The world is slowly moving toward a gloriously automated age. A world of AI, robots, machine learning algorithms, infinite cloud storage, and more.
Soon, life will be so automated we could take month long vacations in exotic playlands filled with androids so real we forget they’re androids. Soon we will live in the universe of Westworld.
But, if you’ve seen the TV show, you probably don’t look forward to that future. Or maybe you really are ready for our robot overlords.
Whatever your hopes are for our future, the hit HBO TV show Westworld is rife with current societal satire and lessons for every area of life. We could even glean a little bit of truth about website management while we’re at it.
And that’s exactly what we aim to do today. Take a long hard look at what Westworld could teach us about website management. Keep scrolling for more.
These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends
Website security should be your first concern when it comes to website management. Your customers’ data is like platinum in the online economy. If you collect data for transactions and other purposes your website should be like Fort Knox.
A data breach can be devastating to any company. The average cost of a data breach is close to $4 million. But money is the least of your concerns.
The damage to a brand’s name could cost even more in hidden costs of lost customers and loyalty and trust.
In Westworld, data is even more important. Not only did Delos have the whereabouts and preferences and desires of every guest to protect. Delos possessed massive amounts of intellectual property and proprietary data as well.
The Delos Corporation did their darndest to keep a tight lid on how their “Hosts” or robots functioned and what data left the park. A massive security force, robots built on site and programmed only by vetted and trained individuals, and more.
But all of this security and precaution could not take into account one thing: internal rebellion from a dead man manifested by his creation.
The Real World Is Almost Scarier
You probably won’t have ghosts in your machine messing with your web security. And your website can’t shoot you in the head along with all your customers.
But you might experience human error or malicious code. And sometimes, as with most of the humans in Westworld, you don’t know it happened until it’s too late.
In fact, 86% of web sites include at least one serious vulnerability. And that vulnerability may not be very obvious to the untrained eye.
So, how do you mitigate your losses and keep your website secure?
The Reverie Updates
In Westworld, the Hosts received regular updates to their programming. The engineers physically brought in the Hosts, examined their behavior, examined their code, and ran updates.
These were called Reverie updates named after the little ticks that made the hosts seem human.
Someone was messing with the updates in Westworld, and that’s one reason why things went to hell in a handbasket. But your website updates should actually work for you.
This could come in an RSS feed or an email. Most services will inform you about updates as soon as you log-in to your backend.
The Upload Link
Someone wanted the Delos Corporation’s data and implanted a Host with a transmitter capable of emitting data out of the park. It also made the Host act in erratic ways leading to its eventual demise.
One major vulnerability in your website works in a similar fashion. The transmitter in the Host’s brain is very much like an SQL injection in your website’s code.
An attacker essentially uses a web form field or a URL parameter to get into your data base. This happens when someone accidentally placed rogue code into your query.
This rogue code can be used to get information, delete data, and change tables.
How do you stop this from happening? Simple. Parameterized queries.
Essentially, you pre-compile an SQL statement so that you just have to set the parameters.
Cease All Motor Functions
The Hosts in Westworld responded to verbal commands. These were the verbal passwords used to control the hosts.
To examine or modify a Host’s code, a technician would merely say “cease all motor functions” and the Host would become inactive.
Of course, only qualified individuals could use these passcodes. And no one without authorization could gain access to a Host.
This kind of security should be your gold standard.
Secure passwords may seem like a basic concept. But most people don’t follow excellent password security protocols.
Anyone who has access to your website’s backend should follow password best practices. And you should insist on this no matter what.
And password protection doesn’t stop with the human element. Passwords should be stored as encrypted values. Preferably using a hashing algorithm.
Hashed passwords are extremely difficult to decrypt. Brute force is the only method possible for decrypting hashed passwords. A hacker would need years he doesn’t have or a supercomputer to crack a hashed password.
By hashing your passwords, you essentially make them worthless to the hacker. They will most likely move on to easier prey.
You’re New. Not Much of a Rind on You
One of the resident Hosts commonly spoke a fairly ironic line throughout the show. It was scripted and pat. But it spoke volumes about the vulnerabilities inherent in the humans who visited Westworld.
So too can you tell whether a website is completely vulnerable or not. If it’s not secured with HTTPS protocol, you know its back door is wide open.
And there is no excuse to having an unprotected website. Let’s Encrypt provides completely free certificates and tools to encrypt your website properly.
You Write the Narrative
It’s not worth it. Don’t let your website get overrun.
You can learn from the mistakes of others. And you don’t have to live out the narrative set by your own hesitation or laziness.
How do you keep your website secure? Are you a fan of Westworld too? Let me know in the comments below.