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Integrating Security into Your Web Development Plan

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Website security breaches have real consequences for visitors and site owners. Frustration and inconvenience from hijacked pages can keep potential customers from engaging with a website, while phishing and data leaks that expose customer information can cost site owners’ reputations, and their bottom line.

Integrating security into a new website or implementing security fixes to an existing website to close a vulnerability, is a critical part of being a website developer or owner. New sites need to be carefully developed to avoid leaving openings for known attack types. Existing sites should be reviewed on a regular basis for vulnerabilities. As risk factors are more widely recognized and blocked, hackers adjust approach, so it’s vital to do security reviews and update your preventative measures over time. Understanding password best-practices is important, but technical solutions go well beyond requiring high-quality login credentials.

It’s well worthwhile taking some time to understand all the potential ways attackers could cause damage and effective preventative measures that you can install on your or your clients’ websites. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a good resource to help you understand risks and work on solutions, but to get you started, here are five common attack types to watch out for:

Cross-site scripting (XSS)

One of the most common attack types, this is when attackers piggyback off of your legitimate site. They might plant a malicious script on the site itself in user-input fields like a comments section, or hijack links. Possible use cases would be to redirect visitors or steal their identity. That can be combatted with input sanitization, which deletes or disables markup that would allow scripts to run from user data.

SQL Injection

Websites generally deploy a server database in the backend to store data. SQL injection targets databases and extracts information that shouldn’t be visible, inserts fake information, or sends damaging instructions. Customer or proprietary information can be exposed, and stored data can become unreliable, or lost entirely. Solve this vulnerability by setting limitations on what is allowed and expected or disallowed in user queries. Escaping characters in user queries that would allow sending anything that could change the database itself is a popular approach. Be vigilant about making sure all user inputs are limited in scope to avoid exploitation.

HTTPS

Https is becoming the standard for all websites, and browsers are moving to privilege, and eventually require this. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) uses secure certificate validation to verify trusted sites and encrypt the information sent. While this is a must-have and significantly improves security risks across several factors, it’s not a complete solution. Each third-party function within the site each needs to run with its own developer-signed https protocol.

Iframes

Iframes generally display another site inline on a page but introduce vulnerability by allowing that outside integration. Ensure you only use iframes to trusted sites with their own https, and avoid them entirely on pages with sensitive content.

Cookies

Cookies may add convenience for both site owner and end users, but they are also independently vulnerable to attack. It will take some extra work, but you’ll need to review each cookie, ensure it’s encrypted and that any vulnerabilities are closed.

Cybersecurity is increasingly an in-demand skill for IT professionals, making it a good way to improve employability in the immediate future, as well as an area to focus on for greater employment security and opportunity. Those who particularly gravitate toward security solutions could take full advantage of that skill by opening a specialized digital security consultancy. A business degree from https://www.bryantstratton.edu/degrees/business lets you make the most of high-value experience and offerings by giving you the skills to launch and operate your own business.

Understanding what clients need and how to communicate the value of what you provide can allow you to improve your profitability and reap the rewards of running your own business. You might focus on how your online security offerings add value to your web development skills or create a specialized business around preventative or post-hack clean-up services for website owners who need a skilled consultant to supplement their in-house or consultant web designers.

The value of good online security practices becomes clearer every time there’s a high-profile hack or a personal experience with the frustration, inconvenience, or outright danger and loss of a security breach. Take the time to understand the risks and solutions available, implement best practices on your own and client websites, and position yourself for success in the future by investing in education to build your online security and business skills.

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