Securing dedicated servers where you host your website or web apps should be your top priority. An unprotected dedicated server can lead to security breaches, data loss, and service interruptions.
Cyberattacks have been increasing year after year with data breaches costing businesses on average nearly $4 million per event. Dedicated server security has never been as vital as it is today.
In this article, we’ll get into the top security breaches and best practices to secure dedicated servers against them. Read on to learn how to protect your dedicated server and prevent devastating data breaches.
Why Is Dedicated Server Security Important?
Dedicated servers are entirely yours, and it’s up to you to configure them. Having full control over your server is one of many dedicated server benefits, and it’s why they’re so popular.
However, that also means setting up your dedicated server security system is your responsibility. Here’s why cyber security is so important and what you can do to protect your servers:
- Protecting your server from malware: Malware is a type of software that is used to steal data. It’s usually hidden and passed along with legitimate applications or scripts. Once it’s on your server, it will try to collect your information. The best way to protect your hosted apps from malware is by choosing a hosting provider that offers continuous vulnerability scanning and real-time server monitoring.
- Avoiding password breaches: Short, weak passwords are one of the main reasons why hackers can break into dedicated servers. Creating passwords that contain a random combination of letters, numbers, and symbols won’t give them the opportunity to break in in the first place. You should use different passwords for the control panel, the FTP account, and your mail services. And of course, it’s also good practice to change them regularly.
- Protecting your server against software vulnerabilities: Hackers can exploit the software that runs on your server and gain access to it. To avoid such security breaches using such vulnerabilities, you should only install software that gets regular updates, and make sure you run it with the latest security patches.
- Avoiding DDoS attacks: A denial of service attack is used to overwhelm your server by flooding it with traffic and spam. This is a serious cyber threat that can cost you time and money if you fall suspect to it. To avoid damage done to your hosted site due to a DDoS attack, choose a dedicated server package with included DDoS protection.
11 Ways to Secure Your Dedicated Server
There’s many different ways to protect your dedicated server depending on the type of security breach we’re talking about. Let’s take a look at 11 different security measures you can take today and protect your dedicated server from different vulnerabilities.
#1. Install Security Updates & Patches
Outdated software is one of the top vulnerabilities that hackers exploit. Most app developers release regular security patches that fix any issues in their software’s security. If you skip downloading a few of these patches, someone might take advantage of a vulnerability left unchecked. Never rely on outdated programs and services.
Even a slight delay in updating to the newest security patch can be detrimental. That’s why you should always check for software updates regularly. If you find that installing security updates and patches on a regular basis is too much, you should consider opting for a managed dedicated server.
#2. Perform Regular Malware Scans
There are all sorts of viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware that can affect your system and steal confidential information. To secure your dedicated server, you should set aside some time to perform regular malware scans. Using anti-virus software is a wise precautionary measure to take, because it can detect and isolate the malicious software before it does damage.
Use malware scanners as well. These automated tools will protect you from security threats by scanning your dedicated server for all types of malware.
#3. Use DDoS Protection
A distributed denial of service attack is used to bring down websites or even entire servers. A sudden burst of traffic is sent to your server making it eventually buckle and crash. Often, the intention behind them is to bring financial loss to the targeted business. DDoS attacks make your website or web apps inaccessible to users, so it’s crucial to prevent them.
The only way to protect yourself from these attacks is to opt for a DDoS protected dedicated server. These servers come with an integrated DDoS shield that will monitor all incoming traffic. When malicious traffic is detected, the connection requests are diverted from your server. At the same time, legitimate traffic is allowed to pass, so your users won’t experience any interruptions.
#4. Use Only Secure Networks
When connecting to your dedicated server, use only secure connections to log into your hosting account.
Public networks aren’t safe and your dedicated hosting security is as strong as the network’s weakest link. If you log in with your user credentials using a hotel’s open WiFi network, your credentials might get exposed. That’s why you should only use trusted networks.
#5. Change Your SSH Port
Many services run on a standard SSH port. Hackers know to target that specific port in order to breach your dedicated server’s security. The SSH listening port is the most vulnerable. By default, it’s set to 22, so hackers use scanning software to look for hosts that haven’t changed the SSH port.
To prevent brute force attacks, change your SSH port immediately. It can be changed to any other port, however, it’s advisable to change it to a port number higher than 1024. Most port scanners operate within set ranges and rarely scan above 1024. This will keep your SSH port hidden from bots and automated scanners.
#6. Create Separate Accounts For All Users
Only the system administrator should have root access to the dedicated server. Everyone else using that server should have their own user account with limited privileges.
For example, not everyone should be able to install software that could actually end up being malware. Such permissions should only be left to the server admin. Other users can have limited access that will simply allow them to do their job.
In addition, the admin can have a personal account too. Always logging in with root level access is not considered a good practice in case you forget to log out of the admin account.
#7. Create a Strict Password Policy
A weak password makes your dedicated server vulnerable to brute force attacks. You should create a strong password using random numbers, symbols, as well as lowercase and uppercase letters. Don’t use easy to guess or personal words as your password. The same thing applies to all the other user accounts you register. Everyone should use a strong and unique password.
Furthermore, all passwords should be regularly changed every set number of days. This makes it nearly impossible for hackers to guess your password or force their way in. On top of this measure, consider adding two-factor authentication to your accounts. This way, your dedicated server will be secured from unauthorized access.
#8. Protect Your Databases
Databases store valuable information. Cybercriminals know that, so they target vulnerable databases. To prevent a database breach, make sure it can resist SQL injections. An SQL injection attack inserts malicious SQL statements that can manipulate the data in your database.
For maximum protection, you should limit everyone’s access to your databases as much as possible. Keeping user privileges at a minimum will help you achieve that. Additionally, delete any unused files and services because clever hackers can find a way to exploit it. Unneeded features and services left running can expose users and various communication links.
#9. Backup Your Data
Always have a backup copy of your important data, or backup all of it. At some point, you will likely experience data loss. Whether it’s due to a hacker’s attack, hardware failure, or a natural disaster, it can happen no matter how many security measures you implement.
However, don’t keep your eggs in the same basket. You should have multiple backups on different types of media. The best backup practice you can use is the 3-2-1 data backup strategy. Make at least three backups and save them on two different storage devices.
For example, you could keep a backup on a hard drive in your office and another on a secured dedicated server for backup. That said, one of the backups should be offsite – never keep all of them together. If all your backups are inside a building that catches on fire, you will lose everything.
#10. Remove Unused Software
Unused software is a vulnerability. It’s easy to forget about, and it won’t receive security updates if you’re not opening it. This is especially true when it comes to programs and services you test once and forget about. Hackers can exploit unused software to get access to your dedicated server and steal confidential information. The solution is to simply remove unused software.
#11. Get a Managed Dedicated Server
The easiest way to secure your dedicated server is by opting for a managed dedicated server. This is a service offered by most hosting providers,
Managed dedicated servers are controlled by a team of IT professionals that will keep all your software and databases up to date, back up your data on a regular basis, and actively monitor for suspicious activity. Everything related to server security will be taken care of by the hosting provider.
Dedicated Server Security FAQ
#1. How do I secure my dedicated server?
To keep your dedicated server secure, follow these best practices:
- Install security updates & patches
- Perform regular malware scans
- Use DDoS protection
- Use only secure networks
- Change your SSH port
- Create separate accounts for all users
- Change passwords regularly
- Protect your databases
- Backup your data
- Remove unused software
- Get a managed dedicated server
#2. Are dedicated servers more secure?
Yes, dedicated servers are more secure than shared servers. On a dedicated server, you’re the only user, and you have full control and responsibility over your security system.
However, shared servers have multiple users and it only takes one of them to allow a hacker in and breach your security. Each one of the shared server users is a potential security risk when it comes to your data because you can’t guarantee that they all follow the best security practices.
#3. Can a dedicated server be hacked?
Any hosting server is susceptible to hacking attempts and various malicious attacks. However, you can always take a number of precautionary measures to protect your dedicated server and avoid security breaches.
#4. What is server hardening?
Server hardening is the process of optimizing server security by using a set of techniques that are considered best practices in cybersecurity. The purpose is to reduce the chances a hacker has to breach your dedicated server security.
By now, you should have an understanding of why dedicated server security is important, and the techniques you can use to protect your hosting server. Let’s recap the main points:
- Protecting your dedicated server is an essential part of web hosting. Without the right security measures, your hosted services are vulnerable to malware, password breaches, and DDoS attacks.
- The most common types of security breaches you’ll encounter are:
- Password breaches
- Software vulnerability exploitations
- DDoS attacks
- Following the best practices in cybersecurity to protect your dedicated server will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.