Heal Your Church WebSite


Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

When good Hosts providers go Bad

What do you do when a good host provider goes bad? That’s the situation I’m in right now. I’m not going to name names, but over the past couple of months, I have been enduring some irritations due to a new host administrator who doesn’t quite grasp the trade-off between ultra-tight security and inconveniencing the user.

It began last month, when I suddently discovered I no longer have shell access to any of my accounts on this particular server. No warning, just poof! When I inquired what the problem was, I received the following response:

Unfortunately, due to a serious security threat to our company’s servers, we have moved forward with removing all commandline access to any of our servers until we feel the threat has subsided. We currently have no estimate when this access will be restored.

After a bit more complaining, “jail” access was restored. Jail access is a term for limited shell access. That’s fine with me, I didn’t need all the commands Linux has to offer, just tar, grep and a few other essential operations for the installation and maintenance of software.

This didn’t last long. The next day, no email, just no access. When I inquired as to why, they replied with:

We enabled jail shell access for you and 5 hours later, the server went down which was continuously working for 33 days. When I checked the logs, found that the server went down after you logged in. I don’t know what you were exactly doing* there with the shell access. I am sorry that we cannot enable shell access for you and I am blocking it. Hope you understand the situation. Thank you for contacting me and please do contact me in case of further issues

     *Please note, the bold emphasis is mine.

Now two things about this bother me. First, by the administrator’s own admission, he didn’t know the cause, just that he granted me jail access and the system crashed. Second, he didn’t check his log files, because had he, he would have realized that all I did was “pico .htaccess” … that is, I used a text editor to make a modification because my site was under attack from a comment spam flood attack. In other words, someone attacking the system dropped it, and by denying the honest man access, the administrator prevented me from protecting the system.

This misunderstanding was eventually resolved, however we had another server-related issue with mission4me.com, email wasn’t getting to or from deanpeters.com. A few months back, I had moved Chuck Holton’s account to another server, then deleted the account on the old server where deanpeters.com resided. Unfortunately, they didn’t remove the MX record, so email between Chuck and I was essentially tossed into a black hole. I resolved this just before I left the country.

Then, when in Jordan, thousands of miles away from my loved ones, email to deanpeters.com ceased to work. Apparently, email I was deleting, or at least sending to the “trash can” wasn’t actually deleted, so it was consuming disk space. The provider, again without warning, stopped any further incoming email. Exactly what I didn’t need to happen at the worst possible time. I conveyed this to the provider, and they responded with a Catch-22. They weren’t going to restore access until I deleted several incoming messages … which I wasn’t going to delete because they were holding them, and I wasn’t going to delete them until I was in country again.

More complaining finally got this resolved, somewhat …

… then last night, I discovered I could no longer send SMTP from my home computer. When I first inquired as to why, here was the response:

Yesterday, the cpanel developers released a bulletin that stated all cpanel servers could be comprimised if they were not updated to version 9.x. Taking security very seriously, we moved forward with this upgrade immediately. However, cpanel always falls victim to introducing new bigs with each release, and it appears this upgrade was no different.

Please try setting up your email client manually (not with the cpanel autoconfig) and making sure that you have checked ‘my server requires authentication’. Out techs tested this connection successfully and replied with their findings. Please let us know if you still have issues.

I was a bit suspicious of this reason. They had in the past identified the wrong cause, and after having updated Cpanel on a server I now manage with the same update, I found no such problem. So I ran some tests of my own and came to the conclusion that they were blocking the IP address: pool-141-156-161-125.esr.east.verizon.net. I informed them as such. Here was their reply:

I am afraid that all the ip’s on that network are completely blocked (on our servers) because of spamming. Since we consider spamming as a serious issue we have taken necessary steps so as to prevent spamming through our servers. In your case I shall directly contact the spam prevention team and ask them to remove your ip if it is blacklisted in their database. Thank you for contacting me. Please contact me back if you have any further questions. Have a nice day.

I asked them if they realized they were blocking an entire portion of the Verizon customers living in the heavily populated Maryland suburbs of DC? Their response was to blame a black hole list:

We do not directly block any ip address due to spamming unless it is from our server. We use rbl’s provided by organisations like tdnsbl.ahbl.org that monitor servers for spamming and maintain a database of such servers so that other s can use them to stop spamming on their mail servers.

I then checked ahbl.org. Not blocked. I checked several other lists. It was only blocked at NJABL.ORG. Why my host provider made me query several blackhole lists is beyond me. Why they would go ahead and trust a single blackhole list that blindly blocks an entire range if IP addresses (Verizon VZ-DSLDIAL-*) without checking my specific IP address is just plain sloppy … especially when said IP isn’t on the eight other blackhole lists they employ.

So please forgive an interruption in service later this week as I go through the painful process of moving HealYourChurchWebSite.com and a few other accounts to servers affected by a host who suddenly had problems with Verizon, blog comment spam flod attacks and actually knowing what the problem is instead of guessing or blaming the first thing that comes to mind.

I personally speculate and attribute this to a new administrator coming town.

9 Comments

  1. Sounds like somebody’s about to lose a customer, neh?

    Sheesh!

  2. Sounds like MeanDean just found someone meaner :o , its too bad you had to go through that kind of experience. Just remember “Vengeance is Mine says the Lord” and he’ll take care of that webhost in His timing. I hope you can find a webhost that doesn’t have the same experiences.

  3. What happened to all the other comments that were here?

  4. Matt, are you sure you don’t mean the comments from a previous post?

    MeanDean, can you share with us where you’re going to move? We’ll be looking for a hosting provider, and laying out the good/bad/ugly is a good thing. I would not put up with what you got from your provider, that’s for sure!

    ssh

  5. Name names. Bad service should be rewarded with its publication.

  6. Bummer. God has kept me from such trials thus far. My worst eneny heretofore has been myself. :)

    Email me. I tried to send you one earlier but who knows where it went…

  7. Some of the comments disappeared when we went from server A to server B

  8. Dean, only post names after you finish the move. At least then you don’t have to worry about them trying to “fight back against you.”

    Even then care should be taken in the mention because we aren’t perfect and have our own “planks” to deal with that pointing out the “specks” the eyes of another should only be done when we have looked after our own.

  9. Ha ha, I have the same problem with my hoster similer to that, he wont grant me access to the server shell because he thinks he should be the only one granted access, so i had to step up above him and go straight to the server owner and have it enabled on my accounts, I dont know why people like to blaim stuff without reading the logs, but he has had some problems with his server too, the hosting provider was saying he was running an IRCD channel, how is the humanly possible if they block IRCD channel ports on their server :P , unless it was a bot :S but anywho was your name server Name Server: NS1.UKDIRECTHOST.BIZ
    Name Server: NS2.UKDIRECTHOST.BIZ

    they have some crappy server, I was also experiencing alot of down time with my biggest site an opensource programmers site http://www.coldfusionzone.com and they didnt seem to know what the problem was, it seems it was their dns server :S because I did a bit of testing, so I had to register by network site was a nameserver which should fix the problem with the crappy service, but I still have no shell access so i cant adjust my server when i Need to :S!