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I'm planning to run/have some quite sensitive data on a VPS, however, knowing well that the host could at any time access the data (rare but as long as it could happen in theory, I would very much like to have some sort of contingency planning down). Could it be possible to practice some sort of "damage control"?

For example, the method mentioned in: https://www.howtogeek.com/123568/how-to-get-email-notifications-whenever-someone-logs-into-your-computer/

Would it be enough, as one would be notified whenever someone else accesses the server? Or can a host easily bypass it regardless? For example via a "maintenance" and then extraction, where internet would be off?

Although since most VPS providers claim 99% up-time and assuming that an "evil host" would probably initially check what's on a machine through internet first, inevitably having to log in. Would this be an okay method regardless?

Unless of course they have a very elaborate and near-impossible to detect monitoring software installed on every machine, which for example, occasionally takes screenshots, giving the provider information on which machine could be "interesting" to inspect further... although could this also, simply be combated by a re-formatting before usage?

Looking forward to any and all feedback

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    Regardless of what methods you have in place to notify you of unauthorized access, the host could always simply snapshot the VM, start up an offline copy somewhere else, then do whatever they want to it. – Ajedi32 Mar 14 at 19:34
  • @Ajedi32 Reading through this thread, which is contextual to my issue mql5.com/en/forum/120133, I just can't help but feel full-on 50/50 on the issue – Vladimir Mar 14 at 23:17
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If you don't own the physical server, you cannot protect yourself. A VPS is virtual, so the hypervisor have total and absolute access to any data inside it. It can start a memory dump, or clone the disk, and your server don't even know.

They don't have to login, or take screenshots, or even reboot in a maintenance mode. They own the memory, they own the disk, they own the processors. They can even clone your VPS disk, put it on another VPS, and access everything. And all monitoring programs you have will not detect anything at all.

If you own the physical server, you have a better degree of protection. Depending on your budget, you can protect the chassis with an array of sensors that clears the RAM and resets the OS. An array of accelerometers can detect if your server is physically moved, and magnets and Hall Effect sensors can detect case opening. Light sensors and sound sensors can detect changes too, if they cut the case to avoid unscrewing it.

You will need to build this security appliance, wire it inside the case, and have your provider sign a document acknowledging they will not handle the server in any way without you being present. With this, you have a reasonable security, but will not be cheap.

  • There's also a good chance that your housing provider won't accept the provisions you demand of them. Educate all of my janitors and still get sued each time you lose your data because a noisy truck passes nearby? No, thanks. – John Dvorak Mar 14 at 19:43
  • @ThoriumBR Thanks for the detailed, comprehensive answer... I would very much like to follow your suggestion, about building one's own server with sensors and everything, albeit I'm not too hardware-savvy and usually, kind of out of time... would sure be nice if there was a website somewhere out there, that sold a complete solution like this... gonna try to find one eventually. – Vladimir Mar 14 at 21:03

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