Protecting your client’s website: Essential tips for web hosting securityBy Lawrence Dy
Every website you visit is using some kind of hosting solution, but not every provider is created equal. Sure, they may provide the same basic service of making websites accessible to visitors, but it’s important to know where your hosting provider stands on secure web hosting—especially if you’re looking to start a web hosting business.
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In this article, we’ll cover the importance of web hosting security, as well as the most common threats most website owners will face. We’ll also provide some guidelines, tips, and best practices for what you should look for in a web hosting provider to protect your client’s websites against cyberattacks and malicious activity.
Table of Contents
- What does web hosting security refer to?
- Most common website hosting security threats
- Best practices for website hosting security
- General web hosting security measures
- Network website hosting security measures
- Choosing the best secure web hosting provider
- The best solution for secure, managed WordPress hosting: Website Pro
- Frequently asked questions
What does web hosting security refer to?
Website hosting security refers to a set of measures and protocols used to protect the safety, integrity, and availability of websites and their data stored on web servers. Secure web hosting services protect the data and digital assets of website owners and users from threats like unauthorized access, cyberattacks, malware, and data breaches.
It’s more than just a nice-to-have add-on: in an age of increasing cybersecurity threats, website hosting security plays an essential role in the protection of sensitive data, maintaining brand reputation, ensuring business continuity, and complying with legal and regulatory requirements.
Most common website hosting security threats
Your small and medium-sized business (SMB) clients may not rank cybersecurity threats very highly on their list of concerns, but the data suggest this is a mistake: nearly half of all SMBs are hit by a cyberattack at some point (BusinessDIT). To make matters worse, as the pace of technological development continues to rise, so does the number of vulnerabilities caused by older or mismatched tech that can expose your clients to risk (TechTarget).
Being aware of the most common threats can help you take website hosting security measures that safeguard against them.
- Malware attacks: Malware (from malicious software) is a type of software designed to disrupt or steal data on a computer or server network. These attacks can involve viruses, ransomware, or spyware, which can damage files, lock users out of their systems, or secretly monitor user activity such as keystrokes.
- DDoS attacks: A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is when multiple systems, or bots, overwhelm a targeted website or server with a flood of traffic. This massive spike in traffic causes the server to crash, making the website or unavailable to legitimate users.
- Brute force attacks: Brute force attacks involve systematically guessing every possible combination of passwords or encryption keys to gain unauthorized access to a computer, site, or network. These attacks can be time-consuming and require significant computing power, but can be effective if the targeted password is short, weak, or easy to guess.
- Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks: In XXS attacks, malicious code is injected into a website. When unsuspecting users visit the affected site they can run the code, which may steal their data or perform other malicious functions.
- SQL injection attacks: In an SQL injection attack, an attacker submits malicious SQL code to a database, causing it to reveal sensitive information or perform unauthorized actions. This can lead to unauthorized access to user data, deletion or modification of data, or even control over the entire system.
Best practices for website hosting security
None of these website hosting security threats sound like much fun to deal with, right? Luckily, there are measures you can take as a hosting reseller to mitigate the risk and offer the most secure web hosting to your clients.
General web hosting security measures
First, let’s take a look at general security measures that should be practiced by all your SMB clients along with your other website hosting and maintenance tasks.
1. Use strong passwords
A strong password is the first line of defense in protecting your clients' accounts from unauthorized access. Encourage them to use a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters to create complex passwords that are difficult to guess or crack. Lengthy passwords—ideally 16 or more characters—provide an added layer of security. This helps prevent brute-force attacks, because it requires vastly more computing power and time to guess the password.
Clients should also avoid using personal information in their passwords since this can make them easier to guess. It’s also advisable to change passwords every few months and avoid using the same password across different accounts.
2. Regularly update software
Outdated software can be easily exploited by cybercriminals, leading to unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security risks. Updating software helps to maintain website hosting security by addressing these vulnerabilities and keeping up with evolving cybersecurity requirements. This includes updating operating systems, web servers, content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, plugins, and server software.
Developers regularly release security patches and updates to fix vulnerabilities and improve overall software stability. If you offer secure managed WordPress hosting, these updates should be a part of your regular hosting management task list. If your clients are managing their hosting solution themselves, encourage them to install updates and patches as soon as they become available to minimize the risk of potential security breaches.
3. Restrict hosting account access
Website hosting security can be compromised when too many people have access to the hosting account because it creates more opportunities for malicious actors to get passwords or otherwise gain access to the account. Encourage your clients to grant access only to trusted personnel and to periodically revoke access for users who no longer require it.
Additionally, implementing the use of user roles if your secure web hosting provider allows it ensures that users only have the necessary permissions to complete their jobs.
4. Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of website hosting security by requiring users to provide a second form of verification, such as a code sent to their mobile device in addition to their password. For even greater security, consider using an authenticator app or hardware key for access to admin accounts.
This makes it much more difficult for unauthorized individuals to access your clients' accounts, even if they have obtained the correct password through a brute force or malware attack.
5. Conduct regular malware scans
Regularly scanning your clients' websites for malware and other security vulnerabilities helps identify and address potential issues before they snowball into major problems. The most secure web hosting solutions will include automated malware scanning tools that can detect malicious code and other threats that may be affecting a website. If anything does come up in a malware scan, take action immediately to contain and address the problem.
Network website hosting security measures
Even when implementing the above best practices, threats can still surface. Offering fast and secure web hosting requires creating a safe, secure network, which you can do by taking the following measures.
1. Always use firewalls
Firewalls act as a barrier between your clients' websites and potential cyber threats. They monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, filtering and blocking any suspicious activity or unauthorized access attempts. They can be configured by users to adhere to given security rules and are a sound defense against some major types of threats covered above, like DDoS attacks, XXS attacks, and SQL injection attacks.
2. Set up a VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) offers an additional layer of security by encrypting data transmitted between a user and a site. VPNs effectively prevent bad actors from intercepting sensitive information by encoding the data so that it isn’t intelligible to them. Encourage your clients to use a VPN when accessing their hosting account or admin panel, especially when connecting from unsecured networks.
3. Install and maintain SSL certificate
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates enable encrypted communication between a web server and a user's browser, ensuring that any data exchanged remains confidential. These certificates should be installed on all client sites, since they play an important role in SEO performance and establishing client trust, but they are particularly important on websites that collect user data such as passwords or payment information. In the event that an attacker is able to gain access to credit card information, for example, the SSL secure shopping will ensure the information is encrypted, rendering it useless.
4. Run regular backups
In the event of a security breach, website crash, hardware failure, or other data loss event, regular backups can minimize the impact by ensuring data can easily be recovered. The best secure web hosting services will include automatic daily backups, which is the best way to put this essential task on autopilot.
In addition to creating frequent and regular backups, your SMB clients should use secure backup storage and ensure their backups are encrypted so they don’t open up the business to security risks.
5. Ensure email communications are secure
Email is one of the most common ways for malicious actors to gain access to hosting accounts and websites. We’re all used to working on our phones throughout the day, so it can be easy for your clients to unwittingly expose themselves to security threats. To avoid this, train them on how to practice secure email communication, limiting the risk to their business. Best practices include:
- Avoiding communicating over public WiFi
- Avoiding sharing sensitive information over email
- Avoiding suspicious links from unknown senders
Choosing the best secure web hosting provider
Delivering the most secure web hosting services to your SMB clients largely comes down to choosing an excellent hosting provider. Top providers will make it easy to manage hosting for clients even as you scale your business. Here are some of the key factors to consider when choosing your agency’s hosting solution:
- Hosting provider reputation: It’s essential to select a hosting provider with a reputation that gives you confidence in their services. Since cybersecurity threats are no joke, and the cost to your clients of an attack can be significant, opt for a reputable provider that uses a trusted infrastructure, like AWS or Google Cloud web hosting.
- Included security features: Security features like regular automatic backups, easy restorations from backup, SSL certificates, malware scanning, and firewalls should be included in your secure web hosting provider, saving you the trouble and cost of integrating third-party security solutions.
- Uptime guarantee: Look for a hosting provider with an uptime guarantee of over 99.9%, so that you can, in turn, guarantee your clients an impressive uptime.
- Customer support: Opt for a fast and secure web hosting provider that also has 24/7 customer support. In the event of a hosting-related issue, being able to access help around the clock can make all the difference when it comes to minimizing the impact of website issues.
- Legal and regulatory compliance: A hosting provider that is compliant with regulations will ensure your client sites meet the current standards. This can help minimize their legal liability in the unlikely event that something goes awry.
The best solution for secure, managed WordPress hosting: Website Pro
Vendasta’s Website Pro is the best all-in-one managed hosting solution thanks to its robust features created with the particular needs of agencies in mind. Here’s why.
A+ for security
Website Pro comes with the most secure WordPress hosting on the most up-to-date platform in the world, the Google Cloud Platform. This means that all your client websites will be protected by the world-class security features Google is known for, including malware scanning, built-in DDoS protection, and a web application firewall that protects your client sites from threats and attacks.
Daily backups on autopilot
You don’t have to run daily backups manually or instruct your SMB clients to handle the task, because they automatically run every day with Website Pro. This ensures you always have the most recent copy of the website available in case a security breach or data loss event impacts the site. Plus, while other providers charge to restore from backup, restorations are free with Website Pro.
Automatic SSL certificates
There’s no need to use a third-party SSL certificate provider, because every site comes with free SSL installation. When a certificate expires, Website Pro will automatically take care of renewing it, so that any data passing through your clients' sites will always be secure and encrypted.
Experts on hand 24/7
No matter where you are in the world, Vendasta’s support team is in your time zone. Thanks to round-the-clock access to knowledgeable experts, you can swiftly address any security-related issues and get answers to your questions.
The ultimate agency dashboard
Website Pro’s user-friendly Website Admin Dashboard makes it easy to manage multiple client sites at once, with one-click software updates, real-time alerts, detailed reporting, and a suite of tools that make offering secure managed WordPress hosting a breeze.
Frequently asked questions
How often should I back up my website data?
You should update your website data on a daily basis. This way, you’ll always have a recent copy of your website to restore in the event that your website crashes or you experience a cyberattack.
What should I do if my website is hacked or compromised?
If your website is hacked or compromised, the first step is usually to take it offline to prevent further damage. Then, focus on identifying and fixing the security vulnerability that allowed the hack to occur, remove any malicious code, and restore the website from a recent backup.