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VPN is not the answer to securing your remote workforce in 2020

While remote work has been a major part of the IT world for quite some time, it was not until the COVID-19 scenario hit the business space hard that the organizations all around the world had to adopt a remote work policy. Companies ranging from SME’s and startups to Enterprises had to make the shift to cater to a remote workforce.

Amidst these decisions on working from home, organizations were able to cater to the spreading of the virus and thus helped to “flatten the curve”; however, companies experienced one thing that became very evident: You can’t rely solely on VPN to let your remote workforce operate remotely from home. Remote access is one thing that brings a variety of security problems. VPNs, once considered as the safest way to carry out remote communication for business, has now become under the waters. 

Today’s security threats are more robust than ever. They have evolved into deadly and disruptive attacks for businesses that have the potential to bring the entire business down. Security of the origination’s communication and remote access thus holds prime importance in the modern era. VPN’s have been used for almost a decade within business environments for internal communication for employees. However, when there is an overload of traffic within the VPN tunnel, there are more chances of vulnerabilities being exposed by cyber hacktivists.

Why VPN’s cannot scale to meet massive work from home initiatives

VPN works by enabling users to connect to another network through the internet securely. But VPN is not always safe to use. There are 8 VPN Security risks to look out for, so the user can remain safe. Those 8 VPN security risks include:

1. Logging Policies

Similar to ISP’s, many VPN providers keep usage logs of users browsing activity. In turn, the end-user does not have control over their privacy. Security experts recommended using a VPN provider with a zero-log policy, as there are no risks of VPN logging.

2. Data Leaks

Data leaks are when the user’s IP address and traffic become exposed through a VPN tunnel. A data leak can occur when VPN providers don’t configure their connections correctly or because of a browser issue.

3. Poorly Configured Encryption

VPN providers are supposed to provide the VPN with full security and safety. Faults can occur during configuration of the VPN’s encryption, leaving the VPN exposed for hacking. By brute-forcing the weak encryption, hackers can access the user’s web traffic and decrypt it, giving them access to everything.

4. Malware Infections

VPN users can face serious issues due to their own carelessness. Such issues include inserting malware in their device when a VPN client is downloaded. By this, hackers can access the users’ activities, spam malicious ads, and can steal personal information. Additionally, the device can be unprotected to ransomware attacks, where a cybercriminal will lock the user out of their own device, demanding a huge ransom to get their data back. Often, even after paying, hackers rarely return the user’s data.

5. Being Forced to Use PPTP

PPTP protocol can be rapid and suitable, but still it can be dangerous for privacy. So using the VPN that offers PPTP connections is a dangerous choice. So VPNs that provide safer protocols such as IKEv2, OpenVPN and SoftEther are the better choice.

6. The Provider using the users’ IP address with an exit node

Having the IP address as an exit node is risky because it means other VPN users would be using it on the web. So hackers perform prohibited things by using the exposed IP address. 

7. The Open Port Risk

Exposing open ports to unauthorized users is a risk you shouldn’t take in 2020, yet all VPNs operate this way.  Even in the past few weeks, vulnerabilities have been breached with remote access solutions from Citrix, Pulse, and Fortinet. Palo Alto and Cisco have been victims in the past as well.

8. No extra security features

There are other services that offer more security than VPN. Such services include DNS leak protection, Internet kill switches, and Application-level kill switches, etc. Solutions like CANDID’s Cybersecurity Solutions, Palo Alto Sero Trust Security, Fortinet network security are all very popular and secure. We’ll explain a few more in a minute.

Other Problems with VPN include: 

  • VPN authenticates to everything – They trust blindly and only authenticate the IP address
  • VPN access rules are too limited – Rules based on IP address are either set to broad, allowing for wide-open access or overly restrictive to the point of inhibiting work
  • VPN provides static, perimeter-based security – This is ineffective when users are accessing data in multiple locations, public clouds, or SaaS applications hosted by 3rd parties
  • VPN is a siloed solution – They are only intended for remote access by remote users. They don’t help organizations secure on-premises users or networks 

VPN security issues can be avoided. Reviews of VPN by the users must be checked before downloading, ensure that the provider is trustworthy and has not been involved in any cyber-crime activity, the VPN must also follow security standards. Also, avoid those providers that provide VPN for free. Usually, they are the ones who use the users’ information, sell them to advertisers, and spam the users with disturbing content. That is how they earn money even if they don’t charge from the users. If the VPN provider has a zero-log policy, then it means they cannot provide the users’ information to anyone including government. So, in that case, user must be carefree. Hence, VPNs are usually safe but still, the users must be careful while using it.

Gear up for better remote working security: The key to a secure business operation

To beef up remote working security, one option that companies can go for is the deployment of Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA). In the modern world, companies need to find better ways to provide employees the confidence to access and manage remote access. A better way to address over-privileged user threats.

Zero trust security works on preserving strict access controls. By default, there is no trust in anyone, even those users who are working in the boundary of the network. It necessitates identity verification of every user who is trying to get access to a private network. It is a universal approach for network security which helps the security of different technologies. Otherwise, conventional IT network security is based on the castle-and-moat approach. Here, everyone inside the network perimeter is trusted in default, and those outside the network are not trusted. Still, this can be dangerous as users inside the network perimeter can also leak the information to the hackers.

The concept behind zero trust security is that hackers are present both, inside and outside the network perimeter so one must be trusted. Another principle of zero trust security is that it gives very limited access. User would be provided with that much information only which they need. Zero trust security also applied micro-segmentation in their system. Micro-segmentation means grouping security perimeters in small zones so that it would be easy to maintain separate access for individual part of the network. So, a person with one category of security perimeter will not have access of the other category. Zero trust security also applies Multi-factor authentication, which means before the user make access, they would be asked for authentication more than once. Two-factor authorization is also a kind of Multi-factor authentication. Zero trust security also checks how many devices the users are using while accessing the network. So all the devices that are in use, must be authenticated.  

Zero trust security has been applied by many famous organizations such as Google. Many other tech companies, security engineers etc. started to apply it in their systems after Google’s adopted this system. It was basically founded by Forrester Research Inc. in 2010. Zero trust security can be easily implemented on any system through CloudFlare Access. 

Other than Zero Trust Network Access, companies can also go for alternate options like a SD WAN, Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and better policies on Access management

How SDP can enable Zero Trust remote access

There are many Benefits of moving away from traditional VPN in favor of Zero Trust Software-Defined Perimeter. First, it Obfuscates how remote users connect, reducing the attack surface. Secondly, there are techniques to eliminate several tools including VPN and NAC, reducing complexity and finally, it is always best to Minimize remote office hardware and networking requirements reducing the overall cost. 

  • SD WAN Security: Many SD-WAN’s offer implementation to encrypt multiple location based corporate traffic via IPSec.  This helps in the protection of data in transit while employees access remote data via the SD WAN. Such solutions are inherently secure.
  • Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB): It is a cloud-based or on-premises point of enforcement of security policies. This is deployed between a cloud service consumer and cloud service providers the consumer’s access organizational resources from the cloud. CASB provides better Visibility, Compliance Data Security d Threat Protection. The policies are easily enforced via enterprise directory like Microsoft Active Directory. Companies like ZScaler are very fond of CASB Services, thus providing secure and fast solutions for work-from-home policies.
  • Software Defined Perimeter (SDP): it is access architecture according to latest application infrastructure. Companies like Pulse SDP Ensure secure modern workplaces where employees access data remotely.  The architecture is designed around the policies of checking security state of each device those intents for a connection. SDP offers a Next-generation Secure Access. This technique also offers perimeter-based VPN functionality that works side by side and provides Zero Trust access security to all.

Best-in-line SDP for business:  AppGate 

Balance performance while reducing long-term costs 

AppGate offers an answer to the traditional Network security problems with an identity-centric approach. With this model, a Zero-Trust Approach is implemented in which the device attempting to connect is authenticated first and then gets a stable connection. Thus, this reduces attack surface and all resources are invisible to potential hacktivists. Plus, it makes sure that only authentic users can connect to the organizational core infrastructure. In this way, DDoS attacks are ineffective which makes organizations empowered to thwart unauthorized users access attempts in the first place, thereby keeping them at a bay from company’s resources. 

With AppGate, firewall’s static and inflexible nature is catered as the connections are adapted to the context of the user. Furthermore, it only allows for a restrictive access to hosts which limit the exploitation of vulnerabilities due to credentials theft. Thus, weak identity, credential and access management is done better.

This substantially reduces additional access control implementations solutions and thus reduces overall business cost and complexity for secured networking. 

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