Best Practices For Form Security: A Checklist For Building Secure Forms

Why it is important to go the extra mile over securing your forms

Your form may be a simple way to get people to sign up for your newsletter or download a white paper, but it’s also the first chance you get to make an impression with a new website visitor. When someone submits your form, they’re entrusting you with their personal information—and when that data is not secure, you’re putting their trust at risk.

When a visitor submits your form, you want them to be confident that the information they shared is safe and protected. For example, you might want them to know:

-That the details they provided won’t wind up on spam lists

-That you won’t sell their information to third parties

-That their data isn’t stored in an unsecured database

If someone doubts any of these things, they’ll hesitate before giving you their information and potentially abandon the form entirely. If you’ve worked hard to drive traffic to your website and encourage leads, this can be especially frustrating.

If this seems unlikely to happen, think about how often people are targeted by online scams or hacked accounts—it’s bound to raise concerns about whether or not their personal information is secure. By taking a little extra time to ensure that your forms are secure, you can put visitors’ minds at ease. 

We’ve put together a few tips for you to create secure web forms

How to make web forms more secure

Limit multiple form submissions

It’s a good practice to limit how many times a user can submit a form. This is useful for preventing bots from overwhelming your site with fake submissions.

The first option for limiting form submissions is to limit how frequently each user can submit a form on your site. For example, if you have a contact form, you might want to limit users to one submission every 10 minutes. There are many ways to implement this type of restriction. One simple way is by storing information in the database about when the user last submitted the form and checking it against the current time before allowing another submission.

Another option is limiting how many submissions you allow from each IP address per hour or day. This would be useful if you’re expecting lots of traffic and want to prevent people from submitting your form more than once in order to inundate your database or mail server. 

Keep validation on the client and server side

When we’re talking about validation, we’re typically talking about two types: client side and server side. Client-side validation is done on the browser with JavaScript. Server-side validation is done on the web server. Both are important for keeping your forms secure, but there’s one big difference between them that you should be aware of. Client-side validation can be turned off in a browser—that’s why it’s always important to have server-side validation as well. If a user has turned off JavaScript in their browser, then they won’t be able to use any client-side validation you’ve implemented. It’s best to have both! Server side also allows you to do more complex things than just checking user input, such as checking if an email address already exists in your database or running a calculation based on multiple form inputs.

Protect your forms from SPAM and bots

A lot of people don’t realize that forms can be the subject of SPAM and other malicious attacks by bots. There are ways to protect your forms from SPAM, and we’ve you covered with this article:  https://formx.stream/blog/prevent-form-spam/

We also have a kick-ass blog on CAPTCHA alternatives, if you are looking for any.

Use form analytics to identify anomalies and suspicious behavior

If you’re not familiar, form analytics record and track information about the behavior of users who visit your web forms. The data collected by these tools provides valuable insight into how people interact with your web pages—whether they’re submitting leads, filling out a survey, or downloading content. They also provide deeper insight into how people actually use your website, and what is getting in their way.

One of the main things that marketers use form analytics for is identifying drop-off points on their websites—many tools will allow users to see where visitors are abandoning a form before completing it. A less recognized benefit of form analytics is that they can reveal instances where suspicious activity might be occurring.

With formX, you can know about your visitors real-time. You can access a chronological timeline of submitters’ visits, track and facilitate visitor conversions. Read more about our analytics features here: https://formx.stream/features.html

Limit failed login attempts

Brute-force attack is a common problem that can have serious consequences for your website’s security. A brute-force attack is a trial-and-error method used to obtain information such as a user password or personal identification number (PIN). In other words, it’s when hackers use software to guess potential login credentials until they find the right combination. This is usually done by systematically checking all possible passwords until the correct one is found.

Brute-force attacks are an automated process, so if you have a way to limit the number of failed login attempts, you can protect your site from this kind of intrusion. Limiting failed login attempts does just as it sounds: it restricts the number of times someone can attempt to log in with incorrect information before their IP address is blocked from your site. This makes it much more difficult for a hacker to gain access to your user accounts. Limiting failed login attempts also stops people from using your form as a botnet—a network of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled without the owners’ knowledge. 

Use proper permissions for uploaded files

Giving your users the ability to upload files from their local computer to your website is a useful feature, but with it comes security issues that you have to carefully consider. If your uploaded files are treated as attachments or downloads, then all you need to worry about is ensuring that the file type matches what’s expected. But if you’re allowing images or other media files, then you need to ensure that any uploaded file is a valid image file in order to prevent users from uploading malicious files instead.

Make sure your website has an SSL certificate

There are a lot of reasons you should start using HTTPS on your site, but the biggest one is security. It encrypts information sent from a user’s web browser to your site’s server so that it can’t be intercepted and misused. When you’re asking for sensitive information like contact details, or especially credit card data and health records, that means the difference between making your visitors feel secure or putting them at risk for identity theft or worse.

That said, even if you’re not collecting anything more than a name and email address, securing your form submissions is still a great idea—there’s no need to give anyone another reason to doubt your website when they’re already nervous about entering their personal information online. Even if you don’t use an SSL certificate (the security layer that makes HTTPS work), people will still know whether their data is being submitted securely just by looking at the URL bar in their browser. If it says “https://” instead of “http://”, they’ll feel better about doing business with you.

 

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