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I am setting up a new Mac Mini server which will serve as a web server (with Apache and MySQL) as well as some other pieces of functionality. I have seen little on securing OS X for such a scenario (I am running Lion - and this is not Lion Sever).

I assume it is recommended to use ipfw as opposed to the application firewall. I also assume that it makes sense to lock down SSH (put it on a non-standard port and use certificate authentication). However, should I also lock down screen sharing (and force an SSH tunnel for this)? Any tips on this are welcome.

  • Don't use LDAP for user authentication until it actually checks more than whether any text is entered in the user field. – bmike Aug 24 '11 at 17:48
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Although written for 10.5, this guide by Daniel Cuthbert (PDF) is fairly comprehensive and largely still applies to Lion.

Closing off screen sharing and tunneling it (if you need it at all) through SSH is probably a good idea.

Standard rules apply:

  • Only open absolutely necessary ports to the outside world
  • Keep your software up to date
  • Disable any unused services & Apache modules
  • Disable any listeners you don't need, rebind those you do need to localhost only if they're not needed outside (lsof -i is your friend)
  • Check that your firewall is really working as expected (nmap from an outside host)

Mac specific things:

  • Make sure the console is password protected, locks if you're using screensharing and doesn't auto-login on startup
  • You may want to enable verbose boot messages by default, it'll make debugging easier in case things go bad: sudo nvram boot-args="-v"
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