Many entrepreneurs in the online affiliate space focus intently on design, product research, content creation, and marketing strategies and often fall short regarding online security. When operating online, no business is safe without adequate web security measures.
Security technologies have advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years, and staying abreast of the latest trends is essential to the optimal protection of any online operation.
It's also important to realize that running a smaller business doesn't afford you any greater protections. Companies with fewer than 100 employees reportedly account for 71% of online security breach attacks – hackers certainly don't always aim for the big guns, which makes sense when you consider that they aim to target the more vulnerable operations that are more ‘hackable.'
Launching an online business without web security is no different from opening a new store without any locks on the windows or doors. Protection is typically far less costly when it comes to online security breaches than rectifying the damage caused by a cyberattack.
For some eCommerce businesses, even stock handling must be a secure online process to avoid hacker infiltration resulting in chaos. Of course, as an affiliate marketer, some of these measures may not be directly relevant to you. Still, working so closely with a range of other online businesses and retailers pays to be in the know and ensure you are doing all you can to secure all online operations from your end.
Why cyber security is vital for affiliate websites
According to research by the University of Maryland, a cyber-attack occurs online every 39 seconds. Since affiliate marketing websites rely on internet safety for successful, uninterrupted operations, it's clear that cyber security is a vital component of such business models.
When malware (malicious software) infects a website, it can breach sensitive data and sometimes take over its entire computing system. Such attacks can devastate businesses, potentially damaging the reputation of a company in addition to causing real-time harm and lost revenue.
It's essential, therefore, to take web protection seriously when running an affiliate site.
Here are some essential steps to take to protect your business and clients.
Operating via a secure web host
The first step in protecting a site is to operate through a secure web host.
When choosing a web host, compare the security resources and research how well each host handles their servers. While there is always a risk, a reliable, reputable provider typically offers the following:
- Assurance as to the stability of applications and operating systems (OS)
- Dependability regarding backups and restoring site function
- Sophisticated malware detection and removal
- Quality SSL options
- Firewall implementation
- DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack mitigation
Any business running an eCommerce operation must comply with its web host's Payment Card Industry (PCI) security requirements. ECommerce operations must prioritize the security of their customer's sensitive data and credit card details.
Using a Web Server Firewall
A Web Server Firewall (WAF) is essential for preventing and detecting imminent attacks, particularly from automated bot threats. Firewalls can save a business time, money, and stress by tracking HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) traffic mitigating various attacks, such as Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and SQL injections.
A WAF creates a security barrier between the internet and your site, forcing visitors to move through it before reaching your server, helping filter out malicious threats.
External firewalls sit outside a network, scanning for and preventing hacking attempts from getting through to your device. In contrast, internal firewall software is built onto a network, checking for malware, viruses, etc., and quarantining them before they successfully infect the device target.
Affiliate sites aim to have customers buying through the server. Any affiliate or eCommerce site should feature SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) verification to encourage and facilitate this.
SSL certificates ensure that any connections between a server and a web user are safe, secure, and encrypted, giving users the confidence to share their personal information, login credentials, credit card numbers, and more.
SSL certificates can be free or range in price depending on the specifications. They are typically offered as a selling point for added consumer confidence by the web hosts that feature them.
Compliance with Payment Card Industry (PCI) regulations is vital to running any online eCommerce venture. Affiliate marketers only redirect their site visitors to a different site for purchases. Still, other than such ‘gateway websites, every merchant site must adhere to all PCI DSS (Data Security Standard) guidelines for optimal security.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Defense
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks your system infrastructure, preventing users from accessing your site and utilizing its functions.
ECommerce and affiliate sites must be protected against DDoS to ensure continued smooth running for users. Hosting providers can advise you further regarding securing your place against DDoS attacks.
Maintaining a strict password policy
According to a Verizon survey, using default, weak, or stolen passwords accounts for 63% of confirmed data breaches. Affiliate marketing sites must address this issue and ensure that sufficiently protective password policies are adhered to.
The basics of a strict password policy include setting at least eight characters long, incorporating upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special symbols, and updating passwords every 2-3 months.
Another valid option is to utilize Password Manager Applications. These tools can be installed as software or as a cloud service. They assist in creating and retrieving complex, high-security passwords. Since password issues are at the core of so many data breaches, investing in security technology to help manage this risk optimally makes sense.
In recent years, multi-factor authentication (MFA) has become a common online security feature. The process may feel clunky, but it provides virtually guaranteed security regarding securing the login process.
There are a variety of methods used in the multi-factor authentication process. A secondary, one-time password is often sent to the user's cell phone or email address. Other times, an employee's cell number is used as the secondary password based on the assumption that it would be unlikely for a hacker to know the user's primary username, password, and cell number. This may not be considered as secure as the one-time code method, but it still provides a significant additional layer of security for businesses.
Run regular backups
No matter how secure your online existence may seem, it is still essential to regularly back up your work, data, and operational systems. All it takes is one hacker to get through and wipe your system of all its contents. The more recently you have performed a system backup, the less you will lose, leaving you free to restore your systems, return to operation and focus on fixing any other consequences of the data breach.
Databases, financial statements, accounts, spreadsheets, HR reports, payroll, email, and other contacts – you name it, back it up! Cloud storage services are making the backup process more accessible, so there's no need to risk losing everything.
Safeguarding your servers
Web application servers typically can store vast amounts of information (such as that about your businesses, clients, and affiliates), but these databases can be particularly vulnerable to hackers.
Handling personal and other sensitive data, such as identifying information, contact details, and credit card numbers, should be done cautiously. Ideally, any knowledge of this nature should be encrypted before it is stored (encryption renders the information unintelligible to hackers who infiltrate it).
Any businesses legally obligated to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) must fully understand their responsibilities when handling sensitive data. Google's $57 million fine under Europe's data protection laws is a cautionary tale of gigantic proportions.
A Security Patch is software that detects and corrects errors in computer software code. Security patches for the applicable operating system should be downloaded before launching your online business. Additionally, regularly update vulnerable web applications, such as WordPress, as these are common hacker targets; running them through any outdated version or old plugins can place you at a heightened risk of attack.
Final Thoughts And 7 Essential B2B Marketing Strategies for 2023
Any business operating online must invest in high-quality security measures to adequately protect its systems, sensitive data, and reputation for being a reliably secure platform. JAswith a physical business premise, the more security layers in place, the better, so be sure to focus on achieving multi-layer protections.
This article has outlined some key considerations for managing the security of your affiliate marketing site, but don't stop at that. Take the time to research all options available to you and how your competitors manage their online securities, and commit to keeping your knowledge of web security up to date.