How To Create A Secure Web Server | Avast

To minimize the risk of your business losing data due to hacks and breaches, it is essential to ensure that your web server is configured as securely as possible. If the security of your server is compromised, it can lead to anything from spam ad injections on a corporate website to interception and theft of user data during form submissions.

What is a secure web server?

A secure web server generally falls into one of the following two categories. Most often, this is a server on the public web that supports security protocols such as SSL, which means that sensitive data transmitted to and from the server is encrypted for user protection. . Alternatively, it can mean a web server used only by a team of employees within a local network, protected from external threats.

To keep your web servers secure and ward off potential threats, it’s important to stay up to date with the ever-changing security landscape.

What security risks can a web server face?

Web servers are one of the most targeted parts of an organization’s network, due to the sensitive data they typically host. Therefore, it is important that in addition to securing web applications and your larger network, you take in-depth steps to secure the web servers themselves.

There are several key threats to web servers that are important to be aware of in order to prevent and mitigate these risks. These include, but are not limited to:

  • DoS and DDoS attacks
    Denial of service attacks and Distributed Denial of Service Attacks are techniques that cybercriminals will use to flood your servers with traffic until they become unresponsive, rendering your website or network unusable.
  • SQL injection
    SQL injections can be used to attack websites and web applications, by sending structured query language requests through web forms to create, read, update, modify or delete data stored on your servers, such as financial information .
  • Unpatched software
    Software updates and security patches are designed to address vulnerabilities in older versions of this software. However, once a new patch is released, potential hackers can reverse engineer attacks based on the changes, leaving unpatched versions in a vulnerable position. That is why we recommend that you use a trusted patch management service to make sure you are always up to date.
  • Cross-site script
    Cross-site scripting, also known as XSS, is a technique similar to SQL injection: code is injected into server-side scripts to collect sensitive data or to run malicious client-side scripts.

However, one of the most prevalent threats to server security is human error or carelessness. Whether it’s poorly written code, easy-to-guess passwords, or a failed install and update of firewalls and other security software, the human element of cybersecurity is usually the weakest link.

You should also consider the physical security of the computers that serve as web servers: whatever security software you use could be compromised if physical access to your servers is not properly controlled.

What types of web servers are available?

Some of the more popular options for web server software include Apache, LiteSpeed, IIS, Nginx, and Lighttpd. It is also possible to use “virtual servers”, or virtual web hosting services, to run multiple servers from a single computer.

Different types of web servers will meet different user needs, but all are generally compatible with major operating systems such as Linux, Windows, and macOS.

Apache web server

Apache is open-source and, with a 37.4% market share (June 2020), is widely regarded as the most popular web server in the world. It supports Linux, Unix, Windows, Mac OS X, Ubuntu and other operating systems, and can be easily customized thanks to its modular structure.

Apache is very stable compared to other web servers.

Nginx web server

Another open source solution is Nginx, known for its high performance, stability, low resource usage, and highly scalable event architecture. Compatible with most major operating systems, Nginx can also be used as a reverse proxy, mail proxy, HTTP cache, and load balancer.


One of the main advantages of Lighttpd is its low CPU load and speed optimization. With an event architecture similar to that of Nginx, Lighttpd is designed to handle a large number of parallel connections and can support features like output compression, FastCGI, Auth, SCGI, and URL rewrite, among others.

Virtual web servers

If you need to manage multiple web domains, it may be more efficient to do it from a single machine through virtual web servers, rather than having a dedicated and separate server for each. Virtual servers, or virtual web hosting, can be profitable and usually don’t impact site performance. However, if too many virtual servers are hosted on the same computer, it can slow down the delivery of web pages.

What is the difference between network security and server security?

Server security is only one part of a larger and holistic network security strategy. While server security specifically refers to the measures taken to protect your web servers and the data they process, network security also includes things like firewalls and antivirus software to protect other parts of the web. network.

Employee laptops, smartphones, and other internet-connected devices are all parts of your network that need to be protected from threats. Phishing emails, scam websites, and malicious apps are just a few of the risks, which is why it’s important to use comprehensive endpoint protection in addition to web server security. This encompasses perimeter security, such as firewalls, as well as software that prevents potential threats from entering your network undetected.

How to secure your web server

TO configure a new secure web server, or improve the security of your company’s existing web servers, there are several simple steps you can take.

  • Remove unnecessary services
    Operating systems and default configurations lack complete security. Typically, many network services included in a default installation will not be used, from remote registry services to print server service and other features.

    The more services you have running on your server’s operating system, the more ports remain open, which means more doors in the network that a hacker could exploit. In addition to helping security, removing unnecessary services can also improve your server performance.

  • Create separate environments for development, testing, and production
    Development and testing is often done on production servers, so sometimes you may come across websites or live pages that have details like / new / or / test / in the URL. Web applications that are in their early stages of development often have security vulnerabilities and can be exploited using free online tools.

    You can help minimize the risk of breach by keeping development and testing on servers isolated from the public Internet, and not connecting them to important data and databases.

  • Define permissions and privileges
    Network service permissions and file permissions play a critical role in your security. If your web server is compromised by network service software, the wrong actor can use the account that the network service is running to perform tasks. For this reason, simply setting minimum privileges for users to access web application files and back-end databases can help prevent data loss or manipulation.
  • Keep the fixes up to date
    As mentioned earlier in this article, failing to keep software up to date with the latest patches can allow cybercriminals to reverse engineer the pathways to your network.
  • Separate and monitor server logs
    As part of your regular security tests, store your server logs separately, and monitor and check them frequently. Unusual log file entries reveal information about successful attempts and attacks and should be investigated as they occur.
  • Install a firewall
    Software firewalls are easy to configure and manage and will protect your web servers from unauthorized communication and intrusion.
  • Automate backups
    Making regular server backups ensures that if your security defenses are compromised, you can recover and restore data quickly. Automation can improve efficiency, but an IT worker should look for issues that may have interrupted the process.

Server security software

The cybersecurity of your business is as strong as its weakest link. In addition to regular training for system administrators and IT professionals to ensure knowledge is up to date with the latest threats, all entry points to your network should be protected and secured with professional endpoint protection.

Find out how Avast Business Endpoint Protection can help you defend your business against malware, data breaches, and advanced attacks.

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