Systems hardening is a collection of tools, techniques, and best practices to reduce vulnerability in technology applications, systems, infrastructure, firmware, and other areas. The goal of systems hardening is to reduce security risk by eliminating potential attack vectors and condensing the system’s attack surface. By removing superfluous programs, accounts functions, applications, ports, permissions, access, etc. attackers and malware have fewer opportunities to gain a foothold within your IT ecosystem.

Systems hardening demands a methodical approach to audit, identify, close, and control potential security vulnerabilities throughout your organization. There are several types of system hardening activities, including:

Although the principles of system hardening are universal, specific tools and techniques do vary depending on the type of hardening you are carrying out. System hardening is needed throughout the lifecycle of technology, from initial installation, through configuration, maintenance, and support, to end-of-life decommissioning. Systems hardening is also a requirement of mandates such as PCI DSS and HIPAA.

Systems Hardening to Reduce the “Attack Surface”

The “attack surface” is the combination of all the potential flaws and backdoors in technology that can be exploited by hackers. These vulnerabilities can occur in multiple ways, including:

9 Best Practices for Systems Hardening

The type of hardening you carry out depends on the risks in your existing technology, the resources you have available, and the priority for making fixes.

Benefits of Systems Hardening

Systems hardening recovers continuous effort, but the diligence will pay off in substantive ways across your organization via: