Remote access has helped us become more interconnected than ever before. In the United States alone, two months into the pandemic, approximately 35% of the workforce was teleworking. The growth of remote access allowed individuals to work with organizations and teams they don’t physically see or meet.

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However, the demand for remote access has critical implications for security. Businesses now more than ever are expected to strike a balance between providing reliable remote access and properly securing it. Striking this balance also gives businesses the opportunity to retain customer loyalty and maintain a positive brand reputation. According to one study by Accenture, over 60% of consumers switched some or all of their business from one brand to another within the span of a year. Needless to say, securing remote access has major implications for business productivity and customer retention.

What is secure remote access?

Simply put, secure remote access is the ability to provide reliable entry into a user’s computer from a remote location outside of their work-related office. The user can access their company’s files and documents as if they were physically present at their office. Securing remote access can take different forms. The most popular options include virtual private network (VPN) or remote desktop protocol (RDP).

VPN works by initiating a secure connection over the internet through data encryption. Many businesses offer workers the opportunity to use this method by providing organizational connectivity through a VPN gateway to access the company’s internal network. One downside of using a VPN connection involves vulnerability. Any remote device that gains access to the VPN can share malware, for example, onto the internal company network.

RDP, on the other hand, functions by initiating a remote desktop connection option. Through the click of a mouse, a user can access their computer from any location by logging in with a username and password. However, activating this default feature opens the door to vulnerabilities. Through brute force, illegitimate actors can attempt to hack a user’s password by trying an infinite number of combinations. Without a lockout feature, cybercriminals can make repeated attempts. “This is where length of strength comes into play. It is important to have as many characters as possible within your password, so it’s harder for cybercriminals to crack,” says Tyler Moffitt, security analyst, Carbonite + Webroot, OpenText companies.

Overcoming obstacles

While the steps for securing remote access are simple, the learning curve for adoption may not be. Users, depending on their experience, may feel reluctant to learn another process. However, education is critical to maintaining a business’ security posture, especially when it comes to ransomware.

“The most common way we see ransomware affecting organizations – government municipalities, healthcare and education institutions – is through a breach. Once a cybercriminal is remoted onto a computer, it’s game over as far as security is concerned,” added Moffitt.     

Benefits

The primary benefit of securing remote access is the ability to connect, work and engage from anywhere. A secure connection offers users the chance to work in locations previously not possible.

“The workplace will never be the same post-COVID. As more clients continue to maintain flexible working arrangements, it becomes even more important to secure clients remotely,” says Emma Furtado, customer advocacy manager, Carbonite + Webroot.

Adopting secure remote access also supports the maintenance of client satisfaction, overcoming reluctance and building brand advocacy.

“Carbonite + Webroot Luminaries, a group of managed service providers (MSPs), rely on their clients’ cyber resilience – and trust – to grow their businesses. After implementing Webroot products, many of their clients are open to multiple forms of secure remote access, such as VPN,” Furtado added.

Advice for organizational adoption

  • Test, test, test. Like many applications, ongoing maintenance is key. Conducting frequent connection and penetration testing is important to ensure constant viability for users.
  • Two-factor authentication. Whether it’s via email or text message, this additional security layer should be embedded within an organization’s remote access protocols. 
  • Document your procedures. Develop a standardized policy across your organization to ensure users understand the expectations surrounding remote access. This helps to build security awareness among users, which lessens the likelihood they will adopt shadow IT.

Embracing remote work with reliability and safety in mind

Securing remote access allows businesses to save money, reduce pressure on internal teams and protect intellectual property. As part of a robust cyber resilience strategy, businesses should prioritize developing the necessary backup, training, protection and restoration elements that will help maintain business continuity and enhance customer loyalty and trust.

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