Security articles in the mainstream technical media often focus on the importance of keeping Web servers patched to the most recent security release. Unfortunately, these articles are often Microsoft-centric and focus on the use of tools like the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and the Windows Update service to keep systems current. While this is great advice, it's important to remember that there are a large number of Web servers out there running Apache on Linux for cost efficiency and stability purposes. Over the past few years, the Web community has embraced Apache to an unprecedented degree. The August 2005 Netcraft Web Server Survey estimated Apache's overall market share at just under 70%. That's an incredible statistic!
So what's an Apache administrator to do? It's important to note that the Linux community releases security updates to Apache on a frequent basis. If you don't believe that, take a look at the list of patches released since April 2002. There are a few options for handling these patches:
- Keep an eye on the Web and on mailing lists like Apache Server Announcements (http://httpd.apache.org/lists.html#http-announce). When you see a new release, download and apply it manually.
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- Use the package management options available in various Linux releases. If you're running RedHat, check out the RedHat Package Manager (rpm.org). Solaris users may find the Solaris Patch Manager (https://sunsolve.sun.com/patchpro/patchpro.html) of use.
- Use an automated package updater. If you're running RedHat, the Red Hat Manager Update Module (https://www.redhat.com/en/technologies) may be a good solution for you. Note that this is a feature available to paid subscribers of the RedHat Network.
No matter which method you choose, it's critical that you keep on top of patch management. Apache (like all Web servers) is a notorious source of security vulnerabilities. Only careful maintenance can help safeguard your system from the exploits of malicious individuals.
About the author
Mike Chapple, CISSP is an IT Security Professional with the University of Notre Dame. He previously served as an information security researcher with the National Security Agency and the U.S. Air Force. Mike is a frequent contributor to SearchSecurity, a technical editor for Information Security magazine and the author of several information security titles including the CISSP Prep Guide and Information Security Illuminated.