Home Ubuntu Ubuntu Security: Best practices for securing your system

Ubuntu Security: Best practices for securing your system

We will cover essential security measures that every Ubuntu user should follow to keep their system secure and protect it from potential threats. These practices range from basic security hygiene to advanced techniques for hardening your Ubuntu system.

by Tony Gidraph
best practices for securing your ubuntu

Ubuntu is a popular Linux-based operating system that has gained considerable popularity over the years due to its user-friendly interface and ease of use. It is a highly customizable and versatile operating system suitable for personal and enterprise use.

However, with its popularity and widespread use comes the risk of security threats. Securing your Ubuntu system is of utmost importance to protect your data, personal information, and other sensitive information from unauthorized access, theft, or other malicious activities.

Best practices for securing your Ubuntu system

This post will discuss some of the best practices for securing your Ubuntu system, including implementing strong passwords, keeping your system up-to-date, configuring your firewall, and installing antivirus software. By following these best practices, you can ensure that your Ubuntu system is secure, protected, and less vulnerable to security threats.

1. Use Strong and Unique Passwords

One of the fundamental methods of securing any system (including Ubuntu) is using strong and unique passwords. Strong passwords act as a barrier against unauthorized access. Hackers can easily bruteforce or decrypt weak passwords allowing them to gain access to your system.

Some of the factors you need to consider when creating a strong password include the following:

  • Using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols (special characters).
  • Avoid using dictionary words, common phrases, or personal information such as your name, date of birth, or phone number.

Tip: Having a strong password following all the above guidelines can be hectic. However, you can use a password manager such as LastPass to generate a strong and unique password.

Even after coming up with a strong password, there is one more security feature you need to enforce – Don’t reuse your passwords. Use a unique password for each account or service you use. If you use the same password to secure multiple accounts or services, a hacker will have access to all accounts and services using that password in case of any compromise.

Tip: Managing multiple passwords can be pretty hectic, especially if the passwords contain symbols, letters, and numbers. This post recommends using a password manager to store all your passwords securely. Check out our post – The 5 Best Open Source Password Managers, to know some of the best open source password managers available.

You can also use a command-line utility called pam_passwdqc to enforce password strength requirements. pam_passwdqc enables you to set a minimum password length, maximum age, complexity rules, and other password requirements.

Lastly, ensure you change your password periodically, at least once every three months, or if you suspect it has been compromised or shared with others.

2. Generate an SSH Key Pair

If you are accessing remote servers and systems via SSH, generating an SSH key pair would be necessary. SSH, or Secure Shell, is a network protocol that allows you to securely access and manage remote servers and devices over an unsecured network. Previously, system admins used tools like Telnet to access remote servers. Unfortunately, they were un-secure and posed a security threat.

When you generate an SSH keypair, it will contain a public and a private key that work together to authenticate your access to remote servers. One of the most popular tools to generate an SSH key pair is the ssh-keygen tool. This tool comes pre-installed on Ubuntu.

ssh-keygen generates a public key that you can share with remote servers or services and a private key that you keep on your local system. The private key should be protected with a solid passphrase to prevent unauthorized access.

Once you have generated your SSH key pair, you can configure your Ubuntu system to use it for SSH authentication. This ensures that only authorized users with private keys can access remote servers, adding an extra layer of security to your system. Check out our post – How to set up Passwordless SSH Login in Linux. It will give you a detailed guide on generating an SSH key pair.

3. Update Your Software Regularly

Regularly updating your software is one of the most important ways to secure your Ubuntu system. Software updates often include security patches and bug fixes that address known vulnerabilities and other security issues.

Ubuntu provides an update manager tool that can be used to check for available updates and install them automatically. You can manually check for updates using the command line or the graphical user interface. It is recommended to set up automatic updates to ensure that your system is always up-to-date with the latest security patches. Feel free to check out our post on How to enable automatic unattended security updates on Ubuntu to learn more about how to enable automatic updates.

Apart from updating the operating system, it is also essential to keep your installed applications, web browsers, and plugins up-to-date. Many security vulnerabilities arise from out-of-date software, which attackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access or execute malicious code on your system. Remember that some applications may not be included in the official Ubuntu repositories, and you may need to update them manually.

In addition to regular updates, it is also important to regularly review your system logs and monitor for any suspicious activity. Install and configure intrusion detection software such as fail2ban, which can automatically block IP addresses that exhibit suspicious behavior.

4. Configure Firewall

Configuring a firewall on Ubuntu is essential in securing your system and protecting it from network-based attacks. Firewalls act as a barrier between your computer and the internet, blocking incoming and outgoing traffic based on a set of rules and policies.

Ubuntu has a built-in Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW), a front-end to the underlying iptables system. UFW allows you to set up firewall rules using a simple and intuitive syntax, making it easy to configure and manage your firewall. Check out our comprehensive post – How to configure the Ubuntu Firewall (UFW).

When configuring your firewall, it is important to block all unnecessary incoming traffic and allow only the ports and protocols that are needed for your system and applications to function properly. For example, you can allow incoming traffic on ports 80 and 443 for web traffic and block all other incoming traffic.

You can also set up firewall rules to limit outgoing traffic, preventing malicious software or processes from communicating with external servers without your knowledge or permission.

Apart from UFW, there are other firewall options available for Ubuntu, such as the more advanced iptables, which provide more granular control over your firewall rules. Feel free to check out our comprehensive iptables guide – How to configure iptables on Ubuntu.

5. Avoid Installing Unnecessary/ Unknown Applications

When you install an application, you are giving it access to your system resources and potentially your personal data. Therefore, installing unnecessary or unknown applications can put your system and personal information at risk.

It is important only to install applications that you trust and that are from reputable sources. The Ubuntu Software Center is a good starting point for finding and installing applications. It provides access to a wide range of free and open-source software vetted and verified by the Ubuntu community. Feel free to check out our post on the Top 10 Tips using Ubuntu Software & Updates.

Before installing an application, you should research it to ensure that it is legitimate and does not contain any malware or malicious code. Look for reviews and recommendations from trusted sources, and avoid downloading and installing applications from untrusted or unknown sources.

It is also essential to regularly review the applications installed on your system and remove any that are no longer needed or that you no longer use. This will not only reduce the attack surface of your system but also improve its overall performance.

6. Disk Encryption

Disk encryption is crucial to securing your Ubuntu system, as it helps protect your data in case of theft or unauthorized access. Disk encryption works by encrypting the contents of your hard drive, making it unreadable without the correct decryption key.

Ubuntu offers several options for disk encryption, including LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) and eCryptfs. LUKS is the recommended encryption method for Ubuntu and provides full disk encryption, meaning that all data on your hard drive is encrypted, including the operating system and applications. You can learn about other encryption tools in our post – Top 10 file and disk encryption tools for Linux.

When using disk encryption, you will need to enter a passphrase or a key file to unlock the encrypted disk when you start your computer. Choosing a strong passphrase and keeping it safe is important, as it is the only way to decrypt your data.

It is also important to note that disk encryption only protects your data when your computer is turned off. Once your computer is on, and the disk is unlocked, your data is no longer encrypted. Therefore, it is important to use other security measures, such as a firewall and anti-malware software, to protect your system when it is in use.

7. Data Backup

Data backup is critical to securing your Ubuntu system, as it helps protect your data from loss or damage due to hardware failures, theft, or other unforeseen events. A data backup ensures that you always have a copy of your important files and can quickly restore them if needed.

Ubuntu offers several options for data backup, including built-in backup tools and third-party backup applications. One of Ubuntu’s most popular backup tools is Deja Dup, which provides an easy-to-use interface for backing up your files and directories to an external hard drive, network share, or cloud storage service. Check out our comprehensive post on How to back up and Restore Files and Folders on Ubuntu.

When setting up a data backup, it is important to choose a secure and reliable backup location and to follow a regular backup schedule to ensure that your data is always up to date. It is also important to test your backups regularly to ensure that they are working correctly and that you can restore your data in case of a disaster.

Wrapping up

Securing your Ubuntu system is essential to ensure your personal data’s safety and confidentiality and prevent unauthorized access to your system. By following the best practices discussed in this article, you can significantly reduce the risk of security threats and ensure the integrity and availability of your data.

Remember that security is an ongoing process that requires vigilance and regular maintenance to stay effective. By staying informed about the latest security threats and vulnerabilities and by implementing the best security practices, you can keep your Ubuntu system safe and secure for years to come.

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