Website security breaches happening on so many big and small-sized corporations have once again confirmed the importance of web server security.
Since the web hosting server contains all your website files and information, inclusive of sensitive ones, it’s essential to keep it fully secured against all kinds of threats and issues.
Hackers with an ill intent never stop finding ways to gain access to a company’s sensitive data. So, this is the major reason why server security is an important element of server management, and for server administrators.
Tips to Improve the Security of Web Hosting Servers
Although no single list of web security tips can be considered complete, the following list is as close as we could get to aid you in securing your web hosting server:
1. Set Up a Public Key Authentication for SSH
Password authentication is a common method that most of the Secure Shell (SSH) clients use to authenticate with remote servers. However, it can be sacked through potential security vulnerabilities, such as brute-force login attempts.
The best alternative to password authentication is a public key authentication in which you generate and store a pair of cryptographic keys on your computer and configure the server to accept the keys. Using key-based authentication has its own set of advantages, including:
- Key-based login is not a usual target for brute-force hacking attacks.
- If a hacker gets access to the server that uses SSH keys, no authentication credentials are at greater risk of being exposed.
- Since a password is not required at login, you can easily log in to servers from automation tools.
How SSH Key Works?
SSH keys are generated in pairs and saved in plain-text files. The key pair includes two parts:
- A private key is commonly named id_rsa. The private key is stored on your local computer and required to be kept secure with set permissions so that no other users on your computer can read the file.
- A public key is commonly named id_rsa.pub and kept on the server. You can share your public key with others.
Note: When any website or service asks for the SSH key, they are referring to the public key.
2. Set a Strong Password
It is not an easy task for hackers to even come closer to invade the security of well- built servers. So, those who lack knowledge of web hosting security, end up choosing easy-to-crack passwords leaving high chances for hackers to exploit opportunities.
Thus, when you are creating a new password, there are plenty of useful tools that measure the strength of the same. As a general practice to have a strong password, create one with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Also, do not forget to change your password once in a while. It would be harder for criminals to figure out the password if you keep changing it regularly.
3. Install and Configure the CSF Firewall
CSF (Config Server Firewall) is a free and advanced firewall for most Linux distributions and Linux-based VPSs. Besides the basic functionality of a firewall, CSF consists of other security features too, including – login/intrusion/flood detections.
Steps to install the CSF firewall
- Step 1 – Downloading: Config Server Firewall needs to be downloaded from the ConfigServer’s website.
- Step 2 – Uncompressing: The downloaded file comes in the form of a tar package. It is to be uncompressed and extracted prior to being used.
- Step 3 – Installing: If you are using some other firewall configuration script, like UFW then you must disable it prior to moving ahead. You can disable UFW by running the command ufw disable. Next, execute the CSF’s installer script.
The firewall is now installed, however, do check whether the iptables modules are available or not.
Steps to configure the CSF firewall
- Step 1 – Configuring Ports: Your server will be more secure if less access is given to VPS. But, not all ports can be closed since clients must be able to use your services.
- Step 2 – Additional Settings: CSF offers a different range of options in its configuration files. The default values are great and can be easily used on almost any server. The default settings are configured to stop flood attacks, port scans, and unauthorized access attempts.
- Step 3 – Applying the Changes: When you are modifying the settings in the csf.conf file, you must save the files and restart CSF for the changes to take effect.
4. Install and Configure Fail2Ban
Fail2Ban is developed to preserve open ports and running services on the server. It analyzes and keeps a check on the failed authorization attempts. This reduces the portability of hacking a server owing to automatic means.
- Fail2Ban Installation: Use the command apt install fail2ban to install Fail2Ban. To check the service status, use this command: systemctl status fail2ban.
- Fail2Ban Configuration: Create a copy of the jail.conf file in order to change the default ban settings. Open the jail.local file and after you change the file, start the service again.
5. Install Anti-Malware Software
Anti-malware software is amongst the best tools to keep sensitive data protected and safe. It addresses to spam, spyware, and other security threats. It usually contains advanced malware protection and sandboxing technology. An anti-malware software performs its job using different practices, including:
- The behavior monitoring technique used by an anti-malware program works wonders for monitoring suspicious files that can be harmful to the system. The software does not compare the file to any known threats anymore. If the file shows any suspicious behavior, antimalware will mark it as a threat.
- Sandboxing is another great technique to prevent malware infection. The software quickly removes malicious programs from legitimate apps to prevent further damage.
- Once the malware is identified, the anti-malware software removes it to prevent it from infecting the computer system. If a similar file reaches the computer, it will be eliminated automatically and the software will prevent it from installing again.
ClamAV is a great malware scanning program for Linux whereas rkhunter is helpful for finding rootkits.
6. Keep Software Updated
If you are using software that has been developed by a third party, the effective way to ensure that the code is secure would be to apply the latest updates. A simple web app will make use of several components that can result in successful attacks if left unpatched.
Definitely, it’s easy to skip the software updates as they may not seem as important. However, it’s a mistake that keeps the door open for hackers to access the private data which might result in loss of money, credit, and so much more.
Due to the recent Equifax data breach, 143 million Americans were greatly impacted as their social security numbers, birth dates, and home addresses were stolen. The hackers were able to get access to the data of the credit reporting agency through a known vulnerability in its web app.
Though the fix for this security hole was available 2 months prior to the breach, the company failed to update the software and so had to face the music later.
This is a good lesson to learn the importance of updating software. In fact, apart from fixing security issues, software updates also include new features and better compatibility with different devices and applications.
6. Backup Data Regularly
It is not possible to be assured of the fact that the server will never be compromised, so the data should be encrypted to an off-site location. Even with the best caution, unexpected circumstances can happen, including server crashes, which is not something you want to deal with. Do you?
To ensure that your website will be running back in no time post a server crash, back up the data on a regular basis. It is imperative that your web server is protected from malicious attacks as that is how users feel safe and secure while doing transactions on your website.
Backup is the most safest and reliable way to restore your lost files after a data loss. Regular backups can get data back up to 100% without putting in much effort and time. But, the files that are created and added to the system between the backup cycles won’t be restored. Some third-party software is what you need for this.
Certainly, with regular backups you can be sure of running a business smoothly and security of data at the time of a data loss.
7. Monitor Logs
Logs are a useful security tool. A log is a list of events that happens to a system. Your system can be a website, user events, errors, or access to your server. Logs can help you raise alerts for challenges ahead, prevent vulnerabilities, improve services, and much more.
Step-By-Step Process of Log Monitoring
- List out all the logs.
- Navigate to your logs directory.
- Check out your log format.
- Create a list of answers to parsing questions.
- Activate log monitoring.
- Do check access to log file storage location.
- Create an upload method.
- Create your parsing.
- Monitor log processing.
- Start the log monitoring.
8. Disable Unnecessary Services
Software or program(s) that’s sitting idle and not contributing to the functioning of a server needs to be turned off. The more services running on your system, the more the chances for attackers to leverage them or take control over the system through them.
Turn off unnecessary services also applies to the web hosting server engine and removes modules that are, no longer in use, etc. Lesser the information you share about your underlying structure, the smaller the footprint available to strike you with.
9. Install and Configure ModSecurity
ModSecurity is one of the most popular Apache security modules. It is an open-source WAF (Web Application Firewall) developed for the Apache webserver. ModSecurity module enables users to write rules for protecting websites from third-party attacks, such as SQLI and DDoS. It also provides a flexible rule engine.
Steps to Install ModSecurity
- Login as a root user.
- Make sure that the system package sources are updated.
- Install the ModSecurity module.
In order to start using ModSecurity, a configuration file is to be made. When everything is in place, load the Apache again with the default ModSecurity config file to allow the changes to take effect.
Steps to Configure ModSecurity
- The default config file has a few fewer protective rules configured, but it’s good, to begin with.
- The Ubuntu package comprises CRS rulesets that can be used as sources of rules for Web Application Firewall.
- Configure ModSecurity to read rule files from the activated_rules directory.
- This allows ModSecurity to use files ending in conf as configuration files.
- Now, link the preferred rulesets into the latest locations.
- Link specific rulesets depending upon your requirements. The CRS is also divided into custom and experimental rulesets to alleviate the emerging threats.
- Upon adjusting the ModSecurity configuration, Apache should be reloaded for the rules to take effect.
10. Code Reviews
Many attacks against web applications happen due to insecure code and not the platform itself. SQL injection attacks are among the most common types of attacks though a vulnerability has been around for so many years now.
This vulnerability does not arise with improper input handling by the database system, it is more or less related to the aspect that input sanitization is not executed by the developer.
Also, there are so many ways by which code reviews make cybersecurity an asset for your organization:
- With help of professional analysis, you can easily discover critical vulnerabilities before an attacker does. This is how you take control over the defenses of your enterprise.
- When experts in this field review your application source code they help you get a better understanding of their approach from a security point of view.
- When code security becomes an integral part of your Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) you save a lot of money and effort.
- Flawed encryption in authentication implementations may result in data breaches. So, analyzing your code’s security and enhancing it is super effective to counter the risk.
Irrespective of the type of application you are using, securing your code is the most crucial step or else the base of the app will be faulty that can lead to undesired security issues in the future.
We hope these tips will help you take the important steps to protect your company’s sensitive data and information. Practice these security tips to keep your web server well protected against malicious attacks and unauthorized user access.
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