How Can IT Admins Prepare to Work From Home for the Long Haul?

States have begun to reopen on a gradual basis following the peak of the COVID-10 pandemic. Office workers who have been working remotely since March are filtering back into their buildings. Does this mean that IT Administrators can breathe a sigh of relief?

Not quite.

IT Administrators need to prepare for the idea that most of their employees will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. There are several reasons for this:

●        Even though states are reopening, there are several restrictions on how offices can reopen. For example, your office might be limited to 25 percent of its capacity, as in the state of Massachusetts.

●        Even though states are reopening, your office workers might understandably be worried about going back to the office – and many of them might simply prefer to work remotely. As a result, you might expect even fewer than 25 percent of your workers to go back to work.

●        Even though states are reopening, there’s a chance, however slight, that improved safety measures don’t fully offset the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Therefore, your coworkers could return to work – only to be sent back home in the event of a second wave.

Therefore, even though your state may be reopening, your best bet may be to implement a more robust long-term infrastructure for remote working. Not only will this accommodate any workers that prefer to remain working from home, but it will also help safeguard against both a resurgence of the Coronavirus and other unexpected disasters.

VPN and RDP: Here for the Medium Term, or Longer

In the early days of the pandemic, most administrators probably defaulted to solutions like VPN and RDP for working from home. The problem here is that these solutions weren’t designed to support long-term remote work – and they may not be as secure as you need them to be.

VPNs, for example, are usually configured to support up to 30 percent of the company working remotely – much more than that, and network speeds begin to crawl. Purchasing more enterprise-class VPN capacity usually means installing a physical appliance. Yet many companies have doubled down on VPNs in the short term to support their suddenly-remote workforces.

Since many applications are in the cloud, users don’t necessarily need to use a VPN to access them – but they do need the VPN to assure security. Since many users view security as an abstract concept, there’s the risk that they connect to their cloud applications without enabling the VPN first – leaving sensitive company communications in the clear.

remote work infrastructure

RDP, meanwhile, lets users mirror a remote computer’s desktop on their home computer. This is useful for remote workers, allowing them to access any applications that are hosted only on their office desktops and not in the cloud. Unfortunately, RDP is so insecure that its vulnerability often outweighs its utility.

Any device with an exposed RDP port is vulnerable to attack, and hackers have made it very easy to find these devices. Once found, attackers will either use stolen credentials or brute force methods to attack the exposed port. For example, they will obtain thousands of username/password combinations leaked from previous breaches and then try them on RDP ports, which is known as credential stuffing attacks.

Once the RDP port is breached, there are few limits to what an attacker can do to an endpoint: malware, ransomware, cryptojacking, and worse. In order to build a long-term infrastructure for remote working, RPD and VPN should be used with great care — or together with solutions that address their security flaws.

Building a Better Remote Working Infrastructure

Technologies like VPN and RPD will ultimately be succeeded (but not yet supplanted) by technologies like software-defined perimeters. These technologies have better qualities than their predecessors. For example:

●        Scalability

Newer remote working technologies are hosted entirely in the cloud. Adding more capacity is as easy as clicking a button, and setup is mostly automatic. No matter how many of your employees are working from home, they’ll always be able to enjoy secure access to their applications without seeing any slowdown in internet speeds.

●        Security

Basic remote-desktop implementations don’t come bundled with rich security features such as two-factor authentication, secure gateways, monitoring, and logging. Cloud-based virtual desktops have these features by default. What’s more, since their operating systems are hosted in the cloud, it’s much easier to patch them up to date – eliminating the danger of working remotely on vulnerable machines.

●        Segmentation

Many administrators have discovered – most likely to their horror – that their VPN is completely flat. In other words, once someone gets access to some of it, they have access to all of it. That means all the files and all the applications, no matter their role. In terms of security, this is a nightmare since it makes lateral movement attacks a breeze for cybercriminals. Placing in the network segments that could secure a flat VPN is a painful process. Tools like software-defined perimeters can create nested and granular micro-segments in remote networks, allowing administrators to implement the principle of least privilege without having to do all that work.

IT infrastructure for remote workers

For all its advantages, however, SDP is a tough sell: many organizations are simply not ready or able to kick off costly, labor-intensive SDP infrastructure projects during these uncertain times.

But SDP is not the only way to add Zero Trust controls to remote access infrastructure. A new approach, called application isolation, works with existing networks and VPNs to enable least-privilege access controls , and to cloak enterprise data and apps from the view of hackers who manage to get in.

Together with remote browser isolation, which blocks phishing attacks and web-based threats from penetrating endpoints and networks, application isolation adds Zero Trust protections for organizations whose personnel will be working from home for the long haul. These technologies will drive your ability to secure endpoints and protect critical data, without generating crushing workloads for administrators like you.

Summary:

IT Support for Work from Home

Remotely for the foreseeable future. Even though states are reopening, there are several restrictions on how offices can reopen. Building a Better Remote Working Infrastructure. Technologies like VPN and RPD will ultimately be succeeded (but not yet supplanted) by technologies like software-defined perimeters. These technologies have better qualities than their predecessors. For example: Scalability, Security, Segmentation. Together with remote browser isolation, which blocks phishing attacks and web-based threats from penetrating endpoints and networks, application isolation adds Zero Trust protections for organizations whose personnel will be working from home for the long haul. These technologies will drive your ability to secure endpoints and protect critical data, without generating crushing workloads for administrators like you.

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Mendy Newman

Mendy Newman

Mendy Newman is the Head of Solution Management at Ericom Software for all its products. Mendy has over two decades of experience in architecting, delivering and implementing cybersecurity and software solutions to customers worldwide.

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