A virtual private server (VPS) appears as a dedicated server, but it serves multiple websites. One computer can have several of these virtual servers running hosting software, each with its own operating system. This kind of setup relies on virtualization software to abstract physical server resources, so that users have access to an emulated server. Those using this type of server have access to its virtual form, but not the physical server. With proper knowledge and configuration, a VPS can offer solid security. The first step is understanding the potential security issues and what can be done to prevent them.
Possible VPS Security Issues
Just like with a dedicated server, there are a few security issues you need to be aware of. Knowing what these are makes it easier to take the proper steps to secure your VPS. Malware that records your keystrokes and steals data is possible if you are not careful.
Denial of service attacks are possible and can lead to data theft. These can be devastating and can completely disrupt your business by wasting resources, flooding the server with traffic and damaging customer experiences.
Lastly, consider password breaches. Once someone has your password, it is easy for them to get in and steal data.
Audit Your Server
Running an audit tells you what your VPS vulnerabilities are, and you will discover what is running on your server. There are various tools that do this, so you simply need to find the one that best meets your needs. Once you complete this audit and make the needed changes, disable unused services and close any ports that are unnecessary. You will learn about these with your audit, so you will know which services and ports to take care of.
Use Strong Passwords
No matter what you are doing with technology, when you have passwords, they need to be strong. A data breach investigations report released in 2016 determined that 63 percent of data breaches occurred as a result of stolen, weak or default passwords. There are several methods you can use to ensure that your password is as strong as possible:
- Use a different password for everything
- Use at least 12 characters
- Consider a phrase instead of a word
- Consider multi-factor authentication
- Use all allowed character types
It is also recommended that you change your passwords at least a few times per year. Every change should utilize the creation tips presented here.
Maintain a Regular Backup and Updating Schedule
You should have a schedule that you use to backup your data. The more frequently you do this, the better. When you have backups, should something occur, you have the option to restore to an earlier version or you can save your information. As for updates, these are critical for security because they may include new security measures. Updates might also have patches for security vulnerabilities that were not solved with earlier versions.
Properly Secure Your SSH Configuration
Unfortunately, SSH is a prime hacker target since they are always running on your VPS. Keeping this secure takes a little diligence, but the execution is mostly easy:
- For those logging in using SSH, prevent root access
- Limit logins
- Configure your system to give a welcome message to those who are authorized and a warning message to those who are not authorized
- Change your SSH configuration default port
- Use key pairs instead of password-based authentication
- Install intrusion-detection software
Know the Security Threats and be Vigilant
It is imperative that you know which threats you need to prevent. Once you have identified these, it is easier to anticipate those that are most likely to happen and take the steps necessary to prevent them. A few tips to improve your resistance to threats include:
- Utilize DDOS protection
- Disable compilers
- Check your security logs frequently
- Take advantage of malware and virus scans
Use a Firewall
A firewall works to stop unauthorized access to your VPS without inhibiting any outward communication. For more than 25 years, network security has utilized this type of device to monitor what is going out and what is coming into a network. The following are commonly cited benefits regarding firewalls:
- Monitors traffic
- Stops hackers
- Blocks Trojans
- Stops keyloggers
Ultimately, which firewall is best depends on the various elements you are using with your VPS. What is most important is that it is properly implemented, so that you are getting the highest level of security.
Control User Access
Wherever it is possible, you want to utilize user controls. Only give individuals access to the data they need to do their job and nothing more. If you are going to be using the VPS alone, it is a good idea to leave the administrator login by itself and do not add additional software. Just create yourself a user account and determine which restrictions you might apply to allow for greater security. For example, with your user account, only give yourself access to the data you absolutely need to get the job done. Leave the rest under the administrator login.
Securing an Unmanaged VPS
If you opt to use an unmanaged VPS, there are a few security measures to know about. When your VPS is unmanaged, this basically means that you are responsible for everything. Once the server is set up, you will need to take care of the OS updates, data backups, maintenance procedures, software installations and anything else that needs to be done. The following are important for keeping your unmanaged VPS secure:
- Use a strong and diverse password
- Alter the default SSH port
- Do not allow root user login
- For non-root users, disable compilers
- Use a rootkit scanner
- Establish intrusion prevention
- Set up a firewall
- Use anti-virus protection
- Take advantage of real-time application security monitoring
- Run data backups
- Enable server monitoring
- Ensure your software is regularly updated
With this information, you can see that while there is some work involved, it is not overly difficult to maintain a secure VPS. Simply be diligent and stay on top of any necessary security updates or tasks to prevent data leaks.