How to Secure RDP: Protection from Cyber Attacks - V2 Cloud

How to Secure RDP: Protection from Cyber Attacks

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Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), a Microsoft-developed network communications protocol, facilitates the remote management of servers, virtual desktops, terminal servers, and applications. It operates over encrypted channels to secure sessions from unauthorized surveillance or data manipulation—commonly known as a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack.

These attacks aim to steal login credentials, and personal information, or directly siphon data, posing severe financial and operational risks. In 2023, The global average cost of a data breach hit $4.45 million, marking a 15% increase over the past three years.

Such incidents underscore the critical need for robust RDP security, particularly as remote work expands and employees increasingly rely on personal devices and home networks. This guide will walk you through the best strategies to secure your RDP access.

How RDP Works

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) uses the standard network protocol TCP/IP to enable remote desktop access via port 3389. This allows users to interact with another computer’s interface through a secure, encrypted connection without physical cables like HDMI or USB.

RDP supports features like multi-monitor setups, fault tolerance, and robust authentication mechanisms, enhancing the user experience remotely. It works efficiently over WiFi, ensuring users can gain access to their desktop environments from various locations, making it ideal for remote work.

How Secure is RDP?

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) allows users to connect remotely to Windows operating system on another computer, but it presents specific security vulnerabilities that need addressing:

  1. Weak Sign-in Credentials: RDP often uses the same login credentials as the local desktop, making it susceptible to credential stuffing and brute force attacks. This commonality can lead to unauthorized access if these credentials are weak or compromised.
  2. Unrestricted Port Access: By default, RDP uses port 3389, which is well-known and frequently targeted by attackers. This predictability makes it easier for potential cyber threats to access RDP connections.

By itself, RDP may not provide a sufficiently secure setup, exposing organizations to cyber risks. However, integrating strong password management, Single Sign-On (SSO), and stringent firewall rules can mitigate these vulnerabilities.

Implementing these additional security measures is crucial for protecting RDP sessions from attacks.

Remote Desktop Protocol Vulnerability

A notable vulnerability in RDP was related to the Credential Security Support Provider protocol, which is a component of RDP used for securing credential transfers to servers.

Identified by Preempt researchers and patched in Microsoft’s March update (CVE-2018–0886), this flaw highlighted how RDP could be exploited via man-in-the-middle attacks to gain unauthorized access to networked machines.

Types of RDP Attacks

Unfortunately, MitM is not the only attack on the internet. Other types of attacks can happen either on your browser, software, email, and more. Below are some common types of attacks that target RDP sessions:

Keylogging

This type of malware records every keystroke made on a computer, allowing attackers to capture login credentials and other sensitive information without the user’s knowledge. To protect against keyloggers, it is essential to use anti-malware software and maintain regular system updates.

Ransomware

This malicious software encrypts the user’s data, making it inaccessible, and demands a ransom, typically in Bitcoin, to unlock it. Ransomware can be particularly destructive and costly.

Implementing robust data backups and security measures can mitigate the risks.

EternalBlue

This exploit targets vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s software, affecting Windows Vista through Windows 10. EternalBlue has been used in some of the most damaging cyberattacks in recent history, including the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack.

It is crucial to apply all security patches and updates from Microsoft to defend against threats exploiting this vulnerability.

Ensure RDP Security from Attacks

While Microsoft plays a critical role in patching vulnerabilities as they are disclosed, administrators and security consultants need to take proactive steps to mitigate the risks associated with Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP).

Understanding CredSSP Vulnerabilities

Before discussing preventive measures, it’s important to note recent issues like the Credential Security Support Provider protocol (CredSSP) vulnerability. CredSSP helps securely relay user credentials from a client to a server, and vulnerabilities in such protocols can be severe if exploited.

10 Steps to Secure Your RDP

Here’s an effective list to ensure your RDP sessions are secure. We recommend following these 10 protective measures:

1. Rigorous Patch Management

Continually update both the operating system and applications. This includes subscribing to updated services and conducting regular audits to ensure all systems are up-to-date.

Unpatched systems are a common entry point for attackers.

2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Beyond two-factor, consider implementing multi-factor authentication. This approach combines something you know (password), something you have (security token), and something you are (biometrics), significantly increasing security.

3. Restrict Privileged Access

Implement the principle of least privilege by ensuring users have only the access necessary for their role. Review and adjust these permissions regularly to adapt to changing roles and responsibilities.

4. Strong, Unique Passwords

Enforce the use of strong, unique passwords for RDP access. Employ password managers to generate and store complex passwords, and mandate regular password changes.

5. Secure RDP Files

Avoid storing passwords in RDP files and disable the option to save credentials as a default setting on client devices. This prevents credential theft from lost or stolen devices.

6. Manage RDP Connection History

Regularly clean the RDP connection cache to remove residual information that could be used in an attack. Automate this process through scripts or group policies where possible.

7. Network Level Authentication (NLA)

Require NLA for RDP sessions, which necessitates that the connecting user authenticate before a session is established, thus providing an additional layer of security against unauthorized access.

8. Configure Firewalls Strictly

Limit RDP access through firewalls by whitelisting IP addresses. Employ additional monitoring to detect and respond to unusual access patterns or unauthorized remote access or attempts.

9. Deploy RDP Gateways

Use Remote Desktop Gateway servers as a middle layer to manage and secure RDP traffic entering the corporate network from remote systems. RD Gateways uses SSL encryption, improving security over traditional RDP.

10. Alter Default RDP Port

Change the default port (3389) to a less predictable number to avoid targeted attacks on this well-known port. Monitor and potentially rotate the RDP port periodically to enhance security.

Enhanced Virtual Desktop Security with V2 Cloud

While implementing the recommended security measures for your RDP connection significantly reduces the risk of cyber attacks, no system can be guaranteed 100% secure. These measures might also pose a challenge for remote users or those not well-versed in technology.

That’s where V2 Cloud shines as a key partner.

All V2 Cloud customers enjoy protection from threats like the CredSSP vulnerability because our secure Remote Desktop sessions utilize SSH tunneling through the V2 Cloud Client. This method secures all data transfers and keystrokes within your remote desktop session host and environment, and it eliminates the need to open TCP Port 3389 on your virtual machine.

Moreover, with V2 Cloud, a remote access solution, you don’t need to build your secure RDP infrastructure from scratch. Our cloud solutions, developed by a team of experts, offer a seamless and secure integration with your existing cloud infrastructure.

Opting for V2 Cloud’s remote desktop solution not only enhances security but also brings additional advanced features.

Leverage our expertise and advanced technology to ensure your remote desktop connections are safe and efficient. Explore V2 Cloud solutions today and elevate your virtual desktop security effortlessly.

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