Why a VPN Is Not Enough for Secure Remote Access

VPN Remote Access
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Cybersecurity Ventures predicts there will be 6 billion internet users by 2022 (75% of the projected world population of 8 billion) — and more than 7.5 billion internet users by 2030. VPNs have been around nearly as long as the internet, earning their keep as a means of connecting remotely to a private network over a public connection. The appeal is justified, as VPNs are easy to use, cost effective and boost productivity by enabling remote users to securely access company resources from anywhere. VPNs and other remote network access software are so commonplace now that most enterprises assume that by using them they have checked off necessary security boxes, and are still as secure as they were 10 years ago. But, hackers have proven that VPNs alone are not a sufficient security strategy.

For even the best managed enterprise networks, vulnerabilities are created when network access needs to be provided to non-employees— i.e. contractors, business partners and others. One of the most high-profile examples is the Target breach in 2013, in which attackers worked their way into the company’s network by compromising a third-party vendor. Hackers are developing advanced techniques of identifying vulnerable points of entry—and it only takes one— with many breaches capitalizing on remote access given to members of the extended enterprise.

In January, Cisco released an alert for customers using network security devices and software that support VPN connections configured with their WebVPN clientless VPN software. It was found that firewalls, security applications and other devices configured with WebVPN were vulnerable to web-based network attacks that could give attackers full control of devices — given a Common Vulnerability Scoring System rating of Critical.

Balancing Productivity with Network Security

In addition to telework, establishing third-party connections to critical business applications is necessary for most enterprises to support day-to-day business operations. Gaps in security infrastructures arise when companies prioritize productivity over security, balking at the idea of adding security measures that make individuals jump through hoops to get to the information they need. While most IT leaders recognize the value of authentication to enhance user log ins, many of the leading market options, such as RSA SecurID and smart cards (used by the U.S. government) put too much burden on the end user and are quite expensive.

Two-factor Authentication is the Key to Truly Secure Remote Connectivity

For the typical enterprise, user discretion is involved in order for them to prove who they are to get access to corporate resources, which could be considered the root of the problem. Leaving authentication in the hands of the user is a surefire way for mistakes to happen. After all, when’s the last time you made a mistake? Even a bigger challenge is authenticating third-party users who don’t have the built-in foundation of a solid cryptographic VPN, which makes it impossible and impractical to authenticate. Without that level of credentialing, you may as well as be having a private conversation with a stranger.

When enterprises think about cybersecurity, many turn to the guiding principles in the CIA triad — confidentiality, integrity and availability. But, when it comes to VPNs there’s a missing element: authentication. Without strong authentication in place, you cannot be assured of confidentiality.

At Blue Ridge Networks, our LinkGuard platform checks all the security boxes, including built-in, mutual mandatory authentication. By leveraging built-in authentication, our solution doesn’t depend on user discretion to access enterprise resources, taking the risk and vulnerability out of the equation. When a user enters their pin to establish a session, the LinkGuard appliance authenticates the identity of each other autonomously and creates an end-to-end encrypted tunnel. Establishing the end-to-end encrypted tunnel ensures that no information is sent in the clear, greatly reducing the attack surface of that subnet.

VPNs Add to Network Complexity

Remote access aside, VPNs contribute to one of the fundamentally biggest problems with traditional networking – complexity. When third-party contractors, vendors and partners need to remotely access enterprise resources, IT teams already must jump through hoops to configure firewall policies, VLANs, routing rules, Network Address Translations (NATs) and Access Control Lists (ACLs). Adding a VPN to manage and configure adds to the overall complexity of network configuration management which, in turn, could lead to greater security vulnerabilities.

Based on the Zero Trust methodology, LinkGuard provides the highest level of security autonomously – seamlessly protecting and connecting your most critical infrastructure and assets and allowing your IT teams to focus on more critical functions. LinkGuard enables secure connectivity and future-proof breach prevention across the enterprise – wherever it’s needed, without costly or time-consuming IT overhead.

VPNs are practical for users who need access to non-critical information, but for those who need access to sensitive information, a VPN simply isn’t enough to ensure privacy. LinkGuard appliances allow enterprises to connect, isolate/contain, cloak and manage networks, users and devices from one point to another through end-to-end encrypted tunnels instantly, without the need to establish or configure complex and time-consuming rules and policies. This approach not only enables a seamless and secure networking environment, but also cloaks the devices protected by the LinkGuard appliances, which makes them invisible to other networks.

 

Want to learn more about a seamless alternative that provides secure remote access to critical assets? Learn more here.