At a time where cyber defenses are low due to the shift of focus to the pandemic, cybercriminals find it opportune to launch their attacks against computer networks, businesses and world organisations. Fuelled by COVID-19 fear and exacerbated by faulty website security, cybercrimes have surged as of late.
The US Internet Crime Complain Center reported that cybercrime complaints increased by 300%. What used to be 1,000 complaints per day, skyrocketed to 3,000 to 4,000 complaints per day. Meanwhile, UK’s National Fraud and Cyber Security Centre reported a 400% increase in Coronavirus-related fraud reports during the onset of the virus outbreak.
What are the Common Cybercrimes?
Cybercriminals are ramping up their illicit activities to maximise ill-gotten gains. Typical cybercrimes include:
Unethical hacking refers to any unauthorised breach of computer systems and exploitation of its security vulnerabilities for personal or financial gain. Often, hacking results in privacy infringement and theft of identity or proprietary information. Hacking may be done through:
- Denial of Service (DDos) Attack
By spreading malicious software through social media, emails and websites, the attacker builds a network of infected computers called botnets. Controlled remotely by the hacker, the compromised system of botnets can generate floods of Internet traffic to disrupt targeted server or network’s normal traffic. The flood is usually generated by increasing connection requests more than a server can handle, or have computers send large chunks of random data to use up the target’s bandwidth. Once the network is down, the hacker easily breaches the site’s security protocols.
- SQL Injection
According to an Open Web application Security study, SQL injection is the number 1 threat to web application security. This code injection technique preys on the security vulnerabilities of the software that runs a web site. By placing malicious code in SQL statements, the hacker bypasses application security measures. The hacker then gains access to the entire SQL database. He can even modify, add or delete data as if he were an administrator.
- Denial of Service (DDos) Attack
In phishing, a cybercriminal uses ‘disguised’ emails as weapon to entice victims. The fraudster masquerades as a trusted company, or a real person, the victim might do business with. The deceptive email tricks the victim to click on a link or download an attachment. Either way, the purpose may be to acquire the victim’s personal information or infect the victim’s computer with malware.
- Ransom Malware
Ransomware is a type of malware designed to prevent victims from accessing the system or personal files. Cybercriminals lock and encrypt a victim’s computer or device data, then demand a ransom to restore victim’s access.
How to Strengthen Website Security
A secure website is an effective safeguard against cybercrime attacks. Here are some tips on how to strengthen your website security:
- Use Strong Passwords
Passwords are the first line of defense against cyberattacks. It’s the easiest entry point that can be protected. According to Verizon’s Data Breach Report in 2018, 81% of security breaches and hacking-related incidents are caused by stolen or weak passwords. Hackers easily exploit commonly used passwords using sophisticated password-cracking tools. Thus, passwords should be at least 10 characters long and consist of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, special characters and numerals.
- Switch to HTTPS Protocol
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) creates a secure encrypted connection between the server and the user’s web browser. The secured connection prevents sensitive communication from being intercepted by attackers. Through HTTPS, passwords and bank details entered by the user are protected and cannot be stolen. If the web application sends sensitive data to users, encryption protects that data as well. Consumers prefer transacting with HTTPS sites because of the added layer of protection. A study by Global Sign revealed that 85% of consumers would abandon their carts if they were unsure if their data was being transferred securely. HubSpot Research also showed that 85% of people will discontinue browsing a website without a secure encrypted connection.
- Update Software and Plug-ins
An outdated website is vulnerable to cybercrime attacks. Hackers aggressively exploit security flaws in web software such CMS or forum. WordPress, for instance, which powers close to 25% of the world’s websites uses open source software. Security holes are seen in popular, free-to-use WordPress plug-ins every month. Thus, the WordPress website development team regularly publishes security updates and bug fix updates, along with new functionalities, to patch these security vulnerabilities. Serious security breaches arise when you neglect website maintenance and leave open-source scripts outdated.
- Perform Website Security Audits
There are applications that scan security threats and vulnerabilities for free. Vulnerability or penetration tester apps imitate the scripts used by hackers and monitor malicious site activity. A self-security assessment helps detect weaknesses in your website and enables you to spot/fix vulnerabilities before actual attacks by cybercriminals.
How Website Security Affects SEO
Website security not only protects websites against cyberattacks and theft of confidential data, it also directly affects SEO rankings.
- HTTPS is a ranking signal
Google is strict when it comes to safeguarding the privacy of its users. Expectedly, Google encourages site owners to pay serious attention to the security features of their website. To incentivize sites with advanced secure connections for its users, Google made HTTPS a ranking signal in 2014. Thereafter, the HTTPS padlock icon became a symbol of site trustworthiness.Since July 2018, Google labeled non-HTTPS sites as “not secure”. The “not secure” warning is a red flag for site visitors. It signals a website’s vulnerability to cyberattacks, which may lead to negative consumer perceptions about site credibility.
- SEO Spam Links
Hacking can negatively impact a website’s organic SERPS performance. If you fail to implement security measures for your website, your site can get hacked or your domain hijacked. During a hack, a website may be deliberately injected with blocks of low value backlinks from malicious websites. Google assesses a website’s quality by evaluating other sites that link to it, and what sites it links to. When your site links to shady and questionable sources, this endangers your site’s credibility and ultimately hurts your rankings.
- Google Penalty
When Google detects sites hacked with malware, it displays the warning: “This site may harm your computer” in the search results. Being flagged or blacklisted for malware has serious repercussions. For one, Google will quickly remove a hacked website from SERPs.
Repair of file infections and compromised databases of hacked website will take days or weeks. A website forced to go offline to rid traces of malware suffers from reduced visibility, reduced traffic and revenue losses.
In sum, enhancing your website security features adds value to your SEO strategy. To strengthen your website protection against cybercriminals, get in touch with us today.