Seven Security Tips to Protect Web Servers
Web servers are the technical vaults of our information online, and it's important to know how to best protect them. Read on and follow these seven security tips to see how to properly safeguard your server.
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The web server is the technical vault of your online identity. Your web server holds all your data, database, software, log and transaction details, etc. Highly secured and sensitive information is out there on your web servers, which makes them the most targeted vaults of an organization.
With the rise of cloud computing and third-party servers, dynamic nature of datacenters, extensive use of social media, and advanced use of hacking tools and technology by cyber criminals, the security issues of cyber assets have become a massive challenge.
Since the environment is so dynamic, to grab onto any real sense of stability, it is important to toughen the security levels throughout the organization's infrastructure. Securing just a part of the web assets does not work. If an organization secures the website while the web server is insecure, or vice versa, that would leave the business at a huge risk. If nothing else, securing your web server is as significant as securing your website, web apps, and the web network.
The overall security of an organization is determined from its weakest, most vulnerable point. While securing web servers is a specialized task and needs an immense amount of caution as well as hard work, it is mandatory to avoid any reprehensible data breaches.
It is possible to control the flow of traffic in order to check for malicious activities in both physical and virtual environments, on enterprise servers as well as on cloud hosting. The segregation of the Layer 7 traffic is also required along with various other strong security measures such as intrusion protection, malware protection, and vulnerability protection for 360 degrees around datacenter security and more importantly for the server security.
What Exactly is Web Server Security?
A web server is used for various functions such as data management, email exchange, payment gateway, hosting various web-based applications and website hosting, etc. To secure a server that is deployed on the web, experts must seal all its vulnerable aspects via a streamlined process of implementing various security layers to keep it intrusion proof. Implementation of various security layers include securing the operating system, hosted applications, and network.
While serving various data packets on demand, the server security ensures that each and every request to inject malware into a server, fetch sensitive information, and Bot attacks are efficiently dealt with, and under no circumstances can an outsider or an illicit source gains access operation or information.
Security functions such as anti-malware, application control, data encryption, endpoint firewall, file integrity administration, host-intrusion prevention, vulnerability containment, and web threat protection are designed to maintain both the physical and virtual server’s security.
Secure Socket Shell (SSH), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, Firewalls, Private network or Virtual private network (VPN), Transport Layer Security (TLS) Encryption, Service audit and file audit, etc. are a few tools and techniques that help secure the information assets or the sensitive data on a corporate network.
Web Server Security Measures
To avoid the devastating consequences of cyber threat, an organization must follow a streamlined process and implement the web server security measures dexterously. These seven basic web server security measures are a must for each and every web server on the World Wide Web.
Cryptographic keys or SSH keys are used to authenticate the login of an SSH server. They are a far safer alternative to the password-based logins. Authentication requires the user to use a private key and all passwords and authentications are encrypted. Repeated attempts can break the password-based logins and SSH key authentication permits a user to disable the password based authentication.
Attackers are not able to break the SSH key authentication as the key usually has more bits than the password storage, which leads to more combinations than necessary and gives false results to the hackers. Too many combinations make the algorithms of an SSH key unbreakable.
It is easy to generate an SSH key on your system and enable the same as a public key on your web-based server. To furthermore enhance the security, you can limit the number of attempts to guess a password.
Firewalls can be software or a piece of hardware that allow or restrict the access of ports as per the permissions enabled. The restricted access limits the number of components that can be attacked. Firewalls are extremely difficult to breach and hence are the top choice of everyone from personal computers to web-based servers.
Firewalls are easy to install and must be enabled when the server is being initially set up. Additionally, before enabling any services from your computer or server, the firewalls must be configured appropriately. Usually, a server offers the following services:
Public services such as a web domain or website that can be accessed by anyone.
Private services such as the backend services or the access control locations can be accessed by selected group.
Internal services such as the internal data access on the server by the server itself
Firewalls ensure that the access is limited as per permission and there are no intrusions in the internal services.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Creating a private network and making it available only to the restricted area or a few individuals is a great way to block intrusions to the sensitive data. A VPN creates a secure connection between the computers that are remotely located and the network works as a local network for these individual systems. With the rise of BYOD/BYOT, use of a VPN is a preferable choice of organizations that have internal communication connected to the servers; for e.g. the highly sensitive sales and marketing communication of an organization.
Other applications must be configured to allow the traffic on a virtual interface. The services that are used by clients on the public internet should be exposed to the public network.
Use of private network in a datacenter is simple, and IT admin can configure applications and firewalls to use the private network. To enable security, each VPN server must be installed while keeping in mind the shared security and configuration data to make secure connections. Once a VPN is installed, applications should be configured to use VPN.
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and SSL Encryption
PKI creates, manages, and validates certificates that identify individuals as well as encrypts the communication that prevents man-in-the-middle attacks. SSL certificates are isused to validate different enterprises and establish secure and encrypted communication. The managing certificates segregate the attackers posing as servers and validate only the genuine serves to encrypt the traffic.
Each server is individually configured via a trusted certificate authority. These CA signed certificates can be indirectly trusted and used. The TLS/SSL encrypts the communication without a VPN tunnel and offers a similar amount of security.
While managing and the renewal of the SSL/TLS certificates is a bit of an effort. SSL/TLS certificates can be implemented on the servers with the provided guidelines with ease. It creates overhead burden while creating, signing, and cancelling certificates.
With the consideration of Google for making SSL/TLS and PKI mandatory, the importance of these certificates speaks for itself.
As soon as the blueprint of server implementation is ready and the above-stated server security measures have been implemented, the next step is to analyze your security to map all the exposed and vulnerable components.While this task is quite a handful, the sooner it is implemented, the safer your cyber assets will be.
Service auditing is a process for finding the active services running on your server. The process finds which communication ports and protocols are active. If the system has more active service, there are high chances of vulnerability, therefore, service auditing helps the IT department to check a few things like the firewall setting for traffic filter, shutdown unnecessary services, any security alerts for vulnerability. Configuring your server security and firewall settings based on this analysis helps you keep your cyber assets intrusion free and safe. When any server is configured in the system, this process should be followed.
Basic service auditing is quite simple as IT department can see which ports are used for services on each interface.
File Auditing and Intrusion Detection
File Auditing refers to the comparison of record files of the system against the current system. The reason behind doing this is to find the changes in the system that are labeled as authorized.
On the other side, an intrusion detection system (IDS) refers to software that supervises a system or network for illicit activities and keeps a check on the file in the system that has been changed. Now, securing a system is quite a serious task and for that, you have to start at file-level auditing in your system, it should be done timely, following automated process. By following this process, you can find any altered file done by intruders.
IDS process is a rigorous process that includes any inferior changes in the server and defined paths for baseline. The updating process is complicated as the IT department has to recheck the system before running updates, and after that, the baseline should be recreated to consider software changes. To defend against intruders, it is wise to locate audit reports.
Isolated Execution Environments
Isolating execution environments or Trusted Computing Base (TCB) means to provide a dedicated space to individual components for its functions (e.g. hosting the components that need to be accessed by the public are run on a different server and separating the private web servers from the public ones.)
Individual process isolation enhances the ability to hide any security problems. Thus, individual process isolation can decrease the chance of intrusion in infrastructure.
While moving the components that need to be segregated to a different machine is the best level of isolation, setting up an individual environment for each process is not a foolproof method and there are ample of ways of breaking out. Providing a dedicated server to segregate the vulnerable components might be a costly affair.
The above strategies can be used to improve system security and should be implemented soon. The longer you wait, the less effective these security measures become, therefore, implementing security together with applications and services will be a better option.
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