Remote Security Comes Down to the User

Sue Marquette Poremba

"Products can't create security; at best, they can facilitate it. It's up to people to do the securing."

 

That comment came from Nathan McNeill, chief strategy officer for Bomgar, during a conversation about the threats to mobile security. You can have all the protection you want built into your system, but if people aren't using it properly or making smart decisions, the protection will eventually fail. McNeill used this analogy as an example of how a product is built to be secure but the actual security comes down to the user:

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Seven Remote Access Management 'Must-haves'

Key criteria that can be used as a benchmark when choosing a remote access solution.

Think about a car. Seat belts, rearview mirrors, backup cameras, blind spot sensors, airbags, anti-lock brakes, crumple zones, and dozens of other innovations have helped create conditions for safe driving. However, a "safe" car driven off a cliff is not safe. The same is true for software products. They create conditions in which security can be achieved, but it's up to the IT Administrator to make sure their environment is truly secure.

Of course, employees using their own devices for work purposes, as well as working remotely, have added a new wrinkle to securing the network. McNeill said:

Enterprises have used remote access tools to support employees and customers for decades. However, point-to-point tools first used to support the LAN have failed to evolve to facilitate secure environments, and now remote access is the leading attack pathway for hackers. Support organizations need to upgrade to more advanced remote support solutions that better facilitate security, and then use them properly to create a secure environment. This is increasingly important as remote support tools are used more and more to support mobile devices.

McNeill provided four points with tips on how IT managers can better approach remote security issues:

 

  • Architecture: Outdated, point-to-point remote control tools generally require listening ports that are accessible via the Internet. Hackers can often find and access these ports through a simple Internet search, and conduct unauthorized remote control sessions. This was one of the issues with the recent Symantc pcAnywhere breach in which as many as 200,000 computers were exposed to hijacking by hackers. Organizations should switch to a remote support solution that is housed within their own network and routes and stores data over standard ports, facilitating secure support of end users both over the Internet and within secure closed networks.
  • Authentication: Most organizations have spent considerable time and resources building out their identity management directory (such as Active Directory) and authentication tools to consolidate logins and centralize system access and permissions management. They should take advantage of that hard work by using a remote support solution that integrates with their existing identity management and authentication methods. Also, select a solution that allows you to set up unique usernames and logins for each and every user, even if they're sharing licenses.
  • Access Control: Many older remote access tools only offer binary access, so support reps can access and control the whole system or nothing. To facilitate better security, upgrade to a solution that allows you to set various levels of permissions. For example, first-tier reps may be permitted to view the user's desktop, but not have full control, or transfer a file to but not from the user's desktop.
  • Audit: If you can't track who is using your remote control tool and how, you won't know about an unauthorized hacker until it's too late. To facilitate security and compliance, make sure your remote support solution maintains a complete audit trail of every support session, including video of the session if possible.


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