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How can I secure my remote server management tools?

If you monitor a lot of servers, it's important to make sure the tools you use to remotely manage them are secure. Encryption and password best practices can help.

Remote server management tools allow administrators to monitor and control distant server fleets from almost anywhere that has internet access, although such tools can create security concerns.

Data center security is not a single factor, but rather a combination of ways to prevent unauthorized users from compromising data and gaining access to or disrupting server operations. A robust security framework for a remote server management program includes numerous considerations, including the types of devices that access server management software and password protocols.

First, check for strong encryption in the remote management connection. When admins implement encryption, unauthorized individuals can't capture the information exchanged across the network through a remote management connection. Tools such as Windows Remote Desktop use Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security encryption.

Admins can establish a secure connection through a virtual private network with Secure Shell encryption. But encryption only protects information passed between the remote management tool and the remotely managed systems -- it does nothing to protect the tool from infiltration or unauthorized use.

Keep remote server management tools up to date

Second, apply updates. Software is not perfect, and software flaws can enable unauthorized individuals to gain remote management tool access. Consequently, it is important to patch and update both the operating system and the remote management tool on both the client and server sides to rectify any software flaws that threat actors might exploit to botch the remote management connection.

Remote server management security is more about individual trustworthiness than the software's integrity. Organizations can limit the system scope with remote server connections and individual authorizations to improve security.

Remote server management security is more about individual trustworthiness than the software's integrity.

For example, install remote server management tools on only one or a few systems and use firewalls or gateways to limit the remote management traffic from established, approved IP addresses. Organizations should also implement network-level authentication so admins must authenticate themselves before they can establish a remote management session.

Third, use strong passwords to guard any systems with access to remote management tools and make a point to change passwords on a regular basis. An account lockout policy can also help protect against any unauthorized password guesses or unapproved system access.

Finally, enable centralized logging for any system with remote server management tools. Logs capture remote management activities and enable admins and business leaders to audit remote management actions on a system-wide and individual basis.

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