Cybersecurity is one of the most important topics in both the business and IT world. However, this topic can seem fairly overwhelming to average business owners. IT security is a complicated subject and it can be difficult to understand advanced security protocols. The good thing about IT security is that it is a layered practice. System hardening will help you in learning about the cybersecurity approach. It will set up the groundwork that is required for a secure IT infrastructure. In this article, we are going to talk about System hardening.
What is System hardening?
System hardening refers to the best practices, methods, and tools that you can use for reducing the attack surface. It will help you in reducing the attack surface in your hardware, data systems, and software. The main aim of system hardening is to reduce the vulnerable areas or threat profile of your systems. It involves the identification, remediation, and auditing of security vulnerabilities that can be present in your organization.
The main aim of system hardening is to reduce security risks. This can be done by minimizing the attack surface. Attackers will have fewer entry points for conducting a cyber attack. The attack surface is defined as a combination of all the backdoors and potential flaws that are present in your network. These vulnerabilities generally include the following things:
- Improperly configured IT security tools.
- Unencrypted data.
- Unpatched firmware and software.
- Default credentials or passwords are stored in public files.
- Poorly configured IT assets.
Benefits of Systems Hardening
Systems hardening is important for both compliance and security. It will be an important part of your IT security strategy. The most important benefit of Systems hardening is that it will help you in reducing your attack surface. This will reduce the risk of cyberattacks. You can also avoid downtime and regulatory fines due to cyber attacks.
System hardening will help you in improving your security posture. You should embrace them before deploying security solutions like EDR tools. If you are using these advanced security solutions in poorly configured tools, then these tools won’t work properly. It is like you have installed security cameras in your house but your back door is still open. Your advanced security tools can’t protect your business until you are using a hardened system.
Types of System hardening
System hardening will help you in securing your software applications, operating system, networks, databases, firmware, and other important elements of your computer system. The definition of system hardening is applicable to your entire IT infrastructure. However, there are several subsets that will require different tools and approaches. Some of the main types of system hardening are:
This is a general system hardening process that you can follow for securing the permissions, functions, data, ports, and components of a server. You should ensure that your server’s OS is updated and patched. Regularly update your 3rd party software which is important for your server. You should remove the 3rd party software applications that are not following the good cybersecurity standards.
Make sure that you are using strong and complex passwords for protecting your servers. You should disable USB ports at boot time. Try to implement multi-factor authentication as it will help you in protecting your network from brute force attacks.
You should lock your user accounts after some number of failed login attempts. This will help you in avoiding cyber attacks. You should use AES encryption or self-encrypting for protecting your important data.
Software application hardening
Application hardening involves implementing or updating additional IT security measures for protecting both your third-party and standard applications. Server hardening focuses on securing your entire server system by design. However, application hardening focuses on your server applications. This will include applications like spreadsheet programs, browsers, and custom software applications that your business is using.
You should use firewalls for protecting your network. Make sure that you are using spyware, malware protection, and antivirus for protecting your applications. Software-based data encryption will help you in protecting your data. Patch your third-party and standard applications. Make sure that you are using Intrusion detection systems (IDS) and Intrusion prevention systems (IPS).
This will involve securing both your DBMS and the data stored in your digital database. DBMS or database management system is the database application that is used by your users for interacting with the database.
You should start by restricting administrative functions and privileges. Encrypt both your at-rest and in-transit database information. Try to follow an RBAC or role-based access control policy. Regularly update your DBMS. This will ensure that your network is protected from known vulnerabilities. Turn off useless database functions and services. Lock your database accounts if you detect any suspicious login activity. This can help you in stopping attackers from accessing your data. Make sure that your users are using complex and strong database passwords.
Network hardening will help you in securing your communication infrastructure. It will help you in protecting your computer systems and servers from attacker. You can achieve this by establishing an intrusion detection system or intrusion prevention system. Both of these systems are generally software-based. These applications will help you in monitoring your network. They will report any suspicious activity that is happening in your network. It will help your IT admins in preventing unauthorized access to your network.
You can achieve network hardening by properly securing and configuring network firewalls, disabling network protocols, disabling unnecessary network ports, disabling network services that you are not using, encrypting network traffic, and auditing network rules. These techniques will help you in protecting your network from attackers. Make sure that you are using these techniques with your intrusion prevention system. This will help you in reducing your network attack surface. Thus, you can protect your network from attackers.
Operating system hardening
Operating system hardening will help you in securing your server’s operating system. Your server OS is targeted by attackers. You can harden your operating system by following techniques like patch management. Make sure that you are regularly monitoring and installing patches, updates, and service packs. This will ensure that your OS is secure.
System Hardening Checklist
System hardening will differ according to your customer systems. There are different hardening procedures that you can apply to each component of your system. However, there is general system hardening tips that you can follow for protecting your network.
You should ensure that your system is physically secured. Your staff should know about your best security procedures. Setup strong passwords and custom roles for managing access. Make sure that you are deleting unnecessary OS users. Also, you shouldn’t have multiple super admin or root accounts. This will ensure that multiple users won’t have root access. Only grant elevated privileges to your employees when they need them.
You should ensure that all your software applications, operating systems, and browsers are up to date. Make sure that you are applying every security patch. Keep track of security advisories that your vendors are releasing. It is important to patch known vulnerabilities as attackers can use these vulnerabilities for attacking your business.
Control network traffic:
Make sure that you are installing hardened systems behind a firewall. Try to isolate your systems from public networks. You can ask your users to use VPN for connecting with your network. Make sure that you are encrypting every communication. Set firewall rules for restricting access to your network.
Remove unnecessary software applications:
You should remove all the unnecessary software applications from your computer. Try to remove all the redundant OS components from your systems. Disable services that you don’t need. Turn off the application feature that is not required by your business.
Make sure that you are encrypting data transfer by using the best encryption techniques. Only your essential network ports should be running. You should disable all the useless network ports. Disable all the insecure protocols like HTTP, Telnet, and SMBv1. This will help you in ensuring that your communications will stay secure.
You should regularly review your logs. This will help you in finding anomalous activities in your network. Special focus should be on privilege escalation, user access, and authentications. You should mirror your logs to a different location. This will help you in avoiding log tampering and protecting log integrity. Your IT security team should perform regular malware and vulnerability scans. This will help you in finding vulnerabilities that are present in your network. Try to conduct a penetration test or external audit for checking vulnerabilities that are present in your network.
Harden remote sessions:
If you are allowing SSH, then you should ensure that you are using a secure certificate or password. Make sure that you are not using the default port. Monitor SSH logs for finding privilege escalation or anomalous use.
Hardened systems are going to have access to sensitive resources. Thus, you should ensure that you are following the 3-2-1 backup rule for protecting your data. This rule simply means that you will maintain three copies of your data. Two of these backups will be stored in on-site storage and the last copy will be stored in off-site storage. This can be done by using cloud-based backups.
How can I harden my system?
System hardening is a variable process. If you want to achieve system hardening, then you should follow the system hardening checklist that we have mentioned in this article. You can also system hardening standards that are published by the CIS center or NIST. The system hardening guideline published by the CIS and the NIST discusses system hardening techniques specific to Linux, Unix, and MS Windows.
If you want to begin the system hardening process, then you should read CIS Center for Internet security guide. This guide will help you in starting your system hardening process. You should work with experienced MSPs for system hardening. This will ensure that you can harden your systems easily.
Challenges of System Hardening
System hardening can be both a labor-intensive and complex task. It is also not enough to protect your system from cyber attacks. The majority of malware will come from your employees downloading files, clicking on emails, and visiting websites. Attackers will generally use these tactics for loading viruses into your systems. All they need to do is install their malware into your operating system. After that, they will gain access to your entire network. They will have access to all your data.
Enterprises are using various different tactics for dealing with this problem. They sometimes lock their user devices from accessing the internet and installing third-party software. However, this will reduce the productivity of your employees. It can be extremely frustrating for your employees as they are trying to do their job only. Your employees will try to bypass these restrictions. They won’t understand the implications of bypassing these restrictions.
System hardening can help you in improving your IT security posture. IT will help you in protecting your network from attackers. However, system hardening is a complicated process. You should have a good IT security team if you want to implement system hardening. This is generally difficult for SMBs to achieve. Thus, you should consider working with a good MSP.
Experienced MSPs like Bleuwire will help you in protecting your network and systems from attackers. They will help you in hardening your systems. Bleuwire will give you access to the best IT security professionals and security tools. You don’t need to worry about hiring IT security professionals to protect your network. Bleuwire will regularly monitor your network for anomalous activities. They will help you in finding vulnerabilities in your network. Also, they will help you in fixing all the loopholes in your network. This will help you in staying compliant. If you need more information regarding IT security services, then you can contact Bleuwire.