How do I Improve Linux® Security?

Vanessa Harvey

You can improve Linux® security by assessing vulnerabilities, securing physical access to machines, configuring servers for maximum security, keeping up to date on security issues and creating policies to handle worst-case scenarios. It is also advisable to safeguard the root password, use strong passwords and perhaps even use a boot loader password. Some of the protections that are used to improve Linux® security are the same as those used to increase security under any operating system.

Password strength is important when it comes to improving Linux security.
Password strength is important when it comes to improving Linux security.

When assessing vulnerabilities, consider refraining from installing software you do not need — software can't be "attacked" if it is not installed. Enabling services that you do not need should also be avoided. For example, if you do not permit people to upload files, there really is no need for services such as file transfer protocol (FTP). Avoid connecting to a wireless network if possible, particularly if you are running a server. Place servers in a locked room, and do not allow machines to report information that could be of help to a hacker, such as software names and versions.

A firewall is often your first line of defense against outside attacks or malicious software.
A firewall is often your first line of defense against outside attacks or malicious software.

It is extremely important that the root password meets the generally accepted standards for the creation of strong passwords and that it is secured on the network or kept in a secure place in the case of a personal computer (PC) that is not networked. You also can improve Linux® security by implementing a strong boot loader password and by completely removing accounts of anyone who no longer needs access to the network. Any data associated with the account should be backed up before removal.

Linux® security is also improved by using Linux® security tools such as a firewall, an anti-virus software or security-enhanced Linux®. Disabling the local firewall simply because you have a firewall at the perimeter is not in accordance with improving Linux® security. Having only one layer of protection only makes things easier for a hacker. Several layers often cause a hacker to lose patience or fear that suspicious activity will be discovered and traced to its source.

Vulnerabilities in open-source software are generally very quickly discovered. They also are almost always just as quickly fixed by patches that are written by the international community of programmers of the distribution. These patches or updates are then released and made available free of charge via download. This is why it is very important to keep the system updated, which can be an automated process. Following these basic guidelines for improving Linux® security will help to avoid data corruption, data loss and down time.

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Discussion Comments


@Terrificli -- One of the reasons Linux is used on servers so much is because it is derived from UNIX which is essentially the first operating system used in servers.

And that raises another point. When people attack servers, they are really looking for Linux exploits (most of the time). So, some people do know how to exploit Linux and they do it pretty well.


@Terrificli -- Linux is certainly a secure operating system, but that is not just because it was designed well. Linux security is bolstered by the fact that it is in the minority when it comes to operating systems.

It is no accident that the most popular operating system on the planet (Microsoft Windows) is the one that has the most security problems. People target their attacks on Windows because they can hurt the most people that way. Why expend the same amount of effort on Linux when you know you won't get those kind of results?

Again, Linux is a great operating system. Still, I am willing to bet users would struggle with security issues if it became a lot more popular than it is now.


Want to know the single, best way to increase Linux security? Just install Linux and use it.

There is a very good reason, after all, why most servers are running on Linux. It is the most secure operating system out there. It was designed to be safe and, as the article points out, vulnerabilities are quickly discovered by all those Linux enthusiasts who seem to always be improving the core of the OS.

Heck, Linux is so safe that most people don't even use virus protection with it. That's secure, folks.

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