Remote access allows a “host” computer to view the desktop screen of the “target” computer. The host is the local computer belonging to the individual, usually an IT technician, attempting to establish remote access. The target is the remote computer. When remote access is established, the host computer is able to view and control the target computer through the target computer’s interface. This means the technician can see exactly what the end user sees. This precise insight makes providing technical support significantly less time-consuming. For remote access to work, both devices will need to have software installed that facilitates the connection.
A remote support session is often used by MSPs and other service providers to help a customer encountering IT issues and can be established in a number of ways. For example, the customer might provide initial instructions detailing how to set up screen sharing under existing practices. Or, in many cases, the support technician can utilize remote support tools built for this specific purpose.
10 tips to help secure remote access
Secure remote access is becoming increasingly important as organizations begin to rely more heavily on remote technical support—and as cybercrime continues to become more advanced. These 10 tips can help you establish robust remote access security practices for your MSP. Many of these tips also apply to mobile device remote access security.
1. Teach risk prevention
Teaching both your technicians and your customers about risk prevention is a crucial part of establishing secure remote access practices. If your team or clients are not following the correct procedures, remote access can create unnecessary vulnerabilities. Teaching risk prevention involves making every party aware of the reality of cyberthreats, the likelihood of them occurring, and how their actions can help prevent them.
You can start by informing all involved parties about the potential dangers of remote access to help ensure everyone is taking best practices seriously. Opening a network up to remote users can also open up entry points for external threats and malware, which can eventually cause a major breach. Once the team understands this, they’ll be more likely to understand how critical it is that policies like user authentication are in place to protect the organization.
2. Utilize effective access rights management
Secure remote access is at its best when combined with effective access rights management. By limiting access to only those who absolutely need it, MSPs can boost their overall security and help prevent loss of sensitive data. Measures should be taken to ensure that only technicians with the appropriate access rights can remotely access customers’ mobile devices, servers, and desktops. There should also be steps taken to authenticate these authorized users, which we’ll discuss further in our fifth tip below.
3. Lock down credentials
To achieve maximum remote access security, you should use and encourage your end users to employ a robust password manager. A password manager can help you keep track of your passwords, ensure they are strong, and enforce password updates when necessary. This helps prevent your remote access capabilities and other functions from being hacked by cybercriminals.
If you are using a remote access tool that requires a password, then a password manager can generate and store arbitrary passwords that are difficult for cybercriminals to guess. This will help ensure your client credentials are protected and your remote access remains safe.
4. Take advantage of analytics tools
Analytics tools can be extremely helpful for remote access operations. They can, for example, assist in meeting high availability requirements by facilitating early detection. They can also give insight into user and application patterns, which may inform privileged user and account profiles or help create a baseline for typical behavior. If abnormal activity is identified by your analytics tool, you should receive an alert. This will allow you to respond rapidly to in-progress attacks for prevention or mitigation purposes.
5. Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) involves requiring users to authenticate themselves in at least two ways. For example, this might include inputting a password and then receiving a one-time code via SMS, which confirms they are in possession of the phone and helps verify their identity. This reduces the chances of someone successfully breaking into a system by simply hacking a single password.
6. Practice automatic clipboard deletion
When you use the copy-and-paste feature on a computer, the information you copy gets stored on a “clipboard,” and then is retrieved when you identify where the information should be pasted. Deleting data stored in clipboards after a remote support session is of crucial importance, because it keeps those sensitive details from being accessed by unauthorized individuals. Some remote access tools feature automatic clipboard deletion, which is a useful feature when copying sensitive information.
7. Ensure information is properly encrypted
To safeguard security, all connections and data transmissions should be fully encrypted. Advanced Encryption Standards (AES) 256 data encryption is preferable, and can help ensure that data is protected both in transit and at rest.
8. Implement idle sessions timeout control
If a customer or technician forgets to sign out of a remote support session, this can become a vulnerability and put your customers at risk. Establishing idle sessions timeout controls can mitigate this risk by automatically signing a user out of an account if no activity has been detected for a certain period of time. Certain remote access tools, like SolarWinds® Take Control, provide this feature for added security.
9. Practice machine locking
Locking machines after each session can help both clients and technicians rest assured the device won’t be easily accessible to unauthorized individuals.
10. Deploy an effective remote desktop access tool
One of the most effective ways to boost your remote access security (and automatically practice most, if not all, of the aforementioned security tips in the process) is to employ a trusted remote access product. Many remote access tools will take the appropriate enhanced security measures for you, giving you less to worry about in terms of keeping your data and your clients’ data safe.
Choosing the right remote access security software
If you’re looking for remote support software that makes security a priority, look no further than SolarWinds Take Control. This software was designed specifically for MSPs to ensure your technicians can hit the ground running and is highly versatile and customizable to your organization’s needs.
With the Elliptic-curve Diffie–Hellman key agreement scheme, Take Control helps you secure shared secrets between two endpoints. It does this even before a support session has been established, which helps ensure remote sessions are safe. To support a variety of industry-specific compliance requirements, Take Control was developed with a software development life cycle, which includes data privacy by design and default principles.
To let you focus on providing the best service possible to your customers, Take Control comes with security built-in from the ground up. To help secure data transmissions, Take Control uses Advanced Encryption Standards (AES) 256 data encryption, which is designed to secure data while it is at rest and in transit. The tool also uses multilayer authentication to reduce your susceptibility to a cyberattack. This authentication process is established via technician access permission settings and 2FA, which requires a password as well as a tokenized TOTP protocol implementation.
Finally, the software also safeguards individual sessions by ensuring sessions can only be initiated by technicians with the appropriate permissions. A lock-out option can lock the machine as soon as a session is completed, and idle timeout controls can be enabled to prevent hackers from hijacking or stealing a session. Once a session is finished, automatic clipboard deletion allows you to rest assured that all sensitive data—like user credentials—is wiped clean.
Although sophisticated and comprehensive, Take Control is intuitive and easy to use. Its scalability also makes it suitable for small-scale and large-scale organizations alike. To learn more, access a 90-day free trial here.