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Hurricane Florence


Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 - General

We are monitoring Hurricane Florence which is on track for the Carolina coast later this week. Our foremost concern is the people within the path of this hurricane. This adds a little perspective when talking about web hosting and server datacenters when people’s lives may be in danger. We hope everyone in the affected region stays safe.

We do have two servers located in North Carolina, one in Virginia, and one in Georgia that may be affected by this storm. The two in North Carolina are of the major concern, but they are both located inland in North Carolina, so our hope is that they will be less affected by this storm. All of these datacenters have backup generators available just in case.

Again, our foremost concern is with the people in this affected region. If you live in this affected area, please stay safe and we encourage you to follow any government issued evacuation orders.


Upcoming SquirrelMail Removal


Friday, August 3rd, 2018 - General

The SquirrelMail webmail suite will be removed from our servers probably around the end of 2018. An exact date has not been determined, but it will be removed before the calendar turns over to 2019.

Why is SquirrelMail being removed?
SquirrelMail is a simple, yet very old piece of software. The last version of SquirrelMail was released in July 2011 and the last update was in May 2013, so that’s over 5 years old since it was last updated. It just simply isn’t coded to work with modern day versions of PHP. It also lacks a lot of features that are present in modern day webmail applications.

The decision to remove SquirrelMail is being made by cPanel. They have packaged SquirrelMail with their software for quite some time and tried to maintain it the best they can, but the time has come to just kill it off and use other, better alternatives.

What can I use to replace SquirrelMail?
We recommend using Roundcube, it is also an available webmail application provided by cPanel. When you log into webmail, simply click the option to use Roundcube.

Roundcube is another simple webmail application, much like SquirrelMail. But Roundcube has a much more modern feel to it and is still being actively developed.

We would encourage you to begin switching over to Roundcube as soon as possible. Since SquirrelMail is just a basic webmail application, there should not be a lot tying you to it, making the transition to Roundcube a bit easier.

We don’t really recommend switching to Horde webmail. Horde webmail is a great webmail application suite and it offers several productivity tools. But if you were using SquirrelMail chances are you are just needing a simple webmail application, Roundcube fits better in that situation.

Will Horde and/or Roundcube be removed?
No, this is only referring to SquirrelMail. Horde and Roundcube will remain active.

I don’t know if any of my email users are using SquirrelMail
We will be sending out notices in the next few weeks to accounts that are using SquirrelMail, letting the web hosting account owners know about this so they can be making arrangements to move off of SquirrelMail.

When will SquirrelMail be removed?
We don’t have an exact timetable for this. Our hope is that as we start sending out notices, more and more people will stop using SquirrelMail and we can remove it sooner rather than later. We don’t specifically know when cPanel will remove SquirrelMail. We hope to be able to remove it before cPanel does. Either way, barring something unforeseen, SquirrelMail will definitely be removed before January 2019.

As always if you need to contact us, simply submit a support ticket and we will answer any questions you may have.


Upcoming TLS changes


Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 - General

Post Summary

If you do not want to read through this whole blog post, just understand that there are issues with older versions of TLS. If you have been sent to this post by our support staff, then this probably means you have a program or operating system that is still using these older versions of TLS. You need to make changes to your system to bring it in line with upcoming security standards. If you choose to ignore that, then you should anticipate experiencing issues later on when older versions of TLS are completely shut off.

This post is detailing what you need to do. If you are using Windows 7 there is information in this post that might help you. I know this is a lengthy post, but there is a lot of information included.

If you are using an old, outdated, and end-of-life email client, program, or operating system, then you really can’t expect it to be secure. This is just the way the Internet works.

SSL/TLS is a technology that is used to encrypt data transmission from a source to a destination. For example, from your web browser to a web server. Or from your email client to the mail server. This is what prevents someone from listening in on the connection and being able to understand what is being transmitted (like passwords or personal information).

A small back story regarding the naming convention of SSL and TLS. When public/private key transmission encryption was first developed, it was called SSL. There got to be a copyright issue regarding the name SSL, so the IETF organization (a standards controlling group on the Internet) decided to change the name from SSL to TLS. But SSL was, and still is, a hard name to shake off. So officially the name is actually TLS, but it’s often used interchangeably with SSL.

What is SSL/TLS?
TLS or Transport Layer Security is a protocol that is used to negotiate how two parties will communicate in secret. TLS uses a public/private keypair set of encryption. Basically it’s set up to where the source has a private key that it uses to encrypt data. In order for a destination to understand what is written in that encrypted data, it needs a public key to decrypt the data. The public key cannot be used to encrypt data, and likewise the private key can’t be used to decrypt data. During this negotiation process, the source (i.e. your browser or email client) is going to send the destination server (i.e. our web server or email server) a public key that it can use to decrypt what the source is sending. Likewise, the destination server is going to send it’s public key back to the source server so it can decrypt what the destination server sends back.

What is changing?
Without getting to in-depth on this, just understand that there are different versions of SSL/TLS that are used in this negotiation. There are 5 different versions of SSL/TLS. SSLv2 and SSLv3 were created way back in the 1990s, they were long ago deprecated and deemed insecure (this is also where the naming convention copyrights came into play) so we won’t discuss those.

TLSv1, TLSv1.1, and TLSv1.2 are the remaining TLS versions. As you can guess, vulnerabilities were later discovered in TLSv1 and TLSv1.1. These vulnerabilities essentially nullified and security gains in using these two versions of the TLS protocol. But, unfortunately, adoption of TLSv1.2 was very, very slow so support for TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 had to linger for a very long time.

But the time has now come to officially drop TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 and rely solely on TLSv1.2. This is because the Internet industries want to promote a safe and secure Internet, and that can’t happen if insecure protocols are allowed to be used.

Why is this changing?
You really have to consider the Internet as a living and breathing beast. The Internet is not something you can turn off. You can’t check your email if you don’t have an Internet connection. You can’t check Facebook if you don’t have an Internet connection. Way back when, when computers were not used so much as a communication device and before the Internet, security issues were less of an issue. In order to hack into a computer or device, you really had to have physical access to the computer or machine. If your home PC wasn’t on the Internet, or on an always-on Internet connection, security threats from the Internet weren’t really an issue for you.

But now the Internet exists, and millions and billions of different devices are connected to the Internet all the time. As a result security of these devices becomes a bigger issue. As new security holes and vulnerabilities are discovered, no longer can these just be ignored because physical access is no longer required to exploit these vulnerabilities. These devices are constantly connected to the Internet and are therefore constantly a target of these vulnerabilities.

When the security holes were discovered in the TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 security experts knew that this would affect a lot of users. Unfortunately, developers – such as Microsoft – were slow to roll out security updates and end-user adoption of these new security updates was even slower. This meant that Internet hosting companies and Internet service providers had to continue to allow connections using these insecure versions of TLS due to usability concerns.

It’s important to note that security and usability and opposite ends of the same string. Any time you add a bit of security you take away a bit of usability. Consider that if you really want to keep your computer secure, the best advice is to turn it off. That will definitely keep it secure, but you can’t use it, there’s zero usability. The struggle that server administrators, security experts, and the Internet industries as a whole have is balancing out this security vs. usability equation. How can we make the Internet more secure while also keeping it usable? Where is that balancing act?

This is what lead to the prolonged service of TLSv1 and TLSv1.1. A lot of users were still relying on these versions, and even though security experts knew they were insecure – they could not recommend removing them because it would affect a lot of users.

Now the time has come that the PCI Security Council (one of those industry leaders in being Internet security experts) has concluded that enough time has passed for developers and users to switch to the secure TLSv1.2 protocol, so TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 can be disabled. And while, the vast majority of our users are using TLSv1.2 compatible email clients, operating systems, and programs, there are still quite a few that have not yet updated and will be affected by this shutdown of TLSv1 and TLSv1.1.

Again, this security vs. usability thing comes into play. At what point is the overall health and security of a server more important than the usability concerns of a few clients? If a server has 1000 users on it and 900 of them are using TLSv1.2 but 100 are still relying on TLSv1 or TLSv1.1, how is it justified for the 1000 users to suffer through an insecurity just to protect those 100 that have not updated? Or where does that justification point lay? What if it’s 920 vs 80? Or 950 vs 50? The later is what we are seeing. We are seeing about a 96% adoption of TLSv1.2, so given this information we feel that it is best to go ahead and disable the insecure TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 protocols so that all of our users can benefit from better security on our servers. But this also means that about 4% of our users are going to experience problems. Is that a justifiable percentage?

I got a message saying that I would be affected by this, what do I need to do?
If you get a message saying you are affected by this shut down of TLSv1 and TLS1.1, then that means we detected someone using your account to check or send out mail using TLSv1 or TLSv1.1. This TYPICALLY means that you are using and out of date and end-of-life email client. Examples known to be affected include Outlook 2007, Outlook 2013, Windows Live Mail. Some operating systems are also affected. Anything before Windows 7 will likely have issues (and everything before Windows 7 is end-of-life anyway). I believe versions of MacOS before High Sierra might have issues. Linux distributions that are still in-life should not have any issues. Older versions of Android or iOS may experience issues. There’s really just too many factors to know for us to give a detailed list of what will experience issues.

You just need to find and identify what email program or operating system you are using and make sure it is up to date, and that it is still in-life and being actively supported.

To search for Microsoft based products to see if they are still in life, you can visit:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/search

and search for your specific email client and version.

If you are using Windows 7 and you are using a still supported version of Outlook, you might find the patch information at:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3140245/update-to-enable-tls-1-1-and-tls-1-2-as-a-default-secure-protocols-in

to be useful for you. As I understand it, Windows 7 did not ship with native TLSv1.2 support was added later on in this patch. Your Microsoft update may have already applied this patch years ago or you may need to manually install it now. I really do not know why some people do not already have this patch.

Additionally, it would appear that simply installing this patch is not enough, you have to edit your registry in Windows 7. You can find instructions for this at:

https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/2018/04/02/exchange-server-tls-guidance-part-2-enabling-tls-1-2-and-identifying-clients-not-using-it

and scroll down to the section about creating the TLS12-Enable.reg file:

tls12.reg image

You will need to manually create this file and run this file on your system. (Don’t ask me why Microsoft did not include this in the patch, direct those questions and frustrations to Microsoft)

We have created this TLS12-Enable.reg file for you. You can download this file and run it on your system. Although from a security standpoint, randomly downloading .reg files and running them from sites on the Internet is generally frowned upon. It’s best if you can follow the instructions Microsoft’s TechNet page.

If you are using an end-of-life email client, then you really need to update to a newer email client. Again, you have to consider the Internet as a living and breathing beast, so you can’t expect old technologies – technologies that are no longer being maintained – to always be secure. And again, we are showing a 96% adoption rate for TLSv1.2. If you are still using clients and operating systems that don’t support TLSv1.2, then you are part of a much smaller percentage of our user base.

Outlook 2007 is end of life

If you really cannot change your email program, then you should consider switching to insecure connections for sending and checking mail. Insecure connections really aren’t recommended, but sadly if you are not going to update your email client to a secure email client, then security is not a top priority for you. Remember, usability vs. security.

I have updated my email client, how can I know if I’m using TLSv1.2 now?
If you’ve updated your email client and you want to be sure that you are using TLSv1.2 now, simply check your email account or send out a message, then contact us and we will check the logs to make sure you are using a TLSv1.2 connection. If you are, that’s great! If you are not, then you will need to make additional changes to your setup.

How do I know the specific accounts that are still using TLSv1 and TLSv1.1?
All we can see is the usernames that are connecting using TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 secure connections. You can contact us, and we can send you a list of those usernames on your account. But we really have no idea what computers or devices are being used to make those connections. This may be extremely problematic if a specific user is checking their email on 20 different devices, it may only be 1 of those 20 devices that is using TLSv1 or TLSv1.1, but we have no way of seeing that.

When will you be shutting off TLSv1 and TLSv1.1?
We would like to be able to shutdown TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 support by the end of July 2018. But I really don’t know how feasible that will be. Again, we are seeing just a small percentage of users that have not yet updated to TLSv1.2 compatible clients – so while we want to give those users the opportunity to update their software, it’s also not fair to most of our other users that have already updated to TLSv1.2 to have to wait a pro-longed period for these users to update.

Is email the only thing that will be affected by this?
Email won’t necessarily be the only thing affected by this TLSv1 and TLS1.1 shut down. Web, FTP, and cPanel/Webmail access may also be affected by this. Unfortunately it’s not as easy to detect TLS versions with these services. If you are affected by this with email, then you should consider what the underlying root cause of why you are affected by this to help determine if web and other services will also be affected. For example, if you are still using Windows XP and are affected by this, then you will probably be affected by this in regards to web and other services. This is because Windows XP does not support TLSv1.2. But it’s also worth noting that Windows XP is severely end-of-life.

Again, the intent behind all of this is to make the Internet more secure. There is a big push to make increase the overall security of the Internet. And this can’t happen if insecure protocols are allowed to continue to run. The past has taught us (the Internet industries) that you sometimes have to disable insecure protocols in order to force movement to better and secure protocols. It would definitely be nice if we never had to change anything. But as long as there are hackers, malicious users, and poorly written code there will always be security updates that have to be followed.


Email client SSL/TLS issues


Tuesday, June 12th, 2018 - General

Update – June 21, 2018

We have decided to revert these changes back to their original setting for the time being. We still believe that disabling TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 on the servers was the right move, but it has become obvious to us that there are still quite a few users still using very old and incompatible software. And there are major players on the Internet that still haven’t moved on to TLSv1.2.

It’s worth pointing out that the PCI security council recommended that everyone move to TLSv1.2 by June 30th, 2018:

https://blog.pcisecuritystandards.org/are-you-ready-for-30-june-2018-sayin-goodbye-to-ssl-early-tls

But sadly, due to the constraints that the rest of the Internet is not ready to move forward on this, we will not meet this June 30th deadline. From a security standpoint, this is very unfortunate. We believe the move to TLSv1.2 needs to happen as soon as possible, and we actually agree with the PCI security council on this. But we are seeing no movement from major Internet companies or the adoption of newer and more secure email clients to warrant such a change at this time. This means after June 30th, our servers will no longer be PCI compliant.

The disconcerting part about all of this is that there are some major players – including Facebook, AOL, and even PayPal – that have not yet moved their mail servers over to TLSv1.2. This is shocking to us. These are companies that we – and every other Internet user – trust with our information and they seem to either be unaware or unconcerned about the security of their servers.

What now?
We are trying to come up with a plan now, where we will notify you if your account is found to be using non TLSv1.2 email clients. If you get one of these messages, then that means you need to update your email client. Look for these messages to be sent out some time next week. We then would have plans to schedule the removal of early and insecure TLS versions late next month or sometime after that.

It’s really been mostly a shock to us at the lack of TLSv1.2 adoption. We did not anticipate this level of issues with this move. But we hope that by educating our users we can resolve this and increase the overall security of our servers at the same time.

Update – June 14, 2018

So what’s the bottom line?

If you have been sent to this post or if you are otherwise affected by this then this statement rings true:

You are using an email client or operating system that does not support valid security protocols.

Perhaps this can be fixed, perhaps not. We’re really not going to know. There are just too many email clients out there for us to have knowledge about what settings are where and what patches may or may not need to be applied. It’s best to contact the developer or vendor of the product you are using.

But chances are, if you are having problems with this, then the product you are using has reached it’s end-of-life and that may have occurred several years ago. Up until this latest server update, secure connections using TLSv1 were still being allowed. But it’s important to note that TLSv1 connections were never secure to begin with. That is why they have been disabled. To raise awareness that the client and operating system you have been using is not secure.

The Internet is always on, always available – which means it has to be secure. This means things have to change in order for it remain secure. When security vulnerabilities are discovered in Internet protocols, you can’t expect a secure Internet to continue to use those protocols. This is what has happened here. Vulnerabilities in TLSv1 have been known about for some time, but the Internet industries were giving people time to migrate to knew clients, programs, and protocols before completely shutting down TLSv1. The shut down of TLSv1 is beginning now.

Update – June 13, 2018

If you are having issues with this and you are using one of Microsoft’s Outlook products on Windows 7, then you might try applying this patch:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/3140245/update-to-enable-tls-1-1-and-tls-1-2-as-a-default-secure-protocols-in

Some have made progress by utilizing this patch to update their Outlook to allow for modern and updated versions of TLS. But if you are depending on an outdated or discontinued version of Outlook, this patch probably won’t help you.

Original Post

An upcoming change to our servers will affect some older email clients (potentially older browsers as well).

Changes to the way security is run on the servers is going to change the available ciphers and only allow for TLS version 1.2. The aim here is to provide better security throughout the Internet. Known issues with TLS versions 1.0 and 1.1 essentially make them insecure.

Most users won’t notice this change. If you are using a modern email client, browser, and operating system then it’s probably already using TLS 1.2, and if not, it will switch to it when other insecure TLS versions are unavailable.

But if you are using an older email client, such as Outlook 2007 or Windows Live Mail (plus many others – too many to list), you will likely be affected by this. It is important to note that both Outlook 2007 and Windows Live Mail are end of life. That means they are no longer supported by their developer any more. And anything that is end of life, you really shouldn’t be using any more. You can’t expect end of life’d software to continue to be updated and work in modern system. It just doesn’t work that way.

So if you encounter an issue checking or sending out mail – consider the email client that you are using and if it is up to date and being kept up to date. If it’s end of life, then you really need to switch to a modern email client and/or operating system.

This will only affect you if you use one of these email client AND use secure mail settings. You can continue to use your old email client, you just can’t use secure settings – but we don’t recommend doing that. The best solution is to update to a modern email client or operating system.

We recommend Thunderbird, although any modern email client should be sufficient:

https://www.thunderbird.net

Additionally, you can use webmail to log into your email accounts. Simply point your browser to:

http://yourdomain.com/webmail

Enter the email address you want to check as the username and the password is that email account’s corresponding password. (Replace yourdomain.com with your actual domain name you have hosted with us).

All of this is being done with an object of making the Internet more secure. The Internet cannot be secure if insecure protocols and system are allowed to continue to operate. All of those insecurities will eventually be phased out.


WordPress comment spam


Monday, May 14th, 2018 - General

We are starting to see a lot of WordPress comment spam being sent out through a lot of the accounts hosted on our servers. A lot of users have comment moderation enabled for their WordPress site, perhaps unknowingly. When a comment is posted by someone and the moderation bit is set, then that comment is emailed to the WordPress site administrator for them to take action.

Recently Google and Gmail have started flagging these comment moderation messages as spam. Unfortunately this can have the affect of Gmail blacklisting or weighing all messages sent from our servers as spam. Since we cannot allow this to happen, we are going to be forced to take action regarding this.

We will have to start putting websites into a read-only state if this continues. A read-only state means that nobody will be able to post any comments to your site and you will not be able to log into the WordPress dashboard on your account. Your website will still appear to any visitors, but you just won’t be able to take any actions on your website.

What can you do to prevent this?

If you are not using comments, I would recommend that you disable them. You can do that by logging into your WordPress admin dashboard and clicking Settings -> Discussion then make sure the option for Allow people to post comments on new articles is unchecked. However, if you have specifically enabled comments on any specific posts, comments will still be enabled for that post.

If you are using comments, I would highly recommend that you install some type of captcha system to prevent bots from posting comments on your site. The Google Captcha might be a good plugin to use.

We are doing all of this in an effort to stay proactive and insure that the hosting system your website is hosted on remains clean. We cannot allow comment abuse to affect the reputation of our servers.


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