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Data security is a growing concern on the web, especially with the recent, high-profile data leaks seen on major websites and social media platforms. Fortunately there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate the risk of your data being compromised, both from an end-user and website administrator standpoint. Follow this quick guide to ensure you’re taking all the steps you can to protect your data and secure your website from malicious codes and software vulnerabilities.

Using SSL While on the Web

Secure Sockets Layer is arguably the most important factor in web security for end users. You can give your visitors a lot of confidence in your website by installing a SSL certificate on your server. Most SSL providers charge about $100 per year for the service but a newer organization, Let’sEncrypt, is providing free SSL for websites and blogs on compatible web hosting services.

SSL technology works by encrypting all data that is being sent between a website and an end user’s device. This guards against man-in-the-middle attacks which is particularly important for users on public Wi-Fi networks.

Most of the latest versions of modern web browsers warn users when entering a website that doesn’t use SSL. This can make your website or blog look bad as some users don’t fully understand what SSL means and take the warning they see to mean that your website has been compromised. SSL is becoming essential and you should look for a web hosting that either offers reasonably priced SSL certification or is compatible with the free SSL providers like Let’sEncrypt.

Keeping Software Updated

Another way to keep your data secure is to make sure that all of your software is kept up to date. This includes the CMS you use to build your websites, any plugins that are installed through your CMS, and even your web browser.

You should also update your flash and Java if using such software and make sure that the operating system on your computer and web server is regularly updated. Many web hosts automatically update the server operating systems for you but if you’re running an unmanaged VPS or cloud account then you may be responsible for this task on your own.

Proper Password Creation and Storage

When storing users passwords on your server you should always use proper server access protocols. This includes having a complex server administrator password and restricting other areas of access like FTP.

Instead of using a word found in the dictionary with some common numbers for your passwords, trying generating a random string of characters through a tool like PasswordsGenerator. Passwords should contain a mixture of numbers, letters, and allowable symbols. You can encourage your site’s users to keep strong passwords by requiring a good mixture of these characters when users register for your website or blog.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Site from Phishing

Phishing describes a method of acquiring passwords or other sensitive data by manipulating an end user into entering credentials in a malicious form. This method is almost as old as the Internet itself but with ever-changing web protocols and form designs it can be hard to tell if a form is hosted by the correct website.

You can mitigate the risk of phishing by checking the domain name in the URL of any website you’re logging into before entering your information. Scan the domain carefully before entering your data as many phishing scams choose a similarly worded domain with which to carry out their scam. This is another area where SSL is helping users safeguard their data against hackers and other bad actors on the web. Most phishing attempts won’t be hosted on a website with SSL, so the SSL symbol in a user’s browser helps them see that they are on a legitimate website.

Use a Password Locker

It can be hard to remember the dozen or so passwords required to operate even a medium-sized website, not to mention all the passwords required in just using the web for social media, news, and email.

The best way to follow proper password creation protocols and avoid having to reset forgotten passwords every week is to keep your passwords in a secure password locker. There are many of these applications to choose from but some of the more popular and trusted ones include LastPass and KeePass.

Check the URL of any website or link you click before entering secure data in fields and keep secure, randomized passwords to protect your user and administrative accounts on the web. Choose secure website hosting and use best practices like updating your software and plugins regularly to make sure you’re not vulnerable to newly-found security issues. Install SSL wherever possible and consider using a browser extension like HTTPS Everywhere to make sure you’re not entering data into malicious or unprotected websites and you’ll be much safer than most other users on the web today.