Your small business is growing fast. That’s good news! But rapid growth also presents new challenges. Perhaps most importantly, as sales and website traffic increase, you become a more attractive target for cybercriminals.

At SiteLock, we developed a proprietary risk score based on over 500 variables to help website owners gauge the overall risk of their sites on a scale from low to high. Each of the variables can be grouped into three main categories: a site’s complexity, its popularity, and its composition. In general, the more variables a site has, the higher the risk level. Those websites deemed high risk are 26 times more likely to experience a breach.

Unfortunately, as a business grows, the number of variables on its website typically grows with it. For instance, as sales increase, you may decide to give your open-source website additional functionality by utilizing more add-ons, themes, and plug-ins — which adds to the composition and complexity of your website.

Although implementing these tools can make your website easier to use and more appealing to visitors, most come at the cost of heightened security risk. This is primarily because they’re created by third-party developers, which means you’re at the mercy of developers to ensure they properly test their software for any security vulnerabilities and release updates to patch these vulnerabilities. What many website owners may not realize is that it’s their responsibility to install these security updates regularly so potential vulnerabilities are patched in a timely manner.

Additionally, as your site gains popularity and attracts more traffic, you become a more enticing target for hackers looking to steal SEO rankings. Moreover, it’s likely that several of your daily visitors are actually malicious bots. Competitors or cybercriminals might use these bots for competitive data mining purposes — or worse, to conduct brute-force or distributed denial-of-service attacks, gaining unauthorized access to your site.

To protect your business and online reputation, you should follow a cybersecurity checklist of best practices to ensure that your cybersecurity strategy grows alongside your business.

Allocating Your Budget for Cybersecurity

Even as your small business grows, your resources may still be limited. It’s important to carefully consider how to allocate your budget for cybersecurity growth. By choosing the right security partner, you can get the most for your money.

The first step is having a third-party partner perform a cybersecurity risk assessment on your website to determine your greatest vulnerabilities. Then, consider which solutions can best address any weak areas. Automated tools can save you money and time because they can scan more files and tables within your database faster than any security expert could. Additionally, when evaluating vendors, it’s important to consider how much time and effort the company puts into its security research, including the size of its malware signature database.

How to Keep Up With Growing Cybersecurity Needs

After conducting an initial security audit to identify your website’s weak areas and finding the right partner to bolster your cybersecurity growth, the next step is to follow these five cybersecurity best practices to ensure your website stays secure as you grow:

1. Implement a web application firewall. A WAF works as a gatekeeper for your website, letting in legitimate site visitors and keeping bad actors out. Consider that bad bots make up one-fifth of all internet traffic; a WAF is a necessary tool for keeping them from crawling your site’s code. The WAF you choose should have CAPTCHA capabilities, be able to block IP addresses (including geoblocking), and include protection from every threat listed on the Open Web Application Security Project’s “Top 10 Web Application Security Risks” report.

2. Install an automated website scanner. website scanner scans the files on your site for malware and other known security vulnerabilities. Additionally, it removes malware and patches vulnerabilities as it detects them without any extra work from you.

3. Use an automated database scanner. Look for a database scanner that can automatically monitor your database for spam content and malware. A database is a critical component of a website due to the sensitive data that’s stored. It’s the driving force behind a dynamic website, which is why it’s essential to look for an automated database scanner that has the capability to roll back any fixes made to the database. If your site relies on a MySQL database, SQL injection prevention will help prevent attackers from gaining control by inserting arbitrary SQL code into a database query.

4. Make sure you have backup. Find an automated backup solution to ensure that all your important site files are backed up daily. Keep this working backup off-site, as the backup could become infected if it’s stored on the same server as the website in the event of reinfection. This will give you leverage in the event of a ransomware attack and allow you to get your site back up and running quickly after a cybersecurity incident.

5. Include an SSL. A secure socket layer, or SSL, encrypts any data submitted while it’s in transit between a website visitor’s browser and your web server — thus protecting sensitive data if it’s intercepted by an attacker. If you collect any information through your website via contact forms or online orders, it’s best practice to install an SSL certificate on your website, regardless of whether you own your server or rent space through a hosting provider

The first step to cybersecurity growth is understanding your risk. In general, sites that receive significant traffic and incorporate several features are more vulnerable to cyberattack — as are sites that collect valuable data such as visitor and payment information. Be proactive about cybersecurity, and business growth will present more opportunities with fewer headaches.

Monique Becenti is a product and channel marketing specialist at SiteLock, a cloud-based website security provider currently protecting more than 12 million websites globally. Monique is passionate about improving the customer experience for all. SiteLock’s combination of dedicated research and developmental efforts, aggressive product road maps, and access to a massive global data set make the company a leading innovator in web security.