Security Checklist/Getting Started

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Security matters[edit]

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, and constant revision. All public facing websites are open to constant attack. Are you willing and able to invest the time it takes to administer a dynamic, 24x7, world-accessible, database-driven, interactive, user-authenticated website? Do you have the time and resources to respond to the constant flow of new 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 own experience, reading the Stupidest Tricks will either make you laugh or cry. Luckily, there are some well-established principles upon which to base your defensive plans. The following checklists point you toward current best practices for Joomla security.

How to read these documents[edit]

  1. Not all techniques are appropriate for every level of experience. 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 must depend on the settings established by your hosting provider. If you are using a virtual or dedicated server, you can apply more creative security tactics.
  3. Not all security tactics are appropriate for all versions of Joomla. Where a technique applies to only one version it is noted by one of the following icons:  Joomla 1.0 Joomla 1.5 Joomla 1.6 Joomla 1.7 Joomla 2.5 Joomla 3.0 Joomla 3.1

The most important guidelines[edit]

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. Back up early and often: Set up (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. Use the community: 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.

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.

You may want to 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! 3.x Security Forum and the Joomla! 2.x Security Forum.

To receive all Joomla security announcements, subscribe to Joomla Security News. There are several ways to subscribe:
  1. Automatic Email Notification
  2. RSS feed.

The bad news[edit]

  1. There is no perfect security on the Web! As economists would say, "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. Maintaining adequate security requires a wide and ever-growing range of skills and knowledge, constant watchfulness, and a robust backup and recovery process.
  2. 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...
  3. 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.

The good news[edit]

  1. Even a beginner can start at the head of the herd User forums for many systems are clogged with Help! I've been hacked posts by people who did NOT follow standard security practices. If you are studying this checklist before your site is attacked, congratulations, you're already ahead of the herd.
  2. It's not as hard as it looks If this is one of your first websites, security issues may seem overwhelming, but you don't have to deal with all of them at once. Start with the most critical issues. As you become more familiar with GNU tools and techniques, including GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL, SQL, PHP, HTTP, CSS, XML, RSS, TCP/IP, FTP, Git, JavaScript, and Joomla!, you'll add refinements to your set of security tactics.
  3. You can get help If you believe your website was attacked, do not simply post an announcement with full details in the Joomla! forums. If you are dealing with a new vulnerability or new form of attack, publishing that information could put other websites at risk. Instead, report possible security vulnerabilities to the Joomla! Security Task Force.