Protecting your Web host

It is almost a requirement these days that a business has to have a Web server. Often, the compromise of a Web server can mean the compromise of the entire network. This usually occurs because the Web server is hosted on a member server or (God forbid) a domain controller of your private network. This is not a security-conscious solution. Fortunately, there are several secure alternatives to deploying a Web server on one of the server systems connected to your network.

The first alternative is to deploy an isolation domain. An isolation domain is simply a separate subnet and domain from your private network. This domain is used exclusively to host servers that are to be accessed by Internet users. This domain can be considered a DMZ where all systems placed in this domain are expendable.

Another protection means is to use a reverse proxy solution. Numerous firewall products, such as Microsoft's Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server, support this feature. Basically, it provides proxy protection for your Web server while allowing external Internet clients to access the public content.

Another alternative is to use a Web in a box solution. A Web in a box is a self-contained computer with a pre-installed OS and Web server. It is usually of a platform different from the rest of your network. These products are specifically hardened for Internet deployment and offer high-volume robust performance.

A final alternative is to outsource the hosting

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of your Web services. Many ISPs and other service specific organizations offer Web hosting services. These services range from very skimpy to full-service e-commerce and Web application development solutions.

Finding the right security solution for your Web services will help protect your private network as well as improve the security and availability of your publicly accessible Web content.

James Michael Stewart is a researcher and writer for Lanwrights, Inc.

This was first published in December 2002

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