Conducting A Security Audit to Check For Website Vulnerability
Especially if you are using your website as an online store, it is important to make sure that every transaction is secure. The data transferred to and from your website must be kept under lock and key. Because the chosen server hosting platform can only do so much, you need to do frequent security audits.
To secure a website or a web application, one has to first understand the target application, how it works and the scope behind it. Ideally, the penetration tester should have some basic knowledge of programming and scripting languages, and also web security.
A website security audit usually consists of two steps. Most of the time, the first step usually is to launch an automated scan. Afterwards, depending on the results and the website’s complexity, a manual penetration test follows. To properly complete both the automated and manual audits, a number of tools are available, to simplify the process and make it efficient from the business point of view. Automated tools help the user making sure the whole website is properly crawled, and that no input or parameter is left unchecked. Automated web vulnerability scanners also help in finding a high percentage of the technical vulnerabilities, and give you a very good overview of the website’s structure, and security status. Thanks to automated scanners, you can have a better overview and understanding of the target website, which eases the manual penetration process.
For the manual security audit, one should also have a number of tools to ease the process, such as tools to launch fuzzing tests, tools to edit HTTP requests and review HTTP responses, proxy to analyse the traffic and so on.
In this white paper we explain in detail how to do a complete website security audit and focus on using the right approach and tools. We describe the whole process of securing a website in an easy to read step by step format; what needs to be done prior to launching an automated website vulnerability scan up till the manual penetration testing phase.
Why should you perform security audits?
For the obvious reason that it costs money to repair the damage. You will need to fix the costly security breach, in addition to the loss of business of customers who have become victims of it.
Hackers and phishers will enter any website, regardless of what its content is. What they are looking for are digital assets, information, that can be exploited or monetized. You owe your visitors to keep your data safe.
Not to mention that constant updates often come with errors that can make your page vulnerable. A security audit will help you avoid all that hassle and help protect your credibility.
Security audit checklist
If you don’t know where to start, here are some of the things you can do:
Install a malware scan on your website. Block spam and constantly look for suspicious visits. You can also run a virus scan, depending on the plugin you have chosen.
Update all available security updates and back-end software.
Make sure that the network traffic has a firewall.
Use a Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) to encrypt the username and password.
Backup of all your files and databases.
There are steps you can take to protect the information that comes and goes from your website. You can start by limiting access to the database per application of other users so that if a user is hacked, no other application is affected.
Buy a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate for two reasons: to encrypt sensitive data and to comply with Google requirements. Without this certificate, your site will not only rank low in the search engine, but Google will tag it with a big red “Not Sure” next to its URL.
As for your Content Management System (CMS), make sure all your plugins and extensions are up to date. If you use WordPress, you don’t need to worry because they do it automatically on all the websites that use your platform. However, you still need to update the manually installed plugins.
If you can, enable two-factor authentication and change your passwords frequently. And finally, use antispam techniques like CAPTCHA.
When to perform a security audit
The general rule of thumb is that every time you make changes to your page, you should do a full security check. But especially if your website is new and the security software you have is still at the basic level, do an audit at least twice a month.
As soon as you get significant traction, be sure to update your safety. High traffic is often a magnet for hackers, and their technique will be more sophisticated than regular theft.
Protect your website by following these security tips to keep your digital assets and those of your visitors safe.