For web hosting providers and server administrators, PHP web server security is a crucial aspect of server management. Here, I have covered 13 web server security strategies to help you run a secure server (and business operations).

1. Use SSH Public Key Authentication

PHP web server security as stated is very critical. The first tip is to disable unencrypted server access (Telnet, FTP, and HTTP). The approved access options should be SSH, SFTP, and HTTPS. Get rid of password authentication on SSH altogether for even better protection and use SSH keys instead.

The user keeps the private key, and the public key is stores on the server. Every time a user wants to log in, the public key is matched with the private key.

2. Strong Passwords

You would be surprised how many server administrators leave the front door open wide. Users prefer easy-to-remember (read easy-to-crack) passwords. As a result, last year saw an outbreak of ransomware attacks, piggybacking brute force attacks on servers with poor SSH passwords.

Always enforce long and random passwords that are safer and limit the chance of breaches.

3. Install and Configure CSF Firewall

The Config Server Firewall is a free, feature-rich firewall that can protect servers against a wide range of attacks. CSF firewall offers stateful packet inspection, limitation of authentication failure rate, flood protection, directory watching, and the use of an external blocklist.

4. Install and Configure Fail2Ban

These days, bots actively search for server and network vulnerabilities. Fail2Ban tracks server logs to look for patterns that suggest malicious actions, such as too many failed authentication attempts or too many connections from the same IP address. Fail2Ban then blocks suspicious connections and alerts the server administrator.

5. Install Tools for Scanning Malware

Ideally, you want to keep malicious users out of the server. However, you want to know about it as soon as possible (preferably AS the server security is being attacked). ClamAV is an outstanding Linux malware scanning tool that works alongside rkhunter (rootkit finder) to tighten up the server security.

There is a fair chance that in combination, these tools can find malware installed on the server. AIDE can be used to create a hashed file table on the server that is regularly checked to confirm that no changes to system-critical files have been made.

6. Keep the Applications Up to Date

Out-of-date software is likely to contain security vulnerabilities that are known to hackers. If you neglect all the other suggestions in this post, which you should not, you should at the very least update the package manager of your Linux distribution and update the server tools and applications.

7. Backup Regularly

It is difficult to ensure that a server is never compromised, so it is important to encrypt and back up data to an offsite location. There are many PHP web servers or hosting providers that offer automatic and on-demand backups like Cloudways managed hosting platform.

8. Monitor the Logs

A server gathers a huge volume of data on what it is doing and who accessed/requested what service. Patterns also expose malicious actions and potential security loopholes. Logwatch is a fantastic tool that can analyze, summarize, and create reports about what is going on at your server. For more active log tracking, Logsentry can be used for hourly reports.

9. Turn off/Disable Unnecessary Services

It is always better to have minimum points of interaction between the internal environment and the outside world. This includes turning off the unneeded modules, deleting unused language modules, disabling the status of the web server, and debugging access.

10. Install ModSecurity

ModSecurity is a Web Application Firewall built to deal with attacks against the application layer. As such, it operates at a higher level than the CSF firewall. It is a great option for protecting web applications, including CMS such as WordPress and ecommerce platforms such as Magento. ModSecurity used to be an Apache module but is now also available for NGINX as well.

11. Install Updated SSL Certificates

SSL is used in server-client and server-server communication.

SSL scrambles and encrypts data so that even if the information is stolen (not an easy task), the criminals cannot do much with the captured data. The certificate not only encrypts data but is also used for user authentication.

12. Hosting Options

The two most common hosting options include dedicated hosting, where your web application is hosted on a dedicated server, and shared hosting, where you share a web server with other users who run their web applications on the same server.

It is always easy and cost-effective to maintain security on a dedicated server because of better control over server resources. Cloud hosting is even better because of inherent security options that automate most of the security processes.

13. Educate the Developers

Developers prefer to assume that their apps run in perfect worlds, where there are limitless resources, users do not make mistakes, and people with ruthless motives do not exist. Unfortunately, they need to face real-world problems at some stage especially related to information security.


You should be more confident in PHP web server security of your server after reading this article and following the security recommendations.

During the initial set-up of a server, many of the security measures should be enforced, while others should be part of continuous or periodic maintenance.

Be sure to follow scheduled security checks if your server monitoring is not automatic.

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