FTP Security Best Practices – FTP Vulnerabilities and Mitigation

FTP Security Best Practices – FTP Vulnerabilities and Mitigation. Do you want to make sure your business information stay’s secure?

Poor FTP implementation may risk your confidential business information to breach.

So this blog post will share with you the Top 10 tips for Security Best Practices. But before that, let’s brush up on the basics a little.

What is FTP Server ?

FTP Security Best Practices – FTP Vulnerabilities and Mitigation

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It’s a networking protocol that transfers files between computers over TCP/IP connections. Within the TCP/IP(Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) suite, FTP is considered an application layer protocol.

What is an FTP? It is a client server protocol that is based on two communication channels between the client and the server:

  • A command channel for controlling the conversation.
  • A data channel for sending the contents of the file.

Why is FTP Security Important?

The FTP is a standard network protocol that allows for extensive file transfer capabilities over IP networks.

Without FTP, file and data transfer can be managed using other mechanisms, such as email or an HTTP web service. These alternatives lack the clarity of focus, precision and control that FTP allows.

FTP is essential for data transfer for two reasons:

  • It’s a widely used protocol that most people are familiar.
  • It’s also a simple way to manage large amounts of data moving between computers on the Internet.

Security Challenges of FTP

It is important to mention that FTP server  is an insecure protocol. It relies on plain text usernames and passwords for authentication, which makes it vulnerable to sniffing, spoofing, and brute force attacks.

Now that the basics are clear, let’s dive into what you really opened this article for. Next in FTP Security Best Practices – FTP Vulnerabilities and Mitigation is to talk you through top 11 tips for FTP security

Top 11 Tips for FTP Security Best Practices

1. Disable Standard FTP

If your server runs FTP by default, you should disable it as soon as possible.

FTP is over 30 years old and isn’t meant to withstand the modern security threats we face today. FTP lacks privacy and integrity which makes it easy for a hacker to access and get or change your data while in transit.

We recommend that you switch to a more secure alternative such as FTPS, SFTP, or both.

If you have an existing site with an FTP account, we recommend switching to SFTP server immediately. SFTP allows you to transfer files between servers via SSH (Secure Shell).

For instance, if you have an account on your development machine running a local file system, then accessing files via SFTP will allow you to upload files from your development machine into the remote server’s file system without having to use FTP first.

2. Use strong passwords

Passwords must be at least 8 characters long. Containing both numeric and alphanumeric characters, and at least one special character.

Make sure admin passwords change every 90 days. Do not allow reuse of the last 4 passwords and store user passwords with strong hash encryption algorithms like SHA 2.

3. Use Strong Encryption and Hashing

Encryption is a process in which data is encrypted using an algorithm to ensure the security of the data. This ensures that only authorized users can access the information and that no one else can intercept it.

The encryption process uses a key to generate a code from the data, which is then sent to a server for decryption.

4. Encrypting files with SFTP/FTPS protocols

Files are transferred between two computers using secure FTP (SFTP) or FTPS protocols. The SFTP and FTPS have commonly used protocols for transferring files between machines over HTTP or HTTPS connections.

These protocols offer increased security over traditional FTP because they use symmetric keys instead of public/private key pairs, which means that only your computer knows what these keys are, while the server doesn’t have them at all.

The transfer is also authenticated by using MD5 or SHA 1 hash algorithms on each file before sending it over the network.

5. Use IP Blacklists and Whitelists

An IP blacklist denies a range of IP addresses access to the system, either temporarily or permanently.

For example, you want to block access to certain countries. You can also have the FTP server blacklist for certain types of attacks, such as DoS attacks.

Another method is to whitelist only the specified IP addresses to access the system, such as your trading partners. The difficulty is that it only works well if the trading partner uses fixed IPs.

Besides, you can use an IP blacklist in conjunction with a firewall and a DMZ network, which allows certain users and programs through a firewall but blocks others from entering through it (such as hackers).

6. Use file security

When you’re setting up a new server, you should never trust it. Instead, you should use file security to ensure that only authorized users have access to the files on your server.

Hackers can exploit your system by abusing access to file permissions. Although customers need permission to upload or download files, they should never have exclusive access to an entire folder.

All inactive files stored on a DMZ server must be encrypted. Files on an FTP server should only remain as long as needed.

7. Secure your administrator

Many of today’s hacks involve a human engineering component that takes advantage of employee negligence. The most common example would be a phishing type attack that asks your administrator to reset his password.

To cut this threat, limit access to the SFTP server to the necessary administrative staff and need staff with identification information to use multi factor authentication. The passing codes that must be stored must be limited to an AD domain or to the LDAP server.

8. Place Behind a Gateway

The DMZ is a shared segment of the network where organizations store their FTP servers. The problem with the DMZ is that it faces the public internet, making it the segment most vulnerable to attack.

Usually, when the FTP server is located in the DMZ, data files and user data of trading partners are also stored there, which poses a great risk even with encrypted files.

Other organizations have taken the initiative to move files and user credentials to the private network, which is more secure.

But, the problem with this method is that it requires you to open ports in the private network, which creates a path for an attack and may not meet compliance requirements.

9. Harden Your FTPS Server

If your network is not protected by encryption, it is possible for a third party to access files on your server. This could be accomplished by using a man in the middle attack and changing the contents of the files.

If you use FTPS, it is important that clients connect to your server through an encrypted connection. The FTPS protocol does not have any built in security measures and relies on client configuration.

If a client does not request encryption or if it does not select an appropriate cipher suite, then it will not be able to connect to your server.

It’s important to note that FTPS connections can be vulnerable to attacks from outside your network as well. Users could download an archive containing malicious code or malware onto their machine, which would allow them access to files on the server without ever asking for it.

10. Use Good Account Management

When dealing with trading partners, it is important to create operating system level user accounts to ensure that they can’t access other resources on the server.

User credentials must also be kept separate from the FTP application. Don’t allow anonymous users or shared accounts.

Set some rules like account usernames must be at least 7 characters long and accounts must be disabled after 6 failed logins or 90 days of inactivity.

11. Limit file access

When you’re working with trading partners, it’s important to keep the number of files and folders they have access to limited.

For example, because a partner needs permission to download something from a folder doesn’t mean they need full rights to that folder.

Uploading files to a folder does not require them to have read access to the folder. Encrypt files at rest, especially when stored in the DMZ, and keep files on the FTP server only as long as needed.

Thank you for reading this article blog FTP Security Best Practices – FTP Vulnerabilities and Mitigation. Let’s summarize.

FTP Security Best Practices - FTP Vulnerabilities and Mitigation Conclusion

This article has outlined some of the best practices for securing your FTP or SFTP server, as well as shed some light on the types of vulnerabilities that are being exploited against them.

So if you haven’t secured your company’s FTP server, this article has given you all the information you need to make a positive change.

And remember, security is an ongoing process, so review these steps on a regular basis to be sure that your business stays safe from FTP and SFTP exploits.

Take a look at our FTP server content here.

Avatar for Hitesh Jethva
Hitesh Jethva

I am a fan of open source technology and have more than 10 years of experience working with Linux and Open Source technologies. I am one of the Linux technical writers for Cloud Infrastructure Services.

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