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Upcoming PHP switch


Thursday, September 26th, 2019 - General

Today (September 26, 2019) PHP released PHP 7.3.10. This is significant because it represents the 10th release of PHP 7.3. We now consider this PHP version to be stable and mature. As a result of this, we will be making some changes to our PHP infrastructure within the next coming weeks.

Technically we are still waiting for cPanel to release PHP 7.3.10 on their end – so this version technically isn’t available to us right now. But it should be soon.

An exact timeline of the events is still undetermined as of now and it may be impossible to give an exact timeline, but this is our current line of thinking:

1st or 2nd week of October – We will switch to assigning PHP 7.3 on all new accounts. That means any new web hosting account that is created after this date will use PHP 7.3 by default.

Around the middle of November (possibly spilling over through the first week of December) – We will be switching all existing accounts over to PHP 7.3. This means all current accounts will be switched to PHP 7.3 at this time. This is fluid because it depends on how the switch to PHP 7.3 to new accounts take hold.

We are not removing PHP 7.1 as options. At least not yet.

Around the end of Q1 2020 or the start of Q2 2020 (March/April/May 2020) – We will start removing PHP 7.1 as options. This is a fluid deadline – meaning it’s open to change. A lot of this will depend on how the uptake of PHP 7.3 holds.

Keep in mind, PHP 7.1 support officially ends on December 1, 2019 that is why this change is being made:

https://www.php.net/supported-versions.php

As long as you are using an up-to-date and reputable script – such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, etc. – these script began support PHP 7.3 a long time ago and their developers are well aware of PHP 7.1’s upcoming end-of-life. You are more likely to run into issues with plugins/themes/components/extensions that you may be using but have been abandoned by their individual developers. If any plugin/theme/component/extension you are using hasn’t been updated in years, now might be a good time to inquire on their development status with their individual developers. If you get no response, then it stands as good reason that the plugin/theme/component/extension has been abandoned.

What if my script breaks after the upgrade to PHP 7.3?
No worries. We can switch you back to PHP 7.1 – which is what all of the accounts on our servers are running now. But if you’re script breaks after switching to PHP 7.3 then this would really signal that you need to figure out what is wrong with your script and why it doesn’t support the latest version of PHP. You will need to resolve these issues because we won’t be able to offer PHP 7.1 forever.

What about PHP 7.2?
PHP 7.2 is also an option if your script doesn’t work with PHP 7.3. However, the lifetime of PHP 7.2 isn’t that much longer (support ends in December 2020). And really if a script works in PHP 7.1 but doesn’t work in PHP 7.3 but does work with PHP 7.2, then this is just kicking the can further down the road. Still… this is technically a viable option… just not a very good one in our opinion.


Outdated PHP and Joomla!


Friday, September 13th, 2019 - General

It looks like a recent Joomla! update has enhanced the attention of the version of PHP that you are running the Joomla! script on.

It would appear that Joomla! is using a bit of a scare-tactic to try and scare people into believing their PHP version is out of date.

Joomla! will flag PHP 7.1 as out-of-date. This is not the case. As you can see in the link:

https://www.php.net/supported-versions.php

PHP 7.1 is still in-life and is still technically good until November 30, 2019. While it is true that PHP 7.1 is approaching end-of-life… approaching and being are two different things. I’m not sure if the Joomla! developers are aware of the differences between these two words.

We do have plans to update all accounts to PHP 7.3 before the end of November. And we can switch your account to PHP 7.3 now if you would prefer that. But just because Joomla! is telling you that PHP 7.1 is out of date – that is not correct.

Depending on what plugins and components you are using, you may run into compatibility issues with those plugins/components if you update to PHP 7.3. If those plugins/components have not been vetted against PHP 7.3 then they may not work properly. Again PHP 7.1 is approaching end-of-life, so the developers of those plugins and components really need to be working on making their plugins/components compatible with PHP 7.3 – technically right now they are fine if they only operate on PHP 7.1 (after November 30th, 2019 this will no longer be fine).

If you want your account switched to PHP 7.3 now, simply open a support ticket – http://www.amshelp.com/support – and we will be happy to switch your account to PHP 7.3.


PHP 7.2 / 7.3 available


Wednesday, April 17th, 2019 - General

We now have PHP 7.2 and PHP 7.3 available on our servers. If you wish to switch to one of these versions on your account, simply open a support ticket – http://www.amshelp.com/support and we will update your account to the desired PHP version.

Please note, there were a lot of changes made in these updates from PHP 7.1. So before updating your account to one of these version, make sure the script you are using is compatible with the desired PHP version.

There is currently (as of April 17, 2019) no need to update your account to one of these PHP versions. These versions are simple being made available for our users that wish to update, for whatever reason. If you have no reason to update to PHP 7.2 or PHP 7.3, then I would not recommend doing so at this time.

The current end-of-life schedule for PHP shows PHP 7.1 (all of our accounts are currently using PHP 7.1) going end of life just before the end of this year – December 1, 2019 (source – https://www.php.net/supported-versions.php)

Right now we don’t have a schedule really set in stone regarding our full deployment of these updated PHP versions and the removal of PHP 7.1. We’re probably looking at a schedule that will see us push out PHP 7.3 as the default PHP version on all accounts around late 3Q or early 4Q 2019 (September/October 2019) and then with the removal of PHP 7.1 sometime in December 2019 or early 2020. But that schedule is very fluid right now. Adoption rates of PHP 7.3 are very small right now. That will need to increase before we can feel comfortable pushing PHP 7.3 out. Right now that would be our preference, to skip PHP 7.2 as a default version and go straight to PHP 7.3 – but again the situation is fluid and we are still several months away from having to make any decisions on this.


Password Security and Spamming


Monday, October 29th, 2018 - General

Over the weekend we saw a rash of compromised emails accounts that were in turn used to send out spam.

When we investigated these, we found almost all of them using extremely weak passwords and a large majority of those were using passwords that followed the syntax:

Please don’t use passwords like this.

You may think that it doesn’t really matter, but if you’ve ever used your email address any where – then that email address is known. And if you are using a password that follows this syntax or any other easy to guess password structure, it’s trivial for spammers to guess your password and then abuse your account to send out spam.

When your domain name is associated with sending out spam, it starts to build a bad reputation and can start to hurt the deliverability of your legitimate mail. We try to catch these spam events as best we can, but the best course of action is for end users to practice solid password security.

To check the strength of your passwords we recommend:

http://www.passwordmeter.com

We have previously posted about the importance of password security at:

The Importance of Password Security
My account was caught sending out spam


Bitcoin Ransom Messages


Monday, October 22nd, 2018 - General

Since we seem to getting a lot of messages from our users inquiring about this, we thought it might be a good idea to address this here.

Lately there has been an increase in the number of ransom messages going out threatening to expose certain details about you if you don’t pay the hacker in bitcoin. We really can’t tell you if the message being sent to you and pertaining to you is legit. I don’t think it’s wise for any hosting company or security firm to state as much. But we can advise you on what we are seeing in regards to this. We are seeing a lot of messages like this, so it is very likely a scam in your case, but in the end you will have to make the determination on your own.

The message in question may look something like:

The wording might be a little different. But the same general message is the same. A few key takeaways here:

This is your password Is that really your password? Or has it ever been your password? If not, then you can stop right here, it’s a scam! If it is your password, then is it an easy to guess password? Have you reused that password some where else? How do they do this? Pretty simple actually, they pick a random password – usually a pretty common one – and then send out this message to millions and millions of email addresses… it’s bound to be the correct password for a handful of those users. The scam is not meant to work for every single user they email, but if it works for just a handful of users, the scammers make money.

I sent you an email from your account This is trivial to do. Email does not have a mechanism in place to verify that the person behind the computer/device that sends a message is actually who they say they are. Mechanisms do exist that can help verify a message was sent from a likely reliable sender, that are done on the recipient end of the message exchange. But those mechanisms aren’t infallible and aren’t universally accepted. How do they do this? Any knowledgeable or trained computer person can send a message to appear to have come from your email address. Just because the From line in an email has your email address does not mean it was sent by your computer or device.

I made screenshot with using my program from your camera of yours device Do you computers and devices have cameras on them? Have you actually visited any of the adult rated websites the message suggests? If you answer no to either of these, then it’s a scam! This is a scare tactic aimed to scare individuals into giving the scammers money. The tactic here is that a significant portion of Internet users may visit sites like this. Again, the scammers aren’t expecting the scam to work on 100% of the people they send this message to. It just has to work for a select few and the scammers make money.

After receiving the specified amount, all your data will be immediately destroyed automatically Since they have presumably sent this message out to hundreds if not millions of email addresses, how do they know which user a specific payment is referring? So how would they know to discard the information they collected if you pay? Simply answer: They don’t – because 1) they have no information and it’s a scam or 2) they will keep the information and continue to extort you for more money. Again this taps into people’s fears and resolution centers, that money can fix all problems and that’s what the scammers are hoping for.

• What information is missing? – If the scammers really wanted you to believe their message and if they had really stolen some of your information, don’t you think they would have addressed you by name? Or at least given some proof that they have. In kidnapping/ransom cases negotiators will ask for “proof of life” or proof that the kidnappers have the person in question, negotiators want this assurance before giving any ransom. In this particular case all the scammer has is a password that might not even be yours and if it is – it’s a common password that many people use and a scare tactic that they sent the email from your very own email address which is trivial for any knowledgeable computer person to do.

So is the message a scam? Probably. But this is something you really need to make a determination for yourself. I can tell you that we are seeing many complaints about such messages and we’re even getting them as well. So if you think you are being singled out and are the only one receiving these messages, know that you are not.

How can you protect yourself?

• Keep an up-to-date virus and malware detection system. A malware detection system like MalwareBytes can be helpful in regards to this.

• Keep your computer up to date. When computer vulnerabilities are discovered, programmers and developers that wrote that software will work to fix the security holes that led to that vulnerability. But it does you absolutely no good if you never install the updated code that they developed. If you want your computer and device to be safe and secure you have to apply security updates as soon as they become available.

• Use strong and secure passwords. If you are using simple and easy to guess passwords then this just increases the chances of your password being compromised. It may be difficult to remember a strong and secure password, but it’s going to be even more difficult when your password is compromised and your information is leaked out.

• Don’t reuse your passwords. If you’re using the same password for everything, then all it takes is for one service to suffer an information leak, and then the password you are using for everything is then in the public domain and capable of being compromised. Use separate, strong, and secure passwords for every service you use.

• Keep a backup of your files. If the files on your computer and device are important to you, make sure you keep a copy of them stored some where off of the computer or device. This way if you ever do get compromised or have your files deleted, you will have something to restore from.

Again, our aim is to give you the tools and information so that you can make your own informed decisions. If you are relying on someone else to make this determination for you, then you can fall victim if their determination is wrong. Educating yourself is the best defense you can have in regards to scams like this.


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