Web Hosting Security Best Practices

Webhosting

WHAT IS WEBHOSTING?

A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that hosts websites for clients, i.e. it offers the facilities required for them to create and maintain a site and makes it accessible on the World Wide Web. Companies providing web hosting services are sometimes called web hosts

It is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or web page onto the Internet. … Their computer will then connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser. Most hosting companies require that you own your domain in order to host with them.

Here are some features you should be expecting from your hosting provider:

Email AccountsAs mentioned earlier, most hosting providers require users to have their own domain name. With a domain name (e.g. www.yourwebsite.com) and email account features provided by your hosting company, you can create domain email accounts (e.g. yourname@yourwebsite.com).
FTP AccessThe use of FTP lets you upload files from your local computer to your web server. If you build your website using your own HTML files, you can transfer the files from your computer to the web server through FTP, allowing your website to be accessed through the internet.
WordPress SupportWordPress is an online website creation tool. It is a powerful blogging and website content management system, which is a convenient way to create and manage website. WordPress powers over 25% of websites on the internet. Most hosting providers will tell you right away if their plans are WordPress-compatible or not. The simple requirements for hosting your WordPress websites include: PHP version 7 or greater; MySQL version 5.6 or greater.

TYPES OF WEBHOSTING

 Shared hosting

Shared hosting is perfect for entry-level website hosting. This is where your website will be stored on the same server as multiple other websites. With a shared hosting plan, all domains share the same server resources, such as RAM (Random Access Memory) and CPU (Central Processing Unit). However, because all resources are shared, the cost of shared hosting plans are relatively low, making them an excellent option for website owners in their beginning stages. 

2. Virtual Private Server Hosting (VPS)

A VPS hosting plan is the ultimate middle ground between a shared server and a dedicated server. It’s ideal for website owners that need more control, but don’t necessarily need a dedicated server.

VPS hosting is unique because each website is hosted within its own space on the server, though it still shares a physical server with other users. While VPS hosting provides website owners with more customization and storage space, they’re still not able to handle incredibly high traffic levels or spikes in usage meaning that the site performance can still be affected by other sites on the server

Typically, VPS hosting is used by website owners who want dedicated hosting but don’t have the technical knowledge needed. VPS hosting offers the cost benefits of shared hosting with the control of dedicated hosting. A great choice for advanced users and those that want specific software and package installations.

. Dedicated server hosting

Dedicated hosting gives website owners the most control over the server that their website is  stored on. That’s because the server is exclusively rented by you and your website is the only one stored on it. This means that you have full root and admin access, so you can control everything from security to operating system that you run.

However, all that control comes with a price.

Dedicated servers cost are one of the most expensive web hosting options. Typically, they are used by website owners with high levels of website traffic, and those who are in need of complete control of their servers. In addition, a high level of technical expertise is required for the installation and ongoing management of the server. 

4. Cloud hosting

Cloud hosting is the current buzzword of the technology industry. In regards to web hosting, it means many computers working together, running applications using combined computing resources. It’s a hosting solution that works via a network and enables companies to consume the computing resource like a utility.

This allows users to employ as many resources as they need without having to build and maintain their own computing infrastructure. The resources that are being used are spread across several servers, reducing the chance of any downtime due to a server malfunction.Advertisementhttps://c6fc965d530b13ef25c91357dfdd4df2.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Cloud-based hosting is scalable, meaning your site can grow over time, using as many resources as it requires and while the website owner only pays for what they need.

5.Managed hosting

Most hosting packages you will find online are likely to be managed. Hosting companies provide technical services such as hardware and software setup and configuration, maintenance, hardware replacement, technical support, patching, updating and monitoring. With managed hosting, the provider looks after the day-to-day management of the hardware, operating systems and standardised applications.

Although there are many different options to choose from when it comes to web hosting, it all comes down to choosing a plan that fits your needs. Each plan caters to the specifications of different groups and realizing what your needs in a website are will help you ensure that you’re choosing the right plan for you and your business. 

6. Colocation

Instead of keeping servers in-house or at a private data centre, you may choose to ”‘co-locate” your equipment by renting space in a colocation centre. The centre will provide the power, bandwidth, IP address and cooling systems that your server requires. Space is rented out in racks and cabinets.

Essential Features Of Web Hosting

Any websites that want to be put on the internet should be hosted on a web server. A web server can refer to either the hardware or the software that helps to deliver content that can be accessed through the internet. The space provided by the web server can be owned or leased for use by clients from web hosting companies. There are many web hosts to choose from and finding the right web hosting packages can be a confusing process.

Web hosting packages can vary in pricing as well as the features they offer, such as the amount of disk space and bandwidth available, data transfers, number of domains and email boxes, privacy and security settings, website design and marketing tools, technical support and guaranteed uptime. Knowing the requirements is essential to make a smart choice for a website planning.

The essential features of a reliable web hosting are described below:

Storage/Disk Space

Web hosting account has an allotment of storage/disk space that can be rented on a server. The amount of storage will include all of the content of the web pages, any graphic or other media content can be used on the pages, any files that are available for visitors to download and any space that can be used for emails. Additional space can be required for various log files that are generated by the server and/or web application that keeps track of visitors to the site and what pages they click on. People can choose a package with additional disk space so as they are able to add more contents, pictures, music, videos or downloadable files that require more disk space.

Databases are usually calculated separately from the storage/disk space allocated. Different web hosting company have different policy.

Bandwidth/Data Transfer

These two functions are an important factor when choosing reliable web hosting. They are similar but different aspects of the same process that work together hand in hand.

Data transfer is how much data is being transferred on a monthly basis. A website may not be accessible the less data transfer that is allocated on a monthly basis. Going over the allocated limit can result in a fee or even a temporary shutdown/downtime of the website. Choose a plan with more data transfer than needed will allow for additional traffic and content.

Bandwidth is how much data can be transferred at one time. The less bandwidth allocated, the slower a website takes to load regardless of the connection speed of the visitors. Higher bandwidth is expensive because it takes and drains the server’s resources and can affect the performance of other customers’ sites on the same server.

Control Panel Features

The most important job that a website owner has is creating and management of the website(s) and its content. The control panel (cPanel) features the tools for uploading and managing web pages, managing domains, subdomains, FTP accounts, creating parked domains, add-on domains, protecting directories, redirecting visitors to another location, website statistics, back up data, virus protection and spam filters, the tools to keep privacy and security.

Uptime

This is one of the most important features of a reliable web hosting provider. Guaranteed uptime means a website is guaranteed to be up at least 99.9 percent of the time and available to visitors. This guarantee should include network uptime, server uptime, web server and service uptime as well as 24/7 support.

Domain Name

The domain name is a unique name and address on the World Wide Web. Domain registration is the process that an individual or a company secures a website domain. Once the domain registration is completed, the domain name is purchased and available to use for a specified period of time, usually one year, and can be extended anytime. Domain owners must renew their domain names before the registration expires, or the domain reverts back to being available to the general public to be purchased.

Some web hosts maintain control of the domains they register so it is important that the domain owner retain the option to transfer the domain to another registrar. Understanding the “Terms and Conditions” regarding maintaining the privacy and any additional fees to transfer a domain to another registrar.

Dedicated And Shared IP Address

An Internet Protocol address, or better known as an IP address, is the numerical address of the website that tells other computers where to find the server host and the domain on the internet. There are advantages to having a dedicated IP address or a shared IP address.

Dedicated IP Address means that a site is the only one on the internet using a specific IP address number. The advantages of having a dedicated IP address are that the site can have a better SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ratings which make a website more visible and easier to find; there are better security and privacy options. A Private SSL Certificate was created to confirm the identity of a website or server and ensure secure transactions between web servers and browsers. In order to keep clients information secure, a Private SSL Certificate is required for e-commerce websites that accept online credit card payments

Shared IP Address means that there could be hundreds of websites sharing one server that share a single IP address. Shared IP addresses make it easier for hosting companies to manage and maintain their servers and offer this feature at a lower cost. The downside to this feature is, if other websites sharing the IP address are banned or blacklisted due to spamming or scamming, their actions directly affect other websites that shared the same server. The affected websites could disappear from the search engines and their emails could be blocked by Internet Service Providers (ISP). A Shared SSL Certificate gives the benefits of a SSL Certificate at a lower cost and still provides a secure URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Many e-commerce websites provide Shared SSL to their business clients.

Email Features

Email hosting offers a variety of features for both individuals and businesses. Some of the features offered are customized email addresses, import/export address book, unlimited storage, webmail accessible from mobile phones, calendar alerts, mail forwarding, auto responders, email filters that protect from viruses and spam, phone and email tech support.

Privacy And Security

The security of communications such as unauthorized or sensitive data are a big concern. Some of the security tools that a web host may include are SSL secure servers, SSL certificates, software that can prevent other websites from accessing other websites’ databases and files, antivirus protection, firewall protection, strong passwords, reliable authentication, secure payment processing, email encryption and strict privacy policies.

Building Tools

Even without prior knowledge or experience, Website building tools are often offered as part of a web hosting package. The more advanced website building tools teach how to add a photo album, guestbook, ads, newsletters, blogs, FAQ module, visitor tracker, banner rotator, auto installer software for blogs, forums, galleries and much more.

Support

A reliable web hosting provider should have technical support available 24/7. Get a quick reply to support ticket if any issues arise and getting instant support via a chat service or telephone support.

Web Hosting Security Best Practices

Securing Web Hosting Servers

In any hosting environment, hosters must ensure that their servers are secure. Securing a web server not only protects hoster assets, but it also safeguards customer data from hackers. Businesses that use hosting providers for website services rely on the hoster to safeguard their corporate data and keep the business site running smoothly. Should the server suffer from a compromise, it could cause data loss, downtime, and affect customer revenue. These issues affect the hoster’s reputation and revenue, so applying a few of the following best practices will harden security on web servers and reduce risk of a compromise.

Install and Configure a Web Application Firewall

A Web Application Firewall (WAF) blocks many common attacks sent through web forms. It runs on layer 7 of the OSI model, so it works differently than a typical hardware firewall. It’s similar to a reverse proxy where all traffic must pass through the WAF before it reaches the webserver. The WAF analyzes HTTP traffic and blocks any suspicious traffic

Using a WAF, hosters can block cross-site forgeries (CSF), cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injections, and more. For example, if an attacker sends a malformed SQL string using a website’s contact form, the WAF detects it and blocks it. A good WAF will display statistics and information about blocked attacks so that the web host can identify vulnerabilities on customer sites.


Distributed Denial-of-Service Attack Protection

Mitigating DDoS attacks is the most difficult task for web hosts. These attacks can come from multiple IPs across the globe. Web hosts can’t block legitimate traffic, because it affects customer sites. But determining legitimate from malicious web requests requires the right monitoring and tools. Installing monitoring tools that detect and mitigate DDoS attacks is a must.

Attackers will launch a DDoS without warning, so mitigating techniques require the right tools that can mitigate it before it causes performance degradation and downtime for all sites on the hoster service. Good tools will notify administrators, mitigate the attack, and protect from resource exhaustion and crashes.


Use SFTP Instead of FTP

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) transfers data in cleartext, leaving customers at risk of man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks and data eavesdropping. Instead of hosting an FTP server for customers to upload and share files, use Secure FTP (SFTP) to transfer any files over an encrypted channel.

Back-Up Data on Servers

Site owners make mistakes sometimes, and they then need their sites restored to a specific

date. Web hosting customers rely on web hosts to have good backups and a reasonable retention policy (e.g., 30 days). Backups are a component in disaster recovery and can be used to recover data at request from customers or restore a server, should it become a target in a sophisticated attack. For example, a successful injection of ransomware on a shared hosting server could destroy data across all customer sites. Backups could be used to recover instead of experiencing a critical security incident that can’t be remediated quickly.

Use Whitelisting for Maintenance IPs

Web hosters know that several customer IPs will be used to access authorized areas of their account (e.g., cPanel.Learn more about cpanel security. Instead of allowing open access from any IP address, customers should be advised to whitelist IP addresses so that only approved IPs can access administration areas of their account. The same should be done for the server itself. Administrators should use whitelisting of maintenance IPs for remote access using SSH.

SSL/TLS Connections

Every connection to the web host should be encrypted to protect users from man-in-the-middle attacks. Users who connect to sites from public Wi-Fi open themselves to data being intercepted and stolen. By forcing an encrypted connection to the server, using a cryptographically secure cipher, user data is safe from eavesdropping and account compromise.

Antivirus and Antimalware Protections

When you host hundreds of sites on one server, you allow site owners to upload any file to their hosting account. These files could contain malware either purposely or unknowingly. Malware stored on the hosting server could affect other sites on the server if an administrator accidentally executes the file, or if an attacker would obtain elevated privileges on the host and will execute the file. Using antivirus for linux server and antimalware applications, the host can detect malicious files immediately and either clean the file or block it from being uploaded.

Remove Unused Applications Not Used for Hosting

When the hosting application is installed on the Linux server (e.g., Apache), it’s usually configured with default settings, plugins, and possibly other third-party applications. Any additional application on the server opens risks of vulnerabilities either from errors in code or from allowing the application to run unpatched. Instead of leaving them installed on the server, it’s better to remove any application not necessary for hosting customer sites.


Force Password Changes

Users, especially those with high-level privileges, should change their passwords frequently. If users keep the same password indefinitely, an attacker with access to those credentials could have access to the account for years, potentially. By forcing password changes on accounts, the attack window is reduced. For example, forcing users  to change their passwords every 30 days gives an attacker only 30 days maximum to compromise and use the account.

Configure the Host’s HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) Header

SSL/TLS forces encryption on the hosted website, but it does not protect cookies or sites that still allow HTTP cleartext connections. Setting the HSTS header to Strict-Transport-Security will transfer users from an HTTP connection to HTTPS, and it will force browsers to send cookies only over encrypted channels, which will mitigate cookie hijacking. The setting is server specific and not site specific, so it will require administrators to configure it on the host.

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