Secure Your Online Presence

If you are not subscribed to a managed hosting service, you’re not fully protected. You’re at risk of potential data breaches. And, the maintenance and security of your website and email account is solely your responsibility.

What Is Cyber Security and Information Security Exactly?

Using the terms ‘Cyber Security’ and ‘Information Security’ interchangeably is incorrect. Information Security centres around all information, both digital and in hard copy.

Cyber Security is the application of technologies, processes and controls to protect systems, networks, programs, devices, and data from cyber attacks. It aims to reduce the risk of cyber attacks and protect against the unauthorised exploitation of systems, networks and technologies.

Understand How Email Servers and Websites Interact with the World Wide Web

Much like your physical and postal address, the World Wide Web needs to have your addresses to send website visitors and emails your way. To achieve this, Domain Name System (DNS) records are attached to your domain (“mydomain.com”) to direct both email and website traffic. Unfortunately, not taking the time and care to correctly configure these records can prove detrimental.

Dangers and Difficulties with Email

The most common difficulty with email is that if the DNS records are incorrectly configured, a cyber criminal can determine where your email server is located. This person can then monitor your website and email traffic to intercept any encrypted and badly-encrypted traffic. In layman’s terms, if the email is not sent via correctly configured paths, the cyber criminal can intercept and amend the email or spoof your address to make emails look like they were generated from your mail server.

What Can Be Done?

  • As the World Wide Web evolved, the need to secure DNS records has been identified and developed. DKIM, SPF and DMARC records are unique identifiers attached to your domain so that the recipient email server can identify whether the email originated within your organisation. Essentially, it’s like a signature. However, most budget hosting companies do not take the time to configure this correctly.
  • Along with the above DNS records, it is important to use a proxy service such as Cloudflare. You will benefit from an improvement in speed and the proxy service will filter out any suspicious traffic and request that the visitor or sender verify themselves. It achieves this by encrypting the traffic between your web server and the website visitor. This makes it difficult for cyber criminals to attack as they cannot easily determine the location of your server.
  • Invest in professional and secure online collaboration tools, such as Google G Suite and Microsoft Exchange. These add a substantial barrier of protection to your communications, safeguarding your emails and online communication. It is also recommended to attach an email resilience service to your configuration. This service specifically monitors inbound and outbound communications for threats and spam. These are usually attached to an archiving solution, which means that if your servers are hacked, you will still have a secure copy of all your emails that can be restored.
  • Protect your communications when using public internet services, like restaurant WiFi or mobile hotspots. Install a reputable anti-malware application, such as Malwarebytes, on all your devices. Most new anti-malware applications now include a VPN service for added security. Click here to read a more detailed summary of the impact of your personal computer on electronic communications.

Protecting and Recovering a Compromised Website

Much like the way email servers are affected, web servers (where your website is hosted and serves web pages to the visitor) are also affected by cyber attacks. If you do not have the know-how to maintain your hosting account and ensure good practices are followed, such as updating the website and plugins to the latest version, your website will be vulnerable to attacks.

The question is, why would someone attack your website? It generally boils down to a financial motive, either directly or indirectly. DDoS attacks are used to attack web servers by using all websites that have been successfully hacked to send huge amounts of traffic to the website being attacked, thereby crashing the server and interrupting access to the website for legitimate visitors. A DDoS attack is similar to ransomware in that the system or website is made inoperable until such time that a conclusion is reached.

Websites that have been hacked are not necessarily detectable by a lay person. After the website is infiltrated, huge amounts of fake urls are generated causing a drop in search engine visibility. This is called the “Japanese Hack”. A hack like this requires a professional to neutralise the threat. Typing your domain name (yourdomain.com) into the search bar will display all listed urls with the search engine and will immediately display gibberish results.

Other websites are taken over completely with what is called ransomware. Ransomware prevents the website owners from accessing it, allowing these scammers to publish content on your website without you having any control over it. As the name implies, there is usually a requested monetary threat attached to the hack. The website can be recovered by a professional, but if your hosting does not offer an automatic backup service it could take substantially longer to regain control of your website.

Ultimately, setting up the above protocols correctly from the start will protect you from attacks in the future.