I recently volunteered as an AV tech at a science communication conference in Portland, OR. There, I handled the computers of a large number of presenters, all scientists and communicators who were passionate about their topic and occasionally laissez-faire about their system security. As exacting as they were with the science, I found many didn’t […]… Read More
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“I’ve read that my web hosting provider’s website that they have a good security solution in place to protect me against hackers.”
This is a pretty common answer that a lot of bloggers and small business owners gave me when I ask them if they know about how secure their web hosting is. Also, they often add that their budgets are pretty tight so they’ve chosen to go with “an affordable provider.” By “affordable,” of course, they mean ‘ridiculously cheap.”
Come on, people.
Do you really think that a cheap web hosting has everything in place to stop a website attack? Do you think that they will protect you from all types of hacker attacks?
While I don’t know everything about how web hosting providers choose security solutions, I can tell you with some confidence that a lot of them have laughable solutions.
If you don’t believe me, you can Google something like “Hacked website stories” and you’ll see that many web hosting companies, from some of the cheapest to even some well-known ones – don’t have adequate security solutions in place. As a result, lots of people have lost their websites. These horror stories are quite common, and even a simple Google search can return a lot of them.
Unfortunately, hackers are becoming more and more skilled at what they do, and stats support this. If you visit the live counter of hacked websites on Internet Live Stats, you’ll discover that at least 100,000 websites are hacked DAILY (for example, I visited the counter at 7:07 pm and it showed that 101,846 websites have been hacked since 12 am).
From what I saw on Internet Live Stats, I could tell that one website was hacked every second. This is horrible, and one of the bad things about this was that many of the owners of these websites thought that they were protected by their web hosting provider.
The next bad thing about all of this is that the number of websites hacked daily is getting higher. For example, there were about 30,000 websites hacked a day in 2013 according to this Forbes piece, but as we could see on the live counter, this number has more than tripled in 2019. If this negative trend continues, then we could easily see even more website owners losing their business on a daily basis very soon.
While this information is certainly alarming, website owners are typically to blame for the fact that their website was stolen from them (not trying to be rude here at all). If we dig a little bit deeper into the data on hacked websites, we discover that many use ridiculously simple passwords, poor hosting providers, outdated content management systems (CMS), and do other unwise things that help hackers get in.
For example, many bloggers want to focus on content writing, editing, and lead building rather than think about stuff like hosting. While content proofreading is something they could get help with by using numerous online tools like, Grammarly and Hemingway Editor, getting quality assistance with a hacked website is a whole new ballgame.
Next, there’s an issue with passwords. According to a recent survey by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), 23.2 million web accounts they’ve analyzed had “123456” as a password. Moreover, about 7.7 million people relied on “123456789” for protection of their data, while “password” and “qwerty” were also quite popular with about 3 million users each.
While a password is something that could be changed in a matter of seconds to protect your site against brute force attacks, it may not protect you from most cyber threats. This is the responsibility of a hosting provider, and unfortunately, a lot of people disregard this requirement for web security.
That’s why we’re going to talk about hosting security issues that you should protect your site from.
How Web Hosting Affects the Security of Your Website
Before we talk about major web hosting hazards, let’s quickly discuss the connection between the security of your website and the web hosting you’re using. I’m going to say this right away: choosing a web hosting provider is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when setting up for your website, and the implications go way beyond security.
For example, if you’re a blogger or a business owner, you’ll get:
- A high level of protection against hackers. “This means that you’ll be able to concentrate on content creation,” says Peter O’Brien, a content specialist from Studicus. “If I selected a poor host, I wouldn’t spend so much doing the creative stuff, that’s for sure”
- A fast loading time. People don’t like to wait; in fact, Google claims that websites that load within 5 seconds have 70 percent longer visitor sessions, 35 lower bounce rates, and 25 percent higher viewability compared to websites that load between 5 and 19 seconds. That’s why Google has released the mobile-first indexing update and designed own PageSpeed Insights tool to help users optimize the performance of their websites
- High reliability and uptime. Most web hosting companies claim that the websites they service are online for 99.9 percent of the time, but the real time can vary and depends on the quality of the provider.
- Better security. This one means that different web hosting providers have different security packages, therefore the websites they power have different protection from hackers. Moreover, a good host can help you to recover quickly in case if you’ve suffered an attack.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the last bullet point. So, how can one tell that their hosting provider is poor? That’s pretty easy:
- Slow loading times. If your website loads for more than five seconds, then chances are that its performance is affected by the hosting provider that has put a lot of sites into one server
- Frequent security issues. If your website doesn’t have backups and suffers from various cyber attacks often, then you should definitely talk to your provider (make sure that your passwords aren’t the problem)
- Regular unexpected downtime. A poor choice of a web hosting provider often leads to this problem, which, in turn, is often caused by overloaded servers. In other words, the provider simply can’t handle the volume of visitors that your website (and other websites hosted on that server) are experiencing.
So, to sum up, the quality of hosting is essential for the success of your online venture, and making a poor choice can lead to disappointing outcomes (just remember the figures from the live counter again). But with so many websites getting hacked on a daily basis, what do you need to know to protect your own one? Read the next section to know.
Beware of these Major Web Hosting Hazards
- Shared Hosting Issues
Sharing hosting is a tricky business, and you don’t know how many websites are on the server where your own one lives. It’s quite possible that the number is quite high, up to a thousand, and this could be one of the reasons why your website might be underperforming.
For example, this discussion threat had some interesting information on this. A person asked how many websites are typically served on one shared server, and some of the answers were astonishing! For example, one user responded by writing the following.
Can you believe it? 800 websites on one server! Talk about performance issues, right?
While I realize that a single server can host up to several thousand websites, can you imagine what would happen if at least ten of them are high-traffic ones? Think crashes, slow loading times, unplanned downtime, and lots of other issues.
Since people are always looking to save costs, chances are that shared hosting issues will continue to impact a lot of websites.
- Attacks that Exploit an outdated version of PHP
It’s a known fact that about 80 percent of all websites in 2018 ran on PHP. However, since the beginning of 2019, the support for PHP 5.6x will be ended, meaning that all support for any version of PHP 5.x is gone. In other words, the sites that fail to update won’t get any security patches, bug fixes, and updates.
However, recent reports suggest that this news didn’t trigger any massive moves to the newer versions of PHP. For example, according to Threat Post, about 62 percent of all server-side programming websites are still using PHP version 5. Here are the full data.
Source: Threat Post
“These sites probably include old libraries that haven’t had the joy of an update…” the abovementioned Threat Post post cited a web security expert, as saying. “The libraries probably have bugs and security holes in themselves, never mind the hosting platform or the website code itself. In some cases library code can be updated easily, others not.”
For hackers looking for some business, this means that they have a lot of work to do. Can you imagine it: since the beginning of this year, more than 60 percent of websites stopped getting security updates!
“Faced with the urgent requirement to update the PHP version, a lot of websites owners will make a corresponding request for their web hosting providers,” shares Sam Bridges, a web security specialist from Trust My Paper. “This means that the latter will face a flood of support requests, which could translate into a slow pace of the update process.”
On top of that, some providers may not be willing to notify their users about the requirement to update their PHP versions, so a lot of websites may still be using outdated ones in the next few years.
Well, hopefully you’re not going to be one of them.
- More Sophisticated DDoS Attack Techniques
DDoS attacks are nothing new. However, they are still a common type of a cyberweapon used against websites that should be considered when choosing a hosting provider. In fact, the situation here is a lot more complicated than one thinks.
For example, the research suggests that the total number of DDoS attacks has decreased by 13 percent in 2018, which may seem like a positive signal by many.
The comparison of the number of DDoS attacks between 2017 and 2018. Source: Kaspersky
Unfortunately, the stats don’t provide the big picture here. According to Kaspersky, hackers are reducing the number of attempts to break into websites using DDoS attacks, but they are turning to more advanced and sophisticated attack techniques.
For example, it was found that the average length of attacks has increased from 95 minutes in the first quarter of 2018 to 218 minutes in the fourth quarter of 2018. While it means that the protection against this kind of attacks is getting better, it also suggests that the malefactors are becoming more selective and skilled.
For example, 2018 has seen the biggest DDoS attacks in history; one of these situations involved a U.S.-based website that reported a 1.7 TB/s assault (this means that the attackers overwhelmed the site with a massive wave of traffic hitting 1.7 terabytes per second!), according to The Register.
Source: The Register
Therefore, we may see an increase in unresponsive websites due to DDoS attacks in the next years (clearly, not a lot of websites can survive an attack like this one), as hackers deploy more sophisticated techniques.
Since a lack of DDoS-protected hosting is a major risk factor in this situation, make sure that your hosting provider has this protection in place.
Web hosting is not the first thing that many website owners think about when setting up their businesses, but it’s definitely one that could make or break them. The success of your venture ultimately depends on the uptime, loading time, and overall reliability of your website, so being aware of the threats that you can face in the nearest future could help you to avoid losing your website and joining those 100,000+ unfortunate sites owners who get their sites hacked every day.
Hopefully, this article was a nice introduction to the importance of web hosting and the risks that come with it. Remember: if you want your data to be protected, pay attention to the existing and emerging risks right now and make appropriate decisions. Eventually, this’ll pay you nicely by maximizing uptime and reliability of your website.
Dorian Martin is a frequent blogger and an article contributor to a number of websites related to digital marketing, AI/ML, blockchain, data science and all things digital. He is a senior writer at WoWGrade, runs a personal blog NotBusinessAsUsusal and provides training to other content writers.
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