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Security Checklist/Getting Started

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Contents

Read Me First

Security is always a concern

Internet security is a fast moving challenge and ever present threat. There is no one right way to secure a website, and all security methods are subject to instant obsolescence, incremental improvement, constant revision. Luckily, there are well-established principles that upon which to base your defensive plans. The following checklists point you toward current best practices for Joomla security.

The most important guidelines

These checklists are long and growing because the full plot is thick, complex, and expanding, but don't despair! Here are a few essential guidelines for securing any website. Following them will protect you from most catastrophes.
  1. Backup Early and Often: Setup (and use and test) a regular backup and recovery process. When done well, this ensures that you can recover from almost any imaginable disaster.
  2. Update Early and Often: Promptly update to the latest stable version of Joomla! and any installed third-party extensions. This ensures that your site is protected from the newest vulnerabilities as soon as a fix is released and from the latest attack methods as soon as a defense is developed.
  3. Use a secure host Use a high-quality Web host. Do not be fooled by offers of 'unlimited bandwidth, unlimited hard drive space, unlimited databases, etc.
  4. Be smart Don't forget the truism, "If a deal is too good to be true, it is." It seems that nothing on Earth is unlimited--except perhaps the gullibility of fools and the greed of those who prey upon them. Consider hiring professional assistance if you have inadequate experience or knowledge in this area. One of the advantages of GNU software is that user support is free. Take good advantage of this by asking good questions within the Joomla! Forums. When doing so, be sure to use the the most appropriate board, such as Installation, Migration and Updating, Administration.
There are many other important security considerations that you can learn about in this checklist and in the Security FAQ's.

There is no Web security!

There's no free lunch!

Don't be fooled by Joomla's award winning ease-of-use. Maintaining a secure Web site on the open Internet is not easy. Adequate security requires a range of skills and knowledge, constant watchfulness and a very solid backup and recovery process.

There's no one right way!

Due to the variety and complexity of modern web systems, security issues can't be resolved with simple, one-size-fits-all solutions. You (or someone you trust) must learn enough about your server infrastructure to make valid security decisions. Strong security is a moving target. Today's expert might be tomorrow's victim. Welcome to the game...

There's no substitute for experience!

To secure your Web site, you must gain real experience (some of which will be bitter), or get experienced help from others. If you haven't invested the considerable time it takes to learn how to maintain a secure Web site, be sure you can consult with someone who has. Read this tongue-in-cheek description of the Top 10 Stupidest Administrator Tricks which illustrates typical, blow-by-blow examples of how to learn Web security the hard way.

Encouragements

Start at the head of the herd

The Security Forums are filled with "Help! I've been hacked" posts by people who did NOT follow standard security practices. If you decided to study this checklist before your site is attacked, congratulations, you're already ahead of the herd.

It's not as hard as it looks

If this is one of your first Web sites, security considerations may seem intimidating, but you don't have to deal with all of it at once. As you become familiar with tools of modern Open Source Web development, such as GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL, SQL, PHP, HTTP, CSS, XML, RSS, TCP/IP, FTP, Subversion, JavaScript, Joomla!, you'll add refinements to your set of security tactics.

How to get help

If you believe your Web site was attacked, do not post in the Joomla! forums. If there is a vulnerability, publishing that information could put other Web sites at risk. Instead, report possible security vulnerabilities to the Joomla! Security Task Force.

How to read these documents

  1. Not all techniques are appropriate for every level of user. Apply the techniques you understand and read up on the ones you don't.
  2. Not all techniques are appropriate for every server. If you use a shared server, you will need to depend on the settings established by your hosting provider. If you are using a virtual or dedicated server, you will be able to apply more creative and exotic techniques.
  3. Not all techniques are appropriate for all Joomla! versions. Where a technique applies to only one version, an image is added, such as Compat 10.png or Compat 15.png.

Getting Started

Are you ready?

  1. Can you administer a dynamic, 24x7, world-accessible, database-driven, interactive, user-authenticated web server?
  2. Do you have the time and resources to respond to the flow of emerging Internet security issues? The Top 10 Stupidest Administrator Tricks is a comic/tragic look at what can go wrong. Don't learn these tricks the hard way! Depending on your recent experience, reading the Stupidest Tricks will either make you laugh or cry.

Stay informed of security issues

Given the complexity of web servers, new vulnerabilities and conflicts are discovered all the time. To receive all security announcements, just subscribe to Joomla Security News. There are several ways to subscribe:
  1. Automatic Email Notification
  2. RSS feed.

Check the FAQs.

The most helpful posts in the Joomla! Security Forum are converted into Security and Performance FAQs. Many of the items on this list are explained in much greater detail in the FAQs.

Learn from the pros

Read the excellent Absolute Beginners Guide to Joomla! It has wealth of tips and tricks presented in an easy to understand format. Even experienced Joomlaists find great ideas here.
Hunt down the many nuggets of wisdom found in the Joomla! Forums, in particular the Joomla! 1.5 Security Forum and the Joomla! 1.0 Security Forum.

Security Checklists Table of Contents

  1. Getting Started
  2. Hosting and Server Setup
  3. Testing and Development
  4. Joomla Setup
  5. Site Administration
  6. Site Recovery