Use Case

What is a Bastion Host? Types, Use Cases, and Safety Measures

Sourjesh Mukherjee
June 25, 2024

Remote access, a necessity for many businesses, can also introduce security vulnerabilities. This is where bastion hosts come in as defenders, providing a secure gateway between the public internet and your private network.

But are bastion hosts right for you? Let's delve into what they are, the different types, use cases, and how to keep them secure.

What is a Bastion Host?

A bastion host is a dedicated server that acts as a single point of entry for authorized users attempting remote access. By controlling this entry point, you can significantly tighten your network security. By acting as a buffer between the public internet and your private network (intranet), a bastion host reduces the attack surface for malicious actors.

Types of Bastion Hosts

Technically, any single-purpose server providing controlled access can be a bastion host. Here are some common types:

  • SSH Server: This is the most popular type, allowing secure shell (SSH) connections for remote administration.
  • VPN Server: A bastion host can also act as a VPN endpoint, channeling all VPN traffic through a secure point.
  • Web Server: A bastion host can be configured to provide limited access to specific web applications within your network.
  • Proxy Server: For added security, a bastion host can act as a proxy server, filtering incoming and outgoing traffic.

Use Cases for Bastion Hosts

Bastion hosts are ideal for organizations that:

  • Need Secure Remote Access: For system administrators or approved personnel working remotely, a bastion host provides a secure entry point.
  • Value Centralized Access Control: Managing access through a single server simplifies user permission management.
  • Prioritize Data Security: Bastion hosts act as a buffer zone, reducing the risk of external attacks reaching your internal network.

Benefits of Bastion Hosts

  • Enhanced Security: By controlling a single entry point, you can implement stricter security measures on the bastion host, reducing the attack surface for your internal network.
  • Simplified User Management: Adding, removing, or modifying user access permissions becomes easier with a centralized access point.
  • Improved Monitoring: Bastion hosts can log and track all access attempts, aiding in threat detection and analysis.

Security Measures for Bastion Hosts

While bastion hosts offer significant security advantages, they are not invincible. Here's how to keep your bastion host secure:

  • Minimize Attack Surface: Disable unnecessary services, applications, and user accounts on the bastion host.
  • Limit Network Access: Restrict incoming connections to authorized IP addresses only. Consider using a filtering router for additional control.
  • Harden SSH Protocol: Enforce strong SSH key management practices. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) for added security.
  • Regular Security Audits: Conduct periodic checks to identify vulnerabilities and potential security misconfigurations.

Are Bastion Hosts Outdated?

Some argue that bastion hosts are becoming outdated in today's decentralized computing landscape. However, bastion hosts can still be a valuable security tool, especially when combined with other security measures.

Alternatives to Bastion Hosts

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA): This modern approach assumes all connections are potential threats and requires continuous user verification.

While ZTNA offers a strong security model, it may not be suitable for all situations. Bastion hosts can still be a viable and cost-effective solution for many organizations.


Bastion hosts remain a relevant tool for securing remote access in today's digital world. By understanding their functionality, types, and security best practices, you can leverage them to create a robust defense for your network. Remember, the best approach often involves layering different security measures to achieve optimal protection.

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