SFTP Security Threats: How to Mitigate and Prevent SFTP Attacks

SFTP Security Threats: How to Mitigate and Prevent SFTP Attacks. In this article, we produce an overview of the most important threats to SFTP file transfer and the strategies and precautions to minimize the risk of the threats. We focus on methods that help to strengthen SFTP security and protect data transmitted over the network.

The security of file transfer over the SFTP network is a crucial in today’s IT marketplace. Well, SFTP provides encrypted and secure data transfer, which results in the secure transfer of sensitive data, including financial or personal customer data. But, despite their security level, SFTP is still subject to threats. These lead to attacks on systems and breaches of data privacy.

Shall we start with SFTP Security Threats: How to Mitigate and Prevent SFTP Attacks?

What is SFTP Data Transfer?

It is called a very secure file transfer protocol especially used for sending files over a secure segment. It gives strong authentication and encryption for data transfers between two computers over a network and is usually used to upload and download files from a remote server.

Variety of companies use SFTP because it has tight security, which is especially important when sending data or proprietary data. In addition, it performs the function of encrypting the connection for data transfer, ruling out the risk of unauthorized users accessing the data during the process. In addition, it is possible to authenticate the server as well as the client, ensuring that only the intended party accesses data.

How Secure Is SFTP?

In nutshell, SFTP is a secure version of the FTP protocol, the task of which focuses on transferring information, data, files over the Internet. This protocol is even more secure, as it encrypts data sent over the network, as well as authenticates the user. It uses Secure Shell, that encrypts data and information and the data is not exposed during transmission. Moreover, it allows the server to authenticate the client and the client to authenticate the server before exchanging data. Only authorized users have access to the most sensitive data. Such users safely use digital signatures to verify the integrity of their data.

All in all, SFTP is more secure than FTP itself, all because it encrypts all data sent, including usernames and passwords. Also, SFTP requires user authentication, which means that only authorized users have access to just that data. Well, SFTP authenticates the client and the client to authenticates the server before any data is exchanged. Result is even more security. 

How to Prevent and Mitigate SFTP attacks?

Firstly, to  prevent attacks IT team must constantly take care of corporate servers. The most important step in securing an SFTP server is choosing the right protocol, is it FTPS or SFTP?

Furthermore, let’s look at the most important ways to prevent SFTP threats and then mitigate risks:

Use strong passwords

One of the main reasons of maintaining security of SFTP is to get the basic right. Passwords. Good password shall be alphanumeric, have at least 15 characters. Note, the passwords should have a combination of letters and numbers as well as special characters. Avoid password reuse. When it comes to strong passwords, they shall be stored securely ( external drive with password lock). Use password managers for password management.

Enable Anti-hacking (Password Hashing) features on the SFTP server

The second point is anti-hacking (password guessing), on this server should be enabled. Next, your SFTP server should be able to set how many failed password attempts are to be made before a user is locked out. Ideally, it should be about 3, but no more than 5 or 6. This increases the time between password attempts and reduces the likelihood of password guessing.

Implement Smart Password Policies

The introduction of smart password policy is inevitable. Users want their passwords to be easy to type and to remember. But ideally, the same password should not be used for everything, because it becomes a target for hackers. Therefore, if your system is hacker proof, and if one password is hacked, other passwords are still safe for other systems. Your server should allow the administrator to enforce rules about the length of the password and the type of characters that must be used. 

Keep Software Up To Date

Ensure that your operating system and SFTP server software are updated with the latest security patches. It means regularly using Windows updates as soon as they are available. Why? because new security vulnerabilities are regularly discovered in Windows and protocols such as SSL/TLS.

IP Based Restrictions

IP address based restrictions enhance security of SFTP server. We restrict the IP addresses that connect to the server’s port 22. To do this, we add the necessary rules in the server’s firewall. Again, these rules depend on the type of firewall you are using.

It does, though, incur additional costs to maintain the firewall when a new user is added. Considering the safety impact, however, we recommend this to be a necessity.

Avoid Outdated Encryption

Because SFTP is based mainly on the encryption method, we must make sure that the server does not use outdated encryption technologies. In fact, it is the encryption algorithm that takes the original data, encrypts it and sends the encrypted data along with the key. If your server uses weak encryption, the SFTP server gets compromised.

The support engineers shall always disable outdated ciphers such as Blowfish and DES, and only use stronger ciphers such as AES or TDES.

Enable Multi Factor Authentication (MFA)

Cybercriminals often use brute force attack to get into your network. But not always. Sometimes they get them via social engineering, or the dark web. After getting the password, the attacker take over your system. To mitigate this threat introduce MFA( multi-factor authentication). That takes your security of SFTP even further.

SFTP Security Threats: How to Mitigate and Prevent SFTP Attacks Conclusion

In summary, SFTP is a relatively secure file transfer protocol, but it requires adequate security to ensure protection from potential threats. Remember that security is an ongoing process, so it is important to avoid SFTP security threats we should use strong data encryption methods, restrict access to the server, set complex passwords for sftp users. What’s more, please regularly update your strategy and adapt it to changing threats. With proper precautions, SFTP is a secure and efficient way to transfer files over the network.

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Avatar for Kamil Wisniowski
Kamil Wisniowski

I love technology. I have been working with Cloud and Security technology for 5 years. I love writing about new IT tools.

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