In today’s digital age, the importance of website security cannot be overstated. Websites are a prime target for cybercriminals who are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities to exploit. Shared hosting security is an often overlooked aspect of website security.
While it can be secure, there are potential shared hosting security risks since multiple websites are hosted on the same server. If one website is compromised, others on the same server are also at risk. Nevertheless, with proper security measures, shared hosting can be made secure.
In this article, we discuss the best practices for keeping your website safe on a shared hosting server.
- Understanding the risks of shared hosting can help you better protect your website
- Keeping your website’s software and plugins up-to-date is essential for security
- Third-party security services can enhance shared hosting security
- Security-focused web hosting providers offer additional security measures to protect your website
- Limiting user access and permissions can reduce the risk of security incidents
- Regular training and education on security can create a security-focused culture within an organization
What Are Common Risks Associated With Shared Hosting Security?
There are several common risks associated with shared hosting security. These include:
- Cross-site contamination
- DDoS attacks
- Malware infections
- Brute force attacks
Vulnerabilities of Shared Hosting
Shared hosting can pose several vulnerabilities to websites due to the nature of multiple websites sharing the same server resources. Some common vulnerabilities that shared hosting can pose to websites include:
- Outdated software: If the server software or the website’s applications are not updated regularly, they may contain vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers
- Weak passwords: Weak passwords can easily be guessed or cracked by attackers, giving them access to the website and possibly other websites on the server
- Cross-site scripting (XSS): This vulnerability occurs when an attacker injects malicious code into a website, which can then be executed on other websites on the same server
- SQL injection: This vulnerability allows attackers to insert malicious code into a website’s database, potentially compromising other websites on the same server
Consequences of Inadequate Security Measures
Inadequate security measures for websites hosted on shared hosting can have severe consequences, ranging from minor issues like temporary downtime to significant problems like data breaches and permanent website damage.
Some of the shared hosting security risks include:
- Data breaches: If a website is breached, sensitive information like usernames, passwords, and credit card details can be exposed, leading to identity theft, fraud, and other financial losses
- Website defacement: Attackers may deface a website, replacing its content with malicious or inappropriate content, damaging the website’s reputation and potentially causing harm to its visitors
- Loss of customer trust: If a website is compromised, customers may lose trust in the website and its owners, potentially leading to lost business and revenue
- Legal liabilities: In some cases, website owners may be legally liable for data breaches or other security incidents, leading to legal fees, settlements, or fines
- Permanent website damage: In some cases, the damage caused by a security breach may be irreversible, leading to the loss of critical data or functionality
Lack of control
Website owners have limited control over shared hosting security, and the hosting provider is responsible for maintaining the server’s security. Some examples of areas where website owners have limited control over shared hosting security include:
- Server configurations: This can include limitations on the type of software and services that can be used, as well as restrictions on server settings and resource allocation
- Software updates: Website owners have limited control over the timing and frequency of these updates, and may not have access to the latest versions of software
- Security measures: This can limit website owners’ ability to customize security to their specific needs
- Server maintenance: Website owners have limited control over these activities and may experience downtime or other issues as a result
Inadequate shared hosting security can undermine the trust that visitors and customers have in the website, leading to negative reviews and loss of business. Here are some examples of how security breaches can impact the reputation of a website:
- Negative reviews: Negative experiences with a website can result in damaging online reviews, which can harm its reputation and deter potential customers
- Loss of business: Security issues can cause customers to lose trust in a website, resulting in lost revenue
- Damage to brand reputation: Security breaches can damage a website’s brand reputation and make it more difficult for the website to attract and retain customers
- Legal issues: Security breaches can lead to legal liabilities, resulting in legal fees, fines, or settlements and making it harder to attract and retain customers
Poor security on shared hosting can blacklist websites if they are marked as spam, malware, or a source of security threats. Here are some examples of how blacklisting can impact a website:
- Visibility: Blacklisting can hurt a website’s visibility and traffic, as it may be removed from search engine results or blocked by web browsers
- Reputation: It can harm a website’s reputation and lead to lost business by implying that the website is untrustworthy or insecure
- Loss of functionality: Blacklisting may force a website to remove features or functionality to meet security requirements, reducing its value and appeal to users
- Cost: It can be costly for website owners, as they may need to invest in additional decent security practices or pay for professional services to remove the website from blacklists
How to Ensure the Security of Your Website on Shared Hosting?
Here are some best practices for ensuring the security of your website on shared hosting:
- Use strong, unique passwords to secure website accounts
- Update website software regularly to prevent vulnerabilities for hackers
- Regularly backup website data and store it securely offsite
- Use a WAF to filter out malicious traffic and protect against attacks
- Limit and audit website access as needed
- Select a secure web hosting provider with SSL, backups, and monitoring
Secure passwords are essential for protecting online accounts and sensitive information from cybercriminals. Hackers can use a variety of methods, such as brute-force attacks and social engineering, to crack weak passwords and gain unauthorized access to accounts.
Here are some tips to create a safe password;
- Use a password manager
- Use passphrases
- Avoid using personal information
- Use two-factor authentication
- Change your passwords regularly
- Do not reuse passwords
Regular updates are important for website security as they often contain patches for vulnerabilities and other security issues. It can provide protection against known security threats and minimize the likelihood of a successful attack.
Here are some steps that website owners can take to keep their website software up to date:
- Enable automatic updates
- Check for updates regularly
- Prioritize security updates
- Test updates before deploying
- Keep backups before updating
Backups and Disaster Recovery Plan
Having backups and disaster recovery plans in place is crucial for maintaining the security of shared hosting. They serve to prevent data loss, enable prompt restoration, and guarantee business continuity in the event of a security breach or other disaster.
Here are some best practices for creating and maintaining backups:
- Regularly schedule backups
- Keep multiple copies
- Test backups
- Secure backups
- Automate backups
Here are the steps for developing a disaster recovery plan:
- Develop a plan of action for each potential threat
- Regularly test the disaster recovery plan
- Update the plan as needed to account for any changes to your website
Security Software and Firewall
Security software and firewalls enhance shared hosting security by protecting against cyber attacks and malicious activities. Security software detects and scans for malicious software and activities while firewalls filter network traffic and block unauthorized access to the server or website.
Some examples of security software and firewalls include:
- Antivirus software: This type of security software scans for and detects viruses, trojans, and other malware that can compromise the server or website
- Anti-malware software: Similar to antivirus software, anti-malware software scans for and detects various types of malware, including;
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS): These systems monitor network traffic and can detect and prevent various types of attacks, such as
- SQL injection
- Cross-site scripting
- Denial of service (DoS) attacks
- Web application firewalls (WAFs): WAFs filter and block malicious traffic to the website, protecting against attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection
- Network firewalls: These firewalls filter and block network traffic at the network level, preventing unauthorized access to the server or website
User Access Control
User access control refers to the process of managing access to a shared hosting account or website by users. It involves setting up access permissions and restrictions to ensure that only authorized individuals can access and modify certain parts of the website.
User access control is essential for improving shared hosting security because it helps prevent;
- Unauthorized access
- Data breaches
- Other security incidents
Here are some best practices for managing user access control on shared hosting:
- Use role-based access control
- Limit user privileges
- Regularly review user access
- Implement strong authentication mechanisms
- Use access logs
- Regularly update user credentials
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates are digital certificates that authenticate the identity of a website and encrypt the data exchanged between the website and its visitors.
SSL certificates can enhance shared hosting security by protecting against;
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
- Data interception
- Other security threats
Here are some benefits of using SSL certificates:
- Encryption: SSL certificates encrypt the data transmitted between the website and its visitors, making it more difficult for attackers to intercept and read
- Authentication: SSL certificates authenticate the identity of the website, ensuring visitors that they are communicating with a legitimate website and not an impostor
- Trust: SSL certificates enhance trust in the website and its owner, as visitors can see that the website is secured by a trusted certificate authority
To install and maintain SSL certificates, website owners can follow these steps:
- Choose a reputable SSL certificate provider and purchase a certificate
- Generate a certificate signing request (CSR) and submit it to the SSL provider to obtain the certificate
- Install the certificate on the web server and configure the server to use HTTPS
- Test the SSL configuration to ensure that the certificate is properly installed and working
- Renew the certificate before it expires to maintain continuous security
What Are Some Common Shared Hosting Security Issues & How to Fix Them?
Even with strong security measures in place, shared hosting can be vulnerable to various security threats. This raises the question: is it secure? Here are some of the most common shared hosting security issues and practical tips on how to fix them.
Website Malware Infections
Malware infections are a common issue faced by websites hosted on shared servers. Malware can infect your website through vulnerable plugins, themes, and other third-party applications.
To fix this issue, it is essential to take preventive measures, such as;
- Keep all software up-to-date, including the website’s platform, CMS, plugins, and themes
- Use anti-malware software on the website to detect and alert the website owner of any malware
- Regularly scan the website for malware using online tools or a website security service
- Implement a backup and disaster recovery plan by taking regular backups of the website’s files and databases and storing them securely off-site
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a common shared hosting security issue that can cause a website to become unavailable to its users by overwhelming it with traffic.
From 2022-2023, nearly 57,116 DDOS attacks were reported. To fix this issue, there are several steps you can take:
- Use a web application firewall (WAF): WAFs can filter traffic and block malicious traffic, including DDoS attacks
- Limit the number of connections per IP address: Limit connections per IP to prevent a single user or machine from overwhelming your website with traffic
- Use a content delivery network (CDN): Use a content delivery network to reduce server load and mitigate DDoS attacks. Some CDNs also offer DDoS protection
- Monitor traffic and server performance: Monitoring your website’s traffic and server performance allows for quick detection and response to DDoS attacks
Phishing and Scams
Phishing scams are a common tactic used by cybercriminals to trick users into revealing their sensitive information, such as
- Credit card numbers
- Personal information
These scams often involve fraudulent emails or websites that look like legitimate ones, but are actually designed to steal information. In the third quarter of 2022, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) recorded the highest number of phishing attacks ever observed by the group, with a total of 3 million incidents reported.
To prevent phishing scams, you should;
- Educate users on how to identify phishing scams
- Use secure email services with encryption and two-factor authentication
- Enable spam filters to detect and block suspicious emails
- Regularly monitor websites for phishing scams and take swift action to remove fraudulent content
Exploits and Vulnerabilities
Exploits and vulnerabilities can leave your website or server open to unauthorized access, which can result in stolen data, defacement, or even complete loss of control. Here are some specific steps you can take to prevent exploits and vulnerabilities:
- Regularly update website software with the latest security patches
- Use security plugins to detect and block exploits and other malicious activity
- Implement strong passwords and Use two-factor authentication to provide an extra layer of security
- Regularly scan your website for vulnerabilities
- Keep backups Test the backups regularly to ensure they can be successfully restored
Unauthorized access to websites or servers can lead to data breaches, loss of sensitive information, and damage to reputation. Here are some steps to fix and prevent unauthorized access:
- Avoid using easily guessable passwords
- Regularly update your website software, including the operating system, content management system, plugins, and themes, with the latest security patches.
- Require users to provide a second form of authentication, such as a code sent to their phone or a biometric identifier
- Limit the number of people who have access to sensitive areas of your website or server
- Use secure connections, such as HTTPS, to encrypt data transmitted between the server and the client.
What Are the Additional Measures for Enhanced Shared Hosting Security?
In addition to the measures we previously discussed, there are several other steps that website owners can take to enhance their shared hosting security.
One option is to choose a web hosting provider like Verpex hosting that offers additional security features such as SSL certificates, malware scanning, and regular backups.
Let’s explore some of the additional measures in more detail.
Use a Virtual Private Server (VPS)
VPS is a type of web hosting where a virtual machine is created on a physical server, which allows for a dedicated and isolated environment with its own operating system, server resources, and security settings.
VPS enhances shared hosting security by isolating each user from other users on the same physical server.
Here are some benefits of using a VPS for web hosting:
- Increased Security: VPS hosting provides isolated virtual machines, offering higher security compared to shared hosting
- Better Resource Control: Users have more control over allocated resources like CPU, RAM, and storage, without worrying about other users’ impact
- Customizability: Users can customize the virtual environment, including OS, software, and security settings
- Scalability: VPS hosting can scale up or down based on changing resource needs, without server migrations or downtime
- Root Access: VPS hosting typically provides root access, allowing for advanced configuration and management of the web hosting environment
Third-Party Security Services
Third-party security services are external tools or services that are used to provide an additional layer of security to a website or web application. These services are designed to complement the built-in security measures of the shared web hosting provider, such as firewalls and anti-virus software.
Some examples of third-party security services include;
By using third-party security services, website owners can detect and prevent a wider range of security threats and attacks.
Regular Security Audits
Understanding the importance of security audits are crucial for maintaining the security of shared web hosting. They help identify vulnerabilities and ensure that security measures are up-to-date.
Here are some steps that website owners can take to perform regular security audits on their website:
- Conduct vulnerability scanning
- Perform penetration testing
- Review access controls
- Analyze logs
- Review code
- Keep software up to date
Security-Focused Hosting Providers
Security-focused shared web hosting providers are web hosting companies that specialize in providing secure hosting environments for their clients. These providers often have a range of security measures in place to protect websites and applications hosted on their servers.
Here are some examples of security-focused hosting providers and the benefits they offer:
- This hosting company offers features such as DDoS protection, malware scanning, and intrusion detection to enhance shared hosting security
- They also provide free SSL certificates and automatic backups, which can help in case of a security breach
- SiteGround is known for its high level of security and offers features such as daily backups, web application firewalls, and account isolation to enhance shared hosting security
- They also provide a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate and have a team of security experts available 24/7 to assist with any security concerns
- WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting provider that offers features such as automatic WordPress updates, malware scanning, and DDoS protection to enhance shared hosting security
- They also provide daily backups and have a team of security experts available to assist with any security concerns
Educate Yourself and Your Team
Educating oneself and the team on shared hosting security is crucial for website security. It is essential to understand the associated risks and learn how to minimize them. This practice helps website owners decrease the chances of security breaches on shared hosting servers and ensure the website’s security.
Here are some suggested topics to educate website owners and their team:
- Password management: The importance of creating strong passwords, using multi-factor authentication, and regularly changing passwords
- Software updates: The importance of keeping software up to date and patching vulnerabilities in a timely manner
- Phishing scams: How to recognize and avoid phishing scams, which are one of the most common methods used by attackers to steal login credentials and other sensitive information
- Network security: Understanding network security protocols and the importance of using secure protocols such as HTTPS and SSL/TLS
When choosing shared web hosting, it’s important to be aware of the shared hosting security risks. Therefore security should be a top priority for website owners who wish to protect their website and sensitive information from potential security concerns.
Ensuring the security of your website hosted on a shared server requires a multifaceted approach, from selecting the right hosting provider to implementing security measures and educating yourself and your team.
So, how do you make shared hosting secure? By following the tips and best practices outlined in this article, you can significantly reduce the risk of security incidents and protect your website and visitors’ sensitive information.
Next Steps: What Now?
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