How to Secure Your Operating System (OS)
by Christopher Trick, on Mar 22, 2022 9:13:31 AM
Failure to protect your operating system, perhaps the most important software on a computer, can lead to various kinds of cyberattacks, impeding performance and compromising critical data.
In this blog, you'll learn how to secure your OS in order to protect its confidentiality, functionality, and availability, ensuring optimal performance.
What is an operating system (OS)?
An operating system (OS) manages a computer's memory and processes as well as all of its software and hardware (ex. Windows, Linux).
It is perhaps the most important software on a computer, allowing you to communicate with a computer and give commands.
Why is OS security important?
Failure to protect your OS can lead to the injection of malware, denial-of-service attacks, network intrusion, and buffer overload. This can impede performance and put sensitive information at risk.
Methods of OS Security
Authentication measures involve matching an identified user with the programs or data that they are allowed to access. All operating systems have controls that can be used to verify that users who run a particular program are authorized to do so.
Here are some techniques used to authenticate users at the operating system's level:
- Security keys: These are keys provided by a key generator, usually in the form of a physical dongle. The user must insert the key into a slot in the machine to log in.
- Usernames and passwords: The user has to enter a username and password that is registered with the OS.
- Biometric signatures: The user scans a physical attribute like a fingerprint or a retina to identify themselves.
- Multi-factor authentication: This means that multiple methods are used to identify users, combining something they know, something they own, and/or a physical characteristic. Read more about multi-factor authentication here.
A one-time password is a unique password that is generated each time a user logs into a system. These passwords cannot be reused and must be entered as soon as they appear.
Here are some examples of one-time passwords:
- Network passwords: An application sends a one-time password to users via a registered email address or mobile phone number. The user must enter this password to log in to the computer.
- Random numbers: The user receives a card with listing numbers that correspond to machine letters. The OS requires the user to enter the numbers that match a set of randomly generated letters.
- Secret keys: The user receives a device that generates secret keys. The user then enters the secret key into the OS system, which identifies the user credentials associated with the key.
Virtualization enables you to separate/abstract software from hardware. This introduces a high level of efficiency and flexibility, while providing greater security coverage.
OS virtualization enables you to manage multiple isolated user environments. These user environments are created and enabled by a hypervisor, which serves as a layer between the device and virtualized resources. Read more about hypervisors here.
The hypervisor manages virtual machines (VMs) running on each device--typically, there are two to three VMs. Each VM is used for each user or security zone.
There are three main categories of virtual machines that can run alongside each other: fully locked down, unlocked/open, and semi-locked down.
Each type of VM is limited to the actions allowed by its design, restricting any further action. This keeps the environment secure.
The hypervisor runs below the OS of the device and spits it into multiple VMs running locally with their own operating systems, effectively isolating users. Since the users are isolated, the devices remain secure.
Another advantage of OS virtualization is that none of the virtualized environments can directly access the network. Instead connectivity is enabled via an invisible, virtualized network layer that implements network segmentation directly on the endpoint device.
Operating system hardening
Operating system hardening involves patching and implementing advanced security measures to secure a server’s operating system (OS). One of the best ways to achieve a hardened state for the operating system is to have updates, patches, and service packs installed automatically.
Read more about operating system hardening here.
Secure OS and Trenton Systems
At Trenton, our engineers work round the clock to provide our solutions with complete protection across the hardware, firmware, and software layer stack.
We are partnered with companies like Wind River and Green Hills Software, using hardware memory protection to isolate and guard embedded applications and run robust, reliable, and secure solutions on a purpose-built OS.
Interested in learning more? Get in touch with our team of experts to craft a secure, USA-made, high-performance compute solution to ensure mission success across all domains of the modern battlespace.