Cloud servers are popular for a reason: they enable companies of all sizes to access and use top quality technologies at an affordable price, they require less maintenance, and a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the service provider.
Still, there are some aspects that clients do have to take care of themselves; one of them being the security of the cloud server. Users of such services can take plenty of additional steps in order to secure their cloud server. Cybersecurity is often viewed as something way too complex and is neglected as many companies think it won’t happen to them.
However, recent events like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware hack show that no one is safe so, it’s becoming a mandatory business practice to pay attention to your cybersecurity and at the very least keep up with the current trends and threats. These days good security is not only a technical matter, but it’s also a factor for the reputation and trust you build around your business. With that in mind, let’s explore some security tips for your cloud server.
Laying the groundwork
You’ve probably done this step already, but if you haven’t now is the time. Research the security features your cloud server provider offers. This includes the security of the data center and the controls you have at your disposal. The features you have access to can vary greatly depending on several factors. Among them can be the type of account and server you have, the features included in the plan you pay for, additional offers and technical abilities. It’s not a bad idea to make a checklist with your needs and goals which to update as time goes by.
Take some time to explore these features and get to know them. They may be just what you need. For example, for a simple company site you don’t need complex security, but for a web store or something similar, you will need to set up some extra features. Take your time with this as Gartner estimates that by 2025, 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault. Why? Because many customers don’t know what to do and mismanage or misconfigure their setups.
This can happen not only because of negligence or now knowing what the features do. It can also be because of not knowing the real-world threats and risks and failing to understand the challenges at hand. So, knowing what your configuration needs, understanding the implications for your service availability and the overall goals is a must.
Setting things up
Still on the basics, but this is important. You’ve now gotten to know the security features you have access to for your cloud server, so, now it’s time to set things up and get everything started.
Make it clear what everyone in your team is responsible for and set up access controls. Not everyone needs access to the full admin panel or to certain storage features and so on. When the access is properly limited, employees won’t have issues with completing their tasks, but won’t be confused by controls and features they don’t need.
Next, improve the access security. For example, activate or integrate multi-factor authentication (MFA). Don’t rely only on traditional passwords – they are the weakest link in cybersecurity. Adding an MFA will be of great effect to improve the security of your cloud server and everything on it. With all of that set up, let’s dive into some more tips to improve your cloud server security.
Monitor user activities
It’s an often-neglected practice but make sure you monitor your cloud server visitor’s activities. This doesn’t mean you should watch over their shoulders, but you can keep track of abnormal activities. For example, sudden logins from unknown IPs but with known credentials, or trying to access features which aren’t available to that specific account. This can be a bit of a challenge, considering the very different roles and specifics of each business and configuration, but it can also be an early indicator of something fishy possibly happening in your system.
Don’t forget the off-boarding process
Speaking of weird stuff in your system, don’t forget to set up a decent off-boarding process for the employees who are leaving your company. It’s scary how many companies forget to deactivate the accounts of former employees on their systems. While ex-employees might not even know this, hackers could take advantage of the old, but active, profiles and take control of them – so make sure all unneeded profiles are deactivated.
Remove unneeded services
Speaking of removing unneeded data, the same goes for any services and features you may have enabled on your cloud server. Each running service is a so-called attack vector, meaning a possibility for hackers to use to their advantage. There are plenty of services which run in the background and most users don’t even know they are there – some of them are vital to the system like drivers, daemons and so on.
Others though are not needed. For example, any WordPress plugins you don’t actually use. Or system processes for features you don’t need like remote printing. Deactivate these processes but do research them beforehand to see if there are any dependencies which would make the system malfunction. If all is well, keep these processes off. It will not only reduce the security risk, but it will also free up some system resources.
Encrypt your data
Depending on the type of cloud server you use, your data may already be encrypted. But if it’s not, make sure that it is! Keeping your data encrypted will make it safer for your business in the event of a system breach or data theft. There are plenty of encryption tools and protocols out there. Some are paid, other are open source. If your cloud server uses sensitive data, i.e., user information or important company data, then encrypting it is a must.
Encrypt your connections
The whole point of a cloud server is the ease of remote access. With that said, you absolutely should establish and use only a secure, encrypted connection to it. You can use the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH) which is free and widespread but don’t just enable this and move on. Configure it properly, too. For example, change the default port; it’s 22 and because of this, it’s widely known by everyone, especially hackers. SSH ports go up to 32767, so change it with a big number.
And speaking of ports, close the ports you don’t need or use. You can always re-enable them at a moment’s notice, but it’s best to have to open them later than to keep them open for months thus leaving nice little doors for hackers. There are plenty of ports for a variety of features and services, so keeping all these hatches closed can be a bit of a challenge.
Add DDoS protection
DDoS attacks can disrupt your business for days. They are simple to carry out and cost a few bucks to rent. Because of this it’s an absolute must that you add a DDoS protection for your cloud server. Some cloud server providers like Cloudware offer built-in DDoS protection within the price of the service, and coupled with Neterra’s Sofia Data Center and its top infrastructure and security, you are already very well covered!
It’s another tip as old as the Universe, yet still seen as mythical as the Universe itself. Please do a proper, regular backup of your cloud server! Yes, that may require extra money for the additional server and backup service, but it will cost a fraction of the nightmare you will go through if you get hacked, lose access and/or data and have no backups in place. At the very least a proper backup will save you time and effort if a new setting or feature malfunctions and messes up your configuration. And for sensitive data, sometimes a backup of the backup might not be a bad idea no matter how paranoid it sounds on the surface.
Hide server information
When you install new features and services on your cloud server, you might be greeted with a nice new page detailing all the specifications, then they add a software version or a release date somewhere in the footer or in the code in general – this information does nothing for you, but it helps hackers know which exploits to use.
So make sure you hide any such information. It’s not much, but it can help slowing down hackers or sending them down a wrong path for enough time to signal to your admins that something wrong is happening.
Protect the apps
Protecting the cloud server doesn’t mean focusing only on the backend. Don’t forget all the apps you have installed in it. Make sure all software on the server is regularly updated and patched. By “apps” we mean platforms like WordPress, Magento and all their plugins, addons, the OS you use, the additional drivers, modules and everything else you have installed – even your email client. Approach these apps like the server itself – check their configuration, available features and activate or deactivate them in accordance with your needs.
Mind the logs
Most cloud server providers offer various logging tools and monitoring services. They create detailed logs about the processes going on with your server. These logs are great, but they do need your attention. So, dedicate some time to review these logs on a regular basis. They will give you great insight about what’s going on and whether your server is used to its potential or not and it can give you clues to possible hacker activity, too.
Think outside the box
Cloud servers are great, but you must remember one detail – usually they are based on a shared server. This means that one physical server is running several cloud servers for various clients. In most cases this is not an issue as it means a lower service price. But if one client gets DDoS-ed it can disrupt the entire server and everyone else on it.
Service providers know this and have measures in place to prevent this from happening or at the very least minimize the effects. Still, it’s a possibility you need to be aware of and plan for. Sometimes this may mean as little as notifying employees or customers for a short disruption, but if you rely on your cloud server for constant availability, you may need to plan for redundancy features, too.
As you can see there are plenty of possibilities and options in order to improve the security of your cloud server. You don’t need to do them all, but it’s recommended to research them and apply them accordingly to your goals and needs. A secured server means a happy customer.
If you’re still not sure what exactly you need – a cloud or dedicated server, read this article:
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