Linux Foundation's security checklist can help sysadmins harden workstations

The group has published a new list of recommendations that range from moderate to paranoid

If you're a Linux user, especially a systems administrator, the Linux Foundation has some security tips to share with you, and they're quite good.

Konstantin Ryabitsev, the Foundation's director of collaborative IT services, published the security checklist that the organization uses to harden the laptops of its remote sysadmins against attacks.

The recommendations aim to balance security decisions with usability and are accompanied by explanations of why they were considered. They also have different severity levels: critical, moderate, low and paranoid.

Critical recommendations are those whose implementation should be considered a must-do. They include things like enabling SecureBoot to prevent rootkits or "Evil Maid" attacks, and choosing a Linux distribution that supports native full disk encryption, has timely security updates, provides cryptographic verification of packages and supports Mandatory Access Control (MAC) or Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) mechanisms like SELinux, AppArmor or Grsecurity.

Other critical recommendations include making sure the swap partition is also encrypted, requiring a password to edit the bootloader, setting up a robust root password and using an unprivileged account with a separate password for regular operations. The critical checklist also advises disabling hardware modules with direct full memory access like Firewire or Thunderbolt, filtering all incoming ports and setting up an encrypted backup routine to external storage.

Protecting passwords and cryptographic keys like those used to authenticate over SSH is extremely important, because they are some of the most sought after pieces of information by hackers. The Linux Foundation's recommendations include using a password manager, choosing unique passwords for different websites and protecting private keys with strong passphrases.

Recommendations flagged as paranoid are those that have significant security benefits, but which might take some effort to implement or understand. They include running an intrusion detection system and using separate password managers for websites and other types of accounts.

There are many other tips flagged as moderate or low severity that should definitely be considered as well, such as automatic OS updates, disabling the SSH server on the workstation, storing authentication, signing and encryption keys on smartcard devices and putting PGP master keys on removable storage.

When it comes to Web browsing, one of the most common and risky operations that users engage in, the Linux Foundation recommends the use of two separate browsers: Mozilla Firefox with the NoScript, Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere and Certificate Patrol add-ons for work-related sites, and Google Chrome with Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere for everything else.

Following the security tips in the Foundation's document is by no means a guarantee that the system will not get compromised, but it would certainly make the job much harder for attackers.

"Security is just like driving on the highway -- anyone going slower than you is an idiot, while anyone driving faster than you is a crazy person," Ryabitsev said in the document's introduction. "These guidelines are merely a basic set of core safety rules that is neither exhaustive, nor a replacement for experience, vigilance, and common sense."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about GoogleLinuxMozillaPGPSSH

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Lucian Constantin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place