We talk a lot about cybersecurity. After all, cybersecurity is a large part of what we do, and it is becoming more essential for small businesses each and every year, as cyber crimes are on the rise. We have shared several blog posts about what small businesses can do to strengthen their cybersecurity strategies, covering topics such as data backup essentials, endpoint management, and layered security. Today we are talking about another tactic you can use to secure your digital information and avoid a data breach: systems hardening. 

Keep reading to learn about systems hardening and how it can protect your small businesses.

Did you know that 43% of cyberattacks are aimed at small businesses, but only 14% are prepared to defend themselves? Check out more cybersecurity statistics.

What is Systems Hardening?

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), systems hardening is “a process intended to eliminate a means of attack by patching vulnerabilities and turning off non-essential services.”

In a nutshell, systems hardening is the process of securing a server by eliminating or reducing the attack surface so there is less room for incoming threats. This looks like implementing various tools and techniques to strengthen a network’s defense. Systems hardening reduces a network’s vulnerabilities in many areas, including applications, infrastructure, and firmware. We’ll take a look at the specifics in the next section.

Types of Systems Hardening

Systems hardening looks different for every company, depending on the existing network, infrastructure, etc. It can be broken down into several different categories, including:

  • Application hardening
  • Operating system hardening
  • Server hardening
  • Endpoint hardening
  • Database hardening
  • Network hardening

For the strongest cybersecurity approach, companies should prioritize every applicable area of systems hardening. However, if it isn’t feasible to secure every area at once, focus on one at a time until each one is covered. 

How to Harden Systems

One of the first and most important steps in systems hardening is identifying any loopholes by which cyber attackers could easily access private data. These loopholes might exist in programs, applications, ports, or elsewhere. It is critical to be thorough when checking for loopholes because the fewer loopholes there are, the less likely it is that attackers can access your network. Working with an IT service provider can help ensure that you don’t leave any loopholes open. 

There are a multitude of ways to harden a system, and the best practices will change depending on the network, hardware, software, applications used, etc. We can’t cover every aspect of how to harden a system in one blog post, but we will highlight some of the best practices of systems hardening below. 

  • Keep up with software updates
  • Implement strong passwords
  • Use firewalls
  • Monitor user activity 
  • Restrict user access
  • Configure user authentication processes
  • Back up data and systems regularly
  • Patch systems regularly 
  • Eliminate unnecessary or nonessential applications and accounts

Some of these practices are easier to implement than others. If you are a small business owner, educate your employees on cybersecurity and encourage them to follow these practices when they can. For the more complex practices, work with an IT team you can trust to take care of your network.

Avoid a Data Breach with Systems Hardening

Did you know that nearly 50% of US companies have experienced a data breach of some kind? Unfortunately, for small businesses, the threat of a data breach is most likely not if, but when. When implemented properly, systems hardening can prevent data breaches or reduce the impact of one should it occur. Working with a professional IT team can ensure that all aspects of your network are hardened as much as possible. IT professionals are familiar with cyber attackers’ tactics, as well as the network loopholes you might not think about.

Don’t wait to implement systems hardening until your company becomes the victim of a data breach. The sooner you protect your network and systems, the sooner you reduce the risk of being hacked by cybercriminals.

Cardinal Technology Solutions’ comprehensive systems hardening services can help your small business protect digital information and avoid future data breaches. Contact us today to learn more and take the next step toward securing your network.

About Cardinal Technology Solutions

Cardinal Technology Solutions is a veteran-owned small business that has earned the reputation as the go-to provider of IT services for Winchester, Virginia and the surrounding areas. Additionally, we specialize in network security, network support, change management, and more. If you are a small business looking for an IT service provider you can trust, we would love to connect. 

Learn more about us and what we do.

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