As states gradually reopen following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, office workers are starting to return to their buildings. However, this doesn’t mean that IT Directors can relax just yet.
The Future of Remote Work
IT Directors need to anticipate that a majority of their employees will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future. There are several reasons for this:
Limited Office Reopening
Even though states are reopening, there are still restrictions in place. For example, some offices may only be allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity, as seen in Massachusetts.
Many employees may feel apprehensive about returning to the office and may prefer to continue working remotely. As a result, you can expect that fewer than 25 percent of your employees will choose to return to the office.
Even with improved safety measures, there is still a chance of another wave of the virus. This uncertainty means that employees may be sent back home after returning to the office.
To ensure the continuity of operations and be prepared for unexpected disasters, it is advisable to establish a robust long-term remote working infrastructure.
VPN and RDP: Suitable for the Medium Term or Longer
Initially, VPN and RDP were popular choices for remote work during the early stages of the pandemic. However, these solutions were not designed for long-term remote work and may have security vulnerabilities.
VPNs are generally configured to support up to 30 percent of the company workforce working remotely. Going beyond this limit can cause network speeds to slow down. Increasing VPN capacity often requires installing physical equipment, which may not be practical in the long term.
While many applications are cloud-based and do not require a VPN for access, security concerns still exist. Users may bypass the VPN and connect directly to cloud applications, compromising sensitive company communications.
RDP allows users to access their office desktops remotely. However, RDP is known to have security vulnerabilities. Exposed RDP ports are susceptible to attacks, with hackers exploiting stolen credentials or using brute force methods.
To establish a secure long-term infrastructure for remote work, careful consideration must be given to the use of RDP and VPN or integrating them with solutions that address their security flaws.
Building a Better Remote Working Infrastructure
Technologies like VPN and RDP will eventually be replaced by newer solutions such as software-defined perimeters. These technologies offer significant improvements over their predecessors:
New remote working technologies are fully hosted in the cloud, allowing easy scalability with just a few clicks. No matter how many employees are working remotely, they can access their applications securely without experiencing slow internet speeds.
Basic remote-desktop implementations often lack robust security features like two-factor authentication, secure gateways, monitoring, and logging. Cloud-based virtual desktops come with these features by default. Additionally, since the operating systems are hosted in the cloud, it becomes easier to keep them updated and eliminate the risk of working on vulnerable machines.
Traditional VPNs often provide unrestricted access once someone gains entry, exposing files and applications to potential lateral movement attacks by cybercriminals. Implementing network segments to secure a flat VPN can be a complex process. Software-defined perimeters can create nested and granular micro-segments in remote networks, allowing administrators to enforce the principle of least privilege without extensive configuration.
While software-defined perimeters are an ideal solution, their implementation can be costly and labor-intensive for many organizations, especially in uncertain times.
However, there are alternative methods to add Zero Trust controls to remote access infrastructure. Application isolation, combined with remote browser isolation, provides Zero Trust protections for organizations planning for long-term remote work. These technologies secure endpoints, protect critical data, and reduce the workload for administrators.
As remote work becomes more prevalent, IT administrators need to adapt to and prepare for long-term remote work environments. By implementing scalable and secure technologies like software-defined perimeters and application isolation, organizations can ensure the continuity of operations and protect their data without overwhelming administrators.
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