Website Security: How Safe is Your Site?

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A lot of small businesses discovered that they weren’t immune from disaster by their size during the recent GoDaddy hacking by Anonymous. The forums I frequent were full of mom-and-pop sized businesses wondering how much business they would lose because their site wasn’t available. This site and one other website we own (for our photography business) were both down and our email had a lot of hiccups, but didn’t go down completely.

A friend posted on my Facebook status ” It is times like this that I wish I was more of a technical person to figure out the basics of what went wrong. For example, I know that no one is completely immune from DDoS attacks, but was there a way that this problem could have been mitigated or prevented?” For most small businesses who outsource their hosting and email to professional hosting and email firms, the answer is “no.” Homeowners aren’t in charge of deciding what equipment the local Fire Department should buy, and the business owners who hosts with a major hosting company (like GoDaddy) aren’t in charge of what security they use. We can complain and demand more security and put our two cents in through market pressure (moving our sites to a “safer” host, for example), but that’s as far as our influence goes — which is how it should be. I don’t want my clients telling me what brand of notepaper to use (and yes, I still use paper and pen for many things), or what brand of lock to use on my door, that’s MY decision based on many internal-to-my-business factors. Our job (as a user of GoDaddy or another hosting company) is to pay our bills and decide if they offer what we’re shopping for, and to make suggestions when we have them — but the tendency modern small business people have of thinking we know how to fix a problem that affects a company with an entire department dedicated to online security ends up (most of the time) just taking our time away from what we should be focused on, which is our company and our work. The armchair quarterbacking of another company’s online security might be a normal thing to do when your site is down, but now that it’s back up it’s time to focus on our own businesses, deadlines, and priorities.