Remote Access is Only as Good as its Protection
If your company doesn’t have remote access protocols in place, it’s definitely behind the times. Remote access is great for several reasons. It can save you money by allowing employees to spend their workday at home without missing a beat. It also allows employees to travel to client sites or other essential locations and still stay in contact with headquarters.
However, remote access can also prove to be your company’s Achilles’ heel if you’re not careful. Just because you treat your company’s digital landscape like Fort Knox doesn’t mean it’s actually safe if you allow people to access it remotely. There are all kinds of malicious groups out there who know full well that anyone with remote access represents the opportunity to walk right through your security measures and do as they please.
Dangers of Accessing Protected Systems from Untrusted or Unmonitored Environments
The problem that usually makes remote access an issue is that people—employees of yours with good intentions—may log in from an environment that can’t be trusted or monitored. For example, if an employee is working from home, they might not have their Wi-Fi network adequately protected. Employees out on a business trip may sign in from a coffee shop during a layover, not knowing that adequate security measures aren’t in place.
You can probably tell what the main danger is here. Someone with bad intentions could gain access to your company’s digital infrastructure.
However, it’s not as though the main threat of this is even unsecured networks. Most companies insist that employees only use computers that are managed and locked down by the IT department.
This isn’t always the case, though, and even when it is, employees can still turn remote access into a serious problem. If they’re working from home, for example, that corporate PC may be getting used as the family computer. As you probably know, many websites are set up for little reason other than to trick people into downloading malware or other malicious forms of software. A hacker will be very excited to see they’ve snuck into a corporation’s computer by accident.
Of course, many home PCs simply aren’t set up to protect against the kinds of digital onslaughts corporations have to defend against. If it hasn’t been sufficiently prepared by an IT team, any hacker who knows it represents a gateway into a corporation’s infrastructure is going to do whatever it takes to get to it.
Are you confident that employees who use their computers for professional and private purposes are really updating their software as necessary? A lot of people see those prompts as little more than inconveniences and simply click them away. By doing this, of course, they essentially leave a door open for hackers to enter.
Finally, in the best case scenario where remote access is concerned, you may very well have a computer that has been secured by your IT team and an employee who only uses it for professional purposes. Nonetheless, there are countless scams, phishing strategies and other deceptive actions hackers can take to trick an unsuspecting user into handing over valuable information.
MFA Protocols Can Help
Now that you’ve read all of that, you may very well be thinking that remote access simply isn’t worth the risk and its potential benefits can be sacrificed. After all, remote access definitely opens you up to a lot of potential problems, even with users who are following instructions as far as best practices go.
Fortunately, you don’t have to give up the many advantages that go along with remote access. Instead, multi-factor authentication (MFA) just has to be adopted to help mitigate the threats you face.
The great thing about MFA is that it doesn’t actually affect your remote access. It would be like if you decided to protect your home with newer, better locks. What you like about your home wouldn’t actually change; it’d just be much safer.
What Is MFA?
To put it simply, MFA is a security measure that requires users to provide more than one factor of identification. At the moment, you probably use password protection. If an employee is trying to use a workstation remotely, they enter their ID and the password that corresponds to it. This is definitely a simple approach, but that’s also what makes it so risky. For all the reasons we mentioned above, someone could easily get that password from a remote employee and then do whatever they wanted.
With MFA, you have a number of options for what credentials are required. Having an ID and a password is fairly standard. Then the employee may have to answer a couple security questions or, ideally, provide a unique identifier such as a one-time password. Another great element about MFA is the credentials it demands are so unique that you’ll know exactly who used them. With something like a basic password, you have a credential that’s pretty easy to get ahold of. Someone could do so, use it to gain access to a system andcause problems. However, you wouldn’t be able to pinpoint who was responsible.
Due to the many credentials involved with MFA, you can be reasonably certain who it was who signed into your system. The credentials aren’t the type of thing someone could simply steal from another person. They’re so unique it would be almost like trying to lift someone’s fingerprints. You’re not just dealing with multiple passwords; you’re dealing with passwords provided through multiple mediums (e.g. apps that provide you with a unique one-time sign-in code).
Keep in mind this can help with more than just busting hackers or disgruntled employees. A lot of times, you may notice that someone is simply falling out of compliance as far as setting passwords or signing in on a regular basis goes. Now you’ll have a much easier time identifying these issues and speaking to employees about them.
Remote access is something every company should be taking advantage of. However, without investing in the necessary precautions, it could also turn out to be the opening a hacker has been waiting for.