How to Use Let’s Encrypt with Cloudflare

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Cloudflare is an excellent and well-known content delivery network. A CDN can increase site speed by utilizing Cloudflare’s global caching network to deliver content closer to a visitor’s location. You can also easily attach Cloudflare as an add-on product to your existing Liquid Web server, but there are some configurations to consider.

In this article, we will be covering how to use Cloudflare in conjunction with Let’s Encrypt SSL. Cloudflare will act as the CDN while Let’s Encrypt performs the SSL (HTTPS) encryption (in lieu of Cloudflare’s Universal SSL). Let’s Encrypt is an amazing open-service for creating free SSL certs for your site and for this tutorial you should already have Let’s Encrypt installed on your server.  While there are correct ways to use Cloudflare with Let’s Encrypt there are also configuration settings that could cause connection errors to appear. So, it’s important to know which options to selecting when setting up these entities.

Step 1: First, you will need a Cloudflare account and will need to generate a Let’s Encrypt x3 cert on your server.

Note:
Our Managed WooCommerce and Managed WordPress plans will automatically generate a valid Let’s Encrypt SSL cert for your primary domain set in the manager when your site goes live or if you rename your primary domain in the manager.

If an incorrect SSL mode is selected in Cloudflare it will not load and instead will display an invalid SSL cert.  This is a common error and one that can be avoided to ensure that your customer’s have a positive and trusted experience with your site.

A key part is to make certain the correct SSL mode is set in Cloudflare since it offers a number of different SSL modes:

  • Off
  • Flexible SSL
  • Full SSL (Recommended Setting)
  • Full SSL (Strict)

Step 2: SSL Modes can be accessed from the Crypto section in the Cloudflare dashboard.

Now that you are in the settings of Crypto you will need to go through these specific settings in Cloudflare; these changes will take maybe 30 – 50 seconds to make.

Note:
When using Cloudflare, Cloudflare’s universal SSL is what browsers would see, unless you manually upload your own SSL certificate, which requires the $200/month business plan. Most customers will be fine with utilizing Cloudflare’s universal SSL.

Step 3: Select the domain you want to work with, then select “Crypto” top menu option in Cloudflare. Under SSL select – Full.  Scroll down to see Always use HTTPS and set it to ON.

Step 4: On the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) section select Enable HSTS

You will need to select the “I understand” checkbox and click on the Next button.

You will need to select the “I understand” checkbox and click on the Next button.

Step 5: A pop up box will appear, here you’ll set:

  • Max-Age: 3 months
  • Apply HSTS policy to subdomains (includeSubDomains): Off
  • Preload: Off

Now click Save

Step 6: Set to Minimum TLS Version to TLS 1.2

Step 7: Opportunistic Encryption: ON

Step 8: TLS 1.3: Enabled

Step 9: Automatic HTTPS Rewrites: On

Step 10: Disable Universal SSL by selecting this option you are no longer using Cloudflare Universal SSL certificate. You will only use SSLs stored in your server, in this case, Let’s Encrypt. Click “I understand” and select Confirm.

These simple changes made in Cloudflare, will help you to avoid any dreaded downtime when using Let’s Encrypt with Cloudflare. Meaning that your customer’s can fully trust that their data is securely transferred with HTTPS through Let’s Encrypt’s.

Still need help setting up Cloudflare and Let’s Encrypt on your server?  Reach out to us!  Our Liquid Web servers come with 24/7 assistance from our knowledgable support team.  Get the support you deserve today!

Managed WordPress – Frequently Asked Questions

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We have collected some of the most common questions that customers ask about our Managed WordPress Hosting platform and housed them in one place.

Continue reading “Managed WordPress – Frequently Asked Questions”

The Best Ways to Secure WordPress

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On our Managed WordPress hosting platform, we strive to ensure security with regularly scheduled patches and updates. By utilizing our intrusion prevention software, we mitigate malicious activity and block repeated failed logins for your WordPress admin portal. Furthermore, our web-application firewall, restricts unneeded ports along with custom rules to help protect you on the application level. We take care of the administration work so you can spend more time securing your site. Below our Managed WordPress admins share tested (and trusted) implementations to keep your site locked up tight.

WordPress Security Plugins

iThemes Security

The iThemes Security plugin is a fantastic addition to enhance your security, and it is easy to install.  By adding an extra layer of protection, below is a list of security features that iThemes Security Pro provides.

Click To See iThemes Security Features
    • Banned Users – Allows you to completely ban hosts and user agents from your site
    • Network Brute Force Protection – Banning users who have tried to break into other sites from breaking into yours. The network protection will automatically report the IP addresses of failed login attempts to iThemes
    • SSL – This feature redirects all http traffic to https
    • Strong Password Enforcement – Force users to use strong passwords as rated by the WordPress password meter
    • System Tweaks:
      • Disable Directory Browsing
      • Filter Suspicious Query Strings in the URL
      • Remove File Writing Permissions – Prevents scripts and users from being able to write to the wp-config.php file and .htaccess file
      • Disable PHP in Uploads – Disable PHP execution in the uploads directory. This blocks requests to maliciously uploaded PHP files in the uploads directory.
      • Disable PHP in Plugins – Disable PHP execution in the plugins directory. This blocks requests to PHP files inside plugin directories that can be exploited directly.
    • Change WordPress Salts – Use WordPress Salts to encrypt any passwords saved within WordPress, this adds an extra layer in password protection. Check this box and then save settings to change your WordPress Salts.

Salt Encryption Settings

  • WordPress Tweaks:
    • Comment Spam– Reduce Comment Spam
    • XML– RPC feature allows external services to access and modify content on the site. Common example of services that make use of XML-RPC are the Jetpack plugin, the WordPress mobile app, and pingbacks. If the site does not use a service that requires XML-RPC, select the “Disable XML-RPC” setting as “disabling XML-RPC” which prevents attackers from using the feature to attack the site. Disable Pingbacks – This feature only disables pingbacks. Other XML-RPC features will work as normal. Select this setting if you require features such as Jetpack or the WordPress Mobile app.
    • Block XML– RPC requests that contain multiple login attempts.
    • Restricted Access– Restrict access to most REST API data. This means that most requests will require a logged in user or a user with specific privileges, blocking public requests for potentially private data.
    • Force Unique Nickname– This forces users to choose a unique nickname when updating their profile or creating a new account which prevents bots and attackers from easily harvesting user’s login usernames from the code on author pages. Note this does not automatically update existing users; it will affect author feed urls if used.
    • Protect Against Tabnapping– Alter target=”_blank” links to protect against tabnapping. Enabling this feature helps protect visitors to this site (including logged in users) from phishing attacks launched by a linked site.
    • Login with Email Address or Username– By default, WordPress allows users to log in using either an email address or username. This setting allows you to restrict logins to only accept email addresses or usernames.

To install, login to your WordPress dashboard, click on “Plugins” on the left. Click on “Add New” and use the search box to find “iThemes Security (formerly Better WP Security)”. Click on “Install Now”, and then activate the plugin.  On the left bar, click on “Security” and iThemes will start a security check on your site.  Additionally, you can click on Security > Settings on the left to enable any security features that fit your website.

WordFence

Wordfence Security – Firewall & Malware Scan plugin – Wordfence includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner.  One of the key features is their threat defense feed arms that are supplied with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures and malicious IP addresses to keep your website safe.  Click on the Wordfence subtitle to jump to installation and setup instructions.

CloudFlare

You can create an account with CloudFlare to help protect your websites from various attacks including DDoS mitigation, customer Cloudflare helps mitigate DDoS attacks, prevent customer data breaches, and block malicious bot abuse. Cloudflare DNS is DDoS protection for domain resolution. It sits behind the same 15 Tbps network that protects over 7 million Internet properties from denial-of-service attacks.  Cloudflare DNS also comes with built-in load-balancing, automatic failover, rate-limiting, and filtering. Cloudflare also offers DNSSEC to add a layer of trust on top of DNS by providing authentication.

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Web application firewall (WAF) rulesets – Available on all of Cloudflare’s paid plans, the WAF has built-in rulesets, including rules that mitigate WordPress specific threats and vulnerabilities. Additional features: automatic cache purge, and header rewrite to prevent a redirect loop when Cloudflare’s Universal SSL is enabled.  You can change Cloudflare’s settings from within the plugin itself without needing to navigate to the cloudflare.com dashboard. The available settings to change are: cache purge, security level, Always Online, and image optimization.

Sucuri

As an auditing, malware scanner, and security hardening plugin, it’s a security suite that works well with your existing website’s  security. This plugin offers a great set of security features such as Security Activity Auditing, File Integrity Monitoring, Remote Malware Scanning, Blacklist Monitoring, Effective Security Hardening, Post-Hack Security Actions, Security Notifications, and Website Firewall (premium).

General Security Recommendations

We are living in an age where security needs to be updated at all times. Passwords is one of those crucial security mechanisms that needs to be updated at least every 30 to 60 days. The recommendation for each password complexity is to be at least 15 characters containing a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The passwords should not contain dictionary words, usernames, personal information, or letter sequences. The passwords should not be reused in a given year.

Along with having secured passwords, your computer should also be protected.  Attackers can exploit computers that have outdated operating systems using worms, malware, Trojans, and viruses. You will need to make sure your computer has the latest security patches and fixes.  All browsers should be the latest versions. Do not install any software or browser plugins from any untrusted parties.  Install reputable anti-virus software and conduct regularly malware scans on your computer.

The most common source for malicious injections are vulnerabilities in CMS software, plugins, themes and other commonly used third party code. We recommend taking measures to update all CMS software, plugins and themes used to the latest versions available from their respective vendors. This would help limit the chance of future infections occurring.

Registering your website with Google Webmaster Tools will tell you the health of your website. Change the Default “admin” username.  Since usernames make up half of login credentials, having the username “admin” made it easier for hackers to do brute-force attacks.

Final Thoughts

Being at the top of your game on security is worthwhile to avoid paying expensive fees to clean up a hacked site, especially since there are many free security options at your disposal. Take a stroll through our Managed WordPress product page and discover how we can take the guesswork out of security. Along with a 24/7 support team at your fingertips, our Managed WordPress platform automatically updates plugins to reduce your site’s vulnerability to malware.