What Is Hardening?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Hardening is an IT security practice organizations use to make attacking a system “harder.” In this article, discover what hardening is and its benefits.

[Featured image] A cybersecurity analyst is working at home while researching about hardening.

In IT, hardening helps limit the threat of attack by turning off non-essential services and patching vulnerabilities. It essentially locks down a system, making it harder for attackers to breach security by removing anything other than the basic configurations necessary to run.

Read more: Cybersecurity Terms: A to Z Glossary

Threats to consider

Hardening typically minimizes the risks of misconfigurations and operational problems. It also simplifies the compliance process and helps guard against security issues. When looking at the hardening process, it’s essential to consider all possible security threats to know what you’re protecting against and how best to do it. These include the following:

  • Malware distribution

  • Identity theft

  • Sabotaging processes

  • Manipulating applications

  • Data leakage through hacking

Hardening examples

To protect against these threats and others, you can choose from a number of hardening options, depending on your organization. Hardening can never be 100 percent attack-proof, but you can look for various industry benchmarks. Several different types of hardening exist, including:

  • Server

  • Software application

  • Operating system

  • Database

  • Network hardening

Some hardening measures include these:

Automating updates: Software and hardware updates and patches are necessary for all businesses. Automating them eliminates any human error resulting in a delay in updates, meaning at no time will your system or network remain unprotected. 

Scanning regularly: To increase security monitor and scan systems regularly for any vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or viruses. You can also automate this process.

Training staff: It is effective to train all staff members on security threats and how to protect systems from attacks. This might include how to look out for phishing and how to transfer data safely.

Managing passwords: A weak password can mean infiltration of a whole system or network, so it is essential that all users reset their passwords if the company suspects a breach of security. The users should also utilize processes like password rotation.

Documenting processes: Being aware of what’s going on is vital, so documenting a threat or unusual occurrence means that others know if it has happened before when they encounter it. This helps with troubleshooting and identifying threats.

Next steps

Take the next step toward a career in cybersecurity by enrolling in the  Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate on Coursera. This certificate is your gateway to exploring job titles like security analyst SOC (security operations center) analyst, and more. Upon completion, you’ll have exclusive access to a job platform with over 150 employees hiring for entry-level cybersecurity roles and other resources that will support you in your job search.

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