Building a robust, company-wide strategy for remote access security should be an increasingly high priority for enterprises utilizing cloud solutions and hiring remote workers.
There are inherent risks in allowing remote access to company resources — employees working from home may use unsecured Wi-Fi networks or possess numerous home devices beyond company monitoring. Therefore, securing all avenues of remote access is a necessary practice in safeguarding company data.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and passwordless authentication can secure remote access connections to a stronger degree than simple password protection.
- Access control is necessary for remote work, but choosing the proper control method requires introspection into the company’s processes.
- Adopting the concept of zero trust security allows for stricter practices that are more likely to keep sensitive data safe.
Many factors go into implementing a comprehensive remote access security plan, but it is crucial to understand the three essential components that no security strategy can go without.
What is remote access security?
Remote access refers to connecting to a network or individual machine remotely using either dedicated hardware, software or a combination of the two. Making a remote connection is a crucial cloud computing requirement and a feature of the work-from-home paradigm shift.
Accessing a network from an external device exposes the network to additional possibilities of security threats. Securing the method of remote access is a necessity, and doing so benefits the user and the entire company by:
- Facilitating data protection
- Enabling secure internet browsing
- Protecting remote devices as well as the network to which they are connecting
- Heightening remote access security awareness at every step of the process
Remote access is possible through specialized technologies. Virtual private networks act as a sort of tunneling software between distant nodes. Remote Desktop Protocol and desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) programs allow remote access by providing a virtual desktop interface. Administrators can use privileged access management tools to monitor and manage activity through various remote access methods.
Enterprise use of remote access technologies should incorporate the essential security components that will keep sensitive company data safe while also protecting the privacy of individual employees who opt to work remotely.
1. Strict authentication
Authenticating a user’s right to access a network is the most basic, and perhaps most important, step in remote access security. Password protection is the simplest way to enforce authentication measures, but a robust security strategy requires additional layers to deter would-be cybercriminals.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one way to prevent intrusions in the network. This process requires users to pass more than one type of authentication check to gain access. In addition to knowledge-based authentication, such as password protection, MFA protocols might also require possession-based authentication through a security token.
Another solution is to increase security by eliminating the need for passwords. Passwordless authentication methods include biometrics and email- or SMS-based authentication. A survey from Ponemon Institute shows that 43% of IT respondents frequently encounter friction when attempting to access data because of forgotten passwords, indicating a rising popularity of passwordless authentication as a remote access security measure.
2. Access control
Password protection and other authentication methods are common types of access control that organizations use to protect their networks. A fully functional access control strategy requires a deeper understanding of different access control methods and which are essential components of the company’s security plan.
Discretionary access control
This is a method by which IT administrators set the policies that determine which users have access to which data. The administrators are responsible for transferring data or information to users at their discretion, and this discretion becomes the baseline for access privileges.
Role-based access control
While this method similarly serves an administrator's discretion, it differs as administrators can assign remote access security roles with varying levels of access to several networks or data repositories. This requires less oversight by an administrator and, therefore, can be preferable to discretionary access control.
Mandatory access control
This method relies on a centralized system authority to assign access privileges according to a predetermined hierarchy. The discretion of a system administrator will not supersede the mandatorily given access rights in this security model.
Attribute-based access control
This last method is a sophisticated methodology that dynamically grants or denies access to users as a real-time response to authentication requests. The ABAC program evaluates the attributes or characteristics of the user to determine if they should have access in accordance with a predefined policy.
3. Zero trust
Remote access security protocols that successfully implement strong authentication measures and other forms of access control may have reasonably strong security under a “trust but verify” ideology. However, zero trust security can better protect a company’s interests by enforcing a policy of not trusting that a user is benevolent simply because they can successfully authenticate and gain access.
A core tenet of the zero trust approach is to monitor every user entering a network and their activity. IT administrators should establish a baseline for what level of activity and risk is “normal” in the network. Any monitored activity outside that baseline should be subject to real-time security responses.
Constant testing is another principle of zero trust security. Enterprises should not simply trust that the network is safe, secure and operational. Instead, IT teams should regularly conduct penetration tests, and other forms of reviews or policy reworks.
What remote access security solutions are available?
Companies looking to adopt remote access practices should start by reviewing their security requirements and considering what changes are necessary to protect enterprise data in a work-from-home model.
The next step is implementing a remote access method that meets the established security needs. The Nutanix platform also prioritizes data security through a role-based access control method and helps to provide a flexible digital workspace accessible from any device, anywhere.
Other virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments also allow for remote access security through strong internal policies and the implementation of proper tools and technologies. Nutanix DaaS can complement an existing VDI deployment by addressing any business continuity or temporary worker demands that may arise.
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