Several sophisticated cybercriminal attacks have shown that web security remains the most important issue for businesses that conduct their operations online. Due to the sensitive data a web server usually hosts, it is generally the most targeted part of the organization. Securing a server is equally important as securing a website or web application. Let’s say, you have a secure web page and an unsecured web server; your business is still at risk. The security of your company is only as strong as its weakest link. This is where web server security comes in.
What exactly is Web Server Security?
Web Server security simply means the protection of data, resources, and information that is held on the Web Server. It consists of tools and techniques that aid in the prevention of intrusions, hacking, and other malicious activities. With hackers devising sophisticated ways to attack, strong server security is essential for protecting your business.
Importance of Web Server Security
With cybercriminals finding elegant ways to attack, a business’ crucial information can quickly leak, if left with their default configurations, or worse, it can provide a trail leading straight back to the server. Hence, strong server security is essential for protecting your business.
So, how can you secure your web server? In the next part of the post, I have mentioned a few of the best practices that will help you to harden your server.
Harden your Web Server
Web Server hardening means to identify, rectify, and reduce known security issues and weaknesses that are on the server and its applications before any hacker exploits them.
Hardening a server includes making certain that the software is running on the latest operating system; identifying patches, shutting down services, ports, and, other necessary changes, as per intended use.
Server Security & Hardening usually takes place in the development and testing phase before the server is ready to run live. It is in this phase that the business can use different tools and practices to secure the server.
Easy steps to harden your web server
- Remote access
Depending on the size and the purpose of the server environment, access to the server should be limited, and properly secured by using tunneling and encryption protocols. Using security tokens is an excellent security practice. Access should also be limited to a set number of IP addresses and accounts. Also, signing in to corporate servers through public computers and networks, such as internet cafes, should be avoided completely.
- Permissions and privileges
File and network services permissions are key to web server security. If a web server is compromised by network service software, a malicious user can carry out tasks using the account on which the network service is running. As a result, it is critical to always assign the least privileges as required for a specific network service to run. It is also essential to assign minimal privileges to an anonymous user.
- Install security patches on time
One of the most important security practices is regular software patching. Manufacturers identify security bugs, and then patches are deployed to fix these holes. These patches should be applied instantly to ensure that common weaknesses are fixed before they are taken advantage of by cybercriminals.
- Remove unnecessary services
Default installation and configuration of operating systems are not always secure. In a default installation, many network services are usually installed that will not be used in a web server configuration. The more services that run on an operating system, the more ports that are left open for malicious users to exploit. Turn off and disable all unnecessary services so that they do not start automatically the next time the server is rebooted.
- Remove unused applications and extensions
A default installation includes several predefined modules that are typically not used on a web server unless they are specifically required. Switch off such modules to prevent targeted attacks on them. Application extensions should include only those that will be used by the website or web application.
In addition to web server hardening, one can adopt a few other additional methods that will enhance the security of the web server.
Web application firewalls (WAF)
Network Security is not the same as Server Security. Having a network firewall in place to protect network security is not sufficient to protect servers. Network firewalls monitor traffic and IP addresses; however, they are not designed to evaluate traffic flowing into HTTP and HTTPS ports.
However, Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) can be used on web and web application services to identify any malicious activity at the host level. If a hacker attempts to enter a web server via HTTP and HTTPS traffic by exploiting a known weakness, the WAF can block the connection.
Logs and security
Use traffic logs on web services to keep track of everything that happens on the server. Administrators and security professionals can set flags to alert any unusual activity or, in the event of a cyberattack, attempt to recreate the attack to understand more about the attacker. Either way, administrators can use this information to make changes that will improve the web server’s security in the future.
Web application security scanners
A final step to improve server security is the use of web application security scanners. These scanners have pre-configured software that immediately scans websites and web servers, examining them for any security issues and common vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
These scanners can either be a ‘black box,’ which means that no internal data or knowledge about the web server is provided before the test, or they can be a ‘white box,’ which means that source code is also scanned for potential weaknesses.
Web Server Security can provide businesses with a solid foundation. By following the practices, as provided in the post, your server will be pretty secure.
A single or combination of methods cannot guarantee that your website and web server will always be risk-free. However, odds are that by actively placing such practices the risk of being attacked will be reduced drastically. And such odds are always favorable.