Introduction to Security Challenges in Remote Work Environments
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, almost all organizations had to shift their working models to hybrid or remote workforce. Therefore, the sudden change to remote work environments created new security vulnerabilities and challenges. Since remote employees get to choose where they work, connect to company network assets, and access specific resources, ensuring a secure connection to the network is vital.
That's because cybercriminals have advanced their attacks in both frequency and complexity to exploit the shortcomings of organizations' network security postures. Now, cyber threats and attacks continue to increase at alarming rates. Especially, companies with branch offices and employees working remotely in multiple locations are at high risk against cybercriminals and cyber attacks because they have one or more networks and millions of assets under one infrastructure.
Also, traditional VPNs fail to securely connect employees over the public Internet and prevent unauthorized users or illicit user access. This leads to implementing even more security solutions to combat the incompetencies.
That's why companies change their approaches and implement remote access VPNs to safely connect users to their network, control access, and ensure data security. Now, we're going to analyze the role of remote access VPNs in cybersecurity, how they secure user access and establish access control, and their benefits for remote work security.
The Role of Remote Access VPNs in Remote Work Security
A remote access VPN enables users to remotely access company data, applications, and assets through an encrypted tunnel created by a secure gateway over a public Internet connection. While doing so, it establishes the utmost security and privacy in their connections. That's how a remote access VPN protects a company's network, data, and employees against cybercriminals and cyber attacks during a temporary remote VPN connection. Also, remote access VPN works to block unauthorized users from gaining full access to the company's network and prevent cyber attacks like IP spoofing, data breaches, and man-in-the-middle attacks.
Many organizations have an intranet that lets them connect trusted users to the company's network and resources. Since employees or users access private networks from various locations, it becomes harder to control access to the intranet. That's where remote access VPNs come in. Only users connected to a specific gateway or server can enter the network access server, which is an intranet in our case. Remote access VPNs establish authentication and authorization on a network layer and ensure proper protection.
How Remote Access VPNs Encrypt Data for Secure Transmission
There are several steps to a secure data transmission. Before encrypting the data packets, remote access VPNs determine which packets require encryption and they are authenticated by the host. After a secure route is created from origin to destination, negotiation starts and two hosts must agree on policy settings to form an encrypted tunnel. At this point, encryption keys and cryptographic nonces are exchanged between hosts. Both origin and destination devices must have keys to decode data and complete data transmission. That's how remote access VPNs encrypt data for secure transmission.
Authentication and Authorization in Remote Access VPNs
VPN client and gateway apps handle the authentication through several means. To qualify for a VPN connection, remote access VPNs verify user identities by digital certificates, passwords, and client apps.
Digital certificates are installed on user devices and verified once a connection is established for authentication. Passwords are straightforward credentials for users and they can be pre-agreed or one-time generated. Once users enter passwords, they can connect company network. Client apps also verify user credentials and their devices.
Benefits of Remote Access VPNs for Remote Work Security
1. Prevents unauthorized users
With a remote access VPN, companies can control who access company resources via specific gateways and servers, and block unauthorized users.
2. Access and security for Bring Your Own Device
Since remote access VPNs encrypt online traffic using secure tunnels, your employees can access the internal network from any device within BYOD policies.
3. Secure remote access
With a remote access VPN, dispersed employees and teams can securely access to resources they need from anywhere and anytime. Microsoft Azure Active Directory offers a range of capabilities including identity and access management solutions that can be utilized to ensure secure access and identity protection which is crucial for remote working environments.
4. Cyber threat mitigation
Employees who remotely access company resources from anywhere are at greater risk of cyber attacks and being compromised. Compromised devices are tools for spear phishing and ransomware attacks, so they can damage the whole network. Remote access VPNs create a secure tunnel for remote access and hide the users' online traffic.
Implementing and Configuring a Remote Access VPN
Although remote access VPN offers many benefits to companies with remote workers, the correct configuration for this VPN technology is crucial to avoid unnecessary gaps or vulnerabilities within the system. This procedure involves six fundamental steps for ensuring the protection of remote users and the effectiveness of remote access VPNs.
When implementing a secure access VPN, the first step is to install routing and remote access roles into our dedicated server after the initial investment of the VPN gateway and VPN client app. Only then we can configure our remote access VPN and routing settings.
The next step involves setting up user accounts and groups to test VPN. In the third step, you must set up an NPS network access policy. After this, you must configure port forwarding on the router to later test the remote access VPN's functionality on VPN client software.
After verifying that the remote access VPN system is working as intended, companies can safely connect their users in remote locations to their network.
Real-World Examples of Remote Access VPN Success Stories
An e-commerce platform Omnisend found out that there is an urgency to secure access of remote employees to the organization's network and its internal database as the company expanded globally. Zygimantas Stauga, the Director of Information Security at Omnisend, mentioned: "The pandemic situation proved that internal cybersecurity policy has to change together with our growing workforce."
To resolve the challenges in maintaining the integrity of the organization's internal network and balancing security with performance, Omnisend implemented a remote access VPN. Remote access VPN solution ensured secure access for authorized users and encrypted point-to-point file sharing between teams.
Another example is an Icelandic service provider company Origo. This company serves 30 percent of the entire nation's workforce. When the pandemic forced their employees to work from home, the company's previous VPN solution struggled to keep up with massive user traffic which led to performance and security issues.
Since the required remote access went from 20 users a day to more than 1000 users a day, Origo implemented a remote access VPN which is more agile, stable, and reliable. Now, remote workers connect to the company network and access resources with a 1 Gbps speed. Multi-platform support of remote access VPN allows for mobile access as well.
Also, the company established solid protection with multi factor authentication, SSL, and IPsec that came alongside remote access VPN. Overall, the remote access VPN solved the company's security and performance challenges.
Conclusion: Enhancing Data Protection in Remote Work with Remote Access VPNs
Enhancing Data Protection in Remote Work with Remote Access VPNs With a growing number of decentralized employees and remote work, data protection is crucial more than ever. Remote access VPNs can mitigate cyber threats and attacks while maintaining security and privacy during temporary connections over a public network. For organizations looking to further bolster their security posture, considering additional solutions like Microsoft Defender for Endpoint can be a significant move. Microsoft Defender for Endpoint is a holistic, cloud delivered endpoint security solution that includes risk-based vulnerability management and assessment, attack surface reduction, behavioral based and cloud-powered next generation protection, endpoint detection and response (EDR), automatic investigation and remediation, managed hunting services, rich APIs, and unified security management. Together with remote access VPNs, these solutions form a strong defense mechanism against the myriad of cyber threats that remote work environments face, enhancing data protection and connectivity for organizations in the modern work era.
Last Updated 2 months ago