Security Tips for B2B Affiliate Marketing Websites

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Running an affiliate business, and wondering if you took all the steps necessary to secure your website? These 12 tips will make sure you left nothing behind.

A lot of online entrepreneurs and affiliate website owners get too wrapped up in the craziness of design, product preparations, payment gateways, and marketing strategies. Security is often ignored amid the hustle, even those it’s the core and foundation of any affiliate business.

In reality, according to the CSBC (Congressional Small Business Committee in the US) – 71% of online security breaches are aimed at companies with less than 100 employees. 

So, if you think hackers only target big players, you are wrong. You, yes – you, could be their target tomorrow.

When you don’t pay attention to your website’s protection, you put your whole company at risk. It’s the equivalent of opening a physical store without installing any locks or surveillance cameras.

Numerous online stores go for the fast and simple front door lock and look no further. And for a long time, they didn’t even update or upgrade their security. But what if your shop is compromised or a transaction goes wrong? Indeed, these are things you should be mindful of and should certainly plan for.

Why Is Web Security Essential for Affiliate Websites?

Every 39 seconds, a cyber-attack is expected to occur somewhere on the internet. 

That’s quite frequently!

Furthermore, approximately 68% of business leaders agree that their cybersecurity threats are rising. When malicious software infects an online website, it can easily collect data or even take over all of the website’s computing resources.

In other words, attackers can collect confidential data from both current and new site users. Aside from stealing their data, automated hacking tools can infect end-user computers. Since thousands of new malware are produced every day, you’ll need to stay on top of your game to keep your website – and your clients – secure at all times.

Web attacks have a major financial effect as well. It is much more costly to perform a site cleanup than it is to keep online assets safe. 

Companies stand to lose large amounts of money as a result of cyberattacks because a large volume of user information is at risk.

In reality, data breach costs are now estimated to surpass 20% of a company’s revenue on average. It is also projected that cybercrime would cost the global economy $6 trillion in 2021. Even if you manage to limit the financial and technological harm caused by cyberattacks, your customer base may suffer.

It takes an average of 314 days to reverse a data breach completely. Your website will be unavailable for the majority of this period, and your customer loyalty and reputation will suffer as a result. Some companies lose up to 20% of their client base as a result of this process.

With all of these vital factors at stake, it is critical to pay close attention and protect your affiliate or business website. 

Consider this web protection checklist we suggest in order to keep your business running smoothly.

Here are the essential items to include in your protection checklist:

Secure User Logins and Encrypted Connections

Secure connections are particularly relevant for websites that involve registration or a transaction.

Using an SSL certificate (which we will discuss in a minute) is a good place to start. You can improve your site’s security by implementing Hypertext Transfer Protocol Safe (HTTPS).

Protecting authentication-required pages should also be a top priority. Include a strong password standard that allows users to register with protected credentials.

It is also important to use good encryption when storing passwords on your website. In the case of a data breach, technologies such as ‘bcrpyt’ make it difficult to recover passwords.

Furthermore, if auto-registration is allowed on your site, use only special, unpredictable usernames. Other essential factors include OAuth implementation and password reset tokens.

All these contribute to a “general” security layer of your website. Now let’s dive a little more into details.

SSL Certificates

You assume that your customers will be buying through your server. To ensure this, any eCommerce or affiliate site must have Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) verification. 

This SSL certificate ensures that the connection between your server and the web user is secure and encrypted. As a result, you will not be revealing anyone’s personal information, such as credit card numbers and login credentials. 3dcart, for example, provides you with a “sharing SSL” at no cost, but providing your own SSL offers a better customer service experience for your customers.

SSL certificates are usually used as one of the key services offered by web hosts. 

SSL certificates can be obtained free and go up to $XXX, depending on your needs.

Pick a Secure Web Host

Your web host is the first line of protection for the security of your affiliate websites. A stable business is almost impossible to achieve if the hosting provider does not use robust servers and properly managed clusters.

Man fix server network in data center room .

When selecting a web host, compare your choices based on how well they handle their servers and what resources they have to secure your website. While it is virtually impossible to provide full insurance, a reliable provider would typically offer the following:

  • Ensure the stability of your operating system (OS) and applications.
  • Backup and restore dependable functionality
  • Stable Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol with Industry-standard uptime
  • Malware detection and removal
  • Mitigation of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks
  • Implementation of a firewall
  • The ability to search for malicious software.

It is essential for e-commerce site owners to accept the web host’s compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security requirement. This safeguards the details of customers for all forms of card payments. If your host does not explicitly support it, it must be compatible with other PCI-compliant shopping cart API providers.

PCI Compliance

All online retailers must adopt Credit Card Industry (PCI) guidelines and regulations. Affiliate websites are a grey zone since they are only “redirecting” the visitor, and the purchase does not directly take place on their website.

Other than affiliate “gateway” websites, every merchant must comply with the PCI DSS, or Data Security Standard, developed for all forms of merchants that accept credit and debit card payment transactions.

Since you will be using confidential data such as your customers’ payment information, PCI enforcement is essential to ensure maximum protection for cardholders while also gaining your customers’ confidence. 

Make use of a Web Server Firewall (WAF)

A WAF is a handy tool that can save you and your business a lot of time and trouble. It is extremely useful for detecting and preventing attacks, especially those carried out by automated bots.

A firewall’s primary function is to track Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) traffic, which is substantially more vulnerable to security threats than HTTPS traffic.

Firewall effectively mitigates SQL injections, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), cross-site forgery, and other typical attacks.

When you deploy a WAF, it creates a barrier between your web and the internet. Before reaching the server, any web client must move through it. A collection of pre-defined rules filters out malicious traffic and safeguards websites against vulnerabilities.

This is one of the principles, that Scaleo’s Anti Fraud Logic is based upon. Thanks to a decade of data collection, Scaleo can detect malicious or low-quality traffic in realtime. Read more about this robust algorithm for affiliate websites here.

When it comes to building firewalls, there are three areas to focus on.

External Firewall: Typically, this form of firewall is found as part of a router or server. It sits outside of your company’s network and prevents all types of hacker attempts from ever accessing your device. If you’re not sure if you have one, contact your web host and ask them.

Internal Firewall: This sort of firewall is software that is built on your network. Although it serves a similar purpose to the external firewall in that it checks for viruses, malware, and other cyber-nasties, it can also be designed to segment the network such that viruses or hacks attempts and quarantine them before infecting the entire device.

The third point to remember is workers who work from home and link to the company network. The overall protection of your device is only as strong as its weakest link. In such circumstances, paying for firewall security would be well worth the peace of mind.

Firewalls are inseparably connected to the hosting configuration of your website/network. For a few extra dollars per month, you could consider ditching shared hosting in favor of something more secure, such as a dedicated server or virtual private server, which gives you more power over complex security configurations.

DDoS Defense

DDoS is an abbreviation for Distributed Denial of Service, which is something you don’t want to see near your e-commerce site. Simply put, it refers to an assault on your infrastructure that prevents web users from gaining access to or using your functions. It strips them of any service.

As a result, you must ensure that your store is adequately protected against DDoS.

If you are not sure how to secure your website against DDoS attacks, consult your hosting provider.

Keep a Strict Password Policy

Here are a few statistics that will help you understand why a small business may have a cybersecurity problem, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

  • According to a 2016 Verizon survey, poor, missing, or stolen passwords is responsible for 63% of data breaches. This is a problem.
  • According to a Ponemon Institute survey, 65% of businesses with a password policy do not tackle this issue. This is a far bigger problem.

Where do we even begin? 

Yes, workers would scream if you ask them to build passwords more complicated than “12345” and change them regularly. However, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, are you more concerned with mild worker annoyance or hostile network takeover? 

This implies that you must have:

  • Update your passwords every 60 to 90 days.
  • Passwords must be at least 8 characters long, but longer is preferred.
  • Must include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters.

To return to that earlier figure, if you go through the trouble of developing a good password policy, don’t be one of the 65% who doesn’t follow it. That’s so ridiculous.

Password Managers: We’d be careless if we didn’t include password managers in this part. These applications, which are available as installed software, a cloud service, or even a physical computer, help you create and retrieve complex passwords. It does just what the name implies: it manages your passwords, and it seems that most of us might benefit from assistance in this area.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) has emerged as a bright spot on the radar of those worried about their network’s security in recent years. Yeah, it is a bit of a hassle, but it is a virtually fail-safe method of protecting the login process. There are various variations on the exact method, but here’s how one company’s login could look:

  • The user conventionally enters the password by typing it into the system’s prompt.
  • A second one-time password is created and sent to the user’s cell phone.
  • The user is led to the final login screen, where he or she enters the code from their computer.
  • Connection to the network is granted.
image source: nist.gov

Another simple way to incorporate MFA is to use the employee’s cell phone number as the second password. The assumption is that a hacker will be highly unlikely to have access to both the first username and the mobile phone number. This additional layer of security is relatively easy to provide on most systems and dramatically enhances password security.

Most of the groundwork in this area has been done by Google, which recently ended a year-long period in which not a single one of its 85,000 users had their Gmail account compromised. They achieved this by using Titan, a physical security key that is pluged into a USB port. This means, that even with a username and password, a hacker could not access the account further unless they had physical access to the key.

Frequent backups

Let’s assume you’ve agreed to follow each of our recommendations so far. You can now exhale with relief, knowing that your company’s network is safe. 

Why not take a seat and put your feet up, enjoying your high-end security measures? 

Not yet. 

Despite your and your entire staff’s best efforts, there is always the risk that a hacker could sneak in and cause a disturbance. As previously said, these individuals are an intelligent bunch committed to criminal misconduct. While inside, they can do everything from record password keystrokes to use your resources to launch a full-fledged bot attack to wipe your server clean.

At that point, you’ll wish you could restore the device to a previous point in time before the hacker got involved. Since fires and floods happen, you’ve been constantly backing up all your family photos to the cloud and even storing another copy in an external physical drive, right? 

Consider the same with your business.

Backing up your papers, spreadsheets, databases, financial statements, HR reports, and accounts receivable/payable if you haven’t already. Not to mention your email list!

With cloud storage services becoming more accessible by the day, there is no reason not to incorporate a robust backup plan that allows you to easily restore your device to operating status in the event of a network breach (unless you’d enjoy re-creating any file you use from memory).

Safeguard Your Servers

The website database is another security vulnerability that hackers can easily manipulate. Typically, you would be required to store a large amount of information (about your company and customers) on the server of your web application. However, make certain that you only save the information that you actually need.

Handle personal data with caution, such as credit card numbers, email addresses, and other identifying information. It can be expensive if mismanaged. As a general rule, try to encrypt all data that identifies users.

Encryption at ease, such as Amazon’s AWS Aurora, is one low-cost alternative to consider. This effectively secures on-disk files. Similarly, you may want to compile a list of all the resources you use to store client data. Databases, document management systems, GitHub, Dropbox, and other resources may be included.

If you or your company is subject to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), you should set aside time and money to understand and comply with its requirements fully. Remember, in 2019, Google lost a whopping $57 million as a result of this. 

Security Patches

Lastly, don’t forget about security patches. It is important that you never even consider launching your online business without first downloading security patches for the software or OS you use. You must pay particular attention to frequently updating WordPress, Joomla, and other web applications that can be very vulnerable to attacks. These CMS are on the hackers’ list of favorites, so never allow your blog to run with outdated plugins, themes or WP version.

Conclusion

Layer the security measures in the same way that a safe boutique would have railings or a metal gate, deadbolts and other locks on the doors, alarm systems, surveillance cameras, and coded vaults.

A single form of defense is insufficient. You can start with firewalls and then move on to safe contact forms, protected passwords, and so on. This way, you will deter cybercriminals from breaking into your system and damaging your digital store and company.

As a rule of thumb – the more security layers, the better. 

For every business to be profitable on all online platforms, top-notch security is an important factor that must be catered to. 

Let’s take one more look at the essential points you’ll want to bear in mind to secure your affiliate website or affiliate network:

  • Pick a secure web hosting
  • Add SSL certificate to your domain
  • Use Scaleo’s Anti Fraud Logic for maximum security
  • Employ Anti-malware, firewall and server-side security measures
  • Maintenance: don’t forget to backup your database frequently and changes passwords often
  • Make sure your payments are PCI compliant
  • Add multi-factor authentification whenever possible

These fundamental security elements are essential for every business website, affiliate or e-commerce . However, your protection does not stop there. Yes, you should conduct additional research, particularly if you have a medium-sized or large online company. Never put your system’s or your customers’ safety in jeopardy.

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Elizabeth Sramek
Elizabeth is a Senior Content Manager at Scaleo. Currently enjoying the life in Prague and sharing professional affiliate marketing tips. She's been in the online marketing business since 2006 and gladly shares all her insights and ideas on this blog.
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