in 2019, it takes a typical website owner close to 200 days to notice that their site has been hacked. That’s 200 days for the hacker to compromise your site, steal customer data, and manipulate your site to lead their will with a clear view of sensitive information and company data. Therefore, one always needs to stay abreast of the happenings on their websites and the weaknesses covered up inside it.
This is where a routine website security audit steps in – this step allows you to recognize various security vulnerabilities and other issues before they become a cause for a website compromise. Performing security testing for a website also allows your internal IT/security teams to see where they’re lacking in terms of strengthening security barriers. It assists you to identify any suspicious activity on your website while ensuring security solidifying measures.
So, what are the steps to perform a website security audit?
1. Choose an ideal scanner to identify the issues
Whether you buy online scanning tools or hire professional experts trained in this aspect, the first step will constitute is analyzing the site and its integral elements to identify the security loopholes and vulnerabilities. This means you’d have to go through everything – files, databases, directories, themes, plugins, other extensions, the web server, etc. so that you can find any hidden malicious scripts, backdoors, misconfiguration, and other risks and vulnerabilities in your website.
There are various free and paid tools available online for this purpose including Sucuri SiteCheck, Qualys, Intruder which can test over SSL/TLS server connection and find out basic security loopholes present in a site.
We also suggest Astra Security’s free Website Security scanner, which scans your website for vulnerabilities such as missing security headers, content security policy, flawed file permissions, to name a few.
This scanner also checks your website for blacklisting by search engines, SEO spam, or any other malware.
2. Deal with issues according to the risk they possess
It is often important to deal with situations according to the risk factor associated with it, fixing up what’s critical first, and then moving onto the less-prioritized ones.
Pinpoint the security areas that are most crucial to your website and business. Form a list, prioritize the issues and fix them one by one.
For different websites, different security areas can be prioritized. For instance, in an e-commerce website, the payment gateway might be the most apex area for a security audit, while in a blogging website, the root folder may top the list for looking out for security loopholes or misconfigurations.
3. Exploit your vulnerabilities
After detecting the poorly implemented security areas and primitive issues, your next step is to simulate an environment / test-bed in which you can test the impact caused by them and the consequent vulnerabilities that may pop up.
Here is where the importance of vulnerability assessments and penetration testing (VAPT) procedures lies. There are quite a few automated tools available that offer both paid and free versions, some combined with personalized expert advice to better deal with the testing process.
Some of the tools include Pentest-Tools, Metasploit, W3af, Nmap, etc. Astra Security also offers a well-developed and highly professional version of the VAPT procedure through various methods like payload injections that transform into HTTP requests, integrating web and proxy server requests, etc.
Your chosen supporting vendor in this process should include the ability to detect simple and complicated issues, gather adequate information about the detected vulnerabilities for resolving it, and for the final report, test applications, CMS platforms, SSL, etc.
4. Decide a framework for testing for vulnerabilities
A framework should be established that identifies attacks and audits the infrastructure to decide existing strengths against attacks such as cross-site vulnerabilities, weak login credentials, SQL injections, and PHP misconfiguration issues.
Tools like Metasploit also provide the readymade option of choosing the target website, opting for a preferred exploitation option, identifying the payload that needs to be dropped, and initiating the attack. Its database also records the different kinds of exploitation attempts launched, which is useful for modifying future simulated attacks once all weaknesses have been identified and listed.
To sum up
There are various components that need to be explored when deciding to conduct a successful website security audit. More than a simple compliance requirement, this step should be taken with more seriousness as it provides great insights into the risks and vulnerabilities that your site possesses which can be misused by hackers and cause great harm to your site’s purpose and its regular visitors.
With the combination of periodic audits, regular steps are taken for security optimization, choosing the right security professional to conduct such testing procedures, and staying updated on the latest security threats, you can always continue to explore the best opportunities as the owner of a great website.