Enabling remote access to the office network without security compromises

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After the pandemic, the shift to working from home and hybrid work models increased severely. Most office employees were allowed to choose where they wanted to work. The problem was that security was often left as an afterthought regarding remote access. This also meant that cyberattacks increased unprecedentedly, threatening businesses even more.

Ensuring that work networks are reachable from the convenience of the employees' homes is still crucial for business continuity. However, this also means navigating the complex and intricate world of network security, which can be a challenge. Therefore, this article will guide you through various techniques and solutions for achieving remote work with proper attention to data security.

Key takeaways

  • Secure network access to internal systems for remote employees and third-party vendors is crucial.

  • VPN software helps keep your connection secure, hides your IP address, and lets you access the company's network from anywhere in the world.

  • To ensure you can safely access your system from anywhere, using a list of approved users and setting up multiple verification forms is important.

  • Regular check-ins, routine upkeep, and staying informed about security can help reduce cyber risks for remote teams.

How to safely access the company network from any location?

Remote and hybrid work provides unparalleled flexibility for remote workers to figure out how to tackle their tasks. The challenge is to figure out network access control mechanisms for third-party vendors, clients, and remote employees working from home. It's a paradox: the resources must be made available but not too available so that it becomes a security liability.

Without proper precautions, unauthorized users might take advantage of weak security. For this reason, businesses seek to improve their network security stance by implementing various network access control solutions or adopting good practices for their IT infrastructure management. Here are some examples of how secure remote access could be arranged.

Protect your network with a Virtual Private Network

A Virtual Private Network (VPN for short) is an online security staple in remote access. It encrypts users' connections, securing them from any potential external eavesdropping. This helps ensure that the data transmitted between the device and the company network remains secure. Data encryption stops criminals from capturing the data in transit as they don't have the decryption key. It's invaluable for remote employees working from public Wi-Fi or other unsecure networks.

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In addition, business VPN software helps to maintain the anonymity of your employees' identities by masking the user's IP address. This can help prevent third-party tracking and ensure that sensitive information about the company's operations remains confidential. Hiding the remote worker's IP address also makes it more difficult for hackers to monitor their online behavior or exploit any vulnerabilities in the network.

Finally, VPNs allow employees to connect to the company's network from anywhere worldwide. This can be particularly useful in remote work scenarios where resources must be shared securely with a large group of people. It helps to maintain the privacy, integrity, and availability of the data and services essential for the company's operations and to stay productive.

Secure access to cloud storage

Safeguarding cloud-stored assets goes beyond mere passwords. A holistic security strategy requires methods like IP whitelisting, network segmentation, and advanced authentication techniques such as MFA and biometrics to secure access to cloud resources.

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These measures protect data and ensure that tools like Confluence, Jira, and Salesforce are accessed solely by authorized users. When it comes to remote work, the challenge amplifies. Solutions like site-to-site VPNs have become invaluable, allowing employees to securely connect to the office network from afar and guaranteeing a secure and seamless connection to essential data.

Use cases for secure remote access

Secure remote access has grown exponentially in importance, particularly during the shifts of digital transformation, remote working, and global collaboration. Here are some key use cases for secure remote access that organizations and individuals are leveraging.

Remote work and collaboration

With the rise of remote work, employees across the globe need secure access to their organization’s network and resources. It allows staff to work outside the office, accessing files, applications, and internal systems without compromising security. Businesses must keep sensitive information only to authorized users, maintaining its confidentiality and integrity.

Remote monitoring and management

In our globally connected environment, keeping a close eye on devices everywhere is more important than ever. This goes beyond just watching; it means having the ability to access and manage these devices securely. It's a vital tool, especially when teams are spread across different locations, helping maintain strict security standards. This includes setting specific security guidelines, regulating access based on these rules, and getting timely alerts about any non-compliant connections.

Adopting remote monitoring ensures smooth operations and can quickly address potential issues, no matter where they arise, keeping your business running seamlessly and efficiently.

Disaster recovery and business continuity

In the event of natural disasters or unexpected disruptions that affect your physical network or infrastructure, flexible remote access solutions enable organizations to continue their operations. Employees can connect to the cloud tools and resources safely, and IT teams can remotely manage and restore systems to maintain business continuity.

How to enable secure remote workers' network access? 

For the remote workforce, secure access to the company's network is essential for productivity. Here are a couple of things you can do to ensure that remote access is secure for your employees.

Establish secure connections to your network

Secure remote access is vital in today's network security, ensuring both digital and physical aspects of networks and devices are safeguarded. There are two primary use cases: site-to-site access, which connects separate locations securely through VPNs, authentication, monitoring, and firewalls, and smart remote access, which allows to connect to devices that don’t support VPN applications.

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For site-to-site access, the goal is to encrypt, monitor, and authorize data exchange between locations. In contrast, smart remote access emphasizes dynamic access based on context, seamless maintenance, and timely security updates. Both approaches aim to provide secure and efficient remote connections in our ever-evolving digital landscape in which SaaS access control is key.

Implement IP allowlisting

Allowlisting gives specific applications, IP addresses, or devices permission to access certain resources. This boosts security by only allowing trusted sources. However, managing varying IPs can be tough when remote workers from different global locations access resources.

For easier management, this works best when IP allowlisting is combined with Virtual Private Gateways with a fixed IP. This means only one fixed IP to handle, reducing complications. It helps filter out unverified connections and ensure only authorized personnel can access sensitive information.

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)

MFA is vital for remote work, enhancing security by requiring at least two types of identification before access is granted. This can be a combination of a password, a device like a phone, or even a fingerprint.

With remote work, there are increased risks compared to an office environment. Devices are more susceptible to theft, and ensuring physical workspace security is challenging. MFA serves as a barrier against unauthorized access. Simple tasks might need a password and a text code, but sensitive data requires stronger authentication, like combining a password, fingerprint, and a smart card. This extra security helps counteract the risks of remote work.

Strict authentication is essential

Weak passwords can often be guessed or cracked through brute force or dictionary attacks. Yet even strong passwords can fall pretty to cyberattacks if they’re reused. It’s much more secure to use single sign-on (SSO) and phase out email-password logins, which can be vulnerable.

SSO provides centralized control over user access, making it easier to manage permissions and revoke access when needed. This is especially crucial in organizations where employees or users come and go. As technology advances, it's crucial to stay ahead of the curve and prioritize security measures that adapt to the changing threat landscape.

Enable endpoint security

Endpoint security is super important today. It ensures that devices like laptops and phones are up to security standards. Since everyone's personal device can be different, some might not be as secure as others or even be at risk.

That's where endpoint security tools come in. They monitor these devices and help tech teams spot and handle risks. This stops unwanted access and keeps our data safe. As more people work remotely and use their own devices, having good endpoint security is like having a protective shield for our digital workspace.

Monitor and log access

Regularly monitoring and logging who is accessing your network helps detect any unusual behavior or unauthorized access patterns. This may indicate external hackers trying to breach the network and internal users trying to access resources they shouldn't have permission to access.

All the logs help to check and ensure that all those who 'should' be using secure connections are actually doing so. This provides visibility into network activities, supports incident response, and enables proactive security measures.

How to provide secure access to your network for third parties?

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Businesses often need to give third-party vendors, consultants, or partners access to their networks. While third-party collaboration is unavoidable, it comes with the risk of compromising the network's security. Implementing proper protocols and safeguards is vital to ensure the system's integrity.

Here's how you can give third-party network access without jeopardizing security.

Clearly define access requirements

Before providing access to your third-party partners, you must outline what resources need access and why. This tailored approach to data access minimizes the total attack surface and leaves hackers less wiggle room. In the long run, this helps to minimize the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, and potentially malicious activities.

Still, the company that wants to initiate this access model will require a structured approach. All held networks and their resources must be well-documented for them to work. After that's done, third parties can be joined within the infrastructure with lesser privileges.

Create separate subnetwork for external partners

Breaking networks into smaller segments can help stop hackers from moving around easily if they get in. It also lets us design specific areas of the network just for outside groups. This means the main system is safer if an outsider's system is hacked. If an internal system breach happens, it stays within that smaller area and doesn't spread everywhere.

Use role-based access controls (RBAC)

RBAC restricts system access to authorized users. It's essential for managing and controlling access within an organization's network, especially when third parties are involved. By setting up roles, it's possible to limit third-party access only to the areas necessary for them to fulfill their functions. This minimizes the risk of accidental or intentional data misuse, enhancing security.

Additionally, RBAC provides a clear record of who has access to what. This can be crucial for auditing and monitoring purposes, making it easier to track who accessed certain resources and when. If an incident does occur, the organization can easily trace back actions to spot individuals or roles.

Draft a Comprehensive Security Agreement

A Comprehensive Security Agreement (CSA) outlines the responsibilities and obligations of both parties. It establishes what the third party expects regarding security protocols and clarifies what the organization will provide in return. This agreement should include how data is handled, stored, and destroyed and what actions will be taken if there's a security breach.

The agreement serves as a legally binding pact that holds both parties accountable. This ensures that both sides have taken necessary precautions and can be used in legal proceedings.

How can NordLayer help

In today's dynamic business landscape, providing remote access to your office network is crucial. However, it must be done cautiously to protect sensitive data and ensure business continuity. Cybersecurity shouldn't be left for a chance. Finding trustworthy allies is important, as malicious actors aren't showing any signs of slowing down.

NordLayer is perfect for businesses shifting to a mix of office and work from home. As more companies adopt this hybrid work style, NordLayer provides easy-to-use services that ensure remote work is both safe and convenient for everyone.

Virtual Private Gateways with a dedicated server by NordLayer can help a lot. It keeps your online data safe by encrypting traffic, adjusts easily to your needs, and lets you control who gets access by setting role-based privileges. Plus, it pairs seamlessly with all major login providers, ensuring only the right people get in.

We provide tools that make your local networks and Cloud resources super secure. Enjoy top-notch VPN protection, extra security with multi-factor authentication, and always-on network monitoring. The best part? Our solutions don't require any hardware and can be adjusted easily to fit your business needs.

If any of these challenges sound familiar to your organization, reach out to our team. We're here to help you explore various ways to strengthen your network's cybersecurity.

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