April 19, 2014
In yet another example of a cyber security breach, the EA server was recently hacked, and its website was used to host a phishing site intended to steal Apple IDs. Unfortunately, such online security breaches are becoming more common as hackers take advantage of vulnerable servers with inadequate security measures. How can companies protect against these attacks? In most cases, the answer may be as simple as investing in reliable web hosting. So, why are these breaches still happening if the remedy is so simple?
The Security Breach
According to experts at Netcraft, the security firm that discovered the breach, hackers reached the EA server through two websites located in the ea.com domain. This location was left open to security vulnerabilities because it contained an older type of software. These vulnerabilities compromised the server, allowing it to be attacked. Simply hosting outdated software on a server is an invitation to be hacked. Many businesses neglect these types of software vulnerabilities, which can rapidly lead to the victimization of company servers.
The hackers who took advantage of the EA server created a phishing site that attempted to steal Apple IDs from consumers. This site appeared legitimate, asking for the user’s Apple ID and password – as well as verification of name, phone number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, expiration date, verification code, and other information that could be used to steal the user’s identity. If the victim made it through the entire process, he or she was simply redirected to the actual Apple ID site, most likely never realizing the information had been stolen by a third party.
EA is currently investigating this security breach. Company representatives have stated that customer privacy and security are their top concerns, and they have taken steps to disable any fake websites hosted by hackers on the EA. Fortunately for consumers, Netcraft reacted swiftly by adding the hacked EA page to a list of phishing sites, which is used by all major web browsers to ensure that consumers are protected from these online threats.
Investing in Reliable Web Hosting
Servers are often vulnerable to these types of security breaches. However, companies can protect themselves by investing in a reliable web hosting provider that prioritizes best practices. By considering these factors, companies can ensure that web hosting puts security first.
- Hosting environment. There are multiple options available when it comes to hosting environments: shared, dedicated, VPS, and reseller. Remember that shared hosting is the least secure of these options because it consists of one server hosting hundreds of websites – when one account becomes compromised, all of the other sites are susceptible. For the greatest level of security, choose a dedicated server, which ensures that sites and applications cannot be threatened due to uploads by other users. Dedicated servers also allow clients access to the professional management teams that handle their web security issues.
- Firewalls. Another critical component of secure web hosting is a reliable firewall. A firewall should be fully equipped to block any potential threats both to the server, and to the sites it hosts. Furthermore, your firewall should have custom settings that allow you to ban IP addresses from unsecured proxy servers, which are known for threatening security.
- Software. There is specific software available to prevent DDoS attacks. A reliable web hosting company will utilize this software on its server networks. This type of software should also come as a standard feature with a dedicated hosting server.
- Executable commands. For shared web hosting, one area that requires special protection is executable commands. Your hosting provider should limit the use of these commands, particularly in PHP. This is because they are used to access files within a server, which can cause damage if done improperly.
- Data backups. Another important aspect of web hosting security is secure data. A web hosting provider should back up all data to a remote server at least once per day. This ensures that information can be restored should a security breach occur.
- Site monitoring. Every site hosted by your server or network must be monitored to ensure that it is not compromised by malicious code. If a site is compromised, it must immediately be inspected to contain the threat. Your web hosting provider should offer alerts to inform you of any such threats.
- Physical security. Physical security is also important to protecting your server. A web hosting provider should be able to confirm that outside access to the server is completely protected by full security at their data center.
- Enhanced security features. Your web hosting provider should offer enhanced security features either for an additional fee or as a part of a standard package. This should include Secure FTP for encryption of uploaded data, SSL for e-commerce sites, and SSH to guarantee secure communication between the server and client’s computer.
Could the EA server compromise have been prevented? It’s difficult to say, based on the information that’s been made available. However, best practices are just that – best practices, and in order to prevent security lapses, such elements need to be considered, implemented, and optimized.
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