How "Secure" Is YOUR Web Site?
by Robin Nobles

A few days ago, an incident happened to me that prompted the
writing of this article. I'm sure that if this is an issue for 
me and one of my Web sites, it's an issue for many others.

With my personal Web site, I use a nationally known Internet 
Host provider to host it. They've hosted my site for years, and 
I can't really complain about their services (except that you 
can rarely find a real "person" to talk to).

However, a few days ago, I wanted to give a good friend of mine,
Dave Barry, FTP access into my Web site to download a particular 
file. Rather than using an FTP program, he used IE (Internet 
Explorer) to FTP into the site. The strange thing is, before I 
even gave him my username and password, Dave was inside the 
server where my site is hosted!

Dave said that the server, and any sites hosted on that server,
were wide open for attack. He was able to see the System 32
Directory, passwords, etc. The good news for me is that Dave is 
a Certified Internet Webmaster Security Professional Instructor, 
so he knows exactly what he's talking about (and I don't).

He ran a report to show the vulnerability of my Web site. That
report indicated that there were seven high risk vulnerabilities,
four medium risk, and two low risk. It also said that it was
imperative that I take immediate action in fixing the security
issues of the network.

Now isn't this a comforting thought, especially since I've never
questioned the security of my Web site? I use one of the top Web
hosting firms in the country. This problem should NOT have

I contacted the hosting company, and they're checking into it. 
At one point, they said, "A little further research on my part 
found that anonymous FTP is erroneously enabled on your website." 
Then, in a later e-mail, they changed their mind, "I did misspeak 
last night when I said that anonymous access was enabled, as I 
could not upload any files at all, though I could view some 
directories and files, evidently some relatively innocuous 
system data files."

Dave disagreed, and he promptly sent me two files to prove how
vulnerable and insecure the system is. I sent them those files 
as well as the security report Dave ran, and they're continuing 
to look into it.

In my case, though this is a very disturbing situation, it isn't
the end of the world. I don't sell anything on my Web site -it's
there for informational purposes only.

But, for those of you who actually sell goods or services over
the Internet, this could be a huge, and extremely distressing,
problem. As Dave said, "I could crash the entire server in a
matter of minutes." But, he's one of the good guys wearing a
white hat, not a hacker. He's also responsible for 40+ Web sites
through his company, all of which are extremely secure.

What Can You Do To Protect Your Own Web Site?

Now that we know how serious a problem this can be, let's look 
at some ways you can protect your Web site.

1. Contact a security expert like Dave Barry and have him run a
security audit on your Web site. Visit Computer Concierge and
complete the Website security report. Find out what your Web 
site security vulnerabilities are, and learn what needs to be 
done to fix them.

2. If the security audit on your Web site proves that you have
security issues, and if your host provider can't give you a
logical explanation, move your site to a different hosting
company. I'm going to move my personal site to Combustion 
Hosting, where security is a #1 priority, and where I can get
personal attention and support.

3. Ask your current hosting company about their security
policies. Then, point them to this URL, which lists The Top 20
Most Critical Internet Security Vulnerabilities. This list was
compiled by a list of security experts from the FBI and the SANS
Institute. Though you may not be able to understand much of the
report, your hosting company will. Not only does the report list
the security risks, but it also gives solutions to the problems.

4. If you're a "do it yourselfer," visit the U.S. Department of
Energy's site which offers a listing of tools for security

5. Or, consider Retina, which provides excellent security

6. SecureNet Solutions also offers products that will run
vulnerability reports for you.

The main thing is to learn from my "mistakes" and don't be 
caught off guard. If you're using a hosting company to host your 
Web site, make darn sure that the server and your Web site are
secure. Visit Computer Concierge for a free security audit. Then,
go with a reputable hosting company who places the utmost
importance on security, like Combustion Hosting.

Remember: Your Web site is your online business. Don't you lock
the doors and secure the windows of your "brick and mortar"
business? Do you have an alarm system? Don't you think it's
important to do the same with your online business?

Robin Nobles, Director of Training, Academy of Web Specialists,
( has trained several 
thousand people in her online search engine marketing courses
( She also teaches 2, 3, and
5 day hands-on, search engine marketing workshops in locations
across the globe with Search Engine Workshops