What is secure remote access?

Secure remote access refers to integrated security solutions and processes designed to allow remote users while preventing unauthorized access to digital assets, resources, and sensitive data. 

Today’s business environment requires that your employees and vendors have access to your network and applications regardless of where they are or what device they’re using. More business is conducted in the cloud from remote locations, including tech support, e-commerce, record storage, and other routine business functions. Although it’s very beneficial to enable remote access from anywhere using any device, whenever you give access, you make your business vulnerable to hackers who could sabotage your network and steal valuable data.

To protect your organization from breaches and threats while providing the any place, any time access that modern business demands, you need secure remote access.

What is secure remote access?

Secure remote access refers to a combination of security solutions and processes designed to prevent unauthorized access to digital resources and sensitive data. Effective secure remote access solutions integrate the tools needed to maintain network security regardless of the device or access method.

With many workplaces maintaining remote and hybrid employees, users are routinely accessing networks and applications from a multitude of endpoints in a multitude of locations. This makes traditional perimeter security measures obsolete and compounds your risk of cyber threats – unless you introduce suitable remote access security controls.

When considering what types of remote access tools to implement, don’t forget to consider all potentials users and use cases. Remote access for employees is the obvious start, but don’t forget remote access for vendors and other third parties.

Benefits of secure remote access

There are several benefits to using secure remote access solutions, including:

Raising security awareness

With so many companies employing a remote or hybrid workforce, cybersecurity policies become even more crucial to enforce. To improve an organization’s overall risk posture, it’s critical to train employees not only on how to use remote network security tools, but also on why those tools are in place.

Securing every device from everywhere

With strong remote user access controls, employee tasks can be guarded by the same level of security at home as in the office. This not only benefits organizations with remote or hybrid workforces, but also enables employees to securely respond to emergency situations without loss of productivity.

Securing web access

Today’s business environment requires most employees to use web-based applications on a daily basis. And whenever a user is connected to the internet, that access must be protected. Securing remote access helps prevent common threats like malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks. These tools and policies should also be customizable by department, according to individual workflows.

Are VPNs the best option?

Many companies think that they are securely managing remote access by using a virtual private network (VPN). Unfortunately, VPNs have a long list of disadvantages, including decreased connection speed, reduced application performance, and increased costs. VPNs are meant to mitigate the risk of users insecurely connecting from outside the organization, but by opening a door that allows users to access your entire network, you actually expose your organization to cyberthreats with severe and far-reaching consequences.

Organizations are better off with more targeted security solutions that only provide users access to specific areas instead of an entire network. If you’re not starting from scratch and already use a VPN, ripping out that VPN may not be practical or possible. However, this makes securing remote access even more important.

Best practices and technologies that help secure access

Remote access security best practices call for specific technologies, such as:

Password management and single sign-on

Employee or third-party users should use single sign-on access methods that simplify and centralize secure authentication. Additionally, privileged access management (PAM) quickly secures an organization’s most sensitive accounts by automating the process of randomizing, managing, and vaulting passwords and other credentials. PAM also secures and automates privileged password discovery, management, and rotation.

Multifactor authentication

A single password is not enough to authenticate users for secure remote access. Many compliance standards and regulations now require multifactor authentication for remote or privileged users. Multifactor authentication requires users to verify through several independent authentication factors. This combination of factors could be something the user knows (like a password), something they have (like a key fob), or something they are (biometrics, like a fingerprint).

Least privilege policies in effect

A principle of least privilege, or Zero Trust policy, ensures that users are only granted the minimum access required to do their job. This should apply to both internal and third-party users. This policy ensures that vendors, technicians, and internal employees don't have full access to your entire network and servers.

Securing every endpoint

Real-time monitoring of user behavior is essential for mitigating the risk of unauthorized access or activity. Therefore, comprehensive audit ability is included in remote access security best practices to identify vulnerabilities to prevent breaches and to track down root causes when problems arrive. Secure remote access solutions must not only have these capabilities, but must also feature simple, intuitive user interfaces and integrate easily with normal business processes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides tips on the basics of secure remote access.

To learn more, check out our Remote Access Best Practices Guide.