For independent affiliate marketers and e-commerce brands, cultivating a strong web presence is vital to securing new clients and ensuring reliable revenue growth. However, many individuals may fail to realize that operating a poorly designed and improperly secured website can become a significant liability.
As society’s reliance on web-based platforms and internet-connected services continues to rise, the risks associated with novel data breaches and cyber-attacks also become more apparent, with data indicating a 70% rise in global cyber-attacks reported toward the end of 2022, affecting 108.9 million web accounts.
Often, it takes just one poorly secured web page or improperly designed login procedure to grant hackers and cybercriminals access to confidential client information and internal marketing data, with breaches such as these potentially putting affiliate marketers and e-commerce retailers out of business overnight.
Web service providers offering support to affiliate marketers are committed to protecting customers from cyber threats, as seen by companies like Google altering their algorithm to favor sites with secure URLs. Still, business owners are also required to take some personal responsibility to improve website security.
To help affiliate marketers achieve this, here’s a detailed guide to improving security and trust on your website, allowing you to create a website security checklist and prevent different types of data breaches.
The first and possibly most straightforward way to improve website security is for affiliate website owners to understand the importance of using strong password protections to secure backend accounts, as well as exactly what constitutes a secure login protocol. Over 80% of hacking-related types of data breaches come as a direct result of stolen or weak credentials, illustrating how essential this consideration can be.
Hackers and cybercriminals will often use brute force attacks and dedicated password-cracking programs to quickly gain access to poorly secured websites, meaning any credentials consisting only of sequential numbers, common phrases or predictable personal details will be left vulnerable to sophisticated attacks.
To improve website security, experts suggest that website owners utilize passwords containing a minimum of 12 characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as a selection of symbols. Combinations of this length have been shown to take 62 trillion times longer to breach than comparable 6-character password strings, helping to protect affiliate websites and accounts from brute-force attacks.
As well as ensuring that login credentials used to protect backend access to affiliate websites are suitably secure, website owners must guarantee their clients’ data is not left vulnerable to breaches. This means instructing users to create unique passwords for each account to minimize the impact of breaches.
Additionally, accounts should be programmed to automatically log users out of their profiles after a period of inactivity to reduce the likelihood of criminals gaining verified site access. Most CMS platforms also offer extra protection in the form of plugins designed to limit the number of login attempts users can make, affiliate website owners should utilize this functionality to further protect accounts from brute force attacks.
In order to develop truly secure affiliate website password protections, two-factor authentication should be considered. A two-factor authentication policy requires website owners and account holders to provide an extra form of external verification alongside personal password credentials before access to either backend or front-end services will be granted. Typically, additional forms of verification will include:
Implementing two-factor authentication neutralizes the risk of stolen or compromised passwords, leading to numerous types of data breaches, as without an additional form of verification, lone passwords will become useless to hackers. Combining MFA policies with wider access control techniques intended to restrict access behind unique rules and roles will provide users with an appropriate degree of protection, with companies like Microsoft claiming these processes may prevent up to 99.9% of common attacks.
Any website that offers data transfer services such as credit or debit card payments, file sharing or instant messaging functions will require a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to reliably protect all personal and identifiable information pertaining to clients, as well as help to markedly enhance website security.
For example, affiliate websites containing integrated online stores will require visitors to provide credit card details and some form of identifiable information like a personal email address during check-out procedures. Affiliate website owners will be responsible for ensuring this information is suitably secured.
Affiliate websites using SSL certificates can be easily identified by the “https” prefix present in all site-wide URLs, as well as a small padlock symbol that will be displayed in each visitor's browser search bar. These visible indicators act to confirm that the site is suitably protected from cyber threats, with a study by the CA Security Council finding most online retail consumers know to favor pages featuring SSL protections.
Affiliate marketers can further improve website security and enhance external threat prevention by opting to upgrade their data transfer protections through the use of an EV (extended validation) SSL certificate. This moniker represents the highest possible level of authentication designed to protect against fraudulent online activity and will be made immediately visible to visitors via a green highlight in all page URL bars.
In addition, Google is known to consider whether a website is associated with an active SSL certificate when determining its internal search rankings, meaning affiliate sites lacking this consideration will have far less visibility to potential customers even if pages have been optimized in line with SEO best practices.
Most people will be aware of how computer viruses such as malware, spyware, and ransomware can be used to infiltrate hardware devices and steal confidential data, but these harmful programs are not limited only to physical devices and can also be used to wreak havoc within web pages and domains.
A malware infection can cause websites to display unwanted adverts, dramatically slow down loading times, and even infiltrate new devices accessing core services, not only risking the safety of each visitor’s private data but also destroying any feelings of trust they may have built up towards the site operator.
If an affiliate website falls victim to a malware attack, often the only way to save the domain will be to restore the entire site to the last available backup, though even if all necessary site data is stored in secure hard drives within a reputable data center, these devices still can fail.
As part of an effective website security checklist, website owners should perform regular malware and virus scans, preferably with support from a licensed vendor. Popular anti-virus programs will typically run automatically and instantly alert affiliate website owners to the presence of any known malicious code. Choosing to combine the management of multiple affiliate programs with support from dedicated affiliate program software like Post Affiliate Pro can also assist in this process, with built-in security features and detailed site analytics designed to track active campaigns and notify site owners of anomalous activity.
Additionally, effective website security policies should include regular patches and updates to ensure that all newly discovered exploits are accounted for and protected against. This is especially important for any affiliate sites built using popular services such as WordPress, Wix, or Shopify, as cybercriminals will often focus on developing new ways to attack the platforms with the largest active user bases.
Considering that over 40% of all active websites are custom-built using CMS applications, it’s likely that most affiliate pages are operating a number of web tools and plugins designed to improve website security and streamline basic processes such as file transfers, content creation, and distribution services.
Whilst the operation of these plugins and additional tools can help to improve important functions, including SEO optimization and site loading times, websites running outdated software can quickly become vulnerable to cyber-attacks, malware infections, and other common types of data breaches.
To provide reliable external threat prevention, it’s essential that affiliate website owners regularly update and assess all active plugins and add-ons to guarantee that they’re equipped with the latest security protections and are not susceptible to any newly discovered vulnerabilities that could lead to cyber-attacks.
This means making plans to regularly run security scans and vulnerability checks on active web pages to help identify and uninstall malware, bugs, and any unsupported plugins that may be easily compromised by hackers, as well as manually performing site-wide backups to ensure all relevant data is fully secured.
Recently published research indicated that the popular CMS WordPress is attacked almost 90,000 times every minute, with 61% of the pages affected by these threats found to be operating outdated software. To ensure that visitors are not exposed to these issues, affiliate marketers must perform frequent site tests.
Whilst not exceptionally common, website server failures occur at an annual failure frequency rate of around 5% for new servers and 11% for those that have been in operation for four years or more. Server failures can lead to significant data loss, tanked load times, and leave sites vulnerable to cyber-attacks, potentially causing new and existing clients to avoid visiting key pages experiencing errors.
Though some aspects of a server failure can be difficult to avoid, affiliate managers can improve website security by ensuring that their pages are backed up regularly, allowing admins to respond to downtime as soon as possible and get the site running without losing any important updates or data.
Backup procedures can be easily achieved using automated programs and dedicated software tools. However, to increase the chance that your data will remain safe in the event of a breach or server failure, it may be wise to choose a backup option that offers both cloud-based and physical data storage solutions.
By utilizing such a system, website owners can be assured that all data recovery processes and security procedures can be performed promptly, even if an issue should arise with one form of backup storage system, helping to minimize downtime and better protect sensitive client information from cyber-attacks.
To ensure that each of the tips, tools, and processes covered in this guide are able to function appropriately and improve website security procedures, affiliate website owners must dedicate time to frequently testing every page with an eye to spotting potential vulnerabilities before potential hackers.
By performing regular tests as part of a wider website security checklist, website owners can identify areas in which security features could be improved upon and immediately deal with any issues before they begin to affect visitors. This process is made much simpler by choosing to manage multiple affiliate programs within a dedicated software solution designed to track each campaign and analyze live data.
Examples of important web page aspects to test include:
Full website tests should also be scheduled before launching any new pages, and after performing any significant updates, to enable web service providers to implement patches or necessary fixes before the site becomes accessible to the public, ensuring that all services will be as secure as possible for visitors.
By taking the time to improve website security through the development of an actionable website security checklist, ensuring that all essential functions are regularly tested, and combining the management of all affiliate campaigns using dedicated affiliate management software, website owners and affiliate program managers can build trust with clients and improve vital metrics including retention and conversion rates.
When drafting plans to improve website security, remember to follow these best practices:
Passwords – Avoid passwords with less than 12 characters, use uppercase and lowercase letters/symbols, and consider implementing two-factor authentication for added security
SSL certificates – SSL and EV SSL certificates protect sensitive information and act as a visible indicator of website security, helping to improve conversion rates and customer trust
Updates – Schedule and perform regular updates for all software and plugins to ensure that the website and CMS is suitably protected from any newly discovered security vulnerabilities
Testing – Monitor and test pages frequently and ensure that the whole site is tested before any new pages are launched to identify potential threats before they can affect site visitors
Management - Track and analyze live data pertaining to multiple affiliate campaigns by using dedicated affiliate program software tools with built-in security and fraud detection features
Remain informed – Keep up to date with cybersecurity news, look for reputable sources like CISA for information about new threats, and regularly check your CMS provider for updates
Building and maintaining a versatile website is almost essential for any modern business, service provider, or independent affiliate marketer. However, as society becomes more dependent on web-based commerce and communications, cybercriminals will become increasingly sophisticated.
To improve website security and external threat prevention, website owners must stick to a well-defined plan and adhere to trusted best practices. If you’re an affiliate marketer with a website or a business with a website, follow this advice to improve the security of your website, build trust amongst your audience, and ultimately improve your conversion rates.
Website owners can improve their website security score by ensuring that all operational software is up-to-date and well-maintained, that all login pages are appropriately encrypted, and by choosing a secure and reputable web hosting company.
Website security can be evaluated by checking that all URLs have valid SSL certificates (beginning with HTTPS rather than HTTP), and that all privacy policies are clearly displayed and easily understood as well as by using browser-based security tools to check for suspicious links.
The main security threats posed to web applications include broken access control and cryptographic failures leading to the exposure of sensitive data, as well as injection attacks whereby malicious code is inserted into SQL queries and commands.