Reducing attack surface with System Hardening

Tools, techniques, and best practises can be used to harden technologies such as applications, systems, infrastructure, and firmware. In order to minimise the risk of attack, hardening systems is necessary. Your IT ecosystem is less vulnerable to attacks and malware if you remove unneeded programmes, accounts, ports, permissions and access.

An auditing procedure is required to find and address a company’s security flaws. The following are examples of system hardening:

  • Hardening applications
  • Making the Operating System More Robust
  • safeguarding the server
  • Encryption DB
  • Security on the network. 

While the principles of system hardening are the same across all hardening methods, the tools and techniques employed vary. PCI DSS and HIPAA also requires system hardening throughout the technology lifecycle, from original installation to decommissioning.

Reduce the attack surface by hardening systems
It is the total of all possible technological flaws and backdoors that hackers can take advantage of. These are some of the problems:

  • Integer-based passwords
  • Login credentials in plain text
  • Software flaws that haven’t been patched
  • servers, switches, routers, or any of their associated infrastructure components that are poorly configured
  • Transmission of data across networks without encryption
  • Controls on privileged access are nonexistent.

Hardening your computer system using these 9 tips
The level of hardening you implement is determined by the risks associated with your current technology, your available resources, and the urgency of the problem you’re trying to solve.

  1. Analyze the current setup: Conduct a comprehensive review of the technology used. Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are two techniques that can be used to find and prioritise system flaws. Use resources such as NIST, CIS, DISA, etc. to test the hardening of your system against these risks.
  2. Preparation is key when it comes to hardening your systems. Consider the hazards in your technology environment, then devise a strategy and plan that addresses the most serious problems in stages.
  3. Improve now: Make sure you have a system in place for automatically detecting and patching vulnerabilities.
  4. Encrypt network traffic, protect remote access points and users, disable and delete unused or extraneous protocols and services, and create access lists.
  5. Ensure that your servers are located in a safe data centre and that no production servers are used to test hardening. Limit server access and rights according to the concept of least privilege by properly setting up the superuser and administrative shares.
  6. All sample files and default passwords to be removed from the system, as well as focus on the ability to restrict access to programmes based on user roles and context. When this happens, a system that enforces strong password policies should be in charge of managing user login information (password rotation, length, etc.). It’s important to look for unneeded integration components and privileges while integrating different apps and strategies.
  7. Database hardening: restrict privileged access and enable node checking to validate apps and users in order to limit what may be done in a database. data in transit and at rest should be encrypted; implementation of RBAC permissions; delete unused accounts. 
  8. It is possible to automate the installation of service packs and updates for operating systems. Secure your data by encrypting it; restrict access to the registry and system; record all actions; grant privileged user privileges.
  9. Remove accounts and privileges that are no longer needed: Enforce the least privilege by removing new and orphaned accounts.

System hardening is a win for everyone. It takes time and work to harden your systems, yet the effort provides dividends throughout your organisation.

Less risk of operational errors, misconfigurations, incompatibilities, and compromise can be achieved by reducing the number of programmes and functions that are used. Data breaches, unauthorized access, system hacking, or malware are less likely when the attack surface is smaller. Having fewer programmes and accounts to audit makes compliance and auditing more straightforward.

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