Working remotely but securely

Providing end users access to the company network remotely is the first step to design a telecommuting project at the corporate level. Evaluating different options with pros and cons of each one is required. Here are some points to analyse.

Traditional secure ways to access the corporate networks

VPN

Virtual private networks are used to establish communications channels between an end user computer or from a complete site to the corporate networks.

There are different types of VPN services that can be implemented. Some are listed here:

  • PPTP Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol creates a plain and unencrypted channel between source and destination.
  • IPSec IPSec encrypts IP packets by encapsulating them inside an IPSec packet. IPSec packets are then de-encapsulated at the end of the tunnel where are routed to the destination.
  • L2TP Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol which is a standards-based replacement, and a compromise taking the good features from each, for two proprietary VPN protocols: Cisco’s L2F and Microsoft’s PPTP.

Choosing the right VPN system depends on the security level required by the company and the budget available.

Remote Desktop

Originally the Remote Desktop service, protocol, was introduced by Microsoft on Windows NT terminal server edition to allow users to connect to a server where applications were installed. On Windows 2000 Remote administration was added allowing up to two administrators to connect remotely to perform management tasks.

Remote Desktop was included both on servers and workstation editions and up to today remains available on windows XP and Windows 7.

It’s not the most efficient protocol to gain access a remote computer but the benefit is that there are Remote Desktop Clients for Linux, Mac OS, IOS, Android and Windows.

Using Remote Desktop to access a remote computer to all users will require a VPN connection in most cases. The VPN service will provide the communication channel and Remote Desktop will be the protocol used on top of the channel to access the remote computer.

Remote third party software

If for any reason Remote Desktop Protocol cannot be used or the desktops that users use to access the remote location are not running Microsoft Windows other options are available.

VNC: VNC has been around for more than 10 years. It’s Free and allows remote access to and from different operative systems like Windows, Linux and MAC.

LogmeIN: Remote access app with a free and a pro ($12.95/month) version with file transfer, remote printing, and more.

GoToMyPC: Extremely popular remote access program for ~$25/month.

Some services does not need a VPN service in place in order to access corporate computers remotely providing access directly through their servers and then establishing a secure channel.
Personally I prefer to be able to control who access the corporate premises remotely. Having a VPN service will allow me that kind of control while using third party software, in some cases, does not.

For other options visit 40+ ways to access your computer remotely

The objectives of the exam have some years now a new modern option has not been included bur worth to mention.

Today VDI technologies like vmware horizon view allows users to access their Remote Desktop, or virtual desktop, using modern protocols that guarantee faster access, rich user experience and high levels of security.

VMWare view eliminates the need of having a VPN concentrator. It provides a secure https tunnel using a security server placed on the DMZ zone of the corporate network. In order to take security to the next level a two-way authentication can be in place like using a username and password and a electronic token.

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