Is Virus Scanning on Web Hosts Important?


Is your website safe from viruses and malware? Why do websites often offer virus scanning on their own files available for download? We often hear from our users that their websites are definitely clean, because they’ve obviously not uploaded any nefarious programs on it. While you may be in control of your own web content, it is unfortunately possible for others to hijack your website and insert malware that can steal others’ sensitive information, spread viruses, infect visitors to your website and more.

A single website can have thousands of security loopholes for malware to hide, even more so if you are using a popular software that others have found exploits in. It can be easy for attackers to find a way into vulnerable or outdated plug-ins, systems and more if they already know how to crack the code. As such, even if your website is a simple blog, that does not mean it is immune to malware attacks.

On cPanel, there is a handy tool called Virus Scanner that can be used to scan your entire server – including email messages and web files – for possible viruses, malware or trojan horses. Virus Scanner checks the contents of your web server against databases containing information on known threats. Not all web hosts install Virus Scanner on their clients’ control panels by default, so if you don’t see the option in your cPanel, you may have to contact your web host provider to install it for you.

What Does Virus Scanner Do?

cPanel’s Virus Scanner is designed to look out for any possible threats in your server, including malware, viruses, trojan horses or other threats. Upon opening Virus Scanner, you will have the option to select which sections of the server it should scan. These sections include your email contents, home directory, public_html directory and public_ftp directory. You can also opt to conduct a full scan of your entire hosting account. Depending on the size of items being scanned, Virus Scanner may take a while to complete its report.

Upon completion of the scan, if any possible threats are identified, Virus Scanner will present you with the option to quarantine the threats, destroy them or ignore them. Selecting “quarantine” will result in the infected files being moved to a quarantine directory in your server. If “destroy” is selected, Virus Scanner will delete the infected files. Otherwise, it will leave the files unchanged.

Can cPanel’s Virus Scanner Replace My Computer’s Antivirus Program?

In short, no, they have different functions. Antivirus programs installed on computers work on scanning the computer’s local system for threats, including the file storage on your local hard disk. If a threat is present on your web server, your computer’s antivirus will be unable to pick it up unless the infected file is downloaded to your computer. Likewise, your cPanel’s Virus Scanner is only able to scan the contents of your hosting account and not your computer’s hard disk.

If you keep a synchronized backup between your computer’s hard disk and your server’s file directory, your computer’s antivirus may be able to alert you if the copies on your hard disk contain any threats, which you can then investigate further on your web server with Virus Scanner.

How Can I Minimize Getting Infected?

Of course, prevention is better than cure. One important measure to minimize the chances of getting attacked is to ensure that all programs, systems and plug-ins on your website are up-to-date. In some cases, the software may have become outdated due to a security breach being found and corrected in a subsequent update. Failure to update the software would leave your copy open to the breach. Alternatively, support may have been discontinued for outdated software, which could result in possible loopholes found and exploited. Either way, it is always recommended that you keep everything on your server updated. Some programs have a setting where you can enable automatic updating whenever a new version is available. Another measure you can take is to scan every foreign file you upload to your server. Be sure that you conduct virus scans on third-party files that you plan to transfer to your directory. You can also double-check a hashing sum of the file against what is provided by the file owner, to ensure that your copy has not been altered.