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Linux workstations are just as vulnerable to attacks as any Windows desktop, so it is important for IT pros to protect their users' desktops from security breaches.
IT must ensure that Linux desktop security complies with an organization's security standards for other desktops. These standards often range from identity and access management to endpoint security such as configuration and patch management.
Security best practices for Linux desktops
One of the greatest challenges around Linux desktop security is configuring and patching the core operating system along with its applications. Linux package managers such as Red Hat Package Manager, Debian Packages and Yet another Setup Tool can assist with this. IT must use these tools proactively, however. Administrators can often forget to manage the new Linux tools or expend additional resources to do so.
IT should integrate newer systems with existing configuration and patch management tools and controls. Vendors such as GFI Software and Zoho's ManageEngine offer configuration and patch management for Linux, Windows and Macs and enable IT to manage all desktops through one environment.
IT should look at all the software running on Linux including Apache, OpenSSL, OpenSSH, MySQL and PHP. When IT pros manage unpatched or misconfigured versions, they will experience vulnerabilities in these programs.
Another way to lock down Linux desktop security is to run hardening tools that help implement security standards. Tools such as Tiger, Bastille and the Linux Security Auditing Tool can help audit and lock down Linux-based desktops in areas such as password complexity, file permissions and network security configurations. Additionally, the Center for Internet Security has a variety of tools and best practices to secure various Linux distributions. IT should use traditional vulnerability and penetration testing to uncover vulnerabilities on this platform.
IT should also consider the end users of the Linux desktops. Linux users are likely more technical employees, such as developers or systems analysts, or are running Linux to run a specific program. IT shouldn't assume, however, that even the most technical of users fully understand security policies. Administrators should use other security controls, such as security information and event management, data loss prevention, cloud access security broker and secure web gateways, to fully protect Linux desktops.