We’ve learned to live with most of the disadvantages of modern technology. Issues such as website hacking happens to the best and brightest, and the biggest sites in the world—Google, ESPN, Amazon—aren’t safe from determined hackers. You might think your company website isn’t at risk, but you’d be wrong. Worst of all, it’s more than just the content on your site that’s in danger. It’s essential that your site uses adequate security protocols and best website design practices to keep it safe.
Your (Unwritten) Responsibility
There’s a certain level of unwritten responsibility that comes with having a company website. By encouraging users to visit your site, whether it’s through social media postings, blogging or pay-per-click advertising, it’s implied that your site is safe enough to visit and that you respect the preferences of your users. Don’t think it won’t happen to you – every day Google identifies almost 10,000 infected websites, and almost one-half of those were once legitimate sites that have been hacked to pass on infections.
Are You Making it Easy for Malware?
Your good intentions all go out the window, however, if users come to your site with the expectation of reading something and instead, they find malware downloading. That’s what happened to Forbes late in 2014, when the site was hacked and users were redirected to an external site where malware was installed on their computers. The programs enabled hackers to access private information such as keystrokes, which meant banking passwords, credit card and identity information were all in jeopardy.
Spreading the Sickness
Hacking is one of the primary risks of having a “homegrown” WordPress website design (or any other content management system) if it doesn’t have adequate security in place. Today, hackers are able to gain access to your company systems through your website, and view information such as employees’ internal email boxes. By viewing the emails of the compromised computer, hackers can often develop enough knowledge about colleagues and customers to do real harm—either to the employee or to the company.
Assessing Your Risk
I’ve heard far too many business owners say “hackers won’t target me, I’m too small.” Instead of sticking your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, assess your risk for being a target based on reliable criteria, such as:
- Selling high-end, luxury products and services. This indicates a strong possibility of having moderately wealthy, private clients in your relationship management database. By accessing your company server, hackers are able to skim off payment information such as bank account numbers and credit cards for fraudulent use.
- Operating in an industry with clients who require confidentiality, such as legal services and financial consulting. Hackers can use the information obtained to target bigger “fish,” such as client corporations engaged in mergers and acquisitions. It might sound far-fetched, but all a sophisticated hacker needs is an email address and login for a well-placed member of your staff to access everything he needs to pull off a scam.
- Outdated website software and lack of an operational firewall. Many small websites are designed and managed in-house by the company they belong to. They aren’t updated with the latest security fixes on a regular basis either, which leaves them open to being targeted en masse along with other sites.
Minimize the Danger
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. You can minimize your risk of being a target for hackers by having a professional website designed for your company, hosting it on a secure server and keeping it up to date. You can also keep it active and fresh by publishing new content regularly. While this keeps you alive in the search engines, it also tends to make you less of an obvious target than a site where crickets are all that’s found.
These days, “taking care of business” includes taking care of your customers, or rather their personal information. And to do that, you need to expect to be targeted–and protect yourself accordingly.