Awareness on Web Site Security

Past hacking and defacement to departmental web sites:

The entire homepage was replaced !!
The center news column was defaced !!
Pic 2
  • Web server hi-jacked for further hacking to the other sites
  • Web server with e-mail capabilities hi-jacked for e-mail spamming
  • Web server contains users' personal information being disclosed
  • Web server contains users' account and password or credit card information being stolen and misused

It is a good practice to:

  • Take stock of departmental public web sites and services, know their hosting locations and responsible personnel (content & technical).
  • For web site that host on departmental server, register your web server with CSC

To avoid mishaps to your sites, things to discuss with your website developer (colleague, student helper, external contractor):

  • Do not install unsolicited software e.g. freeware, shareware.
  • Remove old version of program and data.
  • Put backup of program and data elsewhere/off-line.
  • Separate program source code and executable.
  • Jail application to run in least privilege account.
  • Use secure protocol HTTPS to transfer sensitive information, e.g. username/password and credit card information.
  • Use digital certificate on secured web page.
  • Encrypt sensitive information before storing.
  • Do not allow web page to write to text file or mdb database file.
  • Review web site script to prevent SQL injection that will temper the database, especially via input forms.
  • Review web site script to prevent cross-site scripting which foul input with executable codes.
  • Obtain proper documentation on web site scripting.
  • Sign a non-disclosure agreement on sensitive content.
  • Agree on maintenance and warranty period.
  • Arrangement on staff turnover.
  • How they conduct security testing on the coding and ask for proof.
  • Provide a list of software tools that will be used to build the website.
  • Don't mix development with the production machine.

Remember your web site needs regular attention!

Things to discuss with your web site host (departmental, external ISP):

  • The location of the server is physically secure, access-control is enforced.
  • System and network properly protected.
  • Apply latest system and security patches timely.
  • Have real time anti-virus protection with constant update of virus signature.
  • Enable Firewall.
  • Disable directory browsing.
  • Turn off unnecessary services, functions and features, e.g. SMTP, FTP etc.
  • Do not allow directory to be written by web page, everyone or guest.
  • Use strong password policy.
  • Enable access logging.
  • Customize error responses.
  • Arrangement of web site and content on retirement of service and server migration.
  • List the security measures to be implemented in additional to the forgoing ones.
  • Sign non-disclosure agreement.
  • Well defined incident handling procedure.

Useful reference on web site security: