How to automate permanent server hardening

PCI DSS, ISO 27001 & HIPAA all such security standards need system hardening as a primary defense against cyber invasions. Who needs advanced security measures and defenses if you don’t initially secure all needless doors via which attackers might infiltrate your systems and networks?

What can I learn more about system hardening?
In short, system hardening is designing IT infrastructure to reduce the attack surface or the vectors and vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to obtain access to and control it. Among its objectives are increased security, regulatory compliance, long-term cost savings, and operational stability.

For example, consider server hardening. Server hardening should include the following, according to NIST SP 800-123:

  • Setting up the OS and user authentication (e.g., disabling unneeded default accounts, creating only necessary groups, making specific user groups with specific rights, etc.)
  • Disabling or removing unwanted services, apps, and protocols (e.g., file and printer sharing services, system and network management tools, ports, etc.)
  • Setting up resource access controls (limit read and write access, limit the execution of system-related tools to sysadmins, etc.).

Isn’t it easy? But what if you have to do it for hundreds or thousands of servers? Can you prevent these configurations and alterations from being changed inadvertently over time?

According to Extreme Compute, two types of tools can be utilized for server hardening: compliance scanners and configuration management systems.

In contrast, the Hardening Suite focuses on identifying configuration drift from specific compliance frameworks and implementing hardening policies/configuration adjustments. In addition, we believe none of them helps simplify change management and enforce various regulations on a complicated infrastructure.

The package also allows IT operations and security teams to maintain their organization’s compliance posture over time, despite updated rules and infrastructure modifications.

Server hardening reduces infrastructure downtime.
Managing hundreds of machines with varying configuration options and a continuously changing architecture is impossible.

  • Before making any configuration changes, a hardening project must analyze the impact of hardening policies on the production infrastructure (Don’t test hardening on production servers!)
  • Different systems require different hardening policies
  • Constant policy and infrastructure upgrades may impact compliance, necessitating near-constant compliance scanning.

The impact analysis is the most difficult to complete fast and accurately.

To see how your hardening policies affect your production system, you need to construct a test environment that accurately simulates traffic, network users, and dependencies. Manually performing this operation is complex and error-prone, resulting in significant production downtime.

Extreme Compute’s Hardening suite’s automatic operations reduce this danger. After installing its software agents on the servers, it enters the learning mode, collecting data from various sources and analyzing it to determine how the proposed policies affect system operations.

It lists each policy proposal, its desired and current values. If these values match, the policy will not be changed. If they don’t, the solution distinguishes between values that will be altered without affecting server operation and values that will cause production server disruption. It then builds a policy implementation plan for each server that maximizes policy compliance while minimizing production.

Organizations commonly undertake policy enforcement/implementation using configuration management technologies and Group policy objects (GPOs). If the policies are comprehensive enough to protect the various environments, machine kinds, and roles, this can be a time-consuming nightmare for IT operations teams without an automated solution.

However, the suite can update the configuration of the entire production server fleet from a single spot. This allows businesses to restrict access to system configuration changes to small users, reducing human error. Finally, it prohibits configuration changes that violate established policies – whether malicious or accidental. It also alerts the security team by sending alarms to a SIEM or SOC solution.

In short, you need a hardening solution for servers, middleware and endpoints. Extreme Compute’s solution is self-contained. Also, we provide further help and advice if needed. We have the expertise to assist enterprises in developing system hardening policies. We base them on industry best practises, organizational needs, and our hardening recommendations.

After defining the initial policies and our hardening suite’s learning process, the organization should discuss what to do with each hardening measure that cannot be implemented without harming production. We can help them determine the best course of action. 

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email