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Web Hosting Services: Are They Secure?

A recent report issued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that some web hosting services marketing their services to small businesses are not providing email authentication and anti-phishing technologies as part of their standard service offerings. The report, issued by the FTC’s Office of Technology Research & Investigation, examined the security features of hosting plans offered by 11 web hosts that provide their services to small businesses.

The report found that only a few of the hosts reviewed by the FTC notify users of their email authentication technologies while certain of the hosts do not support such technologies. Email authentication protects domains from being used in phishing scams. Domain-level authentication can verify the domain from which a message claims to be sent. In addition, an emailing domain can instruct receiving email servers how to handle unauthenticated messages, and can send a message to receiving servers to send alerts to the emailing domain when spammers attempt to send messages that claim to be from an address at the emailing domain.

On a positive note, the report also found that the majority of web hosts integrate the cost and configuration of SSL/TLS directly into the website creation process, helping to ensure that small businesses take advantage of it. SSL/TLS offers certain assurances to a website’s visitors that they are viewing a legitimate site rather than a fake one. It also enables an encrypted connection between a browser and a server and protects against changes to information exchanged through the website.

The report concluded that small businesses should pay close attention to the security features of the hosting plans being offered by web hosting services and should actively look for plans that offer both SSL/TLS and email authentication technologies. The report notes that although the majority of web hosting services do not offer email authentication as part of their services, these technologies are free to use and implementation costs to web hosting services are most likely to be small.

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About this Author

Doneld Shelkey, Technology attorney, Morgan Lewis

Doneld G. Shelkey represents clients in global outsourcing, commercial contracts, and licensing matters, with a particular focus on the e-commerce and electronics entertainment industries. Doneld assists in the negotiation of commercial transactions for domestic and international manufacturers, technology innovators, and retailers, and counsels clients in the e-commerce and electronics entertainment industries on consumer licensing and virtual property matters.

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Katherine B. O'Keefe, Morgan Lewis, Technology Lawyer

Katherine B. O’Keefe is part of a team that handles critical commercial transactions that enable our clients to run their business operations effectively. The team is focused on technology transactions, including licensing, services, and alliance deals that involve emerging technologies such as cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), and data analytics. Our technology, outsourcing, and commercial transactions lawyers assist clients in managing their online presence, from website development, hosting, and maintenance; to privacy and use policies; to data breach and retention issues.