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cPanel Security 101   1 comment

Posted at Dec 20, 2016 @ 10:15am Web hosting

cPanel Security 101

cPanel provides convenient server access and a user-friendly interface for managing your website. However, like any online environment, it has several potential security problems. As a responsible webmaster, it’s up to you to recognize these vulnerabilities and take steps to close any loopholes hackers could use to access your server or site. Take charge and manage critical access points with these eight cPanel security tips.

 

Create Strong Passwords

From the main cPanel portal to individual email accounts, every login point needs a strong, secure password. Guidelines for length vary, and some sources suggest as many as 14 characters to ensure protection. Longer passwords allow for more complex combinations of numbers, symbols and upper- and lower-case letters. Use a different password for accessing cPanel, FTP, email management and other secure areas, making sure none of them contain obvious information such as phone numbers or birthdays.

If you have trouble coming up with enough different combinations, try an online password generator. A password manager is useful for keeping track of your login information for all of cPanel so that you don’t have to look up each password every time you sign on.

 

Install a Firewall

A firewall lets you access cPanel while keeping unauthorized users out. Think of it as a border patrol for your server, constantly checking to ensure only the right people get through. ConfigServer Security and Firewall (CSF) is a popular firewall application for cPanel designed to serve this purpose. It scans the system on a regular basis and checks authentication logs to keep your site safe from hackers at all times. CSF also provides feedback on how to make your server more secure overall. Since more is better when it comes to security, check these reports and make any necessary changes as soon as possible.

 

Be a “Brute”

Although a firewall can prevent hackers from gaining access to your site, it won’t stop them from trying to log in. Brute force protection is a feature of cPanel used to block IP addresses after multiple failed login attempts. Found in the Security Center section, this option is easy to enable and customize. Use the IP Deny Manager to manually input IP addresses known to be malicious so that they’re never allowed to log on.

You can customize the brute force option, known as cPHulk, by setting how many minutes the tool monitors for repeated logins, the maximum number of failed logins allowed and how long each IP ban stays in place.

 

Stop Anonymous FTP Access

With anonymous FTP, anyone can log in to your site via FTP with only a username and a generic password. This may be useful for sharing files with a large number of people, but it’s like an open door to hackers. When all users can gain access to your server through such a simple process, every file becomes subject to tampering.

Set your FTP preferences to allow only for SSL logins, and require a password to be entered each time. The setting can be found under FTP Server Configuration in cPanel.

 

Make SSH Secure

Secure shell (SSH) is a convenient way to access your site from a remote location. Unfortunately, it can also provide an entry point for hackers. Information sent through SSH is authenticated and encrypted to prevent outside manipulation, so malicious users can’t touch it unless they break through your security measures.

The default port of 22 is the most common setting for SSH access. Changing it to another available port and implementing a security key for logins minimizes the risk of being hacked. Switch the settings from SSH1 to SSH2 for additional protection.

 

Protect Against Hotlinking

Hotlinking is the practice of linking an image or file on one server directly to a page on a remote website. Some people do this in ignorance, assuming the easiest way to embed an image is to use the original link, but it’s generally considered a bad practice. Hotlinked files use bandwidth from your site every time someone accesses them, and this has the potential to overload your servers if too many requests are made.

The Security section of cPanel offers hotlinking protection. Simply enable the setting to prevent third parties from linking to your files. Add an extra layer of security by specifying certain file extensions you don’t want to be hotlinked.

 

Tweak Your Settings

While you’re taking care of the larger security issues in cPanel, make sure you don’t neglect less common settings. Open Tweak Settings under Server Configuration to access an entire list of other possible security measures. With this checklist, you can:

• Help prevent the sending of unauthorized emails, including spam
• Shut down potential email attacks
• Block malicious referrals or redirects from hijacking your site
• Stop the generation of proxy domains
• Require IP validation for cookies
• Set up an additional security token for cPanel access

Enabling these supplemental security settings helps address any remaining vulnerabilities and keep hackers at bay.

 

Stay Updated

Your web host should have automatic cPanel updates in place. If not, go to Update Preferences in the Server Configuration area and enable the setting yourself. Old versions of software, including cPanel, may contain security vulnerabilities hackers can use to access your server. Automatic updates ensure you’re always running the latest version of cPanel with any associated security patches and bug fixes. Go back and check once and a while to confirm updates are running as they should. If not, update manually and contact your web host to find out why the setting isn’t working.

Security is one area of website management where you should never cut corners to save time or effort. The smartest thing you can do is implement proper security measures for cPanel as soon as your hosting account is set up. Don’t wait until disaster strikes or assume the security promised by your web host is enough. Take proactive measures to keep hackers out and stay in control of your cPanel environment.

 

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Written by David Maurer on December 20th, 2016

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