A Closer Look at cPanel Notifications

In recent updates, cPanel has modified some of the notification settings for their control panel. As a result, you may find that the priority of certain notification types have changed and you may begin to receive notifications that you previously had not encountered. In particular, the notification options for Security Advisor changed with the release of WHM 56 on April 26, 2016.

The notification changes by cPanel are meant to both help users better manage their servers and also keep them informed of potential security risks, such as those posed by outdated software versions which no longer receive updates.

With some exceptions, many of the notifications are purely informational and not necessarily a cause for alarm. Here are the most common notifications followed up on via support requests:

‘New security advisor notifications with high importance’

WHM’s Security Advisor routinely performs a security scan on the server and alerts you to items it considers potential security risks. For each item flagged, the cPanel notification will clearly explain how to resolve the issue at your convenience. It’s important to note that while some recommendations, such as enabling SMTP Restrictions, Enabling Brute Force Protection, and increasing Password Strength Requirements are worthy of attention in nearly all cases, other recommendations may not be appropriate for your situation. For example, you may prefer not to disable root SSH access or SSH password authentication (and should not unless you have set up and tested SSH keys to connect to your server). To learn more about specific messages, visit our article on cPanel Security Advisor Notices. If you need guidance, feel free to contact Heroic Support®.

‘Your SSL Certificate is now available for download and installation’

Beginning with WHM version 56, cPanel now includes a free signed SSL certificate to cover the hostname (and only the hostname) of the server on which it runs. This feature eliminates warnings and notices associated with using self-signed SSL certificates and protects all connections to server services, such as email and ftp, and is automatically installed and renewed when possible. In order for the automatic installation to occur, however, the server’s hostname must resolve in a browser (that is, it must have a DNS record). Additionally, if you already have purchased an SSL to cover your hostname (either a dedicated SSL or a wildcard) cPanel will not attempt to overwrite it. Only self-signed SSLs installed on the server services (cPanel/WHM, FTP, SMTP, and the Mailserver) will be overwritten. Only if you have a purchased SSL installed on the hostname, and allow it to expire, will cPanel replace it. In any case, no action should be required on your part unless automated installation fails. In that event, you may contact Heroic Support® for assistance.

‘The system will automatically switch the mail server from Courier to Dovecot … in order to continue receiving updates.’

In cPanel/WHM versions up to 11.52, users were able to choose between two mail servers: Courier and Dovecot. Courier was selected by default, and most cPanel users never had reason to switch. However, beginning with cPanel/WHM version 54, Courier has been deprecated. cPanel will no longer support Courier in future releases, and the control panel can not be updated until the mailserver is switched.

If you want to switch the mail server yourself, you can follow our guide. Should you prefer not to switch to Dovecot and would like to continue to use Courier, you will need to change your cPanel update preferences and select the LTS (long-term support) release tier. cPanel will continue to send daily emails until one of these two actions have been taken. If you do not take any action, cPanel will automatically switch the mailserver at the time indicated in the email.

‘The server has POP3 before SMTP enabled’

This means that SMTP authentication is not being strictly enforced on the server. Effectively, any user who has successfully logged in to receive mail is treated as authenticated to also send mail from the same IP address for an hour after their successful incoming login.

The important thing to note is that it allows the IP address from which a successful email login was made to access the SMTP server, not just the specific user or device from which the successful login was made. In a modern home or office environment, a single public IP address typically is shared by many devices on that network. That’s also the case when you’re connected to a public wireless network, such as at a local coffee shop or shopping center.

With POP Before SMTP (also referred to as POP3 Before SMTP) enabled, it’s possible that a malicious user or compromised device connected to the same network — regardless of how well-secured your personal computer, workstation or mobile device may be — could relay mail through your server. Mitigating that potential security risk would be the primary reason for disabling POP Before SMTP on your server.

However, you should be aware that disabling POP Before SMTP means that any email account would be required to use SMTP authentication, and that would need to be configured in each individual mail client used with each email account in order for the account to be able to send mail.

While all modern mail clients such as recent versions of Outlook, Mac Mail and Thunderbird and any recent smartphone have that ability, the setting may not be enabled by default. If that’s the case, the account configuration would need to be adjusted in the email client.

For assistance configuring email clients, see How To Set Up Any Email Client.

‘The server has unmonitored services’/’The service has failed’

Through its ChkServd service, cPanel is able to monitor enabled services and automatically restart them when necessary. This is separate from, and unrelated to, Sonar Monitoring services which you can configure in your Manage dashboard.

While this is not a new capability, cPanel recently began notifying users of it, along with a list of any enabled cPanel services which were not configured already for monitoring. It is recommended, though completely optional, to enable monitoring for all active cPanel services to improve stability and ensure that services can be recovered as quickly as possible. You can enable monitoring in WebHost Manager at Service Manager, under the Service Configuration section in the left menu.

One thing to keep in mind is that cPanel will alert you to any service it has found to be down and automatically restarted via ChkServd, even if the service intentionally was stopped, such as during an update or a required restart of another service upon which it is dependent.

What that means is that you should not immediately assume the worst any time you receive a “Service Failed” or “Service Recovered” alert from cPanel. If you receive only a single notification of a service restarted, and not multiple alerts for the same service over an extended period of time, there generally is no cause for concern. However, should you receive multiple such alerts for a service, or should the alert indicate that the service could not automatically be restarted, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we may investigate.

‘Altered RPMs found’

While the message subject can sound somewhat ominous, it should not automatically be cause for alarm. Typically this message is generated when cPanel performs an update check and discovers that local files are out of date, have become corrupted or have been updated outside of cPanel. Occasionally, it also can occur when both the 32- and 64-bit versions of a service have been installed.

This message will contain the filename of the package it found to be incomplete, corrupted or otherwise broken; running the command referenced in the message (/usr/local/cpanel/scripts/check_cpanel_rpms –fix) should result in it re-downloading the file successfully.

Please note that anytime updates are pushed to your server outside of cPanel, for example when an important security patch is applied to multiple servers simultaneously, this notice also can be triggered. The issue can be easily rectified by updating cPanel’s operating system packages, which support is happy to help with if you’re unable to run the command specified in the cPanel notification.

‘The cPanel & WHM update process failed’

WebHost Manager/cPanel by default checks for updates to its control panel each day. Due the number of servers running cPanel, there can be times when too many servers are checking in with cPanel’s update server simultaneously, causing the request to time out. And occasionally, the cPanel update server itself may be unreachable.

Whenever that happens, cPanel will alert you and automatically try again the next day. You can, however, manually force it to check for updates (and automatically install the update, if one is available) should you prefer not to wait.

You can find instructions for manually updating cPanel at How To Upgrade and Patch cPanel and WHM.

Should a manual update also fail, or should you receive consecutive update failure messages, please do not hesitate to contact our Heroic Support® team.

‘System integrity checking detected a modified system file’

The default notification preferences beginning in WHM/cPanel version 54 can cause this notification to be sent immediately following an update to cPanel/WHM itself.

This notification may alert you to “FAILED” md5sum comparison tests on any server software (and usually on several components at a time), but should not immediately be cause for alarm.

The server message is triggered any time a core file is changed, and makes it clear that it may be the result of an OS update or application upgrade. If you have automatic updates enabled in WHM, have manually updated cPanel/WHM, or have requested that it be updated for you, then you can safely ignore this message. If you don’t have automatic updates enabled and have not recently updated cPanel, please do not hesitate to contact our Heroic Support® team.

Disabling cPanel Notifications or Changing Alert Settings

You can configure settings for all the cPanel alerts you receive in WHM under Contact Manager in the Server Contacts section of the left menu.

The first tab, Communication Type, allows you to set the alert level that will trigger a notification to each of the communication methods: AIM, email, ICQ, Post to a URL, Pushbullet, or SMS.

The second tab, Notifications, allows you to set the minimum priority for each type of event, such as Service failures (ChkServd), Unmonitored Services, or Backup Successful, which will trigger a notification. You also can disable notifications for each event type using the dropdown menu under the Importance category.
 

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