RDP Security: Secure Remote Desktop Best Practices

RDP Security: Secure Remote Desktop Best Practices. Remote Desktop Protocol is a network communication protocol to enable you to connect securely and control a virtual machine or computer remotely. The protocol provides remote access to computers, allowing you to control them, share files and resources, configure servers, troubleshoot problems, and more. 

RDP utilizes a client server architecture to initiate a connection to a remote computer or virtual machine through a server. The request comprises information about your login credentials, resolution and colour depth of the remote desktop display. The server responds by creating a connection and authenticating your credentials.

While this solution is crucial to productivity in remote environments, it poses significant security risks. Establishing how to properly secure your Windows RDP for general security, productivity, and compliance is crucial. This article discusses some of the best practices to help you optimize RDP security

Shall we start with RDP Security: Secure Remote Desktop Best Practices.

RDP Security: Secure Remote Desktop Best Practices

1. Avoid Exposing Your RDP to the Internet

Exposing your RDP to the internet significantly increases the risk of compromising your network security. Connecting your RDP directly to the internet creates loophole for hackers to exploit. Cyber attackers easily identify open RDP ports through automated scans and exploit it to gain unauthorized system access. After they gain access, the attackers steal sensitive information, perform man in the middle attacks, and even install ransomware.

To maintain a secure environment, it is imperative to implement additional security measures, such as strong, unique passwords and multifactor authentication, also helps to protect against brute force attacks. By taking these precautions, you significantly reduce the likelihood of a successful cyber attack and maintain the integrity of your network and data.

2. Leverage Network Level Authentication (NLA)

Network Level Authentication (NLA) creates an authentication level first before establishing a remote desktop session. When using NLA, you must authenticate yourself to the network before successfully connecting to the server. Fortunately, most Windows OS versions, like Windows 10, have NLA enabled by default. 

3. Limit Login Attempts

When using an RDP, it’s imperative to limit the number of login attempts before an account is locked out. This minimizes the risk of unauthorized access to your systems. By restricting the number of failed login attempts, you deter hackers from using brute force techniques to guess passwords and gain entry to your network.

To do this, configure account lockout policies in the Windows Group Policy settings. These policies allow you to specify the number of failed login attempts before a user account is temporarily locked, as well as the duration of the lockout. Implementing such policies not only helps prevent unauthorized access but also encourages users to create strong, unique passwords and be more cautious when entering their login credentials.

4. Enable Encryption

Encryption is a method that enhances the privacy and confidentiality of data on your devices. It mitigates the risk posed by lost or stolen devices. When you encrypt your RDP, a cyber attacker who gains access to any of your remote devices would not be able to use the data on them as it protected from unauthorized access.

5. Change the Listening Port for Remote Desktop

Changing the listening port is an effective strategy to hide your Remote Desktop from hackers who scan the network for computers listening on the Remote Desktop port (TCP 3389). The step protects your network from the latest worms, such as Morto. However, it’s recommended to use this process if you are familiar with the Windows registry. Once you change the listening port from 3389 to something else, remember to update any firewall rules within the new port.

6. Keep Your Software Updated

Hackers constantly uncover new and existing security flaws across old and new versions of RDP components and their systems. Microsoft provides an automated update for security fixes for newly discovered exploits. Always check that all your servers and clients run the latest software versions. Monitoring zero day notices for vulnerabilities that affect your network is also crucial. With the newest software versions, your system is more secure and stable and may support higher encryption levels.

7. Avoid Saving Your Login Credentials in Your RDP Files

Most RDP users save their login credentials on their RDP files to make connections to remote systems easier and faster. That’s because doing so enables automatic login into the remote system through the saved credentials.

However, doing this exposes your system to potential hackers, enabling them to bypass the remote login easily. Configure your remote system to always require you to input the login credentials. To edit the RDP file, click on the “General” tab, and select “Always ask for credentials.”

8. Use Strong Passwords

Your passwords are your first defence in securing IT infrastructure, and that also goes for your Remote Desktop Connection as it is for your traditional desktop environment. All your accounts with access to Remote Desktop Connections require strong passwords. 

Always aim for longer, complex passwords. Combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easily guessable information, such as names, dates, or common words. Opt for random combinations or use passphrases consisting of multiple unrelated words. Finally, create a unique password for each account, and avoid reusing passwords across different services or systems.

9. Enable Multi Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi factor authentication requires more than just the username and password to access an account. The security method isn’t new but has only seen large scale implementation in recent years. MFA is highly effective in securing resources, including RDP connections, as it makes it impossible for attackers to implement their phishing and brute force attacks.

There are multiple MFA methods such as SMS and email and phone authentication, biometric verification. Besides, there are lots of MFA solutions are available to help safeguard your remote desktop environment. 

10. Use Mobile Device Management

One of the primary challenges of securing remote access is the complexity of ensuring you install the same level of security on the remote devices. That’s where Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions come in handy. With MDM solutions, you effectively monitor and manage devices regardless of location.

It’s also easy to install and configure MDM applications. Easily push updates and manage mobile devices such as tablets, mobile phones, and laptops. MDM simplifies and enhances the security of portable devices while mitigating most of the risks associated with remote access.

11. Implement Identity and Access Management (IAM)

Identity and Access Management (IAM) is a method that secures enterprise resources by letting you easily manage access rights, digital identities, and privileges. Easily control how users gain digital permissions and identities or even validate the hardware and software of the device requesting access. 

IAM solves the security problem by ensuring the correct level of access to IT resources in complex business environments. With IAM, you configure role based access, access policies, groups, and more. Basically, IAM solutions regulate how you access applications, systems, and networks from a single platform.

Thank you for reading RDP Security: Secure Remote Desktop Best Practices. We shall conclude the article now. 

RDP Security: Secure Remote Desktop Best Practices Conclusion

Remote Desktop is a valuable tool, especially in the era of remote and hybrid work. However, it’s also a source of many cyber attacks, and a lot could go wrong if hackers access your private data and resources. So, you must ensure your RDP is appropriately secured and configured to enhance network security.

The above are some recommendable best practices to create a more secure desktop environment. In addition, ensure your IT environment keeps up with the security changes in the threat landscape to stay a step ahead of cybercriminals. 

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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