Why Website Security is relevant for SEO

The past decade has seen cyber security and data protection becoming two of the most concerning, and most discussed topics worldwide. As organisations and businesses globally have been increasingly relying on digital technologies to share and store all sorts of data, they have also become highly vulnerable to malicious threats.

The main concern lies within the fact that practically any type of software can be hacked, meaning businesses and websites alike, are potential victims to cyber-attacks, regardless of their size or industry.

Forbes estimates that approximately 30,000 websites are being hacked every day, with most of these sites belonging to small and legitimate businesses. Contrary to what you may think, small businesses have in fact been frequently targeted as primary victims. This is a common issue due to these types of businesses being usually less prepared to counter malicious attacks. As a result, there has been an approximate 400% increase in new breaches since 2017.

What is a cyber-attack?

A cyber-attack is any kind of deliberate attack that targets an individual or organisation, with the ultimate goal of retrieving unauthorised access to private data with malicious intent. These attacks are usually lanched by cybercriminals, and can be fully automated through use of artificial bots. This process takes place to easily expand the reach to a greater number of potential victims.

According to the Cyber Security Centre, cyber-attacks can be grouped into two types: targeted and un-targeted:

The first type of attack is Untargeted. Untargeted attacks are carried out to purposely reach a large number of websites, with there being no specific target. This is accomplished by using techniques that take advantage of vulnerabilities a site may have, and are usually operated by artificial bots programmed to detect breaches, infect new hosts, and spread across as many victims as possible.

Targeted attacks on the other hand, are specifically aimed at a single organisation or website because the attacker has an interest in obtaining something specific from that target. The targeted attacks can in fact take months to operate and are usually more damaging than un-targeted attacks. The severity of a targeted attack is far greater since they are typically designed and tailored to invade a specific organisation’s system.

What are the most common types?

Most common type of attacks on websites:

Cyber-attacks on websites can take on many forms, there are however, some types that are most frequently used.

Malware: Broad name to describe any malicious file or software including viruses, ransomware, adware and spyware. The Malware cyber-attack operates by breaching websites through entry points that are vulnerable and installs unauthorised code into the host. This installation could be any device, website or network. These type of attacks usually occur when a user clicks an “infected” link or email attachment. Since it can infect software without the users even noticing, it can be really challenging to detect.

DDoS: Distributed Denial of Service attacks attempt to disrupt and overwhelm the normal traffic of a targeted website or network. These attacks deploy large systems of compromised computer devices (botnets) to overwhelm the traffic of a specific target and blocking regular traffic from ever reaching that target website. There are however,  a few signs that may indicate that an attack is taking place. Some of these include suspiciously high peaks of traffic or a sudden abnormal slow speed performance.

MITM: Man in the middle attacks occur when the attacker disrupts and alters the communications between two entities, usually between a user and an application. These are believed to be genuine communications amongst each other. The goal of which, is to obtain access to private information such as login credentials or account details. This could be used to perform unauthorized transfers, changing passwords or identity theft.

Phishing: Phishing by definition, is the attempt to obtain private data from targets, operating through a fake identity that is usually disguised as a trustworthy entity. This is usually operated through email, instant messaging or mobile text messaging, with attackers luring users to actively provide private information or account details.

SQL injection: SQL injection often occurs when the attacker injects malicious SQL statements into an entry field to gain unauthorised access to data, including personal information or costumer records. Entry fields are usually found in features such as search boxes and form fields. Ultimately this can also be used to gain access to administrators credentials and complete control over websites or platforms.

Why is website security relevant for SEO?

Last but not least, the relevance website security has within SEO, is immense. As a technical SEO agency we understand website security is a priority as it determines how a website performs in many levels. In fact, the most tangible reason is due to Google having been given top priority to web security when evaluating websites performances. Ultimately, HHTPS security and safe browsing are amongst the four most relevant metrics that are used to evaluate the Core Web Vitals, which determine how healthy a website is in terms of user experience. This has direct interference in ranking positions has Google will favour websites that perform better and are more user friendly.

Other risks such as SEO spam, crawling errors and blacklisting are amongst some of the most serious risks in terms of SEO performance. This is primarily due to the fact that these areas can disrupt a site's traffic, damage crawling performance and target a website as a cause of concern, which can result in serious penalties.

Finally trustworthiness is also a huge concern when cyber-attacks take place as these can instantly be compromised and affect the confidence that users have in a website. A commonly experienced and visible example of how badly user experience can be affected on a website are the intrusive advertising popups.

 

Polaris is an award-winning SEO agency in London specialising B2B, PPC, e-commerce and the healthcare industry.

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