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Business owners love virtual private servers (VPS) because they’re a middle ground between shared servers and dedicated servers. You can enjoy the customization and performance of dedicated servers alongside the affordability and user-friendliness of shared servers. But, as with any server, you must spend time securing it.

In a 2023 DigitalOcean study, business owners revealed why they struggled to boost their cybersecurity. 48% stated it’s difficult to keep up with evolving threats. 40% mentioned a lack of expertise held them back. Interestingly, 19% said it’s tricky to assess the security measures of businesses they rely on, like vendors and providers.

This article will guide you on all those fronts. You’ll learn about modern VPS threats, increase your cybersecurity knowledge and discover how to find a suitable VPS security provider. You’ll then make better security decisions and have peace of mind when running your business.

What is VPS security?

VPS security refers to measures that protect virtual private servers from threats like DDoS attacks, phishing and malware. Such security measures include mandating strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, limiting user permissions, periodically updating and patching, configuring a firewall and installing SSL certificates.

For instance, a business owner could enforce a policy where all administrative users create complex passwords and use SSH keys to log in. This standard minimizes the risk of unauthorized access by both cybercriminals and malicious insiders.

Prioritizing these top VPS security tips allows server managers to better safeguard their VPS from potential threats. It also ensures the protection of their digital assets and promote a secure online environment.

How does VPS technology improve security?

VPS technology improves security through isolation, dedicated resources and customization. Let’s briefly look at each factor.

Isolation: In a VPS environment, each virtual server operates independently — activity in one VPS doesn’t affect others. This also means that if one website gets attacked or infected with malware, the others remain unaffected due to the isolation the VPS provider offers. Vulnerabilities on other websites won’t affect your secure website.

This is how VPS technology improves security through isolation.

Dedicated resources: Each VPS has its own allocated resources, including CPU, memory and storage. This allows for more stable performance, which reduces the risk of crashes or slowdowns that attackers could exploit. A business using VPS can trust it remains fast and responsive even with high traffic during peak hours.

Customizable security settings: With a VPS, you can implement custom security features tailored to your specific needs. For example, you could set advanced firewall configurations according to your unique preference and accommodate your favorite intrusion detection system. You wouldn’t have that control with shared hosting.

Despite the inherent security advantages of VPS, your experience can vary widely across providers. Let’s consider how to find the best provider for you since hosting is the foundation of your virtual private server’s security.

Linux security and common weaknesses

Linux security is the application of methods, best practices, and policies to safeguard and secure a Linux-based operating system. It is widely used in virtual private server (VPS) environments. The major purpose of Linux security is to protect the system from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other cyber threats. By applying Linux security best practices, server administrators may greatly improve VPS security and protect their digital assets.

However, Linux systems may have several common flaws that attackers might exploit if not handled effectively. Some of the weaknesses include:

Malware: It is a frequent vulnerability that may infiltrate and compromise a system. This may results in data breaches, system failures, or unauthorized access. Regularly updating software, using antivirus products, and following safe surfing practices may all help guard against malware.

Sniffing attack: This is one in which an attacker intercepts and observes network traffic to obtain sensitive information. It includes login credentials or personal data. Encrypting data in transit, utilizing secure communication protocols, and establishing network segmentation can all assist in protecting against sniffer attempts.

Brute-force attack: It entails repeatedly attempting all conceivable combinations of passwords or encryption keys to obtain unauthorized access to a system. Implementing strong password restrictions, account lockouts, and two-factor authentication can all help protect against brute-force assaults.

SQL injection: These attacks exploit weaknesses in online applications by inserting malicious SQL code into databases to modify and retrieve sensitive data. SQL injection attacks may be mitigated by using proper input validation, parameterized queries, and regular software updates for online applications.

Cross-site scripting (XSS): It includes inserting malicious scripts into websites. This subsequently run in the user’s browser, potentially compromising their session or collecting sensitive information. Implementing safe coding methods, input validation, and content security standards may all assist in preventing XSS attacks.

No function-level control: Unauthorized individuals can obtain access to sensitive functionalities inside an application. Implementing role-based access control, the concept of least privilege, and conducting frequent access reviews can all assist in maintaining adequate function-level control.

Broken authentication: It happens when weaknesses in an authentication process enable attackers to impersonate genuine users or circumvent authentication entirely. Ensuring safe user credentials, employing strong encryption, and adopting multi-factor authentication can all assist in mitigating broken authentication vulnerabilities.

Assessing secure VPS hosting providers

Bluehost offers secure VPS hosting.
Screenshot

Three crucial factors establish whether a VPS host is secure enough to base your website on.

24/7 tech support

The internet never sleeps, and neither do viruses and glitches. Having tech support available 24/7 means someone is always there to handle issues, especially problems that need immediate focus for the sake of your brand.

As a good VPS hosting provider, Bluehost offers round-the-clock network monitoring to catch security incidents and technical issues before anyone. Enjoy peace of mind, knowing you’ll receive an alert if anything needs your attention.

It’s important to note that fully managed VPS hosting is easier for business owners who don’t have an IT team or technical experience with servers. On the other hand, unmanaged VPS plans are better for businesses that employ server management experts who can manually configure security solutions and navigate advanced controls.

Customization and control

With a good VPS hosting provider like Bluehost, you get complete control over your server resources, which allows you to:

  • Add extra security features like your favorite antivirus
  • Install custom applications and software
  • Manually configure your website infrastructure

You can also easily upgrade your hosting plan with more resources as your business grows.

Regular updates and patching

It’s vital to install timely updates to your operating system and applications because these patches fix loopholes that hackers exploit. Updates include the latest defenses against emerging threats, so stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

Bluehost provides automated updates. Once you click enable, you can kick your feet up.

VPS security tips

  • Use Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)
  • Install SSL certificates for data encryption
  • Disable root logins
  • Use security applications like fail2ban or iptables
  • Use strong passwords and SSH key authentication
  • Limit user permissions
  • Perform periodic updates and patching
  • Configure your firewall to block malicious traffic
  • Enable two-factor authentication (2FA)
  • Install an antivirus
  • Use a malware scanner
  • Monitor server logs
  • Disable unused ports

Let’s look at each VPS security strategy in detail.

1. Use Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)

The traditional File Transfer Protocol (FTP) would send login credentials in plain text, which hackers can intercept and read. Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) eliminates this risk by encrypting credentials, which hackers can’t decipher even if they manage to intercept.

Imagine mailing a letter in English — that’s what traditional FTP is like. SFTP, on the other hand, is like delivering that secret letter in a language you just made up. Even if someone intercepted your message, they’ll never know what it said unless they have the translation key.

This is how SFTP encryption works in VPS security.

Moreover, SFTP requires user authentication, typically through a username and password, and you can configure it to use SSH keys. That way, only authorized users can access and transfer files to and from your server.

SFTP also operates over SSH’s default port (22) which simplifies firewall configurations and sidesteps the need to open multiple ports. This minimizes your server’s exposure to attacks since there’s only one port to defend.

2. Install SSL certificates for data encryption

Another way to use encryption to secure your VPS server is to install SSL certificates

SSL certificates encrypt the data transmitted between users’ browsers and your server. This protects sensitive information like login credentials, credit card numbers and personal data.

SSL encryption also prevents man-in-the-middle attacks, where cybercriminals monitor or steal data as it’s transmitted. It’s like a nosy neighbor eavesdropping on your private conversations, hoping you’ll say something they can exploit. But with SSL, your data remains unreadable.

3. Disable root logins

Root accounts typically have complete control over VPS servers. Think of it as the main control panel; it’s powerful enough to do anything. Unsurprisingly, hackers often try to break into root accounts.

When you disable root logins, you remove the most obvious target for attackers. As a result, you significantly reduce a hacker’s ability to inflict harm on your operating system.

On top of that, disabled root logins mitigate brute force attacks, where cybercriminals guessingly try tons of password combinations to gain access. If you deactivate root logins, these attacks become pointless, which improves server security.

On the other hand, create an alternative username with root-level command privileges for server configuration purposes.

4. Use security applications like fail2ban or iptables

Both fail2ban and iptables prevent unauthorized access to your VPS server by automatically blocking suspicious IP addresses. They’re like intelligent security guards for your VPS.

Fail2ban monitors log files for repeated failed login attempts, which is a common sign of brute force attacks. When it detects such activity, it automatically updates firewall rules to block the hacker’s IP address for a specified period. This stops cyberattackers in their tracks, as they can’t access or even see your server from that IP address.

With iptables, you can set up firewall rules on Linux systems. It enables control of incoming and outgoing traffic based on specific criteria like IP addresses, port numbers and protocols. You can block or allow specific IP addresses and decide which ports stay open or closed.

Think of it as a sky-high fence you build and change however you like. You set the rules for who’s allowed in and out of your server.

This facet of VPS security lets you restrict access to only necessary services and block known malicious IPs, which reduces the risk of unauthorized access and attacks.

5. Use strong passwords and SSH key authentication

Strong passwords and SSH keys protect against phishing and brute force attacks.

You need to mandate strong passwords for your server accounts because your overall network security is only as strong as your weakest password, which could be the entry point for hackers. Make users pick a complex string of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and symbols.

Additionally, use SSH, an encrypted network protocol to safely access and manage servers even over an unsecured network.

An SSH key pair includes a public key and a private key. The public key is added to the server, while the private key is kept secure on your local machine. When you try to log in, the server checks if your private key matches the public one.

Even if someone knows your public key, they can’t access the server without the matching private key, which only you have. Bluehost clients can generate SSH key pairs easily from the control panel.

6. Limit user permissions

Limiting user permissions on your VPS server means granting people the least amount of privilege necessary. Not every user should have root access or sudo, a powerful tool that lets someone execute a command as the root user.

Imagine giving your staff physical keys they need to perform their jobs. You wouldn’t hand each person a key that opens every lock in the building — ideally, each person gets keys that open the specific doors or tools they need.

Likewise, if you have a staff account for web maintenance, it doesn’t need root privileges. Limit its user access to only what’s necessary for web-related tasks. That way, if a hacker breaks into that account, they can’t do much compared to an account with root access.

7. Perform periodic updates and patching

As you know by now, updates close security gaps that cybercriminals could use to break in. Additionally, updates fix bugs and improve performance. This keeps your server running smoothly and efficiently, reducing the risk of operational issues attackers could exploit.

Make sure to perform regular backups for your VPS server. In case of a cyberattack or data loss, you can use the most recent backup to restore everything and get back on your feet quickly. Bluehost clients get automatic backups, which takes another thing off your to-do list.

8. Configure your firewall to block malicious traffic

A firewall acts as a gatekeeper for your server, controlling which traffic gets in and out based on set rules. This stops unauthorized access attempts, including people trying to use your server for malicious activities.

Firewalls block malicious traffic, so they’re essential for VPS security.

Moreover, you can configure your firewall to block traffic from known malicious IP addresses or networks. That’s particularly useful to bolster your virtual private server’s security against attackers and bots you’ve already identified as potential threats.

Firewalls can also mitigate a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack by filtering out traffic that appears to be part of the attack. Although it won’t counteract all the effects of the DDoS attack, it makes it a lot more manageable.

9. Enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a policy that mandates a second type of identification beyond just a password. Like a double-lock system on your front door, it adds an extra layer of security. In 2FA, the second layer could be a text message, a code from an app or a hardware token.

It ensures that server access is not solely dependent on passwords. This becomes particularly important if ever your password security is compromised without your knowledge.

Even if a hacker manages to steal or guess your password, they can’t access your server without the second factor. Thus, 2FA is effective against a wide range of cyberattacks, including phishing, brute force and keylogging.

10. Install an antivirus 

Although Linux-based VPS settings are typically less vulnerable to malware than other operating systems, you should nevertheless install an antivirus package to safeguard your server from potential threats. 

Antivirus software analyzes your server for known malware signatures, quarantines, or deletes infected files, and monitors system activity to identify and prevent unusual behavior. 

ClamAV, Sophos, and ESET NOD32 are among the most popular antivirus solutions for Linux servers. 

Updating your antivirus software regularly and doing periodic scans is one of the top VPS security tips to help you protect your digital assets from malware infestations.

11. Use a malware scanner 

Scan your VPS for malware regularly to keep it secure and preserve your data. A malware scanner scans your server for dangerous software, including viruses, trojans, and rootkits, and either eliminates or quarantines any detected threats. 

ClamAV, Maldet, and Rkhunter are popular malware scanners for Linux systems. It is critical to update your malware scanner regularly so that it can detect the most recent threats, as well as to run routine scans to quickly discover and fix any vulnerabilities and infestations.

12. Monitor your server logs

Regularly reviewing your server logs is critical for having a safe VPS environment. Logs include vital information about server activities, such as unsuccessful login attempts, illegal access, system failures, and potential security concerns. 

By constantly monitoring your logs, you may spot suspicious behavior or possible concerns early on and take proper precautions to reduce risks. 

Tools like Logwatch, GoAccess, and Graylog may automate log monitoring and analysis, making it simpler to discover and handle possible security issues. 

13. Disable unused ports 

Leaving open ports on your VPS might expose it to possible attacks and unauthorized access. Regularly examining and removing unneeded ports can assist in minimizing your server’s attack surface and increase security. 

Use a firewall to prevent access to unnecessary ports and only allow traffic to essential services. 

Regularly check your server’s network settings to verify that only the necessary ports are open and accessible.

FAQ’s about VPS Security

What is VPS security?

VPS security refers to the set of measures, best practices, and policies implemented to protect a virtual private server (VPS) from various cyber threats, such as unauthorized access, data breaches, and malware. These measures include updating software, configuring firewalls, implementing strong password policies, and monitoring system activity, among others. VPS security is also essential for maintaining the privacy, integrity, and availability of data and applications hosted on the VPS.

Why is VPS security important?

VPS security is important because it prevents data breaches, unauthorized access, and other cyber threats that can negatively affect your online presence. A secure VPS environment ensures the safety of sensitive data, maintains system stability, and safeguards your website’s or application’s reputation. Furthermore, robust VPS security ensures compliance with industry-specific regulations and protect your organization from potential legal and financial consequences associated with security incidents.

Is VPS hosting more secure than other types of hosting?

VPS hosting can offer more security than shared hosting, as each VPS operates in an isolated environment, reducing the risk of one compromised account affecting others on the same server. However, the level of security largely depends on the hosting provider and the measures they implement, as well as the steps taken by the server administrator to maintain a secure environment. Dedicated hosting can offer even higher security levels, as you have complete control over the server and its resources, but it also requires more technical expertise to manage and secure.

Does VPS have a firewall?

Yes, most VPS environments have a built-in firewall, such as IPTables for Linux-based VPS or Windows Firewall for Windows-based VPS. These firewalls help protect your server from unauthorized access, DDoS attacks, and other potential threats by controlling incoming and outgoing traffic based on predefined rules. It is essential to properly configure the firewall, allowing only necessary ports and services while blocking others, to maintain a secure VPS environment. Additionally, some hosting providers may offer advanced firewall solutions or additional security features for enhanced protection.

Final thoughts: Virtual private server security made simple

Cyberattackers strike fear into every business owner who avoids lost revenue and consumer distrust. However, with the VPS security tips above, you can safeguard your servers from malicious actors, data breaches and server outages due to attacks.

Bluehost offers VPS servers with robust security, complete control and 24/7 tech support. Our VPS hosting plans also include unlimited bandwidth, memory and storage at a more affordable price.

  • Devin Sears

    Devin is a Senior Event Marketing Manager for the Bluehost brand. He is our brand steward for all things Bluehost and WordPress. You'll always see him supporting Bluehost at WordCamps around the world!

    Education
    Brigham Young University
    Previous Experience
    Social Media, Customer Experience, Field Marketing, Sponsorships, Event Coordinator
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