SSL is no longer optional for your website.

Your website should most likely be labelled with “Not Secure”. What does it mean, and how do you get it fixed?



Background

Nearly two years ago, Google announced that Chrome would eventually start marking all sites that are not encrypted with HTTPS as ‘Not Secure’ as an attempt to motivate site owners to improve the security of their websites.

On July 24th 2018, Google officially launched Chrome 68 and with it rolled out the warning labels on all websites.

Chrome is a widely used browser accounting to about 80% based on statistics by W3Schools, where their website receives 50 million visitors a month.

What do these labels mean?

As seen above, there are three (3) types of labels.

i) Not Secure

This means that you do not have an SSL certificate installed on your website. I’ll explain what that is, and how it helps in a bit.

ii) Secure

This means that everything is good – and you don’t need to do anything more.

iii) Notice

This usually means that while the site itself is secured, there may be some content that has been loaded on the website which is not secure. If you’re getting this, your website developer or webmaster will need to fix it. The most common things that cause these are external links using http:// instead of https:// or preferred simply as // to support both.

Some examples include:

  • External images shown on your website.
  • External links to javascript files such as jQuery.
  • External links to CSS files such as Bootstrap.
  • Embedding of Google Fonts, Analytics and pretty much any other services.

Note that, using https:// on any of these require the external service/server to have a valid SSL installed on their end too!

What does Secure mean?

Any communication over the internet could either be secured, or not. A secured communication means that the data that is received or transmitted is encrypted which prevents prying eyes from looking at it.

Let’s say – you’ve typed in your username and password on a website. If that information, when sent over the internet is not secure – then anyone between your computer — and the server/service — could potentially “see” that data. However, if the website is secured, then the same information is encrypted making it extremely difficult for someone to see it.

Should I care if my website doesn’t have any login forms?

Yes, you should. Login forms are just one example. Maybe, you have a contact form where you ask your website visitors to fill in a message to reach you. The information that they type in there would be transmitted insecurely which could allow someone to see it.

SSL is no longer optional. Add SSL to your website today to avoid losing visitor confidence and sales. Plus, with SSL you get all these benefits too:The other benefits of having your website secure include:

  • More secure user experience
  • Protect user privacy
  • Increased conversions
  • Boost search rankings
  • Increased user trust
  • Show you care about users’ data

How do I secure my website?

You’ll need to get an SSL certificate installed for your website. This could be done by yourself, your webmaster, website developer or your web host.

What is an SSL certificate?

SSL is short for “Secure Sockets Layer”. It was introduced in the mid 90’s as a protocol to secure traffic. While SSL itself is depreciated, the newer versions of SSL protocols are actually known as “Transport Layer Security” (TLS). The certificates however are still commonly referred to as SSL certificates.

An SSL certificate is used by the browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Edge to establish trust, validate that it is valid with a Certificate Authority (CA) and use it to encrypt the communication between you — and the server/service that you are communicating with.

These certificates are issued by Certificate Authorities (CA) who vet and issue the certificates. There are a few types of SSL certificates:

  • Domain Validation (DV) SSL Certificate
    Domain Validation SSL certificates are the cheapest provided by well known SSL brands. They are also freely available through Let’s Encrypt, a free – automated – and open certificate authority sponsored by big names in the internet industry.Free SSL certificates are also included in some hosting plans offered by web hosting companies like Extreme Web Technologies. They are ideal for basic security for websites and blogs, and are usually issued in minutes.
  • Organisation Validation (OV) SSL Certificate
    Organisation Validation certificates are slightly expensive as have some documentation processes required such as verifying your organisation legal information. The certificate authorities usually ask for your business incorporation documents, as well as physical address and sometimes identities of website/business owners. These are always purchased separately — and are a must have for serious businesses. These could take about a week to be issued, sometimes a bit more.
  • Extended Validation (EV)

    Extended Validation certificates are the most expensive certificates available. They could cost unto $2000 per year and go through extended validation processes including credit checks. These certificates also include a special feature supported across browsers which makes the address bar green showing your company name. These certificates are a must have for internet banking portals, as well as other applications to ensure user trust in the service. These certificates take the longest time to be issued, generally between 2-4 weeks.

I have a certificate, but my website still shows Not Secure when accessed.

When website visitors type in your website link on the address bar, they end up on the non-secure version of your site. You may need to consult your website developer or hosting company to assist you with this. 

How to fix Not Secure on WordPress.

If your website is built on WordPress, then the simplest way to make the switch is by going to your WordPress Admin (wp-admin), under the Settings > General screen, update your WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) to include https://.

How to fix Not Secure on my website which is NOT built on WordPress.

This will work on pretty much any basic website on cPanel hosting, such as the hosting plans offered by Extreme Web Technologies.

Log into your cPanel, find the File Manager, under public_html folder, look for a file named .htaccess and edit it. If it doesn’t exist, you can create it and paste the following snippet.

Make sure to update your domain name in it:

# BEGIN SSL
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourdomain\.co\.tz [NC]
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.yourdomain.co.tz/$1 [L,R=301]
</IfModule>
# END SSL 

I’m stuck and need someone to do this for me.
Please contact our customer happiness team at Extreme Web Technologies to assist you get your website secured.

This blog post was written by Mohsin Sumar (@mohsinsumar) who is the Founder and CEO of Extreme Web Technologies. Mohsin with his Customer Happiness team constantly strive to deliver top notch quality web hosting in Tanzania.

Image credits: Creativeart – Freepik.com

Preventing email spoofing with SPF

The very first email was sent about 45 years ago, in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson. Tomlinson is internationally known and credited as the inventor of email. The Internet Hall of Fame in account of his work commented “His email program brought about a complete revolution, fundamentally changing the way people communicate”.

Fast forward 45 years…

Over the last two decades, email has indeed revolutionised the way we communicate.

There are over 4.3 billion email accounts in the world and of all the emails being sent, about 141 million emails were classified as spam by SpamCop in the last 12 months alone!

Email is abused every day in the form of spam or phishing emails which may distribute viruses, malware, spyware, ransomware or attempt to steal information by disguising as someone else.

Make the Internet work better.

The Internet is best defined by Wikipedia as a global system of interconnected computer networks to link billions of devices worldwide. Every server on the internet can make the internet work better by following some standards to prevent abuse.

What most don’t know of, is the existence of Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). IETF develops and promotes voluntary internet standards with the mission to make the Internet work better. These internet standards are published as RFC’s which stand for Request for Comments.

35 years after the first email, IETF published RFC 4408 in 2006 which describes Sender Policy Framework, commonly known as SPF. The original SPF document was then replaced by another version RFC 7208 published in 2014.

Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is amongst the widely adopted ways of preventing email abuse.

So, what does SPF do?

SPF is a simple email validation system designed to detect email spoofing and provides a mechanism for email servers to check the incoming email to verify whether it originated from a trusted source.

It allows your domain name administrator to publish your authorised email source servers, and provides a way for receiving email servers verify the email origin. It then evaluates the test and produces results such as Pass, Neutral, Fail amongst others and lets the servers email policies decide what to do.

Email Policies

Anyone setting up or managing an email server needs to set some sort of policies. These policies help protect the email system from abuse of resources. Luckily, most of these policies already come bundled in with the mail server software including Exim and Microsoft Exchange Server or hosted services such as cPanel hosting, Office 365 and Google Apps for Work.

However, SPF fail policy needs to be configured. There are 3 choices:

  1. Reject the email (recommended)
  2. Accept and deliver the email with additional actions (move to Junk Mail, change the subject line, and so on)
  3. Accept, but delete the email (not recommended)

This is well documented in Appendix G2 of RFC 7208.

What is the best way to handle unauthorised email messages?

The most logical way to handle unauthorised email messages (SPF fail) is to reject it before it is received. This protects the system from unnecessary handling of incoming email including data transfer of the email content as well as other processes such as spam filtering and email delivery.

Doing this, also notifies the sender that their email was rejected because it failed SPF check and, if the sender is legitimate, they will appropriately rectify their systems.

Can someone spoof my emails, even after deploying SPF?

Yes, someone can still spoof your emails. SPF does not define the standard of sending email itself, but rather a standard for checking if the sender server is trusted.

Prevent unauthorised emails to go out in the first place.

It’s unfortunate to see many servers allow emails to be sent without authentication, either through website scripts or SMTP. Any email that goes out from an email system should be authenticated to prevent abuse. Doing so makes it easier for system administrators to block that user in the event of a SPAM outbreak.

At Extreme Web Technologies, we block a simple PHP mail function that is commonly used to send out unauthenticated emails. It is widely used in contact forms. When a website is compromised, a spammer can leverage that function to send out large volumes of spam email.

We also properly reject emails that are not from a trusted source. I have come across some email servers that do not have the appropriate reject policy set for SPF failure. They are putting their users at risk of receiving spoofed emails from untrusted sources.

I hope that future RFC revisions will be in favor of rejecting the email message, instead of allowing the option for it to be handled by email policies. Till then, the best way to prevent email abuse is to use a strong SPF record, and have DKIM setup too, host your emails & website with a professional hosting company and HOPE that the recipients use a mailserver with realistic mail policies!

This blog post was written by Mohsin Sumar (@mohsinsumar) who is the co-founder and CEO of Extreme Web Technologies. Mohsin with his Customer Happiness team constantly strive to deliver top notch quality web hosting in Tanzania.

Image credits: Background vector designed by Dooder – Freepik.com; modified by Mohsin Sumar.

Improve your company’s productivity in 2016

Along with the entire customer happiness team at Extreme Web Technologies; I wish you a Happy New Year 2016!

As 2016 sets in, its time to put those new year resolutions in effect. Did your new year resolution include improving your productivity as a business? If not, make sure to list it down because your employees could be wasting 24% of their day on useless email.

Useless email are SPAM emails that clutter our email inbox every day. It may be cheap for spammers to send SPAM, however, it is very costly for a business on the other end. The following costs are usually associated with SPAM emails:

  • Productivity loss, or waste of time of your employees in reviewing and deleting spam emails.
  • The cost of anti-spam technology.
  • Wasted storage and server resources.
  • Internet data.

Here’s a report from one of our customers account using professional spam filter. They have seen an improvement of 35% emails being blocked by the filter. Think about it for a second, how many is 35% on the report below? That’s 25,000 emails blocked over 3 month period.

Spam Filter Report for 3 Months

 

Improve the productivity of your business by using a professional spam filter. For a limited time, DOUBLE your storage when you add professional spam filter to your account! Contact us by sending us an email to support (at) extreme.co.tz for more information.

Improve your company's productivity in 2016 with professional spam filter.

This article was first published on Extreme Web Technologies Blog. This article was written by Mohsin Sumar (@mohsinsumar) and serves as the Technical Director of Extreme Web Technologies. Mohsin with his Customer Happiness team constantly strive to deliver top notch quality web hosting in Tanzania.

Guide to setup cPanel + CentOS 6.7 with RAID on HP Proliant Server ML310e

HP Proliant ML310e server comes with Intelligent Provisioning built in as well as SMART array controller. A quick overview of what we’ll cover in this post:

  • Configuration of HP Proliant ML310e
  • Configuration of RAID-1
  • Installation of CentOS
  • Installation of HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller B320i
  • Setup of Networking
  • Installation of cPanel

Configuration of HP Proliant ML310e
The server I was working with was 16GB RAM with 2 hard drives, each of 1TB and HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller B320i. The boot up was pretty straight forward, connecting it to a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Configuration of RAID-1
As the server I was working with had two hard drives, this can allow for RAID-1 configuration which means mirroring. All data is written to both drives at the same time, such that in the event of a hard drive failure, the machine can boot up using the second drive.

During the boot, press F5 when the system recognizes HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller to open up the configuration screen . Use this interface to create a virtual / logical volume such as RAID-1 and include both the hard drives to it. The logical volume would be 1TB of usable space.

Installation of CentOS 6.7
HP Proliant ML310e Server comes with a tool called Intelligent Provisioning. It’s a nifty tool which completes the installation of an operating system in a few easy steps. One caveat is that it does not support CentOS 6.7. The intelligent provisioning tool can be used to install Windows, Red Hat, and a couple of other operating systems.

In order to install CentOS 6.7, we’ll have to go the manual way. Insert Disk 1 into the drive and reboot the server. The server will boot from disk, and take you to the installation screen.

If you’ve done a CentOS installation before, you’d be happy to reach a familiar screen and everything from here should be straight forward, right? When you reach to the screen where you’ve to pick your boot drive, you’d be surprised to see two hard drives instead of the logical volume RAID 1 we created previously.

This means that the operating system is not able to read HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller B320i and a driver for CentOS will be required to proceed forward.

Installation of HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller B320i driver on CentOS 6.7
HP support & drivers website does not provide you with CentOS driver. Luckily, CentOS is built on Red Hat Linux and we can use that driver for our server.

  1. Go to HP Drivers & Software site and search for B320i.
  2. Choose the operating system, I picked Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 Server (x86-64).
  3. Expand Software – Driver Update
  4. Look for the version 6u7 from the list: hpvsa-1.2.14-103.rhel6u7.x86_64.dd.gz
  5. Download it to your computer

Note: if you are using browser like Safari or Chrome, make sure it does not auto-extract the downloads.

Once you have your file, follow the instructions below to create a flash drive for the driver. The instructions below are for creating the drive in Mac OS X. Open up the terminal using ⌘ + Space, type Terminal, and hit enter and follow the commands below: (all the lines starting with # are comments)

# Assuming the file is in your Downloads folder
cd ~/Downloads

# Extract the file using gunzip command
gunzip hpvsa-1.2.14-103.rhel6u7.x86_64.dd.gz

# Plug in your empty FAT32 flash disk, make sure it is unmounted.
# Use the command below to create the drive
# Make sure your flash disk drive path is correct
# In my case, the disk was available in /dev/disk2
sudo dd if=hpvsa-1.2.14-103.rhel6u7.x86_64.dd of=/dev/disk2

Give it a couple of minutes at most, and your flash drive will be ready. Let’s get back to the CentOS installation, you’ll need to reboot the server.

centos_67_01After you reach the initialisation of CentOS installation screen (as seen on the right), follow these instructions:

  • Press ESC key to reach the boot prompt.
  • Plug in your USB flash drive which contains the driver
  • Type in “linux dd blacklist=ahci” and press ENTER
  • A few moments later, it will ask you if you have a driver disk. Choose yes.
  • Select your disk and browse the disk image: “dd.img” and choose OK
  • Once the driver is installed, it will prompt you whether or not you have more driver disks to install.
  • Choose No and continue with the installation and you’ll now be able to see HP’s Logical Disk you created earlier.

Setup of Networking
Once the operating system is setup, you’d think you’re all set right? Not quite. By default, networking is disabled on CentOS installations so you’ll need to enable it first before you can connect it to the internet.

There are two files responsible for network configuration.

# Amend the first file by opening it using vi editor
vi /etc/sysconfig/network
# Hit “a” key on your keyboard to make edits
# Go to the line NETWORKING and change the setting from no to yes
# Add a line for GATEWAY=192.168.1.1
# Save your changes by pressing “CTRL + c”, typing “:wq” and pressing ENTER key

# Type in the following command to open the second file.
vi /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0
# You’ll see the contents of this file on your screen. Press “a” key to amend the contents of this file
# Find the line ONBOOT and change it from no to yes
# At the bottom of the file, add the following lines
# IPADDR=192.168.1.240
# NETMASK=255.255.255.0
# To save the changes, press CTRL + c; type “:wq” and press ENTER key

# Setup DNS resolvers
vi /etc/resolv.conf
# This file should be empty
# Populate with the following two lines, press “a” key on your keyboard and type in the below two:
nameserver 8.8.8.8
nameserver 8.8.4.4
# Press CTRL+c; type “:wq” and press ENTER key

# Reboot the server using the command below
shutdown -r now

Your server will reboot with networking configured with the IP: 192.168.1.240 on your network. You can try ping it from another machine on the network.

Installation of cPanel
cPanel requires that your server must be visible on the internet. You’ll need to make sure you’ve a public IP address from your ISP, and configure it accordingly on the server.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll assume you have a public IP address assigned by your ISP on your internet router/modem. You’ll setup a DMZ zone on your router to point to your internal IP address. Check your router manual for more information.

Once you’ve done this, the installation is pretty straight forward and the best guide for it is available in cPanel documentation.

Before you follow the installation, you’ll need to install wget and curl utility. You can quickly do so by typing in the below command:

yum install curl wget

Once installed, type in the command below to download & install cPanel. Depending on your internet connection, this can take anywhere between 30 minutes to a few hours.

cd /home && curl -o latest -L https://securedownloads.cpanel.net/latest && sh latest

If all goes well, you should be able to access cPanel/WHM via browser and complete the cPanel setup.

All the best! If you get stuck, shout out at me on twitter @mohsinsumar and I’ll try help you out.

Why we do not offer unlimited hosting

This blog post was first published on Extreme Web Technologies’ Blog.

We come across many customers who are looking for unlimited hosting. This article is aimed to explain why we do not offer unlimited hosting, and why you shouldn’t look for a host that does offer unlimited hosting.

Unlimited hosting is a marketing gimmick, that claims to give you unlimited resources: disk space, bandwidth and features at a very cheap price which is governed by their fair usage policy buried somewhere in their fine print.

Say, for example, you spent millions of shillings planning your campaign, getting all the creative right, and started your marketing campaign only to find out that your website is suspended by the fair usage policy.

A fair usage policy is put in place to ensure that you are not overusing the server resources. You may be hosting a website that consumes a small percentage of CPU for a couple of seconds every time someone visits your website. And when your site starts getting a lot of visitors, you may start seeing your site become sluggish as the server becomes busy. In such cases, a web host may decide to suspend your site for sometime to make sure their other customers are not affected.

On a shared hosting environment, one server is setup to ideally accommodate between 250 to 500 hosting websites. A web hosting company can only provide you with unlimited hosting when they are overselling it. This means that they are actually hosting 2 – 3 times more accounts on a server.

Realistically, there is nothing like unlimited hosting! If you think about it, your hard drive has a capacity limit, your internet bundle has a capacity limit, everything has some sort of limit which makes “Unlimited Hosting” limited too!

Finding a good host may be slightly more expensive than the unlimited ones, but you are rest assured to get what you are paying for. When you are looking for a new web hosting company, you should be looking at the following three things:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • What their customers think of their support?
  • What are their uptime statistics?

Top Notch Quality Web Hosting since 2004

Extreme Web Technologies has been providing top notch quality web hosting since 2004 with exceptional 24/7 friendly customer support. 

We monitor all our servers through a third party monitoring service which probes our servers through out the day. We have an uptime report of over 99.5%!

Our entire team is notified when an outage is detected, and everyone is hands on deck to ensure the server is back up & running as soon as possible. In the event of a downtime, we have a backup mail servers that holds your emails waiting to deliver it as soon as the server is back online.

Experience customer happiness with us. Check our hosting plans here and read the testimonials of our happy customers.

What do you think of unlimited hosting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Editors Note: This article was written by Mohsin Sumar (@mohsinsumar) and serves as the Technical Director of Extreme Web Technologies. Mohsin with his Customer Happiness team constantly strive to deliver top notch quality web hosting in Tanzania.