Are you thinking about ordering a new virtual server and have concerns about VPS security? Are you unsure of the best ways to secure VPS servers?
If you’re feeling that way, you’re not alone. There are many VPS hosting options out there, and it can be overwhelming. But taking the time to select the right hosting model can be the best decision you make for your business operations and data security.
When ordering a server for VPS Hosting, you will likely have the option to choose between a managed and an unmanaged server:
- Managed VPS: These servers are managed and secured by your managed hosting provider.
- Unmanaged VPS: These servers would need to be set up, managed, supported, and secured by an in-house security team at your organization.
It’s important to understand your hosting options (i.e., shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated server) when deciding what kind of infrastructure and secure VPS hosting support you will need.
What is VPS Security?
VPS technology revolves around partitioning a bare metal host server and its resources. Web hosts use a hypervisor to take that bare metal server and divide it into several VPS instances.
The resulting partitions of the bare metal server are virtualized in their own, independent environment. Security risks are also minimized since the hypervisor isn’t usually exposed to public access. In this way, VPS systems are much more secure than shared hosting. The increased vulnerability isn’t worth the risk and may be reason enough for you to choose VPS.
When discussing VPS security, you should consider the following:
Each of these services is a critical part of the overall secure VPS hosting framework.
Can a VPS Be Hacked?
While no hosting platform is invincible to hackers, a VPS system is one of the most secure options. Because each VPS instance is its own, independent, virtualized environment, it becomes similar to a dedicated server in that your files, software, and operating system are isolated and separated from other instances.
Remaining faithful to what a dedicated server is means that each virtual machine has its own pool of server resources. CPU, RAM, and disk space resources can be allocated to one particular VPS instance. These resources are distributed as needed, and whatever isn’t used will sit in the host’s resource pool.
The result is an efficient system that only uses the exact amount of resources you need while saving the rest for other server applications. Users can achieve this optimized efficiency without sacrificing any security as all VPS instances remain isolated.
While it’s still possible that the security of a VPS system can be compromised, its isolated nature makes it less likely in comparison to a shared hosting platform.
Does a VPS Need a Firewall?
Since hosting is more secure with a VPS, many companies wonder if a firewall is necessary. The short answer is yes.
Network and Internet threat actors are getting smarter by the day. They are constantly developing new, innovative ways to access sensitive files and data.
In some cases, cybersecurity practices are so poor that hackers can just revive old TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) to infiltrate certain bloated and exposed networks. Given the current state of cybersecurity, any layer of protection you can add is worth the investment.
Although the dedicated nature of VPS hosting gives much more security, you won’t have the highest layer of protection possible without adding a firewall. Configuring a firewall properly will allow you to manage and shut down data ports, stopping the influx of malicious data before it starts.
Proper firewall management will also allow you to block malicious traffic before it even reaches your server. You can set custom rules to determine what traffic can or can’t access the server as well as what ports are open.
Why Use a Managed Server vs Unmanaged Server for Security
The main reason to use a managed server vs an unmanaged server is that a managed VPS server gives you access to a support team 24/7. Constant support is vital to VPS security because you’ll have access to managed hosting experts who know exactly how to quickly handle difficult situations and new types of threats.
With an unmanaged server, you have no support other than your network maintenance efforts. If you have an unmanaged server, you’re responsible for your own backup and network security. This may require you to hire specialized staff, buy specialized software, or hire these tasks out to a third-party vendor.
Does Managed Hosting Include Updates and Patching?
Working with a managed hosting provider like Liquid Web ensures your server gets regular patches and OS updates automatically. Timely patching is pivotal to your VPS security, as core operating system patches secure your VPS hosting and stop hackers from using well-known exploits against your servers.
When a threat is found, operating system updates are issued to patch your network and prevent attackers from causing further damage. If you are using unmanaged hosting, you will need to install all updates and software patches yourself.
At Liquid Web, our proprietary software keeps your server up to date with the latest patches to safeguard your VPS security system against hackers. Our systems check the latest patches and coordinate with you to install them at the most convenient times for your business, usually after-hours.
Our team will work with you to configure the proper rules and configurations around your update policies. This allows us to equip your system with the latest updates and patches without their installation causing your site or app to go down.
How Do Managed Server-Level Backups Work?
On a managed web server, you will have backup software available regularly. These backups of your server’s files are usually scheduled daily to protect the most recent instance of your data against unexpected events or attacks.
These backups will be stored off your server in the cloud. If something were to happen to your server, you would be able to restore it to your latest restore point quickly and with minimal data loss.
Important cPanel or control panel backups can also be configured to be stored in the cloud. In fact, many Liquid Web customers choose to back up their cPanel accounts to our Block Storage service.
For an added layer of protection, we also offer our customers access to Acronis Cyber Backups. With Acronis, users can back up important data off-server and/or off-site.
Unmanaged servers do not readily offer backup implementations. This means that you will have to find your own VPS hosting backup solutions to copy data and prevent possible data loss or corruption successfully and securely. Savvy IT pros could potentially script their own backups, but this would leave them responsible for any backup policies and procedures.
In this situation, although they may be capable of scripting their own backups, Acronis may still be a more secure and reliable solution.
Do Managed Servers Come with Security Protection?
Liquid Web's managed servers come with basic DDoS Attack Protection. DDoS, which stands for Distributed Denial of Service, is an attack from hackers during which a server is bombarded with packets of data to the point where the server becomes overwhelmed and crashes.
DDoS protection prevents these types of attacks from happening and can shut them down immediately once they start. They can do this by detecting abnormal traffic patterns and blocking the data units from hitting the server.
Liquid Web can provide secure VPS hosting that effectively prevents DDoS attacks up to 2Gbps in size. For added protection, up to 10Gbps, users can upgrade to our premium DDoS Attack Protection tier.
Our team actively monitors network traffic and is quick to detect potential threats. Even while you are home sleeping, Liquid Web's monitoring team watches for unusual traffic patterns and implements rules to protect your server.
Additional VPS security features like Cloudflare protection can reduce your server load and prevent DDoS attacks. And with point-and-click scaling of resources, VPS Hosting can handle DDoS attacks much more readily than most shared hosting.
Does Managed Hosting Offer Virus Protection?
Managed hosting offers a VPS security system with robust antivirus and hacking protection. Server Secure Plus and Malicious Activity Detector are two important Liquid Web features that help fend off such attacks.
Server Secure Plus
Server Secure Plus is a custom security service that is designed to harden your server against threats. This service includes custom security enhancements, malware scans and remediation, hardened FTP rules, and monthly vulnerability scans.
Server Secure Plus can easily be added to your fully managed Liquid Web server and is available for both Linux and Windows-based servers.
Malicious Activity Detector (MAD)
Liquid Web’s Malicious Activity Detector security tool prevents hackers from brute-forcing server passwords by blocking that IP from accessing the server for a set amount of time after a certain number of failed login attempts have been detected. This effectively stops hackers from using automated software to guess passwords on your webserver to gain illegitimate access.
You won’t get any of these features with unmanaged servers. Unmanaged servers are completely do-it-yourself and do not include antivirus or brute force password detection by default.
These extra layers of VPS security are yet another reason to have a managed server, compared to unmanaged hosting.
Find out more about what brute force attacks are and how to protect your server.
Do Managed Servers Have Automatic Upgrades?
Hardware upgrades, such as your hard drive RAID (redundant array of independent/inexpensive disks), are vital to VPS security. Keeping these important hardware components up to date allows for optimal storage performance across multiple hard drives.
If your RAID fails, all your data is at risk of deletion. Therefore, having a dedicated team available to monitor these physical hardware risks is incredibly important. Managed servers will receive automatic hardware upgrades at the data center to help keep your server safe.
If hardware fails or becomes obsolete, the support team will automatically upgrade these physical components at the appropriate time. Managed support can even implement small changes like adding more RAM or upgrading a hard drive. Just note there will be downtime for your site or app while the upgrades are performed quickly, which in most cases is 30 minutes or less.
Why Should You Choose Managed VPS Security
Unless you have your own, fully dedicated, technical support team that understands VPS hosting, it makes sense to go with managed hosting. Unmanaged VPS hosting can be a lot of work and requires a vast array of technical knowledge to maintain the security of your system.
Support must also be available 24/7 to prevent attacks. A dedicated Liquid Web monitoring team, security team, and Windows or Linux general support are included in our managed services packages to help you every step of the way.
How to Properly Secure Your Server
A lot of risks can be avoided by simply implementing the proper protocols to secure your server. Below are some common sense tips and tricks that will help to get your security off on the right foot for any server – VPS or otherwise.
Create A Strong Password
One of the biggest protections for your data and network is taking the time to create a strong and secure password for your server. Liquid Web automatically generates a strong password for every customer’s server.
If you’re creating a server password on your own, strive for 15 characters or more, containing upper and lowercase characters, numbers, and special symbols. This type of password, statistically, would take a hacker billions or even trillions of years to infiltrate.
Use Secure File Transfer Protocol (sFTP)
sFTP encrypts your data and authentication information. This protocol uses two channels: data and command. A user can encrypt both of these channels to lend maximum security to important data during transfer. FTP, on the other hand, doesn’t have this encryption.
It’s important to note that these files will only be encrypted during transfer. Once the files reach their destination, they lose the sFTP encryption. Therefore, it’s wise to encrypt the files before sending them as an added layer of security.
Install SSL Certificates
Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates protect two systems that exist on the internet as they pass information back and forth. The certificates scramble the data while it’s in transit so it remains secure.
Even if a hacker gets ahold of this information, they won’t be able to understand what it means. SSLs come in handy with extremely sensitive data like health and financial records. These certificates are paramount to server security because of the encryption they provide during data transfer.
Disable Root Login
The root login grants a user access to a superuser on Linux and Unix-based systems. Anyone who can access this account will have complete system and data access. Disabling the root login prevents hackers from even having the opportunity to infiltrate important data and files on your server.
Closing Unnecessary Network Ports
Since server information travels through network ports, it can be a high-value target for digital threat actors. Ports that are unused or open should be detected by your IT administrator and then shut down to prevent entry from hackers.
Instead of closing network ports, you may opt to firewall the ports in your system. This can be a viable solution, but you need to monitor your UPNP settings. UPNP is a setting within the firewall software that automatically opens network ports. In order to maximize the security of your firewall and network ports, this capability needs to be disabled.
Try Managed VPS Hosting at Liquid Web
Our Managed Support Team is available 24/7/365 via phone, chat, or email to help you with any issues that may arise with your VPS security system. You can simply reach out to the support line and get an expert technician in minutes.
Whether you need a password reset, a firewall rule implemented, or have a VPS security question, a dedicated support team makes a big difference in your workload and peace of mind. Contact a Helpful Human today and put our hosting knowledge and expertise to work for you.
Mike Sherman was formerly one of our Helpful Humans at Liquid Web and worked on the Windows Enterprise Department. He has over 10 years of technology experience and a wealth of SEO and online marketing knowledge. He now supports IT infrastructures for mid-range companies as a Mid-West MSP.
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