Secure remote access explained

July 31, 2020 | Mark Stone

This blog was written by a third party author

As the business world adjusts to the chaotic landscape of todays economy, securing access from remote devices and endpoints has never been more critical. Equally critical is the requirement for organizations and their employees to practice good security hygiene.

With the rising number of endpoints (laptops, servers, tablets, smartphones) requiring access to corporate networks, the range of attackable targets for malicious actors has broadened substantially.

As more companies adopt a remote workforce, time must be taken to reinforce cybersecurity policies and best practices to address the introduction of new cyber risks and vulnerabilities.

Therefore, secure remote access should be a crucial element of any cybersecurity strategy.

What is secure remote access?

Secure remote access refers to any security policy, solution, strategy or process that exists to prevent unauthorized access to your network, its resources, or any confidential or sensitive data. Essentially, secure remote access is a mix of security strategies and not necessarily one specific technology like a VPN.

What technologies are used for secure remote access?

Secure remote access is comprised of a multitude of security solutions and technologies. Some of the most prominent include the following:

Virtual private network (VPN) – The most common and well-known form of secure remote access, VPNs typically use the public Internet to connect to a private network resource through an encrypted tunnel.

VPN tunnels can either be remote, in which individual users connect to a private network through the Internet — or Site to Site, in which entire networks are connected to each other over the Internet.

A VPN can use multiple protocols to make network connections. The most common include OpenVPN (Open-Source Virtual Private Network), PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol), L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol), and IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2).

Zero trust network access (ZTNA) - ZTNA solutions provide seamless and secure connectivity to private applications without placing users on the network or exposing apps to the internet.

Endpoint securityEndpoint security is a process that can be carried out through both policy and software and encompasses securing various endpoints (mobile devices, laptops, desktops, servers, IoT devices) on a network. Key functions of endpoint security include antivirus and firewall checking, ensuring patches are up to date, preventing dangerous processes from running, and keeping confidential data from being cached.

Network access control (NAC) – Network access is controlled and managed through a combination of authentication, endpoint security measures, and enforcement of network security policy.

Single sign-on (SSO) – Enables users to authenticate to and access various applications and resources with one set of login credentials.

Privileged access management (PAM) – Privileged access management can take on different meanings; but generally speaking, PAM is a set of tools for securing, managing, and monitoring access to an enterprises data from privileged accounts.

Why is secure remote access important?

With the work from home shift in the workforce, endpoints are accessing corporate networks from multiple locations. Today, employees’ home networks are often the originating point for network connections, multiplying the risk on both home and corporate networks. Antiquated security measures must be replaced with solutions in sync with the requirement for safe and secure access from every device — no matter where, when, or from whom the connection is made.

What are the benefits of secure remote access?

While the benefits of secure remote access are numerous, there are four key advantages in which to focus on:

•   It provides highly secure access from any device

•   It offers secure Internet browsing and use

•   It helps protect laptops and mobile devices and

•   It keeps security awareness top of mind

Each benefit is briefly addressed here.

Provides highly secure access from any device

A robust, secure remote access solution should be designed to provide highly secure access to the applications and data that employees need to be productive. Granular access can be granted to specific applications depending on role or user type, reducing risk associated with traditional VPNs that may provide more unrestricted network access.

For the foreseeable future, many of an organization’s employees will be working from home and will need to work from various remote locations. Secure remote access allows employees to access the applications and data they need to be productive from anywhere — especially specialized workers like those in departments like IT and engineering. Furthermore, companies gain access to a larger pool of candidates for job openings with today’s “work from anywhere” mentality.

Provides security to ensure safe Internet browsing

The demands of todays modern workforce require comprehensive protection when connected to the Internet, no matter where business is conducted. Even when not connected to the corporate network, users must be safeguarded from web-based threats such as phishing attacks, ransomware, and malware. For administrators, acceptable use policies should also be enforceable and customizable by department or user to ensure web browsing is safe, secure. and workplace appropriate.

Protects endpoints

The best secure remote access solutions should include robust endpoint management to help organizations protect employee endpoints like laptops, smartphones, tablets and IoT devices. For both corporate-owned and BYOD devices, endpoints should be scanned for onboarding, deployment, configuration, and enrolment to enable a fast and streamlined protection solution.

Maximizes security awareness

As the workforce shifts towards a work from home (WFH) mindset, practicing good cybersecurity hygiene is critical. During this transition and moving forward, organizations must invest in reinforcing cybersecurity policies and best practices with engaging, educational and impactful security awareness training solutions. When every employee — including the C-suite — is accountable, an organizations cyber risk posture is strengthened.

Can secure remote access be achieved without VPN?

Yes. A robust cloud-based, highly secure remote access solution can provide unified protection for virtually all users against web-based threats — independent of a VPN connection.

In fact, according to Gartner, by 2023, 60 percent of enterprises will phase out most of their VPNs as a remote access method and replace them with zero trust network access (ZTNA) solutions.

Instead of a VPN, cloud native ZTNA solutions help prevent lateral malware movement since users never gain access to the network and only the applications for which they have permissions. These ZTNA solutions provide organizations with visibility into what applications users are connecting to, including previously undiscovered programs — allowing for comprehensive security policies and access to applications defined by role or user.

How can AT&T help organizations with secure remote access?

AT&T Cybersecurity is uniquely positioned to help organizations address these immediate challenges with an eye toward the future by helping them balance connectivity, collaboration, and cybersecurity affordably. Businesses working with AT&T Cybersecurity can help establish a highly secure remote workforce that safely operates now, with the ability to scale up or down in response to changing requirements.

Download their “Enable and protect your remote workforce” white paper today to learn how to make smart, strategic decisions on the tools and services available to bolster cybersecurity readiness in a remote environment.

Mark Stone

About the Author: Mark Stone

Mark Stone is a content and copy writer with over a decade of experience covering technology, business, and cybersecurity. Earlier in his career, he was a cybersecurity analyst in the public sector. He lives in Kelowna, BC with his wife and two black cats.

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