Server Hardening – When it makes sense

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Server hardening isn’t something I see done very often. In some situations though, it may make a lot of sense to implement.

As you know, my company provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. Most of our clients are small businesses, with fairly average networks. However, we do have some clients in very specific situations, which require an above-average level of security. These clients are dealing with sensitive information, data that is private, considered protected by local and federal legislation, etc. For these clients, hardening their server(s) makes a whole lot of sense.

So what is server hardening ? Wikipedia defines it as “In computing, hardening is usually the process of securing a system by reducing its surface of vulnerability. A system has a larger vulnerability surface the more functions it fulfills; in principle a single-function system is more secure than a multipurpose one. Reducing available vectors of attack typically includes the removal of unnecessary software, unnecessary usernames or logins and the disabling or removal of unnecessary services.” In other words, server hardening is a process where the system administrator goes through, removes any services that aren’t required, and closes any potential security holes left open by default.

These services and holes could range from Internet Information Services to built-in VPN services. Anything that isn’t required for the operation of the organization gets turned off and relevant ports closed. The idea being, the less services running and ports opened, the less the chance of being compromised.

I would encourage any system admins with clients or users who deal with sensitive information to seriously look into server hardening. Remember folks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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