Apache Security

Product Description
With more than 67% of web servers running Apache, it is by far the most widely used web server platform in the world. Apache has evolved into a powerful system that easily rivals other HTTP servers in terms of functionality, efficiency, and speed. Despite these impressive capabilities, though, Apache is only a beneficial tool if it’s a secure one. To be sure, administrators installing and configuring Apache still need a sure-fire way to secure it–whether it’s run… More >>

Apache Security

5 replies
  1. Richard Bejtlich says:

    I recently received copies of Apache Security (AS) by Ivan Ristic and Preventing Web Attacks with Apache (PWAWA) by Ryan Barnett. I read AS first, then PWAWA. Both are excellent books, but I expect potential readers want to know which is best for them. The following is a radical simplification, and I could honestly recommend readers buy either (or both) books. If you are more concerned with a methodical, comprehensive approach to securing Apache, choose AS. If you want more information on offensive aspects of Web security, choose PWAWA.

    Before I go further, I must mention that Ivan Ristic cites me and my books twice, on pages 2 and 229. While humbling, I tried not to let this fact influence my review.

    AS is an extremely well-thought-out book. My favorite aspect of AS is the decision to start with a blank httpd.conf file, rather than accepting the file packaged with Apache and making edits as needed. By building up httpd.conf from scratch, the author shows exactly what components are needed in a very clear manner. This was not the approach used by PWAWA. I would like to see other technical books adopt this teaching method.

    AS includes better coverage of several topics which I believe are core to securing Apache. I liked AS’ discussion of chroot environments and jails, although the author should distinguish between chroot on Linux or BSD and jail on BSD alone. AS features a whole chapter on proper PHP deployment (Ch 3), and a whole chapter on SSL/TLS (Ch 4). AS devotes another chapter to explaining how to host multiple Web sites on one host (Ch 6), which is critical to many Apache environments. AS’ chapter on Web infrastructure (CH 9) also covers topics not found in PWAWA.

    AS is also less explicitly Linux-centric than PWAWA. As a primary FreeBSD user, I found AS’ approach more applicable to my environment. PWAWA seemed to assume everyone was running Red Hat Linux. It’s fine to use a single OS for all examples, but I had to personally identify tools and techniques that would probably only work on Red Hat.

    I had very little trouble with any of the text in AS. My main concerns involve Ch 1, where the author spends time on certain security concepts. I would consider the following with regards to threat modeling on p. 5: (asset) what might be compromised; (motivation) why compromise; (vulnerabilities) where compromised; (attack) how compromised; (threat) who compromised you; (risk) threat X vulnerability X asset value. On pp 9-10 the author should also have used the risk equation just mentioned.

    Overall, I really liked AS. The book really is about Apache security, so if you are more interested in attacking Apache you might prefer PWAWA. If you want to learn about Web application hacking in general, your best bets are probably Hacking Exposed: Web Applications, 2nd Ed, and Professional Pen Testing for Web Applications. I will read and review those two books shortly.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Kiwi says:

    This comprehensive, systematic, task-oriented book covers all the alternative approaches to securing servers — from secure to paranoid — complete with examples to demonstrate vulnerabilities such as session management, (Javascript) cross-site scripting, and SQL injection. Subjects such as hardening PHP, shared-server vulnerabilities, and logging/monitoring, each get a whole chapter. This up-to-date, well-written (concise yet encyclopedic) book will be indispensible to system designers, administrators and programmers.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. webhostgear.com says:

    I recently heard about a new book out that is just about Apache Security written by Ivan Ristic. I haven’t ever really found many books on this topic and wondered why since its such a widely popular web server. Ivan Ristic is well known for being the single man behind an invaluable tool for web servers called mod_security.

    So many security related books are very expensive and thousands of pages long, which is great if you have lots of time but no system admin does. Apache Security is both thorough and quick to get through while walking you through the most imporant issues you’ll encounter or never thought about until now.

    First off go buy the book, don’t bother to read this review at http://www.webhostgear.com/313.html It’s really that good. I use it on a daily basis and keep a copy at the office and at home. I advise anyone that owns a server or works with Apache to get this book, you won’t be disappointed. It’s not

    for somoene that’s completely a newbie to web servers, I recommend it more for someone with a bit of experience or advanced user of Linux. Since this isn’t a book on dummy installations but about security so you need a basic understanding of file permissions and so on.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. Dr Anton Chuvakin says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Ivan’s “Apache Security”, even when I was a reviewer for an unfinished book. I remember how I was eagerly waiting to receive more new chapters from the publisher.

    The book contains a nice combination of generic web stuff and Apache stuff. It starts with the discussion of security principles, such as defense-in-depth and minimum access privilege. Although not new, they are useful for those just entering the field, such as for beginner apache admins.

    The chapter on Apache’s installation and configuration sounds boring and many might be tempted to skip it. But it does contain a gem: a guide on setting Apache in a chroot jail!

    PHP, a main web application platform for Apache at the time of this writing, is covered as well. I found some tips on PHP hardening that I didn’t know previously. While the last PHP application I deployed was configured to be ‘hackable’ (it was a honeypot deployment, after all!), I found the tips to be practical.

    One entertaining chapter is on denial-of-service attacks. There are many ways to overwhelm a network server, and Apache is now exception. It’s a must-read for those running highly-available sites, where downtime costs a lot.

    An important chapter covers Apache access control, from basic auth to single sign-on. Of course, of particular interest to me was a chapter on logging and monitoring, as it is one of my favorite subjects. Ivan did a great job covering not only logging facilities available within the server, but also log centralization, log analysis for security, integrity monitoring and other stuff. Distributed logging with Spread kit is indeed ‘cool’, just as Ivan mentions.

    A brief chapter covers the security of the underlying ‘infrastructure’, such as the OS that Apache runs on. I liked the overview since it is not ‘generic’, but covers material relevant to running Apache web server.

    Chapter 10-12 are at the center of the book, providing the core of the new material. Those cover web application attacks, web security assessment and web intrusion detection,. The latter is based on Ivan’s famous mod_security Apache module. While web attacks are covered in many places, I think the overview in the book is clear, focused and useful even for those who do web security for a living. As far as the mod_security chapter is concerned, I would read it with most care since it covers a lot of advanced usage tips, not available elsewhere.

    The book is well written, easy to follow and displays clear writing style. I would strongly recommend it to everybody who is involved in running Apache web servers, web applications or has web security as part of his job responsibility. Obviously, everybody who thinks that this subject is fun should also read it :-) Also, check out http://www.apachesecurity.net for some free chapters, ToC, tools covered in the book, as well as a couple presentations given by Ivan. The book focuses on the defensive side, but mentions various attacks against web infrastructure as well.

    Anton Chuvakin, Ph.D., GCIA, GCIH, GCFA is a Security Strategist with a major security company. He is an author of the book “Security Warrior” and a contributor to “Know Your Enemy II” and the upcoming “Hacker’s Challenge III”. In his spare time, he maintains his security portal info-secure.org and his blog at O’Reilly. His next book will be about security log analysis.

    Rating: 5 / 5

  5. Ryan Stille says:

    I found this book while browsing the programming section of Borders (the programming section of my local Borders is amazing!), and I’ve found it to be a real gem.

    The book covers so much more than just Apache security. It covers installation and configuration, and explains a little of how Apache works along the way. There are also chapters or sections on:

    – Understanding and securing PHP

    – An explanation of SSL

    – DOS attacks

    – Traffic shaping in Apache

    – Logging is covered extensively

    – There’s a chapter on web security in general, where all the common attacks are explained

    – Using Apache as a proxy or a reverse proxy

    I especially enjoyed the Web Security Assessment chapter where the author explained how to systematically analyze and probe web applications/servers, with many real world examples.

    There is a large section discussing mod_security, which is an amazing Apache module. Mod_security is an intrusion detection and prevention engine for web applications (a web application firewall). The book is written by the author of mod_security (Ivan Ristic), so he really knows what he’s talking about in this area. Also covered is mod_dosevasive, which, obviously helps prevent against denial of service attacks.

    I would not hesitate to recommend this book to any Apache administrator, user, or web programmer. Its one of my favorite books on my bookshelf.
    Rating: 5 / 5

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