Improving security on web servers is vital to protect against hackers and data breaches
To minimize the risk of your business losing data to hacks and breaches, it’s crucial to ensure that your web server is set up as securely as possible. If your server security is compromised, it could result in anything from spam advert injections on a company website, to user data being intercepted and stolen from form submissions.
A secure web server will generally fall into one of two categories. Most commonly, it’s a server on the public web that supports security protocols like SSL, meaning that sensitive data transmitted to and from the server is encrypted for the user’s protection. Alternatively, it can mean a web server used only by a team of employees within a local network, secured against external threats.
To maintain the security of your web servers, and keep potential threats at bay, it’s important to stay up to date with the ever-evolving security landscape.
Web servers are one of the most targeted parts of an organization’s network, because of the sensitive data that they typically host. As a result, it’s important that as well as securing web applications and your wider network, you take thorough measures to secure the web servers themselves.
There are several key threats to web servers that are important to be aware of, to prevent and mitigate those risks. These include, but are not limited to:
However, one of the most prevalent threats to server security is human error or carelessness. Whether it’s poorly-written code, easy-to-guess passwords, or a failure to install and update firewalls and other security software, the human element in cybersecurity is typically the weakest link.
You should also consider the physical security of the computers that are acting as your web servers: no matter what security software you use, it could be undermined if physical access to your servers isn’t properly controlled.
Some of the most popular options for web server software include Apache, LiteSpeed, IIS, Nginx, and Lighttpd. It’s also possible to use ‘virtual servers’, or virtual web hosting services, to run multiple servers from a single computer.
Different types of web server will meet different user needs, but all are typically compatible with major operating systems such as Linux, Windows, and macOS.
Apache is open-source and, with a 37.4% share of the market (June 2020), is generally regarded as the most popular web server in the world. It supports Linux, Unix, Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu, and other operating systems, and can be easily customized thanks to its modular structure.
Apache is highly stable compared to other web servers.
Nginx is another open-source solution, known for high performance, stability, low resource usage, and highly scalable event-driven architecture. Compatible with most major operating systems, Nginx can also be used as a reverse proxy, mail proxy, HTTP cache, and load balancer.
A key benefit of Lighttpd is its small CPU load and speed optimization. With an event-driven architecture similar to that of Nginx, Lighttpd is designed to manage a large number of parallel connections and can support features such as Output-compression, FastCGI, Auth, SCGI and URL-rewriting among other things.
If you need to manage multiple web domains, it can be more efficient to do this from one machine via virtual web servers, rather than having a dedicated, separate server for each. Virtual servers, or virtual web hosting, can be cost-effective and generally does not impact site performance. However, if too many virtual servers are housed on the same computer, it can lead to web pages being delivered more slowly.
Server security is just one part of a broader, holistic network security strategy. Whereas server security refers specifically to the measures taken to protect your web servers and the data they process, network security also includes things like firewalls and antivirus software to protect other parts of the network.
Employee laptops, smartphones, and other internet-connected devices are all parts of your network that should be secured against threats. Phishing emails, spoof websites, and malicious applications are just a few of the risks, which is why it’s important to use comprehensive endpoint protection in addition to web server security. This encompasses perimeter security, such as firewalls, as well as software that prevents potential threats from entering your network undetected.
To set up a secure new web server, or improve the security of your business’s existing web servers, there are several simple steps you can take.
Your business’s cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link. Along with regular training for system administrators and IT professionals to ensure knowledge is up to date with the latest threats, all entry points into your network must be protected and secured with professional endpoint protection.
Learn how Avast Business endpoint protection can help defend your business against malware, data breaches and advanced attacks.
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