Application and Server Hardening Explained

We live in a world in which IT security is more essential than it ever has been. Servers and applications are accessed from a wide range of onsite and mobile devices. Application and server hardening is a process that uses a range of techniques, tools, and best practices to ensure that your server and applications are protected against cyberattacks. With this in mind, let’s take a look at server hardening and application hardening in detail.

Server Hardening

Server hardening is the process if increasing the security of your servers. Ideally, this should be done based on the benchmarks set by the Center for Internet Security (CIS). Keep in mind that the default security settings on your server operating system are typically not adequate to protect against security threats. For this reason, there are many steps that need to be taken to harden your servers against cyberattacks, including:

  • Implementing an approach known as “least functionality,” which means configuring the servers to provide only the most important capabilities and to avoid or minimize the use of non-essential services, protocols, and ports
  • Avoiding the installation of non-essential applications on the server
  • Ensuring the correct security hotfixes are installed
  • Using two distinct network interfaces, one for the administrator and one for the server
  • Implementing remote server administration that is fully secured
  • Enabling lockout on the local administrator account
  • Giving the local administrator account a name other than “Administrator”
  • Avoiding the use of administrative shares if they are not required
  • Not permitting users and administrators to share accounts
  • Ensuring there is a local firewall in use on the server
  • Using only the most secure protocols for processing server requests
  • Backing up all files and data
  • Securing each individual server partition
  • Monitoring login attempts that failed
  • Ensuring each application has its own account
  • Not providing write access to content directories
  • Renaming all guest accounts, even if they are disabled
  • Installing and configuring URLScan
  • Ensuring there are strong server password and account policies in place and enforcing those policies
  • Regularly reviewing web server logs to look for suspicious activity
  • Minimizing the use of anonymous FTP accounts and monitoring them closely
  • Blocking port 53 or restricting access to the DNS server to prevent server access
  • Hardening any applications that are installed on the server

Application Hardening

Application hardening is the process of ensuring your software applications are protected against attacks that occur locally or via the internet. The importance of application hardening cannot be overstated because applications are accessible by a variety of users. This access must be easily accessible while preventing users who access the application to compromise the security of the system and servers. Application hardening is achieved through various means, including:

  • Removing any application components or functions that aren’t needed
  • Controlling and restricting access to the application
  • Ensuring the application is updated with the most recent vendor-supplied security patches
  • Securing Internet Information Services (IIS) by removing all sample files by removing them from the physical and virtual directories and using Access Control Lists (ACLs) to establish the appropriate permissions for accessing the webserver files and directories
  • Installing Secure Socket Layer (SSL) architecture
  • Installing and configuring a firewall for each web application
  • Avoiding the installation and use of firmware versions that are no longer available from or supported by the manufacturer
  • Maintaining ongoing monitoring of application and system security bulletins
  • Using CHECKSUM and cryptographic controls where appropriate
  • Implementing an Active directory to ensure there is only one log in to multiple applications and data sources on the system

Ultimately, application and server hardening provides benefits that go beyond enhanced security. It also enhances the functionality of the entire system, simplifies the audit process, and ensures regulatory compliance.

Connect with Platinum Technologies today to find out how we can help you implement a tailored security solution to protect your critical resources!

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