Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Scott Sobhani, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, John Esposito, Flint Brenton

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Open Source Cloud

Linux Containers: Blog Feed Post

Twenty-Five Linux Server Hardening Tips

A compilation of various settings and techniques you can employ

linux securityWhen it comes to having a Linux server hosted in a data center or it is not behind any kind of Firewall or NAT device there are a number of security requirements that need to be addressed. Linux servers generally come with no protection configured by default and depending on the hosting company or distro can come preconfigured with many services installed that are not required, including Web Servers, FTP Servers, Mail Servers and SSH Remote Access.

The following is a compilation of various settings and techniques you can employ to harden the security of your vulnerable Linux systems. While I have tried to put them in order of the most important features first I would recommend all of these options be used on your critical production servers.

TIP #1 – Strong Passwords
Always create long passwords that contain upper and lower case letters, numbers and non alpha-numeric characters. Enforce password ageing so users need to change their passwords regularly. Lock user accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts.

TIP #2 – Use Public/Private Keys
Make use of Public/Private SSH keys for login of remote users instead of passwords, this provides the benefit of turning off password authentication in SSH so that your server can’t be Brute-Force cracked. However this does introduce a new problem whereby a malicious person could compromise a user’s computer or steal their laptop and then have access to the server. This can be overcome by using a password on the client certificate which must be entered before connecting, a kind of two factor authentication.

TIP #3 – Disable Root Login
Disable the Root user from being able to login either via the console or remote SSH connections. Instead have users use Sudo to run programs that require root privileges, or use sudo su to change to the Root user once logged in. This provides an audit path to show which user installed a piece of software or ran a program.

TIP #4 – Use Encrypted Traffic
Always use the encrypted equivalent protocol when transferring critical and sensitive data such as passwords and confidential material. Remove RSH and always use SSH for remote access. Instead of using FTP for file transfer, consider using SFTP or FTP/S (FTP over SSL) or RSYNC. Instead of having remote access open to the internet i.e. SSH or VNC setup an OpenVPN SSL VPN Server to connect to first.

TIP #6 – Use Centralized Password Server
Consider implementing either a LDAP or Kerebos server to perform password authentication. This allows for a central database to maintain user’s passwords between multiple servers for easy management. This prevents user account and password data from becoming inconsistent and out of date, and prevents user accounts that should have been deleted on all servers being left behind on one server.

TIP #7 – Use IPTABLES Firewall/TCP Wrapper
Implementing a secure IPTABLES firewall will limit your exposure to network threats such as DOS and Port Scanning attacks. You can lock down any ports that don’t require access from external networks. For instance you can use the following command to only allow SSH access to the server from the local network.


# iptables –A INPUT –s 192.168.0.0/24 –p tcp –dport 22 –j ACCEPT


You can install a TCP Wrapper named libwrap which will give information like who connected, when and from where and even which services they connected to. It can also be used for locking down access to ports and services for certain hosts or IP’s.

TIP #8 – Use Intrusion Detection Systems
Consider installing both a Network IDS (NIDS) and a Host Based IDS (HIDS). NIDS’s are used to protect against malicious threats such as DOS and Port Scan Attacks. HIDS’s such as AIDE are used to monitor file system changes such as an intruder replacing core system files like ls or ps with malicious ones that hide their Trojan from file or process lists. It will produce a report that tells you what files have been modified so you can repair or replace them.

TIP #9 – Users Assigned Least Privileges
Disable Shell access to users that don’t need it (ftp, mail users etc) by changing to /bin/noshell in the /etc/passwd file. Setup a group for standard users and remove permissions to tools that can be used to download malicious software like wget, lynx, ftp etc. Consider chrooting users to their home directories to stop them from modifying critical system files.

TIP #10 – Minimize Software
Only install software that is actually needed, some systems come preconfigured with many software packages that you may never need or use. When installing always choose the Minimal Installation or Manual Installation option if they exist. Then simply install the software that you actually need.

TIP #11 – Keep Software Updated
Always try to keep your software packages up to date, such as ensuring the latest version of Apache, MySQL and PHP on a standard LAMP setup will protect you against any vulnerabilities that have been discovered in previous versions.

TIP #12 – Disable Unwanted Services
Your servers will most likely have many background services (Daemons) running which are not required and some may be configured to run on start-up. The following command (Red Hat, Cent OS only) can be used to show all services that will start on boot.


# chkconfig --list | grep : on


Or just use the following command to view services which are turned on only for Run Level 3.


# chkconfig --list | grep 3:on


You would then use a command like this to remove the service from start-up.


# chkconfig --del ‘service-name’


TIP #13 – Remove X Windows
Consider completely removing X Windows from the system and just using the command line for management. There isn’t anything that you can do in the GUI that you can’t do using the command line and removing it will not only enhance security but also performance because no system resources are wasted displaying the GUI.

TIP #14 – Secure Linux Kernel
You can secure your Linux Kernel by modifying the /etc/sysctl.conf file, this file is read by the Kernel at boot time and can be edited with the following settings to add extra security.


# Turn on execshield
kernel.exec-shield = 1
kernel.randomize_va_space = 1
# Don't reply to broadcasts. Prevents joining a smurf attack
net.ipv4.icmp_echo_ignore_broadcasts = 1
# Enable protection for bad icmp error messages
net.ipv4.icmp_ignore_bogus_error_responses = 1
# Enable syncookies for SYN flood attack protection
net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
# Enable IP spoofing protection
net.ipv4.conf.all.rp_filter = 1
net.ipv4.conf.default.rp_filter = 1
# Log spoofed, source routed, and redirect packets
net.ipv4.conf.all.log_martians = 1
net.ipv4.conf.default.log_martians = 1
# Don't allow source routed packets
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_source_route = 0
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_source_route = 0
# Don't allow outsiders to alter the routing tables
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_redirects = 0
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_redirects = 0
net.ipv4.conf.all.secure_redirects = 0
net.ipv4.conf.default.secure_redirects = 0
# Don't pass traffic between networks or act as a router
net.ipv4.ip_forward = 0
net.ipv4.conf.all.send_redirects = 0
net.ipv4.conf.default.send_redirects = 0


TIP #15 – Install Linux Kernel Patches
You should have a written security policy for handling Linux Kernel Patches, which should include which Linux security notices have been received, which updates have been tested to ensure problems don’t arise and which patches have been installed on the system. Always ensure Production servers are updated regularly to avoid any potential known vulnerability from being exploited on your system.

TIP #16 – Separate Partitions
You should create separate partitions for user modifiable directories and block write and execute access to unneeded partitions. You should consider placing the following file systems on different partitions.
/usr
/home
/var and /var/tmp
/tmp

Then you can edit the /etc/fstab file to prevent execution of binary files, disable block devices on the partition and prevent the SUID/SGID from being set on files. Here is a common fstab file entry to limit user access to the ftpdata directory.


/dev/sda5  /ftpdata  ext3    defaults,noexec,nodev,nosuid 1 2


TIP #17 – Use Linux Security Extensions
Make use of software like SELinux, AppArmor or GRSecurity to provide additional hardening to your Linux Kernel. These products provide additional policies to restrict processes and services based on Access Control Lists.

TIP #18 – Separate Servers for Services
Consider setting up different physical or virtual servers for different roles, i.e. separate your Mail server and your Webserver, or your Database server and your Application server. This ensures that if one particular service is compromised it is contained to just one server.

TIP #19 – Physical Server Security
You can secure your server as much as possible from remote attacks, but if you don’t do anything to protect the physical hardware it is pointless. If someone has access to your physical server they can remove your hard drive and read your confidential data or boot from a CD and access your data. Consider creating a BIOS password and disabling booting from CD or USB. Also you should password protect your boot loader (GRUB, LILO, etc) to prevent users from accessing Single User Mode or Recovery Environments where passwords are not required.

TIP #20 – Setup NTP
Having an accurate system clock is important for reviewing log files and determining when an event occurred. Often system clocks can become out of sync or be reset to an older date and this can cause havoc with tracking of errors. Consider creating a Cron job rather than running ntpd (See Tip #12) to update the time daily or hourly with a common source for all servers.

TIP #21 – Monitor All Logs
Setup logging and auditing software to track errors and changes to your servers, such as Auditd and Logwatch/Logcheck. Consider configuring a remote logging server that is updated regularly to protect against an intruder compromising your log files without your knowledge.

TIP #22 – Disable IPv6
IPv6 is very rarely needed at this stage as most traffic only utilizes IPv4 and having IPV6 enabled is just another network you need to monitor and protect. Disabling IPv6 is the easiest option but if for some reason you do require it then you should configure an IPv6 Firewall.

TIP #23 – Remove SUID and SGID from Files
After you have setup and configured your system and software you should run the following commands to search for all file and folders with either the SUID, SGID bit set or world writeable folders.
To find all SUID files:


# find / -xdev -type f -perm +u=s –print


To find all SGID files:


# find / -xdev -type f -perm +g=s -print


To find all World Writeable Dirs:


# find / -xdev -perm +o=w ! \( -type d -perm +o=t \) ! -type l -print


You should then inspect each file and folder to determine if they have the correct settings and if not use the chmod command to make changes to them.

TIP #24 – Encrypt Confidential Data
Your data is usually stored on a hard drive in an unencrypted format so any user that has access to the server can remove the hard drive and install it in another system and read all your data. You should consider configuring Linux disk or folder encryption on either your home directories or your sensitive folders (i.e. Database Files, Emails, etc). While you could encrypt your entire drive this is a lot of work and may not be worth the hassle.

TIP #25 – Harden Your Software
It is great to have a highly secure Linux server but your system is only secure as the software you run on it. You should always install the latest versions of software and ensure they stay up to date. Also most programs have ways to make them more secure by editing their configuration files and disabling unnecessary parts of the software. The following is an example for hardening your OpenSSH Server settings, simply add the following  to your OpenSSH config file.


# Use only SSH Protocol Ver 2
Protocol 2
# Only allow the following users SSH Access
AllowUsers User1 User2 etc
# Deny access to the following users
DenyUsers admin etc
# Set the timeout period for idle sessions (in seconds)
ClientAliveInterval 300
ClientAliveCountMax 0
# Disable .rhosts files
IgnoreRhosts yes
# Disable Host-Based Authentication
HostbasedAuthentication no
# Remove ability to login as Root
PermitRootLogin no
# Change the default SSH Port (Not essential but can help uncomment if you want)
#Port 22
#ListenAddress 192.168.1.1
# Consider CHRooting users to their own directories.
# Subsystem sftp internal-sftp
#Match group sftponly
#         ChrootDirectory /home/%u
#         X11Forwarding no
#         AllowTcpForwarding no
#         ForceCommand internal-sftp
# Disable empty passwords from login
PermitEmptyPasswords no
# Set your required Log Level (Either INFO or DEBUG)
LogLevel INFO
#  Turn on privilege separation
UsePrivilegeSeparation yes
# Prevent the use of insecure home directory and key file permissions
StrictModes yes
# Turn on  reverse name checking
VerifyReverseMapping yes
# Do you need port forwarding?
AllowTcpForwarding no
X11Forwarding no
#  Specifies whether password authentication is allowed.  The default is yes.
PasswordAuthentication no


Monitis is an all-in-one hosted monitoring platform for small and medium-sized businesses. 70,000+ IT pros use Monitis products to monitor health and performance of over 300,000 sites.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Hovhannes Avoyan

Hovhannes Avoyan is the CEO of PicsArt, Inc.,

@ThingsExpo Stories
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their backend AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT - especially in the connected home and office. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Kocher, founder and managing director of Grey Heron, explained how Amazon is extending its reach to become a major force in IoT by building on its dominant cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strat...
Connected devices and the industrial internet are growing exponentially every year with Cisco expecting 50 billion devices to be in operation by 2020. In this period of growth, location-based insights are becoming invaluable to many businesses as they adopt new connected technologies. Knowing when and where these devices connect from is critical for a number of scenarios in supply chain management, disaster management, emergency response, M2M, location marketing and more. In his session at @Th...
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his Day 2 Keynote at @ThingsExpo, Henrik Kenani Dahlgren, Portfolio Marketing Manager at Ericsson, discussed how to plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change t...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Digital Transformation, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportuni...
industrial company for a multi-year contract initially valued at over $4.0 million. In addition to DataV software, Bsquare will also provide comprehensive systems integration, support and maintenance services. DataV leverages advanced data analytics, predictive reasoning, data-driven diagnostics, and automated orchestration of remediation actions in order to improve asset uptime while reducing service and warranty costs.
Vidyo, Inc., has joined the Alliance for Open Media. The Alliance for Open Media is a non-profit organization working to define and develop media technologies that address the need for an open standard for video compression and delivery over the web. As a member of the Alliance, Vidyo will collaborate with industry leaders in pursuit of an open and royalty-free AOMedia Video codec, AV1. Vidyo’s contributions to the organization will bring to bear its long history of expertise in codec technolo...