A website security audit is a process of examining your website and its server for existing or potential weaknesses that malicious actors can exploit. It covers your website’s entire infrastructure, from its core software to extensions, themes, server settings, SSL connection, configurations, etc.
A website security audit helps you identify and fix any vulnerabilities that may compromise your website’s functionality, performance, and data. It also helps you maintain compliance with the best practices and standards of web security. It also helps avoid penalties from search engines or authorities.
In this article, we will explain how you can perform these audits and also provide some tools that help in this process. We will also go over how to use online penetration testing as a part of your audit process.
1. Run a Security Scan
The first step of a website security audit is to run a security scan that checks your website for malware, viruses, blacklisting status, website errors, out-of-date software, and malicious code.
There are many free and paid tools that can perform a security scan for your website. One of them is Sucuri SiteCheck, which allows you to enter your domain name and get a comprehensive report on your website’s security risk level. It also provides recommendations on what you should improve and identifies potential loopholes.
Another tool is Astra Security Scanner, which offers a free malware scan and a paid plan that includes more features such as firewall protection, malware removal, blacklist monitoring, etc.
2. Review Site Settings
The next step of a website security audit is to review your site settings and verify if they are configured properly and securely. This includes checking your content management system (CMS), extensions, themes, plugins, third-party components, server and site settings, user settings and practices, plan and SSL renewals, and website traffic.
Depending on the CMS you use, such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, etc., you may have different options and menus to access and modify your site settings. Some of the elements you should pay attention to are:
- Comment settings: Moderate your comment section by filtering out spam comments and requiring user registration or approval before posting.
- User roles: Assign appropriate permissions and access levels to different users on your website and limit the number of administrators.
- File permissions: Set the correct file permissions for your directories and files to prevent unauthorized access or modification.
- Updates: Keep your CMS, extensions, themes, plugins, and third-party components up-to-date with the latest versions and security patches.
- Backups: Create regular backups of your website files and database and store them in a secure location.
- SSL certificate: Install an SSL certificate on your website to encrypt the data transmission between your server and your visitors’ browsers. Renew your SSL certificate before it expires to avoid security warnings or errors.
- Traffic analysis: Monitor your website traffic using tools such as Google Analytics or Jetpack to detect any unusual spikes or drops that may indicate an attack or an issue.
3. Perform Online Penetration Testing
Online penetration testing is a technique that simulates a real-world attack on your website to test its security defenses and identify any vulnerabilities that may be exploited by hackers.
Online penetration testing can be done manually by using various tools and methods such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), brute force attacks, etc., or automatically by using online services that perform the tests for you.
Some of the online services that offer online penetration testing are:
- Pentest-Tools.com: A platform that provides various tools for online penetration testing such as web vulnerability scanner, network scanner, SQL injection tester, XSS scanner, etc.
- HackerOne: A platform that connects ethical hackers with businesses that want to test their websites for vulnerabilities and reward them for finding bugs.
- ImmuniWeb: A platform that provides online penetration testing as well as web security audit, compliance testing, dark web monitoring, etc.
Online penetration testing should be done periodically and carefully to avoid damaging your website or violating any laws or regulations. You should also follow up with the results of the tests and fix any issues or weaknesses that are found.
4. Implement Security Best Practices
After performing a website security audit and online penetration testing, you should implement some security best practices to enhance your website’s protection and prevent future attacks.
Some of the security best practices are:
- Use strong passwords: Use complex passwords that are at least 12 characters long and include uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, etc. Change your passwords regularly and do not reuse them for different accounts or websites.
- Use two-factor authentication: Use two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security to your login process. This requires you to enter a code or a token that is sent to your phone or email after entering your password.
- Use a firewall: Use a firewall to block malicious traffic and requests from reaching your website. A firewall can also filter out spam, bots, DDoS attacks, etc. You can use a web application firewall (WAF) that is integrated with your CMS or a cloud-based firewall that is provided by your hosting provider or a third-party service.
- Use malware protection: Use malware protection to scan and remove any malware that may infect your website. You can use a plugin or an extension that is compatible with your CMS or a service that offers malware protection and removal.
- Use HTTPS: Use HTTPS protocol to secure the connection between your website and your visitors’ browsers. HTTPS encrypts the data and prevents anyone from intercepting or tampering with it. You can get an SSL certificate for free from services such as Let’s Encrypt or Cloudflare.
- Use secure coding practices: Use secure coding practices to prevent common web vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, XSS, CSRF, etc. You can use tools such as OWASP ZAP or Nmap to scan your code for vulnerabilities and fix them. You can also use frameworks and libraries that are secure and well-maintained.
5. Educate Yourself and Your Team
One of the most important aspects of website security is education. You and your team should be aware of the latest threats and trends in web security and learn how to prevent and respond to them.
You can educate yourself and your team by:
- Reading blogs and newsletters: Read blogs and newsletters that provide valuable information and insights on web security such as Sucuri Blog, Astra Security Blog, WebScoot Blog, etc.
- Taking courses and certifications: Take courses and certifications that teach you the skills and knowledge you need to secure your website such as Google Web Security Fundamentals, Coursera Web Security Fundamentals, Udemy Web Security Fundamentals, etc.
- Joining communities and forums: Join communities and forums that discuss web security issues and solutions such as Stack Overflow, Reddit, Quora, etc.
6. Review Your Website Security Audit Report
After performing a website security audit, you should review your report and analyze the results. You should look for any issues or vulnerabilities that need to be fixed or improved and prioritize them according to their severity and impact.
You should also document your findings and actions in a clear and concise manner. You can use tools such as Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Excel, etc., to create your report and share it with your team or stakeholders.
Your report should include:
- An executive summary: A brief overview of the purpose, scope, methodology, results, and recommendations of your website security audit.
- A detailed analysis: A detailed breakdown of the issues or vulnerabilities that were found, their causes, effects, risks, solutions, etc.
- A conclusion: A summary of the main findings and recommendations of your website security audit.
- An appendix: Any additional information or resources that support your website security audit such as screenshots, links, references, etc.
7. Repeat Your Website Security Audit Regularly
A website security audit is not a one-time event but a continuous process. You should repeat your website security audit regularly to ensure that your website is always secure and up-to-date.
The frequency of your website security audit may depend on various factors such as:
- The size and complexity of your website
- The type and level of threats you face
- The changes or updates you make on your website
- The regulations or standards you need to comply with
However, as a general rule of thumb, you should perform a website security audit at least once every quarter or whenever you make significant changes on your website.
By repeating your website security audit regularly, you can:
- Detect any new or emerging threats or vulnerabilities
- Monitor the effectiveness of your security measures
- Improve your website’s performance and functionality
- Maintain your website’s reputation and trustworthiness
A website security audit is an essential step to protect your website from hackers and cyberattacks. It helps you identify and fix any issues or vulnerabilities that may compromise your website’s security.
To perform a website security audit, you need to follow these seven steps:
- Run a security scan
- Review site settings
- Perform online penetration testing
- Implement security best practices
- Educate yourself and your team
- Review your website security audit report
- Repeat your website security audit regularly