10 Best Practices for Remote Work Access Security
Author: Haris Khan
Remote work is the new normal for IT teams around the globe, and there is no surprise as to why remote work is becoming so increasingly popular for organizations. The modern employee workforce is no longer restricted to one physical location. The remote working option has helped organizations in not only reducing their travel and office expenses but also in providing a flexible and convenient on-the-go work routine for employees. Over the last decade, companies have shifted their focus towards expanding their remote work potential.
But, remote access introduces a whole new share of security risks and loopholes in your infrastructure that require new and advanced forms of security to deal with. Using a VPN may sound like a really good defensive security approach but do you really think using a VPN alone can be the ultimate solution for tackling all the security risks? The truth is, remote access security is a much more detailed process and requires various security strategies and state-of-the-art technologies in place.
So, let’s dive into the details of secure remote access and explore the best security practices that you can employ for a secure remote work environment!
What is secure remote access?
Secure remote access refers to the technology used for securely accessing a system or application remotely. Cybercriminals and malicious actors are consistently looking out for vulnerabilities and loopholes in remote work infrastructures to exploit and plan cyber attacks. Organizations need to implement secure remote work strategies and utilize the usage of effective secure technologies for remote access.
The first step towards implementing a secure remote infrastructure is ensuring that your employees have consistent and secure remote access to all the applications, resources, and services. Regardless of how flexible your remote work environment is, remote access security remains one of the most essential aspects to incorporate into your infrastructure.
Which technologies are used for remote work access?
Secure remote access can be effectively implemented by utilizing a collection of highly innovative, secure, and flexible technologies while accessing a system or application from a remote location
A few prominent examples of such technologies are listed below:
1. Virtual Private Network (VPN):
A Virtual Private Network is one of the most commonly used technologies for secure remote access. A VPN necessarily provides an additional security layer while accessing a network remotely. VPN allows remote users to connect to private networks via an encrypted server or tunnel.
VPN tunnels necessarily fall under two categories i.e Remote and Site-to-Site. A remote VPN tunnel is employed when individual users attempt to access a private network over the internet. Site-to-Site VPN tunnels come into play when there is a requirement for entire networks to connect with each other through the internet. VPNs employ multiple protocols for establishing network connections.
Some of the most frequently used protocols include Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol (PPTP), Internet Key Exchange Version 2 Protocol (IKEv2), Open Source VPN, and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP).
2. Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA):
ZTNA solutions revolve around the security policies that are placed and managed by organizations. Just like the name suggests, a ZTNA solution puts zero level of trust in a connection’s security and prompts for reauthentication for every action.
Unlike VPNs, ZTNA systems do not grant open access to users. The level of access to services and applications.is usually determined by organizational security policies that are in place.
ZTNA solutions are handy tools for ensuring secure connectivity over unfamiliar or untrustworthy networks. Organizations can develop security policies that define the access level for each device and application and thereby utilize ZTNA solutions for enforcing them.
Endpoint security is a security process used for securing the various devices or endpoints that can be exposed on a network including laptops, mobile devices, servers, and desktops. Endpoint security can be convincingly implemented by utilizing both software and policies.
Normally, firewalls and antivirus software are installed on endpoint devices to prevent any security breach across them. Moreover, security policies include key security measures such as the prevention of caching confidential data to remote devices, avoiding dangerous downloads, and ensuring security patches are updated frequently.
Also, frequent system backups and snapshots also help in restoring system data to an earlier point in case of data loss or any other event that impacts the production dataset. Firewalls, antivirus software, system backups and snapshots can all be combined to establish a cyber resilient environment within the organization.
4.Network Access Control (NAC):
Network Access Control is usually enforced through endpoint security tools, two-factor authentication, and the organization’s network security policy. NAC refers to all the measures that are taken to protect the company’s network from possible threats and breaches from outside or in some cases, even from within the organization.
NAC assists in assigning restricted access to individuals and is normally determined by the department’s or organization’s management.
5.Single Sign-On (SSO):
Single Sign-On is an innovative technology that highly improves and strengthens the user authentication procedure. With SSO, the users are granted access to multiple devices, resources, and applications via a single set of login credentials.
SSO allows organizations to manage and control all of the users’ access to applications in a controlled manner. It also streamlines and eases the sign-on process for the end-users as well. SSO is an effective piece of tech to ensure remote access security
6.Privileged access management (PAM):
Privileged Access Management refers to a combination of tools that are utilized for effectively monitoring, managing, and securing access to an organization’s data from specific privileged accounts. PAM empowers the management to have a broad eye view of all the activities being performed through privileged accounts and ensures that no unusual actions or activities are being performed.
10 Best Practices for Secure Remote Work Access:
Some of the best practices that you can adopt to improvise remote access security in your organization are described below:
1. Mobile Device Management:
Mobile Device Management Solutions assist in resolving one of the core challenges of secure remote access i.e managing the security of your remote device. MDM solutions offer great flexibility and control over remote devices regardless of wherever they are located.
By employing MDM solutions, your devices can attain leveraged security. These solutions allow you to easily install updates, configure applications, monitor and manage the security features of your portable devices. Smart usage of MDM solutions ultimately mitigates the majority of the risks that are present in remote access procedures and boosts remote access security.Featured mobile device management solutions include IBM’s MaaS360 and Google Endpoint Management.
2. VPNs – An essential security aspect:
As discussed previously in this blog, VPNs are a must-have whenever it comes to allowing employees to remotely access resources or applications. Based on the encrypted tunnels that VPNs use for ensuring secure communication, VPNs are also highly impactful in scenarios when your users are using public WiFis to access company resources. In today’s remote work culture, almost all organizations are utilizing Virtual Private Networks for enabling their employees to work securely and efficiently.
The importance of site-to-site VPNs is critically undeniable in today’s remote work infrastructure. With organizations rapidly expanding over multiple geographical locations, it’s crucial to provide a secure connection mechanism for every remote office so employees can easily and securely access the corporate network and complete their day-to-day tasks.
3. Strong Password Policies:
Perhaps the most evident loophole and vulnerability that can invite hackers to your systems is the use of weak credentials. Organizations need to enforce strong password policies now more than ever. The password policies must check for the number of characters, length as well as complexity when users are setting up their passwords.
However, it becomes increasingly difficult to grasp a hold of complex passwords, especially when you have different passwords for different applications. Hence, it’s a good approach to use password managers for storing important passwords. Two of the most reliable and recommended password managers are 1Password and LastPass . Both of these password managers utilize strong encryption and hashing algorithms to ensure full security of your stored passwords. Ideally, a strong password should not contain personal information aspects such as your birthday or your pet name etc. Moreover, it should comprise a combination of alphanumeric characters along with special characters and should be long and not so easy to guess.
4. Consistent patches and updates:
Frequent software updates are an essential factor to ensure that there are no unpatched vulnerabilities or weak holes in your systems. Cybercriminals are actively on the hunt for loopholes and security vulnerabilities to expose and steal your valuable data.
Ignoring security patches and updates for a reasonable period can have long-lasting disastrous impacts on the integrity and security of your data. Timely patches and updates not only eradicate security vulnerabilities but also boost the performance of applications.
5. Risk Assessments and Security Audits:
One of the most effective measures that can be implemented across the organization is the conduct of regular risk assessment activities and security audits. These risk assessments facilitate in identifying and evaluating potential risks and vulnerabilities that can have adverse effects on the overall remote access security of your applications.
Moreover, exclusive companywide remote services and work audits can allow you to focus upon critical aspects of your remote environment such as VPN logins, network ports, user permissions, and the security of cloud solutions.
Once you have a well-documented post-audit report, you can easily identify possible suspicious user activity or anomalies in your network traffic. Also, this will help you prepare for the future and plan the usage of new technologies as well as devise remote access security measures to protect you from potential threats in the future.
Take the Quiz: How Well is your Organization Tackling Cybersecurity
6. Anti Malware and Antivirus software:
Anti Malware Solutions and antivirus software embed an extra layer of protection for your systems as they tend to thwart away malicious files and potential viruses. Also, such software and solutions have become mandatory to install to abide by regulatory compliance.
7. Encryption Standards and Algorithms:
Nowadays, almost every organization has a wide range of encryption standards and policies that are enforced for all the data residing on company devices. Encryption is a really powerful mechanism for mitigating the risks that are associated with a stolen or lost device.
8. Identity and Access Management – A Powerful Tool:
Identity and Access Management solutions are used for managing user privileges, permissions, and access rights. IAM is a really handy tool in sophisticated business environments since it ensures that the correct and desired level of access control is in place for all organizational resources. For example, higher leadership can use secure board portals to store important documents and reports in one place.
In the current threat landscape, advanced security standards and up-to-date remote policies are the two major factors that elevate the security prospect of the organization and also assist in meeting the compliance requirements.
IAM plays a major role in achieving these security goals by allowing you to strictly regulate access and control to applications, networks, and systems alike. Therefore, IAM turns out to be an absolute necessity in today’s digital world.
9. Multifactor authentication:
Multi-factor authentication is an excellent security mechanism and extremely easy to enforce. Moreover, there are no additional costs involved in setting up any type of multi-factor authentication for instance two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication prompts users to provide an additional token or OTP along with the credentials to verify their identity. This makes it relatively tough for hackers to gain hold of your accounts.
10. Security Training and Awareness:
Last, but not least, reliance upon security systems and technologies isn’t always enough to protect your organization from cyber-attacks. No matter how much investment you make in security measures, novice and untrained users will always pose threat to the integrity and security of your systems and applications. Today, hackers utilize social engineering tactics and phishing attacks to deliver serious damage to organizations. The main reason for these attacks being successful is largely human errors.
Therefore, it’s necessary to incorporate security awareness and regular training to create consciousness among employees and to maintain a secure and risk-free culture.
Why using a VPN alone isn’t the safest solution for remote access?
For nearly a decade, VPNs have been regarded as one of the most essential tools that need to be embedded into business environments to ensure secure internal communication. However, many cybercriminals and hackers have from time to time proven that VPN tunnels can contain several vulnerabilities that can be exposed. In today’s era, VPNs alone aren’t enough to design an effective secure remote work strategy.
Sensitive data such as login credentials or users’ IP addresses can be potentially leaked via a VPN tunnel. Such incidents are most likely to occur due to poor configurations of VPN connections by providers.
Moreover, if the VPN encryption configuration is not properly implemented by the VPN providers, hackers can easily use brute force techniques to bypass weak encryption and intercept all the traffic.
Another common risk associated with using VPNs is exposed open ports. This vulnerability can be exposed by unauthorized attackers and various data breaches have occurred in the past using open ports.
Also, various VPN providers like to track user browser activity in the form of log files. This ultimately leads to the end-user having no control over their data privacy. A majority of cyber security experts recommend employing a VPN provider that utilizes a zero log policy so VPN logging can be avoided.
Read more: VPN vs VDI: What is your best solution for remote work
Why cloud desktops are an optimal choice for secure remote access?
Cloud desktop solutions offer greater flexibility and ease of access as all of your files, applications and desktop reside on the cloud. Cloud desktops are one of the most resilient and secure forms of remote access.
Cloud desktops offer the capability to restrict any user’s access to specific applications, files, and folders. This leads to greater control over the security and integrity of your sensitive data. Also, cloud desktops run on exclusively dedicated servers that are specifically assigned for your organization. This ultimately means increased privacy and security for all your data. Overall, the resilient security aspects offered by cloud desktops combined with a centralized infrastructure for managing profiles can definitely prove to be a win-win situation for businesses.
All-In-One Secure Remote Access with V2 Cloud:
As the organizational trend keeps transitioning to remote work, it’s crucial to comprehend the numerous cybersecurity risks and threats that are associated with remote access security. Remote work has become an increasingly viable option with tons of advantages.
However, the full strength of its capabilities can only be benefitted from if the posing security challenges are properly identified and rectified. We hope that this blog will assist you in adopting some of the best approaches for incorporating a smooth, secure, and comprehensive remote work culture in your organization!
With V2 Cloud, you get access to a fully secure remote access cloud desktop solution for your business. Our dedicated solutions are built with the aim of providing maximum protection against all sorts of cyber threats. Features like firewall configuration, regular snapshots and multi-factor authentication are some of the numerous security aspects that we embed in our cloud solutions to prioritize data security.