Did you know you may be leaving gaping holes in your company’s network firewall?

If you allow your traveling and remote workers to access your network via the internet, you may also be inviting attacks by hackers, who can easily encrypt all of your data and hold it for ransom. According to a recent study issued by Navigant Global Technology Solutions, there has been a significant increase in the number of security incidents caused by remote desktop protocol (RDP) hacking in the first quarter of 2017. 

Why is this problem getting worse? More employees than ever are working remotely. They want to be able to access email and other network services using their mobile devices, which tend to be notoriously insecure. In addition, not all remote access server software is created equal. Some tools are more secure than others. Finally, many workers use insecure or easy-to-hack passwords or do not use high-security options like two-factor authentication.

Every business from large hospitals to small firms is at risk, as we have seen by the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. It brought tens of thousands of organizations worldwide to a standstill in mid-May. Remote access exploits are especially troublesome for small- to medium-sized firms, because they usually are not very diligent about keeping up with server and firewall software updates. In addition, they tend to open up remote access ports and leave them open, creating the hacking equivalent of a red carpet invitation to disaster.

What can you do to ensure that your network remains secure, while also providing your remote workers with secure access to the files and services they need to get their work done? Here are some suggestions from River Run security analyst Andrew Busch:

  • Stay up-to-date with server patches and updates, as well as network security protocols.
  • Run a port scan to determine if you currently have open VPN or remote access ports that need to be closed.
  • Schedule a yearly review of your network security, including employee password and authentication policies, remote access solutions and their pros and cons, and audit the services your employees actually need to access remotely. Your goal is to provide limited, secure access only to those services, not wide open network access.
  • Stop using Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), which has been widely exploited by hackers. In its place, use SSLVPN, which employs multiple levels of authorization and certificates, or third-party remote access tools like LogMeIn, TeamViewer or VNC.
  • Follow best practices for network password rules (including how frequently they should be changed), and train your employees on them. Then audit your workers to ensure that they are complying with the standards you have set.
  • Require your remote users to use multi-factor authentication. The three main categories of authentication are something you know (password, pin code, social security number); something you have (USB security token, bank card, key); and something you are (fingerprint, eye, voice, face). The two-factor authentication process requires two of these factors, and tends to be very secure. According to Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, 80% of breaches can be prevented by using multi-factor authentication.

Have a backup plan for all of the files on your network and follow it religiously. In the event that your firm suffers a ransomware attack, you want to be able to recover your files from recent backups, not pay an expensive ransom.



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