Best Practices to Secure your VPS (hardening) 

Best Practices to Secure your VPS (hardening) (head image)

As online threats become more sophisticated, it becomes increasingly important for administrators and users alike to implement robust security measures. This guide aims to provide best practices to Secure your VPS and gives you comprehensive insights and actionable steps to harden your VPS, fortifying its defenses against potential vulnerabilities. 

Why Harden Your VPS?

The security of your VPS is not merely a matter of choice but a necessity. Default configurations, outdated services, and weak access controls can leave your server susceptible to unauthorized access, data breaches, and various forms of cyber-attacks. This guide is crafted to empower you with the knowledge and practices needed to proactively secure your VPS, reducing the likelihood of security incidents and enhancing overall system resilience. 

Explore Our Other Security Guides

Before diving into the specifics of VPS hardening, it is valuable to consider our other security guides that provide a holistic approach to safeguarding your digital infrastructure: 

Best Practices for Securing Remote Connections to your VPS 

This comprehensive guide delves into the secure configuration of remote access to your VPS. Learn about robust authentication methods, encrypted communication channels, and essential practices for establishing a secure remote connection setup. 

Free Tools to Monitor & Test the Security of Your Server or VPS

Knowledge is paramount in the realm of cybersecurity. Discover our curated list of free tools dedicated to monitoring and assessing the security posture of your server or VPS. From vulnerability scanning to log analysis, these tools empower you to proactively identify and address potential security weaknesses. 

The Importance of Patching and Patching Best Practices (Linux & Windows)

Explore the pivotal role of timely updates in thwarting potential exploits. Out guide “The Importance of Patching and Patching Best Practices (Linux & Windows)“ not only underscores the importance of patching but also provides best practices tailored for both Linux and Windows environments. 

How to Enable 2FA/TOTP on a VPS 

Security transcends system hardening. Dive into the intricacies of enabling Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Time-Based One-Time Passwords (TOTP) on your VPS. Our Guide “How to Enable 2FA/TOTP on a VPS” walks you through the steps to add an additional layer of authentication, enhancing the overall security posture of your VPS. 

Indicators That Your Instance Has Been Compromised

Vigilance is key in the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity. Our guide “Indicators That Your Instance Has Been Compromised“ illuminates the indicators of a compromised instance and provides actionable steps on how to respond effectively. Arm yourself with the knowledge to detect and mitigate potential security breaches swiftly. 

As we navigate these guides, we lay a robust foundation for securing your digital environment. Let us now turn our attention to the core principles and practices that constitute effective VPS hardening. 

Disable Unnecessary Services

In the pursuit of fortifying your VPS against potential security threats, a crucial aspect is minimizing the attack surface by judiciously disabling unnecessary services. This proactive approach significantly reduces the avenues through which a malicious actor could exploit vulnerabilities. 

Reducing Attack Surface

Reducing the attack surface is about minimizing the points vulnerable to exploitation. Unused services, if left active, can become entry points for malicious actors. Employ tools like nmap to conduct scans and identify services that might be inadvertently exposed to the internet. 

To perform a basic nmap scan: 

nmap -p 1-65535 <VPS_IP>

Replace `<VPS_IP>` with your VPS’s actual IP address. 

Identifying and Disabling Unused Services

To identify unused services, begin by conducting an inventory of the services running on your VPS. Identify those that are not integral to the intended functionality. Unused services not only consume system resources but also introduce potential vulnerabilities. Consider stopping or disabling services that are not actively contributing to the operational requirements of your server. 

For instance, on a Linux system using systemd, you can disable a service using the following commands:

sudo systemctl stop <service_name>

Disable the service to prevent it from starting on boot:

sudo systemctl disable <service_name>

Replace `<service_name>` with the actual name of the service you want to disable. 

Free online scanning tools also offer a user-friendly way to identify which services and ports are exposed. Tools like Shodan, Censys, or SecurityHeaders can assist in mapping your VPS’s attack surface. A basic nmap scan is also an accessible option for users who are less experienced but still want to ensure the security of their VPS. 

Impact on Overall System Security

The impact of disabling unnecessary services extends beyond reducing the attack surface. It also contributes to a more streamlined and efficient system. Unneeded services not only pose security risks but can also introduce unnecessary complexity, making it challenging to monitor and manage your VPS effectively. 

By disabling services that are not required, you not only enhance the security posture of your VPS but also simplify the task of ongoing maintenance. The principle here is to create a lean and focused system configuration, where each active service is intentional and contributes meaningfully to the functionality of your VPS. 

Firewall Configuration

Before we embark on configuring your VPS’s firewall, review our in-depth guide “How to Setup a Software-Firewall in Linux and Windows”. This guide provides detailed instructions for both Linux and Windows environments, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of firewall setup tailored to your operating system. 

Enabling and Configuring Host Firewall 

Begin by ensuring that your host firewall is not only enabled but also configured to align with security best practices. Most operating systems come equipped with a default firewall, such as iptables for Linux or Windows Defender Firewall for Windows. Enable the firewall and carefully tailor its settings to suit your specific use case. 

Restrictive Firewall Rules

Implementing restrictive firewall rules is a cornerstone of any effective security strategy. Define rules that explicitly allow only the necessary traffic while blocking all other incoming and outgoing connections. This approach significantly reduces the attack surface, making it more challenging for malicious entities to exploit vulnerabilities. 

When setting up restrictive firewall rules, consider specific examples to ensure a more granular and secure configuration. For instance, when dealing with SSH or RDP access, instead of having a broad rule like allowing port 22 from `` (allowing access from any IP), create rules that only permit inbound SSH or RDP from addresses that genuinely need to access the host. 

Here is an example using iptables for SSH: 

Allow inbound SSH only from a specific IP address:

sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -s -j ACCEPT 

Drop all other SSH traffic:

sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -j DROP 

Replace `<trusted_ip>` with the actual IP address that should have SSH access. 

By adopting such practices, you ensure that your firewall rules are tailored to your specific use case, minimizing the potential exposure to unauthorized access attempts. 

Single Role Host Configuration

Configuring your VPS with a single, well-defined role is a strategic move towards enhancing security and simplifying overall management. This approach involves assigning a specific purpose to each host, minimizing its attack surface, and fortifying it against potential security threats. 

Simplifying Attack Surface Management

The concept of a single-role host revolves around simplifying attack surface management. By designating a specific role to each host, you inherently reduce the number of services, ports, and potential vulnerabilities exposed to the external environment. This targeted approach streamlines security measures, making it more manageable to monitor and safeguard your VPS. 

Benefits of Single Role Hosting

The benefits of adopting a single role hosting strategy are multifold. It not only simplifies security management but also enhances resource allocation and system performance. Each host is optimized for a specific function, allowing you to allocate resources efficiently and ensure that the system operates at its best capacity. 

Implementing Specific Traffic Rules

With a single role host configuration, you gain the ability to implement specific traffic rules tailored to the designated role. This fine-tuned control over network traffic enhances security by allowing only the necessary communication to and from the host. By enforcing specific rules, you can mitigate the risk of unauthorized access and potential exploitation of vulnerabilities. 

Trusted External Access

Establishing trusted external access to your VPS is paramount in ensuring that only authorized entities can interact with your server. By configuring your firewall to allow access exclusively from trusted sources, you create an additional layer of defense against potential security threats. 

Configuring Firewall for Trusted IPs

Extend the security measures by limiting access to specific external IP ranges. For instance, using iptables, you can define a range of IP addresses to allow: 

Allowing access from a specific IP range:

sudo iptables -A INPUT -s <start_ip>-<end_ip> -j ACCEPT

Replace `<start_ip>` and `<end_ip>` with the actual start and end IP addresses of the trusted range. 

Enhancing Security with Trusted Access

Trusted external access not only fortifies your VPS against unauthorized entry but also enhances overall security. By restricting access to a select set of trusted IPs, you minimize the risk of malicious actors attempting to exploit vulnerabilities. This approach is particularly effective in scenarios where your VPS serves specific functions that require access from designated sources. 

Regular Updates and Patching

Keeping your VPS system updated with the latest patches is a fundamental aspect of maintaining a secure and resilient hosting environment. Regular updates and patching play a crucial role in fortifying your VPS against emerging security vulnerabilities. 

Importance of Keeping Systems Updated

Software developers continually release updates and patches to address known vulnerabilities, improve system stability, and enhance overall performance. Neglecting these updates leaves your VPS susceptible to exploits that target outdated software components. 

For a more detailed exploration of the importance of patching and best practices, refer to our dedicated guide “The Importance of Patching and Patching Best Practices (Linux & Windows)“. 

Patching Best Practices

Patching best practices encompass a range of strategies aimed at ensuring a smooth and secure update process. This includes: 

Regular Monitoring: Stay informed about software updates and security patches released by the respective vendors. 

Scheduled Maintenance: Implement a regular maintenance schedule to apply updates promptly without disrupting critical operations. 

Testing Updates: Before deploying updates in a production environment, test them in a controlled setting to identify any potential issues. 

Backup Procedures: Always perform system backups before applying updates to mitigate the risk of data loss in case of unforeseen issues. 

Mitigating Risks through Timely Updates

Mitigating risks through timely updates involves a proactive approach to system maintenance. By promptly applying updates, you close potential avenues for exploitation, reducing the likelihood of security incidents. Regularly check for and install updates for the operating system, software applications, and any additional components installed on your VPS. 

Data Encryption 

Protecting the confidentiality of your data is an important aspect of VPS security. Data encryption ensures that even if unauthorized access occurs, the sensitive information remains unreadable and secure. So,implementing host data encryption is a proactive measure to safeguard your data assets. 

Implementing Host Data Encryption

Implementing host data encryption involves encrypting the data stored on your VPS’s disks. This ensures that, even in the event of unauthorized access or data breaches, the information remains protected. Both Linux and Windows operating systems provide native tools for implementing disk encryption. 

For example, on Linux systems using LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) for disk encryption: 

Encrypt a disk partition:

sudo cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sdX 

Open the encrypted partition:

sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdX encrypted_partition

Create a file system on the encrypted partition:

sudo mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/encrypted_partition 

On Windows systems, BitLocker is a built-in feature that allows you to encrypt entire disk volumes. 

Supported Encryption Methods (BitLocker/Luks) 

Supported encryption methods play a crucial role in the effectiveness of data encryption. BitLocker on Windows and LUKS on Linux support strong encryption algorithms, ensuring the robust security of your data. When configuring encryption, select algorithms and key sizes that align with current security standards. 

Ensuring Confidentiality of Host Data

Ensuring the confidentiality of host data involves implementing encryption best practices and regularly reviewing and updating encryption settings. Periodic audits of encryption configurations help identify potential vulnerabilities and ensure that the encryption mechanisms remain effective against evolving threats. 


Let us distill the most critical insights from each chapter to form a cohesive approach: 

Chapter Key Idea 
Change Default Accounts: Start by avoiding default usernames and passwords to fend off brute force attacks. 
Disable Unnecessary Services: Simplify system management and boost security by turning off services you do not need, shrinking the potential areas of attack. 
Firewall Configuration: Beef up network security by turning on a host firewall, setting strict rules, and only allowing the absolutely necessary services and ports. 
Single Role Host Configuration: Make things efficient and secure by giving specific roles to each host, making it simpler to manage and reducing potential vulnerabilities. 
Trusted External Access: Strengthen your VPS by carefully configuring your firewall to allow only trusted IPs, limiting access to specific ranges, and overall improving security through trusted access. 
Regular Updates and Patching: Stay on top of updates to patch vulnerabilities and follow best practices for a secure and reliable environment. 
Data Encryption: Keep your data safe by using strong encryption methods like BitLocker/LUKS, ensuring that sensitive information stays confidential. 

This comprehensive guide empowers you with the knowledge needed to fortify your VPS against evolving security challenges. As you navigate the intricacies of securing your hosting environment, remember that a proactive and multifaceted approach is paramount for maintaining a resilient and secure VPS. 

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