System Hardening for Security

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Hardening is the practice of making an operating system (OS) or application more secure from its default installation. If you’re planning on taking the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of  system hardening for security.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. Your organization wants to improve the security posture of internal database servers and protect against zero-day vulnerabilities. Of the following choices, what provides the BEST solution?

A. Opening ports on a server’s firewall

B. Disabling unnecessary services

C. Keeping systems up to date with current patches

D. Keeping systems up to date with current service packs

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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OS and Application Hardening

An important first step when hardening operating systems and applications is to read the directions. The vendor documentation and guidelines include important details on steps you can take to secure them, but they’re only useful when someone reads them and applies the knowledge.

Many vendors approach application development with a goal of usability over security. The application will be easy to set up and configure, but it may have gaping security holes. Other vendors value security over usability. It’s secure when you install it, but it may not work as desired.

Interestingly, it’s only when applications value security over usability that administrators are forced to read the documentation. If security settings prevent the application from working as desired, they have to dig into the documentation to modify the settings. In contrast, if they install it and it works out of the box, they may be called away to fight another crisis before checking the documentation for security issues.

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide (SY0-401)

The 401 Version of the Study Guide is Now Available

SY0-401 Study GuideThe CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide is an update to the top-selling SY0-201 and SY0-301 study guides, which have helped thousands of readers pass the exam the first time they took it.

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Over 400 realistic practice test questions with in-depth explanations will help you test your comprehension and readiness for the exam. The book includes:

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  • A 100 question post-test
  • Practice test questions at the end of every chapter.

Each practice test question includes a detailed explanation to help you understand the content and the reasoning behind the question. You’ll be ready to take and pass the exam the first time you take it.

If you plan to pursue any of the advanced security certifications, this guide will also help you lay a solid foundation of security knowledge. Learn this material, and you’ll be a step ahead for other exams. This SY0-401 study guide is for any IT or security professional interested in advancing in their field, and a must read for anyone striving to master the basics of IT security.

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Disabling Unnecessary Services

A core principle associated with hardening a system includes disabling or removing all unnecessary services. If a service is not running on a system, attackers cannot attack it, and it reduces the overall attack surface of the system. For example, an expert on exploiting File Transfer Protocol (FTP) vulnerabilities will be unsuccessful using these techniques on a server that is not running the FTP service. It doesn’t matter how vulnerable a service is. If it’s not running, attackers cannot exploit any of its vulnerabilities.

System Hardening

When you disable a service, you often remove access to the associated protocol. For example, if you disable the FTP service, you disable the FTP protocol. Some protocols, such as Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP), are necessary for connectivity within a network and cannot be disabled. Other protocols, such as FTP, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), and Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), are optional application protocols supporting related services. If the server needs them, you’d enable them. For example, you’d enable SMTP on an email server, but would disable it on a server not sending or receiving email.

Security+ Practice Test Questions

SYO-401 Practice Test Questions Now Available

Over 440 realistic Security+ practice test questions

All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct,

and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

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the First Time You Take It

Multiple quiz formats to let you use these questions based on the way you learn.
  • Learn mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Learn mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. Use this if you want to make sure that you see all of the questions. Learn mode allows you to keep selecting answers until you select the correct answer. Once you select the correct answer, you'll see the explanation. Click here to see how learn mode works.
  • Test mode - randomized. View each of the questions in random order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - not randomized. View each of the questions in the same order. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.
  • Test mode - 100 random questions. View 100 random questions from the full test bank similar to how the Security+ exam has a potential maximum of 100 multiple choice questions. In test mode, you can only see the correct answers and explanations after you complete the test. Click here to see how test mode works.

Get the full bank of Security+ Practice Test Questions Here

 SYO-401 Practice Test Questions Now Available


INCLUDES QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU PREPARE

FOR THE NEW PERFORMANCE BASED QUESTIONS 

Bonus - Performance Based Questions

Additional Security+ questions to help you prepare for the new performance based questions. These are included with the full bank of Security+ practice test questions and are divided into different sections. For example, you'll have access to the following links:

- Performance Based Question - Set 1

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of security to mobile devices and servers in a data center. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 2

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 3

You'll see a graphic showing a network with computers and servers separated by a firewall. The firewall is used to control traffic between the computers and users using rules within an access control list (ACL).  You'll have three questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly identify the relevant components of the rule. The incorrect answers and explanation provide you with insight into how to correctly answer this type of question on the actual exam.

- Performance Based Question - Set 4

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam related to what a forensic analyst would do during an investigation. You'll then have two questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 5

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match protocols and ports. You'll then have seven questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 6

You'll see a list of security controls along with a graphic showing devices and locations within an organization, along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the controls with the devices and locations. You'll then have four questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This question also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 7

You'll see a list of authentication methods and authentication factors along with instructions on what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match the authentication methods with the authentication factors. You'll then have six questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This set also includes a link to a graphic showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

- Performance Based Question - Set 8

You'll see a graphic explaining what you might be required to do on the actual exam to match different types of attacks with the name of the attack type. You'll then have five questions that test your knowledge and ability to correctly answer the questions. This is similar to Set 2 but expands on the possibilities. The set also includes a link to a page showing the end solution for the overall performance based question simulation.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 9

New questions recently added using a different testing engine. See a demo here. This set includes drag and drop and matching questions on ports.

New - Performance Based Question - Set 10

A random set of 20 performance-based questions using drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in-the blank. This set includes performance-based questions on RAID.

Get the full bank of Security+ Practice Test Questions Here

Get the full bank of Security+ Practice Test Questions

Disabling unnecessary services and removing unneeded protocols provide several key benefits, including the following:

  • Improves the overall security posture of systems. Systems that are running only required services and protocols are less susceptible to attacks, which improves their overall security posture.
  • Reduces the attack surface. Disabled services and protocols are not vulnerable to attacks, so by disabling unnecessary services and protocols, you reduce the system’s attack surface. Both known attack methods and previously unknown zero-day vulnerability attack methods are unsuccessful when the services and protocols are disabled or removed. This includes known attack methods and previously unknown zero-day vulnerability attacks.
  • Reduces risks associated with open ports. If an attacker does a port scan, the port scan fails on the associated port. For example, disabling the RDP service on a server causes a port scan on port 3389 to fail on the server, even if the port is open on a firewall between the attacker and the server.

Remember this

Hardening a server makes it more secure from its default installation. Disabling unnecessary services and protocols reduces the attack surface of a system and improves its overall security posture.


Full Security+ Course

Full Security+ Course Now Available

Helping you Pass the First Time

Online access includes all of the content from the

CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide

  • Introduction
  • About the exam (including types of questions and strategies for performance-based questions)
  • 100 question pre-assessment exam
  • Mastering Security Basics (full content from Chapter 1 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Control Types and Methods (full content from Chapter 2 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Basic Network Security (full content from Chapter 3 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Securing Your Network (full content from Chapter 4 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Securing Hosts and Data (full content from Chapter 5 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Malware and Social Engineering (full content from Chapter 6 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Identifying Advanced Attacks (full content from Chapter 7 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Managing Risk (full content from Chapter 8 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Preparing for Business Continuity (full content from Chapter 9 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Understanding Cryptography (full content from Chapter 10 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • Exploring Operational Security (full content from Chapter 11 of the study guide including the exam topic review and 20 practice test questions)
  • 100 question post-assessment exam
  • Security+ Acronyms

Get the Full Security+ Course Here

 Full Security+ Course Now Available


Test your readiness with these quality materials

Random 100-question tests

Random practice tests from the all of the practice test questions in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. All questions include explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct, and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.

34 Simulated Performance-based Questions

Eight sets of performance-based questions with multiple questions in each set. These questions help you understand and prepare for performance based questions.

22 Realistic Performance-based Questions

Two new sets of performance-based questions with a total of 22 questions. These new questions use a new testing engine that includes realistic drag and drop, matching, sorting, and fill in the blank questions.

Flashcard Set

  • 273 Security+ Flashcards to reinforce key testable concepts
  • 280 Security+ acronyms flashcards to help you master the required acronyms
  • 204 Security+ Remember This slides

Audio - SY0-401 Security+ Remember This Audio Files

Learn by Listening. Over one hour and 15 minutes of audio (MP3 downloads.)

Audio - SY0-401 Security+ Question and Answer Audio Files

Learn by Listening. Over three hours hour and 15 minutes of audio (MP3 downloads.)

Bonus #1

Audio from the end of chapter reviews from each of the chapters in the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide. Over one hour and 15 minutes of additional audio.

Bonus #2

Subnetting mini-tutorial that will help you answer two key question types:
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Bonus #3 

Access the study materials for a total of 60 days because sometimes life happens.

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Q. Your organization wants to improve the security posture of internal database servers and protect against zero-day vulnerabilities. Of the following choices, what provides the BEST solution?

A. Opening ports on a server’s firewall

B. Disabling unnecessary services

C. Keeping systems up to date with current patches

D. Keeping systems up to date with current service packs

Answer is B. Disabling unnecessary services helps reduce threats, including threats from zero-day vulnerabilities.

It also reduces the threat from open ports on a firewall if the associated services are disabled, but opening ports won’t reduce threats.

Keeping systems up to date with patches and service packs protects against known vulnerabilities and is certainly a good practice.

However, by definition, there aren’t any patches or service packs available for zero-day vulnerabilities.

See Chapter 5 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information on implementing host security.

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