17.10.2023

Technical & Integrations

How to counter common threats to website data security

14 min read

Marc

How to counter common threats to website data security

This article explores the crucial aspects of website data security while emphasising the importance of ongoing proactive measures.

When it comes to data security in the digital realm, it's more than just a checkbox on your to-do list. 

It's the bedrock upon which your online presence stands, and its importance can't be overstated. Let's delve into the common threats that websites face and how you can effectively counter them. 

But first, a bit of context.

At Huble, we're passionate about helping businesses make the most of HubSpot's powerful capabilities, including designing secure websites. 

And in this ever-evolving digital landscape, the security of your website is paramount. 

So, join me as we explore the world of website data security.

The role of security measures

So, what's the deal with security measures? Are they necessary, or can we simply rely on out-of-the-box solutions? It's a question that's more nuanced than it seems.

In the realm of website data security, a significant portion of the security load is shouldered by the framework itself. 

These frameworks come with built-in security features that can safeguard your data to a considerable extent. However, it's vital to understand the distinctions between custom-built solutions and out-of-the-box options.

Comparing custom to out-of-the-box

Custom solutions allow for more granular control over security measures, but they also carry more significant responsibilities. 

Developers need to be vigilant about implementing security precautions meticulously. However, out-of-the-box solutions, while offering a layer of protection, abstract away many of these concerns.

Out-of-the-box solutions recognise that they can't always guarantee that every website builder will prioritise security. 

They anticipate that not everyone will meticulously follow best practices. Consequently, they take proactive steps to mitigate risks themselves. This abstraction from security intricacies makes them a more user-friendly option for many.

The key here is to find a balance between ease of use and customisation of your CMS solution.

Protecting API calls

Now, let's dive deeper into one critical aspect of website data security: protecting API calls. 

Many websites rely on external data sources to enrich their content dynamically. However, this interaction poses security challenges.

Consider this scenario: Your website needs to live-update content from an external source, like HubSpot. To achieve this, your website makes API calls to fetch data. 

But here's the catch—those API calls must be secure, ensuring that not just anyone can access your data. This is one of the reasons that HubSpot has sunset API keys - to provide increased security for API calls. 

The authentication key dilemma

Much like safeguarding a treasure chest, these API calls rely on security mechanisms. These mechanisms are embodied in authentication keys, which act as the virtual keys to your digital kingdom. 

If these keys fall into the wrong hands, your data becomes vulnerable.

API calls, in essence, require a more secure approach. Within the realm of HubSpot, we find an effective solution: serverless functions. 

These are akin to the guardians of your data. Serverless functions act as the intermediaries between your website and the external data source, securely hidden behind the scenes.

Securing data behind serverless functions

In the architecture of HubSpot websites and CMS Hub, server-side scripting as we traditionally know it doesn't exist. 

Instead, serverless functions take centre stage. These functions are aptly named because they don't rely on a traditional server-side script running in the background. 

They are an abstraction of the security measures that traditionally went into server-side scripts.

The beauty of serverless functions is that they're whitelisted to your website domain only, providing a secure conduit for your website's data requests. 

However, the real magic happens within these functions. They house the keys to your digital kingdom, the authentication keys, and passwords. Importantly, these keys remain hidden from prying eyes, including those of users exploring your website.

In essence, serverless functions not only abstract away the complexity of security but also ensure that sensitive information remains out of sight for anyone viewing your website.

In the world of website data security, these measures provide a significant shield against common threats. 

But securing API calls is just one facet of the multifaceted landscape of website security. In the next section, we'll explore the importance of user permissions and data access.

Safeguarding user permissions and data access

In the previous section, we discussed the critical role of security measures and how protecting API calls is a crucial element of safeguarding your digital assets. 

Now, let's shift our focus to the world of user permissions and data access.

User permissions matter

In the digital realm, user permissions are akin to the gates and barriers that restrict or allow access to different parts of your website. 

They play a pivotal role in ensuring that the right individuals have access to the right information while keeping sensitive data locked away from prying eyes.

Consider this scenario: Your website interacts with a CRM system, such as HubSpot, to display personalised content. 

This content might include user-specific information or data about your clients or leads. Now, the question is, who should have access to this data?

Authentication and validation

To ensure that only authorised users can access this data, you need robust authentication mechanisms. This involves verifying a user's identity using their login credentials, which typically include a username and password.

However, authentication is just the beginning. It's essential to validate the user's identity to ensure they are who they claim to be. 

This can involve multi-factor authentication (MFA), where users must provide additional proof of identity beyond just a password. 

MFA adds an extra layer of security, making it much harder for malicious actors to gain unauthorised access.

Member login and secure data exposure

One effective way to protect sensitive data is by placing it behind a member login system

This ensures that only authenticated users, who have provided valid credentials, can access the information. It's akin to requiring a secret handshake to enter a secure room.

For example, if you have a customer portal or a section of your website dedicated to clients or registered users, you'd want to ensure that access is restricted to authenticated individuals. 

This way, you can validate their identity, and you know exactly who is viewing the data.

Avoiding security through obscurity

While it might be tempting to create highly complex and obscure URLs for sensitive pages, this practice is generally ineffective and can lead to security risks. 

Hiding content behind convoluted URLs isn't a robust security measure because it relies on the assumption that nobody will stumble upon those pages. But in the world of cybersecurity, hope is not a strategy.

Obscured URLs are not a substitute for proper access control. 

Security should be robust and not dependent on obscurity. Instead, it's better to implement a robust authentication and authorisation system to ensure that only authorised individuals can access sensitive data.

The OWASP Top Ten

Now that we've delved into the importance of user permissions and data access, let's touch on an essential resource for website security—the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Top Ten. 

OWASP is an organisation dedicated to creating awareness around security threats and best practices.

Every couple of years, OWASP releases a list of the top security threats in the digital world. These threats are ranked based on their prevalence and potential impact. 

For developers and security professionals, the OWASP Top Ten is an invaluable resource to understand and mitigate security risks effectively.

Here's a brief overview of some of the threats on the OWASP Top Ten:

  1. Injection: When untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as part of a command or query, it can lead to unintended execution of commands or access to unauthorised data. Proper data sanitisation is essential to mitigate this threat.
  2. Cryptographic failures: The way data is encrypted and decrypted can impact security. Some encryption methods are reversible, while others are not. Using strong encryption methods is crucial for protecting data in transit.
  3. Broken access control: Poorly configured access controls can allow unauthorised users to access sensitive functionality or data. This threat highlights the importance of robust access controls and permissions.

These are just a few examples from the OWASP Top Ten. Each threat comes with specific recommendations on how to mitigate it effectively.

Countering specific security threats

In this section, we'll take a closer look at some of the specific security threats from the OWASP Top Ten and explore practical steps to counter them. While the list evolves over time, the underlying principles of security remain constant.

  • Injection attacks: To counter injection attacks, implement strong input validation and sanitisation procedures. Ensure that user inputs are treated as untrusted data and never directly executed as code.
  • Cryptographic failures: Secure your data by using strong encryption methods. Employ cryptographic libraries and algorithms that are widely recognised as secure. Regularly update encryption protocols to stay ahead of potential vulnerabilities.
  • Broken access control: Robust access control mechanisms are crucial. Implement user roles and permissions effectively to ensure that users only access data and functionality relevant to their roles. Regularly review and test these controls to identify and rectify potential weaknesses.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS): XSS attacks involve injecting malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. Prevent XSS by validating and escaping user-generated content, using security libraries, and applying security headers to your web server responses.

The importance of ongoing protection

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, staying ahead of threats is an ongoing process. It's not enough to implement security measures once and forget about them. To maintain the integrity of your digital assets, you must be proactive and adaptable.

  • Security patches and updates: Software and platforms are not immune to vulnerabilities. Developers frequently release security patches and updates to address newly discovered vulnerabilities. To keep your website secure, ensure that you promptly apply these patches and updates. Failing to do so can leave your site exposed to known threats.
  • Regular security audits: Conducting periodic security audits is a proactive measure to identify and address potential vulnerabilities. These audits involve reviewing your website's code, configurations, and security measures to ensure they meet current standards. Regular audits help you stay one step ahead of attackers.
  • Firewalls and intrusion detection: Firewalls act as barriers between your website and potential threats. Intrusion detection systems monitor network traffic for signs of unauthorised access or suspicious activities. Implementing both can help fortify your defences.
  • Employee training: Human error remains a significant factor in security breaches. Educating your team about security best practices and the importance of safeguarding sensitive information is critical. Regular training and awareness programs can help reduce the risk of insider threats.
  • Incident response plan: Despite all precautions, incidents can still occur. Having a well-defined incident response plan in place is crucial. This plan outlines the steps to take in the event of a security breach, minimising potential damage and downtime.
  • Third-party risk management: If your website relies on third-party services or integrations, it's essential to assess their security measures. Understand their practices and ensure they align with your security standards. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so ensure that all components of your digital ecosystem are secure.

How Huble can help improve your website’s security

Website data security is not a one-time task; it's an ongoing commitment. In today's digital landscape, where cyber threats constantly evolve, proactive measures and vigilant protection are paramount. 

By following best practices, staying informed about emerging threats, and collaborating with experienced partners, you can fortify your website's defences.

At Huble, we take website security seriously. We regularly conduct knowledge-sharing sessions to keep our development team informed about the latest security threats and best practices. 

This commitment to knowledge sharing is a crucial part of our ISO 27001 accreditation, demonstrating our dedication to maintaining the highest security standards.

Our website development team specialises in HubSpot website design and security, helping businesses like yours navigate the complexities of digital security. 

We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of security, allowing you to focus on what you do best—growing your business.

To learn more about how Huble can strengthen your website's security and provide comprehensive HubSpot solutions, please reach out to our team.

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