Your Complete Checklist for OS Hardening

The standard operating system (OS) comes out of the box with its default security settings enabled. Unfortunately, these default settings are inadequate when it comes to keeping your system secure from today’s sophisticated security threats, making it vulnerable to attack.

Add to this the fact that these systems come with more features than ever and become even more vulnerable. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll be left with major security gaps because you can improve the security of your OS through OS hardening.

What Is OS Hardening?

OS hardening is the process of adding additional layers of security to your operating system to reduce the likelihood of a cyberattack resulting in a system breach. This includes adding security features and modifying the default security settings, equivalent to installing deadbolts, window locks, and a security system in your home.

Your Checklist for OS Hardening

You can take several steps to ensure the very best OS hardening. It is important to make sure you implement as many as possible for the most secure OS possible.

Install updates as they become available

OS developers know that there are bugs to work out and gaps in security in any OS they create. This is why they regularly release updates in the form of service packs and patches to fix these issues. It is critical for your OS’s security to install these updates as soon as they are released.

Fortify your firewall

A new OS may not have the firewall set up, or its configuration may not be as secure as it can be. Be sure to check your firewall configuration settings and adjust them to ensure traffic can only access the system from designated IP addresses and ports.

Install antivirus and antimalware software

Installing antivirus and antimalware software can add an additional layer of security to your OS. This is particularly important if you are running sensitive workloads on the system and want to protect against users opening a malicious attachment.

Control system access

Make use of the access control features that come with the OS to ensure the highest security. This means authenticating every user who tries to access the system and using the principle of least privilege so only those users who need access get it and only when they need it.

Limit OS user accounts

Limit the number of user accounts for your OS to the absolute minimum necessary, including backdoor accounts created by developers or other users to access the OS after development and deployment. This will minimize the number of users who have access to your OS and help prevent backdoor access in which attackers sneak into the system by using a user’s account credentials.

Remove drivers that aren’t being used

Each time a device is connected to your laptop or computer, your OS will install a driver to make that connection possible. When the device is no longer connected, the driver can remain active on the system, which can make your OS vulnerable to attacks. To mitigate this risk, be sure to remove the driver whenever a device is removed.

Disable applications that aren’t necessary

If you have features or applications that are installed but not being used, they could act as weak spots in your system’s armor. In these cases, it is best to uninstall or disable them. Examples include a workstation with Skype installed, yet no one uses it, or an unnecessary graphic interface.

Isolate data and workloads

Create virtual containers or machines within your OS to isolate different types of data and workloads as much as possible. This will make it difficult for an attacker to gain access to everything in your system if they manage to break in.

Use encryption

Whether you are using a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or a Solid-State Drive (SSD), you must ensure it is encrypted to protect your OS and any data on the drive. The encryption software will automatically encrypt and decrypt your files when you wish to access them.

Use the hardening frameworks provided

Operating systems typically come with frameworks that will provide additional layers of security and access control. It is important that you install these tools to maximize your OS hardening.

Contact Platinum Technologies today to find out more about OS hardening and how we can help you increase the security of your systems!

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