Websites are excellent means to communication with the public, but the bad thing about website is just that: they're public. Anyone on the web can access DNS information from sites like InterNIC, which can be used not only to identify you, but identify your host. There's no surefire way to prevent hacking or Internet fraud (unless, frankly, you quit using the internet altogether, but we realize this would be a near-cataclysmic event). But you can arm yourself with the latest knowledge and combat Internet fraud with these security best practices. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions. However, it will provide an excellent starting place to increase your online security.


Use strong passwords

The most rudimentary and one of the most effective steps you can take is the start using strong passwords. Relying on Mel Brooks in Space Balls for password ideas is not a good strategy if you don't want humans (or robots, in any case) hacking your site. The trick is to make passwords easy for you to remember and hard for computers to guess. Contrary to popular belief, making a password hard for you to remember does not correlate to its difficulty to hack, especially for a non-biological memory bank with an endless sources of energy and time (read: bots). To reduce your risk against a biological memory bank with coffee sources of energy and caffeinated patience (read: humans), never use passwords composed of names or initials, dates, kids or pets names, your visible usernames, the actual name of the website you're on, or--heavens forbid--your bank PIN number. Consider what your guesses would be if you were trying to decipher your own password--promptly promise yourself never to use those. To reduce your risk against the non-biological threats, use a combination of words, numbers and symbols in a non-linear fashion. Place numbers and symbols in between a compound word. If you can, use a non-English language.


Use multiple passwords

So many Internet users use the same password for all of their accounts, not unlike having one key to open everything you own. Imagine having your one key stolen and suddenly the bandit not only has your car, he's walked in the front door of your house and has taken your prize stamp collection out of the safe and is holding it hostage. Don't let this happen online. Use multiple passwords for each of your sites and change them frequently. After all, one password may be easier, but there will be no room for laziness when your Farmville account is held for virtual ransom. Especially use a different password for your website database than your website; this is particularly important if you aren't using multiple servers to run your website. Oh, and this bears mentioning: now that you have complex, multiple passwords, please don't write them on sticky notes and place them on your monitor.


Use your index

One of the most common forms of attack in the earlier days of the internet was to through directory rebrowsing. Directories used to serve solely organizational purposes; if the site was set to allow directory browsing, all the files would be easily available, especially through early search engines. Today, using general upload sites, such as file-sharing sites, aren't as secure for the same reasons. To prevent directory browsing, you'll need to place an index page over the actual directory. So in the situation that someone attempts to load your directory, the empty index page will load instead.


Watch your wi-fi and encrypt your data

This tip is fairly self-explanatory. These days, it's fairly easy to pick up on someone else's wireless internet--and it's fairly easy for them to pick up on yours. Be sure your networks are password protected using the same password guidelines as above. Likewise, when using public wi-fi, be wary of doing things such as bank transactions and the like--not only are you most vulnerable on an unsecured network, you're also likely in a crowded place. You never know when that starving screenwriter in the coffee shop will decide that your bank account would look better on his monitor. That being said, with all due respect to starving screenwriters, whenever working with sensitive data it's important to encrypt.


Keep software upgraded

Especially when running websites off of open-source CMS like WordPress, keeping your software upgraded and your security patches with the latest versions will help prevent viruses. You can manually set updates, or if you find those irritating and have a tendency to disregard them, make a habit of checking for new upgrades periodically when doing other housekeeping tasks. Regardless, outdated software and programs can be sitting targets, letting everyone know that the owner isn't paying attention.


Consult network security experts

The easiest way to know if you've been hacked is that you won't be able to log in to your website, but don't let it go that far. Take preventative measures and if there's any doubts, consult the experts. Preventative measures often outweigh the costs (and efforts) of restoring your online collateral.