Remote working, once thought mostly a nice idea, and perhaps largely only practiced in the tech sector, is now quite common thanks to Covid 19. In fact, according to one Forbes article, over the course of the pandemic, 45 percent of both large and small businesses in the U.S. moved part of their staff to work remotely.
While during COVID many remote workers plugged away from home, as businesses reopened, mandates eased and vaccines were administered, many workers have returned to the office while others to coffee shops, airport waiting areas, client locations and so on.
Sadly though, as worries of coronavirus infection gradually wane, the increased mobility of remote workforces has opened up many businesses for potential network intrusions and data breaches as many of these roving workers are using unsecured free Wi-Fi networks.
Remote work from unsecured, public Wi-Fi — a recipe for disaster
While convenient, these wireless “hot spots” offer little to no protection for individuals conducting confidential activity online, placing themselves, their workstations, their associates and the businesses they work for at risk.
With the right equipment, software and connections, any malicious user on the same network can capture information shared via the hotspot, much like how in legacy home phone systems, a person can simply lift a receiver to listen to another person on the same line. That means personal information, business and client data and more can easily be fair game.
The solution once was VPN, or virtual private network access, whereby users could connect to their work networks via an encrypted connection, not allowing others to use the same wireless access point to “snoop” on their activity. However, as bad actors have become more sophisticated in their schemes, technology has changed and services are increasingly cloud-based, VPN is no longer the best solution.
So what is?
The new solution is a network access that provides protected, user-specific and monitored access to cloud-based environments, applications and services called Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP).
Over the years, SDP has been replacing VPN-based access solutions as virtual private networks have been shown to be inadequate for today’s working environments.
Here are five reasons many businesses these days are replacing their VPNs with SDP.
VPNs are not tailorable to the user
Just like how your custodian may have keys to the cleaning supplies closet but not to the human resources file cabinets, your network users need access only to the aspects involved in their respective job roles. Legacy VPNs do not allow you to easily customize levels of access for different users. Essentially with VPNs, once in the network, a user has the keys to the closet, the cabinet and the company car.
SDPs, on the other hand, allow you to tailor access to the user, only handing the user the keys to the closets, cabinets or whatever they need to do their job. Not only can you configure access based the on user, but on device or service as well.
VPN traffic is not monitorable or identifiable
If a network is like a country, a VPN is like an unmonitored bridge or tunnel through your border into your homeland. You may have a border, a fence, security and all sorts of defense measures in place, but if someone finds your bridge or tunnel and gains access, none of your security measures will matter. Likewise, while VPNs do allow for access and traffic between your remote users and your network, they do not regulate the kind of traffic or the user in how that connection can be used.
Using the same analogy, SDPs are like a border crossing with border control. Yes, while access is allowed to your country, parameters you put in place regulate who goes in and out, what they transport, how much and how often. Plus, just like how there are cameras at such crossings, with SDPs, you can not only regulate traffic flowing through the access point, but you can also monitor it too.
VPNs lack onsite user security
Using the example above, with legacy VPN systems, bad actors gaining access to your network can wreak havoc on your onsite users, their systems and your data as once in, they can move about freely on your network. They are essentially like a spy or saboteur that used the unmonitored, uncontrolled bridge to come into your country and foul utility systems to cause brown and blackouts.
SDPs stop such threats at the border, if you will, never allowing them to get anywhere near your network, its users or your data, keeping you secure.SDPs stop such threats at the border — and with VPNs, the border is not around the network perimeter, it’s placed around the device and its user. While VPNs focus more on securing the network perimeter, an SDP agent essentially secures each device, user and application on your network individually, no matter the location of the user or device — whether remote or in-office — prohibiting any unauthorized agent or activity from moving laterally within the network access its users or your data.
VPNs lack Wi-Fi security
While traditional VPNs can provide a measure of protection for remote workers accessing your network through public Wi-Fi, the weakness is both in the user and in their devices. Often, users for one reason or another may fail to use a VPN, opening up your network to be compromised, or the device itself may automatically connect to an unsecured network, without a VPN, or may automatically disconnect from the VPN, putting your network at risk. While VPNs though some effort may be configured to some degree to minimize these vulnerabilities, the result will still lack traffic visibility as discussed above, or the flexibility to work with cloud-based services.
Whereas users and devices can pose risks with legacy VPN systems, SDPs are zero trust platforms. This means they don’t assume users, devices or services accessing or operating the network are to be automatically trusted and as such, analyze everything and anything requesting network access before allowing that connection.
Not only does SDP take security down to the device level, not allowing any device to connect to your network unless approved by the SDP, but this system can also be configured to automatically connect your mobile workforce devices to the SDP, regardless of location or Internet access or user intentions — eliminating the risk posed by devices or users.
VPNs are not flexible
Unless you’re talking about vending machines, but especially in business, change is inevitable, As businesses grow, new locations open, equipment burns out, workforces increase, users go mobile and so on. Traditional VPNs, being perimeter-centric, do not adjust to such changes easily and require constant resources in time, maintenance and hardware to keep up.
Again, as SDPs are user-oriented, they are flexible and easily adapt and grow to meet the needs of today’s network environments, even integrating with the ever-proliferating cloud-based applications.
To sum it up, SDPs not only better protect your network users, business assets and data, but coupled with remote desktop server technology, can give your remote force better access to business applications with faster functionality.
If you would like more information about these solutions, contact us by clicking the button below or calling us. We'll be happy to help.
About R.K. Black, Inc.
R.K. Black, Inc. is an Oklahoma City-based, family-owned leading provider of office technology solutions to businesses in Oklahoma and Kansas. We specialize in everything business technology from copier, fax, printer and scanner technology to document management, onsite paper shredding services, VoIP phone systems and managed IT support to video surveillance solutions.
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