Internet Neighborhoods

Deciding on which web hosting provider to use should be based on more than the hosting fee, or you stand the possibility that your site will end up on a blacklist that may prevent many of your potential visitors from reaching your site. Whether you are hosting a blog or a small business website, your ultimate goal is to have your site serve your visitors the content you want to share. But if your site is hosted as a virtual site on server that might be actually hosting hundreds of other web sites, you shouldn’t be surprised when potential visitors claim they can no longer access your site.

When this happens, many site owners don’t consider blacklists as the source of their problem. Blacklists are the customary means for security tools such as content filters and DNS systems to block access to web sites or servers that are known to be providing malicious content or redirects to other malicious web sites. Now when you start to think about the inexpensive web hosting company placing hundreds of sites on the same server, you can start to see an analogy to a physical neighborhood in the virtual neighborhood represented by the many sites hosted on a single server. If you are opening a new business that you expect your customers to visit in person, you might consider the square foot cost of the lease, but more importantly you consider the location for both convenience and safety of your customers. But this logic is often ignored when setting up a web presence as price seems to be overriding logic with little if any consideration given to potential web site visitor safety.

When a web site owner has experienced being on a blacklist, they will usually try to find out if their site is truly malicious. For the non-technical this is often a challenge. For some host names, the google web crawler aka Spider can tell a site owner if their site has been found to be malicious. Google also offers the ability for web site owners to check out how their site appears to the google crawler. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/158587?hl=en

With the appropriate URL, web site owners can also view the status of their pages through the google malicious URL service. In most cases this can be done based on IP address, host or domain name or AS number. So if we take a site that is known to be clear of any malicious content and check it, it should show that google has found no problems with the site. If we use the AS number, which includes all of the sites on the hosting provider network, you can check provider for reputation as seen by the google crawler (http://safebrowsing.clients.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?client=Firefox&hl=en-US&site=AS:46606). One can think of this as the neighborhood that the hosting provider represents. Here are some examples of this using the site from my local bike shop cycle-logic.biz. The report for this site at http://safebrowsing.clients.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?client=Firefox&hl=en-US&site=Cycle-logic.biz shows no malicious content has been found on the site over the past 90 days. So why would this site end up on a blacklist? Simple answer is the Internet neighborhood in which the site resides has a very poor reputation. The IP address represents all of the sites commingled with the cycle-logic.biz web site. If we go a little further and look at virustotal’s report for the IP address 192.254.185.32, many sites from this IP address are listed as being suspect. https://www.virustotal.com/en/ip-address/192.254.185.32/information/. The best source for checking to see if an IP address is showing up in any blacklists is http://dawhois.com/rbl_check/.  Currently this site is reports the IP address hosting cycle-logic.biz,  192.254.185.32, is  listed in 11 blacklists.

So if you are considering hosting a web site or blog, research the provider’s reputation through their AS number. If there are multiple sites noted in their record at google, try another provider. Reputable providers will usually act quickly if notified of malicious content on a customer’s site and either notify the customer or take down the content. While these providers may cost a little more than $5.95 a month, you will significantly reduce the risk that your site will get on a blacklist due to other sites being hosted on the same IP address are providing malicious content or redirects to other malicious web sites.

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