Top 11 Web Hosting Security Best Practices | Pixelcarve

May 14, 2024

Mastering Web Hosting Security: Top 11 Essential Tips

“Neglecting web hosting security opens the door to irreversible damage.” Curtis Priest, CEO of Pixelcarve 

When it comes to safeguarding digital assets, overlooking the security of your web hosting can lead to catastrophic consequences, such as data breaches, website hijacking, and unauthorized access to sensitive information. 

Over 30,000 websites get hacked every day, and statistics like this one highlight the importance of web hosting security. 

Ensuring robust web hosting security is not just a recommendation but a necessity for businesses and individuals who value the integrity of their online presence. This article outlines critical web hosting security best practices that act as your first defense against potential cyber threats.

Importance of Web Hosting Security

Effective web hosting security safeguards websites and applications from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other malicious activities that can severely damage a company’s reputation and financial stability. 

A secure web hosting environment protects sensitive data, such as customer information, private sales and marketing analytics, and proprietary data, against cyber criminals. 

This is particularly vital for businesses that handle sensitive information, where the consequences of data breaches can include regulatory fines, loss of customer trust, and long-term damage to brand reputation.

Moreover, web hosting security is crucial for maintaining website availability and a professional appearance. Cyber attacks like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) can bring a website down and make it inaccessible, leading to loss of sales, reduced customer satisfaction, and harm to business operations. 

Or worse, websites that become compromised may be used to promulgate malicious code onto users’ computers or have inappropriate content published onto them. Ensuring that your web hosting has robust security measures in place helps mitigate these risks, promoting a reliable and stable online presence. 

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11 Key Practices for Enhancing Web Hosting Security

1. Use a Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Deploying a Web Application Firewall is essential in protecting websites and web applications by filtering and monitoring HTTP traffic between a web application and the Internet. It helps protect against attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other security threats that could compromise your web hosting service.

2. Implement SSL Certificates

Utilizing SSL certificates is a fundamental security measure that encrypts the data transmitted between the user’s browser and the web server, ensuring the protection of sensitive data. Historically, this was the most common practice for e-commerce sites and any platform that handles sensitive information, however, now it’s critical for every single website.

Web Hosting Security

Source: Sucuri

3. Keep Software and Systems Updated

Regularly updating the operating systems and all software running on your web server is crucial to protect against vulnerabilities. Security patches are often released to fix security holes, and staying updated is key to keeping your secure web server less susceptible to attacks. This essential maintenance extends beyond just the server software—it includes the database, the website CMS, and any plugins, APIs, or add-ons that are running on your website.

It’s equally important to use trusted and reputable software that receives regular security updates. Reliable providers ensure that software vulnerabilities are promptly addressed, minimizing the risk window for potential attacks. 

Subscription services are available that can automatically notify you of any security vulnerabilities in your software and alert you to available patches, helping maintain the highest level of security. This proactive approach to web hosting security ensures that your digital assets are always protected under the latest standards.

4. Enforce Strong Access Control

Restricted access ensures only authorized personnel can access the web server’s admin areas. Research shows that 81% of data breaches are due to weak, reused, or stolen passwords. Implementing strong password policies and multi-factor authentication can significantly secure your web hosting environment from unauthorized access. 

Additionally, configuring IP address-based restrictions, part of an Access Control List (ACL), effectively controls who can access web server resources. This method not only enhances server security by limiting access to trusted IP addresses but can also be used to block malicious traffic, such as DDoS attacks, or unwanted traffic from specific geographic areas. 

More resources you might like: 
The Consequences of Having a Non-AODA-Compliant WebsiteHow to Build or Redesign a Website without Compromising SEO15 Common Web Design Mistakes to Steer Clear of in 2024 

5. Enhancing Website Security with HTTP Security Headers

Enhancing web security through the strategic use of HTTP Security Headers is a critical step in defending against a variety of cyber threats. These headers help enforce secure connections, protect user data, and limit the potential attack surface of a website:

  • Enforce HTTPS with HSTS: Implement HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to ensure all connections to the website are encrypted, preventing downgrade attacks and cookie hijacking.
  • Secure Cookies: Set the secure and HTTPOnly flags on cookies to protect user data from being accessed by malicious scripts.
  • Conceal Server Details: Minimize potential exploits by concealing server version and type information from the headers to make it harder for attackers to discover vulnerabilities.
  • Implement CSP: Use Content Security Policy (CSP) to establish a whitelist of trusted sources that can load content, effectively preventing data injection attacks.
  • Prevent Clickjacking: Configure the X-Frame-Options header to ‘deny’ or ‘same-origin’, which restricts how your content can be embedded on other sites, thus avoiding clickjacking attacks.
  • Referrer-Policy: Implement a strict referrer policy to control the amount of referral information passed between websites, enhancing privacy and data security.
  • X-Content-Type-Options: Set this header to ‘nosniff’ to prevent the browser from MIME-sniffing a response away from the declared content type, reducing MIME confusion attacks.
  • Feature-Policy: Use this policy to control which browser features and APIs can be used within your website, reducing the risks associated with obsolete or vulnerable features.
  • Expect-CT: Enforce Certificate Transparency by requiring that SSL certificates for your site are logged in public CT logs, which helps detect and mitigate certificate-based threats.
  • X-Permitted-Cross-Domain-Policies: Control and restrict how content and resources from your domain can be shared across different domains, protecting against cross-site scripting and data leakage.
  • Content-Security-Policy-Report-Only: Before fully enforcing CSP, use this setting to monitor and report policy violations, allowing for adjustments and understanding potential impacts without blocking content.

These HTTP Security Headers play a crucial role in fortifying your website by setting strict rules on how browsers handle your content, significantly enhancing your overall security posture.

6. Use Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) with Key-Based SSH Authentication

When transferring files to and from your server, using Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is crucial for maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of your data. SFTP operates over the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol, ensuring that both commands and data are encrypted, which provides robust protection against eavesdropping and data theft.

To further enhance the security of your SFTP communications, it is essential to configure SSH to accept key-based authentication rather than password authentication. Key-based authentication uses cryptographic keys that are more secure and less susceptible to brute-force attacks compared to traditional password-based methods. 

This setup involves generating a pair of private and public keys: the private key remains with the user, while the public key is placed on the server. This method ensures that users who possess the corresponding private key can only establish the connection, significantly tightening security and reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

7. Regular Automatic Backups

Ensure your web hosting plan includes automatic backups. This is vital for recovering your website quickly and efficiently in case of data loss or a cyber-attack. Having these backups stored in a secure, separate location adds an additional layer of security. 

It’s also important to understand the different types of backups available and their respective advantages and disadvantages:

  • Full Backups: This method involves copying all data to the backup storage. It provides the simplest form of recovery since all contents are stored in one version. The downside is that it requires more storage space and takes longer to perform compared to other types of backups.
  • Differential Backups: After an initial full backup, differential backups store all changes made since that full backup. This method uses less storage and is quicker than full backups but slower than incremental backups because the amount of data saved increases with each backup until the next full backup is performed.
  • Incremental Backups: These backups only save changes made since the last backup, whether it was a full or another incremental backup. Incremental backups are fast and efficient in terms of storage since only the most recent changes are saved. However, recovery can be more complex and time-consuming as it requires the last full backup plus all incremental backups up to the most recent.
  • Bare-Metal Backups: These are comprehensive backups that allow for the restoration of an entire system, potentially to bare-metal hardware, without needing a previously installed operating system. This is especially useful for disaster recovery scenarios. The major benefit is the ability to restore a complete system, though the complexity and storage requirements are considerably higher than with file-based backups.

Each backup strategy has its place depending on your website’s needs and operational requirements. For instance, websites that frequently update content might benefit from incremental backups to minimize performance impacts, while sites with large databases might find full or differential backups more effective for quick recovery. 

It’s essential to assess your website’s specific needs to choose the most appropriate backup strategy, ensuring both efficiency in backup processes and reliability in data recovery.

8. Employ Security Features in Hosting Plans

Choose hosting plans that offer robust security features. This includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and spam filtering. These features help to protect your server resources and maintain web server security best practices.

9. Monitor and Audit Regularly

Continuous monitoring of your web hosting environment and website uptime can help detect and respond to security issues promptly. Regular audits of security practices and protocols ensure compliance and reinforce security measures.

10. Educate and Train Staff

Human error contributes to 95% of cybersecurity breaches, which is why ensuring that all team members are educated about security threats and best practices is crucial. Regular training can prevent accidental security breaches and enhance the overall security of your web hosting environment. Part of this education must include the importance of using a virus-free computer when managing your website.

Using a computer that is compromised with viruses or malware can have severe repercussions. These malicious programs can capture sensitive information, such as login credentials, and even provide unauthorized access to your web hosting environment. 

Ensuring that all devices used in managing your website are regularly scanned for viruses and equipped with up-to-date antivirus software helps mitigate these risks. Training should also cover safe browsing practices, recognizing phishing attempts, and the importance of regular software updates to defend against vulnerabilities that malware could exploit.

By incorporating these practices into regular staff training, your team becomes a formidable first line of defense, capable of protecting your web assets from both external attacks and internal vulnerabilities.

11. File/Folder Permissions

Securing your website by setting the correct file and folder permissions is crucial for maintaining its integrity and safeguarding sensitive data. These permissions determine who can access, modify, or execute files and directories on your web server. Proper configuration helps prevent unauthorized access, tampering, and exploitation by malicious actors.

Permissions must be set so that only authorized users, such as website administrators or specific personnel, have the necessary privileges to modify or upload content. This control helps restrict access to sensitive areas of the site that are more vulnerable to attacks. Incorrect or overly permissive settings can leave your website susceptible to various cyber threats, including hacking attempts, data breaches, and malware infections.

Investing time in understanding and setting these permissions correctly is key to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your website and its associated data. Additionally, it is important to conduct regular reviews and updates of these permissions to respond to new security challenges and ensure ongoing robust protection against potential vulnerabilities.

Comparison of Web Hosting Services Based on Security Features

Hosting TypeSSL SupportAutomated BackupsFirewall ProtectionIntrusion DetectionDedicated Security Support
Shared HostingBasicOptionalStandardLimitedNo
VPS HostingEnhancedAvailableEnhancedAdvancedOptional
Dedicated HostingFullComprehensiveAdvancedComprehensiveYes
Cloud HostingFullComprehensiveAdvancedComprehensiveYes
Managed HostingFullComprehensivePremiumPremiumYes

Build a Secure Online Presence with Pixelcarve

Neglecting web hosting security can expose businesses to severe risks, making it imperative to implement stringent security measures. By adhering to these best practices, you can shield your business from the vast array of cyber threats lurking around us. 

We recognize the importance of a fortified online presence at Pixelcarve, where excellence in website design meets cutting-edge security and managed services. Contact us today for a free consultation to elevate and secure your digital strategy.