June 16, 2023
Top 3 Considerations in Securing Remote Access for Users and Customers
Remote access has enabled users to connect to organizational networks from anywhere. But this increased access has also led to increased security risks. What should organizations keep in mind when securing remote access for users and customers?
Remote access has become an integral part of our lives, enabling users and customers to connect to organizational networks and systems from anywhere. But this increased access has also led to an increase in data stored in a variety of locations — from data lakes and applications to the cloud — and with it, increased security risks.
Organizations currently facing the critical challenge of securing their networks and systems from potential threats may be wondering: What security measures can we take to secure remote access and protect our valuable assets for users and customers?
Here are three important considerations to keep in mind for secure remote access:
1. Use comprehensive risk frameworks to assess and quantify risk.
When it comes to managing cybersecurity risks, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Risk Management Framework (RMF) represents a comprehensive blueprint for most organizations. One key aspect of this framework is the identification and assessment of critical controls as defined in NIST SP 800-53 Rev 5, including access control.
Evaluating and making controls actionable in the security domain, as an adjunct to NIST, the Center for Internet Security’s (CIS) defined set of 20 critical security controls comes into play, with the Critical 18 addressing remote access security specifically.
Based on guidance from the NIST RMF and CIS Critical 18, implementing a secure remote access infrastructure requires prioritizing critical controls applicable to your organization’s specific environment. This may include:
· Implementing multifactor authentication (MFA) for remote users
· Using secure virtual private network (VPN) connections
· Regularly updating and patching software
· Monitoring and logging access activities
Adhering to the NIST RMF framework and conducting a CIS Critical 18 assessment can give your organization the power to significantly mitigate potential threats while safeguarding your remote access infrastructure.
2. Understand the identity and data pillar of zero trust.
In response to the growing complexity of cybersecurity challenges, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) introduced the concept of a Zero Trust Maturity Model, now in its second major revision, to enhance security in today's interconnected world. Today, adopting a zero-trust mindset is an essential part of securing remote access.
Key to this approach are the identity and data pillars; they highlight the importance of verifying and authenticating users’ identities and protecting sensitive data. This involves implementing robust authentication mechanisms, like biometrics or hardware tokens, to verify user identities along with encryption techniques to safeguard data transmitted between users and corporate systems.
Embracing these principles of CISA’s zero-trust guidance is an important piece of bolstering your organization’s remote access security posture and establishing a more resilient environment.
3. Establish clear governance and use technology to your advantage.
Securing remote access goes beyond implementing specific technical measures; a successful strategy requires a holistic approach with consideration for both governance and technology.
Without a governance strategy in place, organizations may find that their strategy for securing remote access becomes costly and ineffective.
Let’s take a look at a recent example from a healthcare client who recently called on CDW Security experts to help rationalize their secure remote access technology investments.
Upon review, we discovered that this client had accumulated over a decade of legacy technical debt. Rather than recommend purchasing and installing the latest-and-greatest security technology, our team spent nearly a year evaluating their technology stacks and designing a zero-trust approach.
In the end, we provided this client a three-year strategy along with a list of recommendations on which technology solutions to keep and which to retire. This gave them a clear roadmap to secure remote access for the years ahead and saved them thousands in technical debt.
Effective governance means establishing clear policies and procedures defining remote access requirements, user responsibilities and incident response protocols. Regular review of and updates to these policies are critical in adapting to emerging security threats and implementing best practices.
Leveraging advanced technologies can also be an important part of enhancing your remote access security strategy. Implementing network segmentation, deploying intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), or using user behavior analytics (UBA) can help detect and prevent unusual activities in your environment as well.
Employing effective governance practices and enhanced technologies will provide a tough defense against unauthorized access and data breaches when securing remote access for customers and users.
Why is an expert partner essential to securing remote access?
Securing remote access should be an absolute critical priority for organizations protecting their data, intellectual property and customer information. Failure to do so is not only a financial and reputational risk, it can be a major legal risk as well, if appropriate duty of care with customer data is not taken.
By aligning your security strategy to your corporate risk strategy and focusing on your unique, long-term business goals rather than simply the technology you have in place, a trusted partner with deep knowledge of secure remote access use cases can help you make strategic and technical decisions.
Keeping in mind risk frameworks like NIST RMF and the identity and data pillars of CISA’s zero-trust guidance while establishing clear governance policies and leveraging advanced security technologies will be key to establishing a secure and resilient environment for users and customers—safeguarding critical assets and data from potential breaches in the process.
Story by Buck Bell CDW's Global Security Strategist