9 Essential Steps of a Server Hardening Process

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Makenzie Buenning      

In any given IT environment, a server is the foundation that provides services for endpoints to carry out various actions. They are essential for computer networks to have shared access or information. Unfortunately, servers are often targets for cyberattacks due to their ability to reach other parts of the IT environment and wreak havoc. With these attacks on the rise, developing a server hardening process will help organizations improve its security posture.

What is Server Hardening?

Server hardening is a type of system hardening process that aims to protect and secure a server against cyberattacks by reducing its attack surface. An attack surface consists of all possible points of a system where an unauthorized attacker can attempt to enter. Minimizing the number of these vulnerabilities “hardens” a server against exploitations and increases data security.

How Does a Server Hardening Process Work?

A server hardening process works by taking steps to guarantee that all aspects of a server are as secure as possible. With the help of tools like IT operations management software, you can gain better visibility of the different components in your server and ensure that different parts of the process have been properly executed. Each step in the server hardening process helps you to further secure and protect your server.

Server Hardening Process: 9 Steps

A server hardening process contains many actions that need to be carried out. They don’t necessarily need to be done in a particular order, but each step should be completed to ensure that your server is hardened and secure against cyberattacks.

1) Secure server location

Place your server in a safe location. Verify that the settings are ideal (temperature, proximity, etc.) and that the area is locked and restricted only to approved staff.

2) Control access permissions

Instituting the “principle of least privilege” is an effective way to verify that important systems, programs, configurations, and other operations are only accessible to those who need it. By limiting access to the business’s most critical business technology and operations, it creates an additional layer of security that makes a server compromise less likely.

3) Set up your firewall

A firewall is a barrier set in place to separate the computer network from any external sources, and it’s a security system for your computer network which monitors incoming and outgoing traffic. Setting up your firewall is a wise way to monitor traffic within your network and block unwanted traffic coming from outside the network, which can help prevent attackers from entering the network in the first place.

4) Manage configurations

There are multiple types of configurations to manage in your IT environment such as user, server, network, and NTP (network time protocol). Active management of these different settings ensures consistency across all the systems that exist in your IT environment. It also helps you gain visibility into systems across your server and know how they impact each other.

5) Secure user accounts

Protect the user accounts on your server. Keep usernames and passwords private, and make them strong and unique. Also, consider using MFA when possible to heighten the level of security.

6) Apply patches to vulnerabilities

Apply software patches as soon as you can and make sure your IT environment is continuously updated to ensure the highest security. Unpatched server software is easily exploited by cybercriminals, so be sure to install updated software to protect those vulnerabilities. To learn more about effectively applying patches, read about the patch management process.

7) Remove unnecessary software

Keep your network tidy by removing software and applications that you no longer use. Hackers are difficult to identify if they’re accessing your data through software you’re not actively using. Plus, an organized network is much easier to secure.

8) Plan a backup strategy

Backup your server data to ensure that important organizational information is lost in the event of a cyberattack. Using designated backup software can help guarantee that your data is backed up correctly. Create a backup strategy that will best serve the needs of your organization.

9) Continuously monitor

Continually monitoring your server is a step that never ends in a server hardening process. This allows you to be aware of any activity on your system, track log-ins and know who’s accessing certain areas of the server. This knowledge allows you to be proactive in your efforts to secure your server.

The Importance of Server Hardening

It is vital to take preventative action and secure your organization’s server. If your server becomes compromised due to a hacker exploiting its vulnerabilities, this means that you no longer have full control of the server. With the hacker’s newfound access, they could send spam mail, attack other servers, or install malware, all of which could result in corrupted devices or data, unplanned downtime, a damaged reputation, and extraordinary costs.

Server hardening is important because it can mitigate the effects of possible cyberattacks, and it is key for securing the data and operations of your server. It is a necessary strategy that helps to support business uptime and continual operations.

Increase Your Server Security Through Server Hardening

Cybersecurity is important for all businesses using technology in their day-to-day operations. Server hardening, in particular, is an essential process to keep your organization’s data and IT environment safe and fully functional. Check out server management to learn more tips and best practices on how to track and maintain optimal servers.

Through the use of remote monitoring and management software, NinjaOne enables simple and straightforward server hardening that allows you to easily view settings, configurations, and overall server health. Sign up for a free trial to see how NinjaOne can help you protect your server.

5 Bite-Sized Ways to Improve Your Business Every Week

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Join fellow growth-minded MSPs and feed your business with new tips and tutorials delivered straight to your inbox.

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