Top Reasons Why Linux Server Needs 2FA

Linux is a secure and an open source OS (Operating System). Jack Wallen, a technical writer cum security expert, predicts that the market share of Linux server will cross 5% by the end of year 2017. With this increased market share in the coming days, it is obvious that the security risks, hacking incidents and vulnerabilities on this secure platform will be on the rise as well.

As per an analysis by GFI, the network and security solutions provider, Linux was one of the top three most vulnerable operating systems of the year 2014. Total 119 vulnerabilities were reported, 24 of which were rated as high-severity, 74 and 21 were rated medium and low vulnerabilities respectively. This analysis is based on the data from the US NVD (National Vulnerability Database). Therefore, the enterprises which are having Linux servers must take the security seriously, follow a proactive approach, and need 2FA solution for completely reducing/minimizing any kind of vulnerability in the future.

A total of 7,038 new security vulnerabilities were added to the NVD in the year 2014, which reflects that on an average 19 vulnerabilities were reported per day. Nearly 80% were reported in third-party applications, 13% in operating systems, and 4% in hardware devices.

All these statistics are enough to show that implementation of an additional security layer on the Linux servers and other online services is must for protection against threats. One of the best and proven security solutions that every enterprise and the end user need to enable is 2FA.

Brief of this solution

2FA (Two Factor Authentication) is a method that adds an additional security layer to the password-alone verification approach of login an account. This method verifies identity of a admin or end user through two independent factors, namely password and verification code. Every authentic end user knows the password (first factor), and the verification code (second factor) is sent to registered physical device of the user. This code remains active for less than a minute, and strengthens authentication.

If unluckily an intruder manages to know your password from any source, he won’t be able to get the privileges or access rights that you have. It is because he needs an additional factor along with the password to gain the access completely. Due to the use of two varied steps in the login procedure, 2FA security solution is also known as Two Step Verification.

Factors used for user authentication

Something that the user knows (knowledge factors)

Something that the user has (possession factors)

Something that the user is (inherence factors)

Possible reasons why 2FA is must for Linux server

Server admin and the end user can’t avoid using 2FA security solution in present scenario. Below are the possible reasons to use this proven method:

Increased Linux Usage and Vulnerabilities

The market share of Linux is on the rise, so are the vulnerabilities level on this powerful operating system. A recent report based on market share data and usage statistics shows that Linux is used by 37 percent of all websites available over the Internet. For reducing increasing vulnerabilities on Linux server, Two Factor Authentication (2FA) has been proved to be the best solution. It is because 2FA method is more than just password-only verification.

Dual Checks Identity

Along with advancement in technology standards in the last few years, there has also been an increase in identity theft cases globally. For logging in to Linux server admin panel, a valid username and password combination is required by default. If this password goes in the wrong hands, then gaining admin rights becomes extremely easier for an unauthorised user. But with 2FA solution, identity theft seems a tedious task because it dual checks identity, i.e. an extra verification step is involved in the login process.

Constant Fraudulent Logins

When it comes to guessing Linux server password, the intruders use various password cracking techniques like dictionary attack, brute force attack, social engineering, rainbow table attack, phishing, etc. The number of fraudulent logins increase on the server once the intruders guess the right password. To prevent this type of logins from happening constantly, 2FA has emerged as a powerful solution. As per a survey by TeleSign, 8 in 10 people are worried about the online security and 7 in 10 no longer rely on just password-only verification. Hence, Linux server need 2FA for added security and protection against fraudulent logins or several other malicious activities.

Unauthentic Impersonating themselves as Authentic

This is one of the major security issues associated with login in to a Linux server using just password-alone authentication. This type of authentication mechanism requires only password, and facilitates both unauthentic and authentic users to gain the access completely. To distinguish between both these users, it is must to enable 2FA security solution on all the Linux servers. With Two Factor Authentication, it becomes a complicated task for an unauthorized user to impersonate himself as an authentic user. The reason for this strong authentication is the use of an additional factor along with the password. 

Usage statistics for 2FA

The result from a study by SecureAuth, an access control company, shows that 99% of IT departments believe 2FA is the best solution to protect an identity and its access. This company also states that 81% of all confirmed security breaches involve stolen yet valid credentials.

56% of organizations worldwide are using 2FA solution either across the organization or in certain areas.

Two Factor Authentication (2FA) usage statistics for Drupal websites. 5,499 Drupal sites currently report using this security solution for different module categories: Mobile, Security, User Access & Authentication.

Additional tips for strengthening Linux server security

Secure the BIOS (Basic Input/output System)

For better Linux server security, make sure that your system cannot be booted from external sources like CD, DVD, floppy, etc. It is also important that no one else have access to GRUB (GNU GRand Unified Bootloader).

Access Remote Computers with SSH

SSH (Secure Shell or Secure Socket Shell) is the best way to ensure communications between two computers remotely. By default, SSH uses TCP port 22, so you can increase the security by choosing a higher numbered port.

Enable SELinux

SELinux (Security-Enhanced Linux) is an essential security module which is designed to protect overall Linux server security.

Patch the Operating System

It is extremely important that the operating system and several other packages installed must be kept up to date as it is the core of the environment. Without a secure operating system, most of the Linux server strengthening tips will be much less effective.

Apart from enabling 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) solution, the system administrators are required to follow these additional tips for getting the next level Linux server security.

Looking for 2FA Solution

Two Factor Authentication: Best for the Online Security

The online identity of the authentic end users is at a risk of getting compromised any time by the hackers. It is because they; end users, protect their online identity using a single set of login credentials, i.e. username and password combination. The password is no longer a secure way, as it can be easily hacked by the online attackers using advanced hacking techniques available today. It shows that the online identity security is becoming a big challenge. The end users simplify the hacking process by using the same username and password combination, making it an easier task for the fraudsters to gain access to their valuable online accounts with a single hack. There is a need to an additional security layer or user authentication in the login process for improving the online security to its best level. One method that improves security and ensures no hacking of the digital assets is Two Factor Authentication.

What exactly this method is?

Two Factor Authentication, or simply 2FA, is a method that adds an extra security layer or authentication factor in the normal login procedure to verify identity of the user who is logging the account. In other words, this security method requires two different factors – password and a verification code, to check whether the user is authentic or not, and grant him access based on the two set of login credentials entered by him. The second factor, i.e. verification code, is sent to the registered mobile or any other physical device of the user, and is valid only for a few seconds. Due to the use of minimum two authentication factors for completing the login process successfully, this security method is also known as Two Step Verification.

Possible factors of authentication

The knowledge factors (something you know) – username, email, password, PIN, a secret question & answer.

The possession factors (something you have) – credit/debit card, mobile or any other physical device.

The inherence factors (something you are) – biometric characteristics of the user such as iris, retina, face scan, voice recognition, fingerprint.

Time and Location factors – geolocation.

2FA – Two Factor Authentication security method uses any two out of the possible four authentication factors for the verification purpose.

Combining ‘something you know’ with ‘something you have’ or ‘something you are’ is significantly more secure as it cannot easily be guessed or compromised by the online attackers. In fact, Two Factor Authentication is a single solution to all sorts of the online scams occurring over the Internet.

How 2FA strengthens security level?

Two Factor Authentication requires the users to use ‘something they know’ and ‘something they have’ or ‘something they are’ to complete the login procedure successfully. After entering the valid username and password combination, a verification code is immediately sent to the user’s registered mobile device via a text message. A user will get access to the service only after he enters this verification code in less than a minute. If any unauthorized user hacks your password, then he won’t be able to access your account, as he needs to enter the second factor, i.e. verification code. In this way, 2FA strengthens the online security level.

Adding this second layer of security is must to keep the hackers or intruders away from your valuable digital assets. 2FA emerges as the best solution for the online security.

One of the common examples of Two Factor Authentication in your everyday life is cash withdrawal through an ATM. In this process, you require your credit/debit card (something you have) and a 4-digit PIN (something you know). Without the combination of both card and PIN, cash withdrawal won’t be possible even for an authentic user also. If someone else steals your card, then withdrawing cash requires a secret PIN as well. This second factor prevents an unwanted transaction.

Two Factor Authentication (2FA) security method completely reduces or minimizes the possibility of cyberattacks. It is because 2FA makes login process more complex by requiring an extra factor along with username and password combination.