With so many employees now working from home, enterprises need to face the challenges of remote access. How can they secure remote access as the coronavirus sweeps across the world? How can they adjust their cybersecurity and identity management as work-from-home becomes the new normal?
Solutions Review Q&A on Remote Access with Mark Klinchin
Solutions Review: So how does remote access for IT admins usually work?
Mark Klinchin: Most IT admins work within a secure network that is not typically reachable by regular users. This is the preferred and most secure way to perform critical IT tasks. If remote access is possible, it is usually performed using VPNs or other screen sharing services like TeamViewer. These types of connections can be both unpredictable and insecure. They also do not provide adequate auditing services, and access control (who can access when and from where) required for privileged or sensitive systems.
SR: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed the need for, and the demand on, remote access for IT admins? What challenges has the coronavirus imposed on traditional remote access policies?
MK: The coronavirus is testing everyone’s work from home policies and IT infrastructure, not only here in the US but globally. Traditional office workers and IT admins now need access to systems. Most remote access implementations will need to add capacity in order to serve their workers. One challenge will be speed. VPNs are typically limited to 20 percent of a company’s bandwidth. With everyone connecting to VPN this will create bottlenecks.
For IT admins, there are a few other challenges. VPNs typically allow you to access everything in your company network rather than specific areas. We are also seeing an increase in phishing, malware, ransomware, and VPN attacks. If hackers get a hold of an IT admin’s privileged credentials it opens the door for bad actors to gaining access to your critical infrastructure. They can move around your network, access sensitive information, and cause serious business damage.
When it comes to IT admins, the better approach is to use a secure gateway, such as XTAM Remote Employee Gateway, that brokers access using HTTPs to specific resources. This way you can use your existing identity provider such as Active Directory (AD), AzureAD, Office365, Google Authentication, etc. This will also help improve overall speed and accessibility without the need to install cumbersome VPN clients on every worker’s workstation.
SR: How can enterprises secure their remote access, both for employees and for their admins?
MK: The best way is to use a commercial VPN for your regular employees to access only the internal network resources they need behind your firewall. When most of your workforce is accessing systems remotely, implementing a “least privilege” strategy ensures people only have access to the systems they need and no more. Implementing multi-factor authentication in addition to VPN can also provide an added layer of security.
For admins, I recommend using privileged access to systems such as database, domain controllers, firewalls, and other network devices by utilizing an easy to use system that approves access to a privileged asset. This can be done through privileged access management (PAM) software which enables secure gateways. The PAM software can securely lock systems behind a company firewall and IT admins can use the secure gateway to access systems. This also provides companies with the needed Audit Trails, Recording, and Notifications required for auditing.
Companies looking to provide added security to their admins and privileged users should contact their PAM providers. Many software providers, including Xton, are offering additional support and services to customers.
SR: What other advice do you have for enterprises during this dangerously disruptive time?
MK: Just keep your head down in the work and focus on what you can control. It’s important to understand there will be a lasting change in the way people work after this emergency passes. Enterprises will embrace remote workers and be able to conduct business from anywhere. This will dramatically increase overall efficiency and time management.
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