How Cyber Security is changing the web design industry

Today’s article is from our member Julia Eudy. Julia – Many thanks for writing this article and providing your insights.

When I think of the industry of web design, I think of the many talented people responsible for populating the internet with information over the past couple of decades. But our job is never done! From continual refinement of responsive design, to developing content worthy of Google’s latest search strategy; our jobs as designers and web managers is an ever-evolving landscape. In today’s market it is essential to stay current with technology and the threats targeting those we serve and those who search online. Without constant awareness and action by our peers in technology, cybercriminals will continue to challenge our time, patience, and livelihood.

Websites have become Key Point of Attack for Cybercriminals

While many believe that email phishing is a key entry point for most cyber criminals, it has become apparent that they are often using an unsuspecting website to hide their activity of malware designed collect valid emails and launch other criminal schemes. While some argue that nothing is hack-proof; content management systems built on open-source code have enabled the unsecure environment we now reside. It goes without saying that sharing code saves time; but is it worth the longer-term cost?

Let’s explore the leading CMS platform, WordPress. It is an easy-to-use interface making it popular among novice developers and DIY professionals, but it is often a prime target of hackers who specifically build robotic scripts designed to quickly search through the openly published source files looking for vulnerabilities. Technical web designers (those who know how to customize the code and apply advanced security settings) understand that keeping current on updates and effectively managing a recovery plan for the sites you have created has become a time-consuming task and one that is raising the overall cost of website management. However, the millions without some technical skillset, have likely already become an unsuspecting victim to one of the many ongoing threats facing the WordPress community.

A prime example of how open-source code created a breeding ground for a cyberattack happened in early 2017 when one of 20 hacking groups launched a digital turf war on WordPress by discovering a flaw found in their REST API script. A wide-spread attack impacted roughly 1.5 million pages of WordPress sites1 across 39,000 unique domains in a matter of days as reported by security plugin developers WordFence and Sucuri. Keep in mind that only 1.5 million of the 24 billion pages running WordPress2 are protected by these firewall applications.

Insurance Companies are Looking at Who to Blame for the Increase in Commercial Claims

From the outside looking in, the internet landscape is under attack, but who is to blame? This is a question many insurance companies are beginning to ask3 as their costs to cover cyber-attacks on commercial policies continue to rise.

Looking at a big picture, here are some general facts to consider…

  • According to the Small Business Administration, there are approximately 28 million small businesses in America which account for approximately 54% of all sales in the country. 4
  • In a 2017 report by Kaspersky Lab, the average cost for a data breach against a small and medium-sized business in North America was $117,000.5
  • An article published in 2017 by INC Magazine, referenced a presentation made at the NASDAQ by Michael Kaiser, the Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, who stressed concerns about the attack on Small Business and that such attacks are expected to continually rise because of their (the small business professional’s) lack of awareness of the pending risks.6
  • A 2016 study performed by Ponemon Institute LLC and Keeper Security revealed that the number one type of cyber attack targeting small and medium sized businesses was through a web-based attack with the web server being the most vulnerable entry point.7
  • That same study by Ponemon Instutute cited “negligent employees or contractors” as the root cause of the data breach. 7

So, I ask you, when the Insurance companies follow the facts, who do you think they will turn to recover their loss?

  • Will it be the random person who pointed out their vulnerability by successfully holding their web presence ransom? – likely not. That person is too difficult for them to track.
  • Will they blame the contractor who their customer hired to create their website? – Yes!

In recent conversations I’ve had with insurance professionals, one question asked was, “Should web designers have an ethical obligation to inform an untechnical customer of the risks involved with having a website?” As a technology professional, I agreed that they should and most likely do, but it is often the customer who elects to not add to their expenses for proper technical support. Their reply – “Ok, show me the proof and we go back to our customer!”
Most web managers are aware that being hack-proof is near impossible to achieve; however, as web professionals we are hopefully more aware and have taken necessary precautions to defend our livelihood. Contracts, authorized “opt-out” forms proving we’ve informed the customer of the risks, and building trusted relationships with supporting contractors are just a few first places to start; but having our own policies to cover mistakes and cyber threats should also be considered.

Like our other certifications, we are exploring resources necessary to develop a comprehensive training and security certification to help web developers stay current with different types cyber threats that they may encounter. This certification would identify specific areas that are being targeted and give the opportunity for continued training opportunities to learn more or improve your skills in specific areas. This certification would also classify you as a Cyber Certified Web Professional which will identify to those seeking a web services provider that you have participated in training that is designed to reduce their web-based risks.

If you are interested in learning more about this certification and the time schedule for training and certification release, please contact us and let us know your thoughts.

CITATIONS:

  1.  1.5 million pages of WordPress sites
  2. 24 billion pages running WordPress
  3. Insurance
  4. SBA
  5. Kaspersky Lab
  6. INC Magazine Article
  7. Ponemon Institute/Keeper Security Study

Author Bio

Julia Eudy is a Technology Consultant with specialties in Online Marketing, Web Design and Cyber Security. She teaches Content Management Systems (WordPress) and Social Media Marketing at St. Charles Community College in Cottleville, MO, in addition to managing a small Online Marketing firm (Golden Services Group) that focuses on online marketing solutions for small-medium sized businesses. Additionally, she is working with a group of professionals to create a training program designed to inspire K-12 students to pursue careers in technology and cyber security.

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