VPN Security Risks – Best Practices for Corporate VPNs. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a tool that establishes a secure network connection when using public networks. The software encrypts your internet traffic and disguises your online identity to prevent it from being discovered or tracked by third parties and people wanting to steal your data. Having a VPN is one of the best ways to prevent common cyber attacks and keep hackers at bay.
Common VPN Security Risks
Businesses use VPNs to securely enable their remote teams to work from any location. Corporate VPNs connect users to a remote server, interacting with public internet on behalf of the users. The tools also make shared networks more secure, provide control options to access permissions, and prevent social media blocks.
While VPNs protect you online, they come with various risks. They’re not immune to security breaches. Common VPN security risks include:
- VPN hijacking: unauthorized user takes over your VPN connection.
- Man-in-the-middle attacks: an attacker intercepts communication between two parties and positions themselves between. Acts as a legitimate intermediary, he gains unauthorized access to sensitive information or injects malicious content.
- Weak user authentication:
- Granting too many access rights:
- Split tunneling:
- Malware infections: lead to unauthorized access to sensitive data, disrupted network operations, and the spread of malware within the connected systems.
Best Practices for Corporate VPNs
1. Choose a VPN with Advanced Security Features
- Strong encryption algorithms.
- Support for strong authentication.
- Antivirus software and capabilities for intrusion detection and prevention.
- Support for logging and auditing.
- Digital certificate support.
- Strong default security for administration and maintenance ports.
- Ability to assign addresses to clients on a private network while maintaining the privacy of all addresses.
It’s also advisable to choose a VPN solution with a kill switch. It ensures that if your computer loses the VPN connection, the internet connection or the apps using it shut down. This measure prevents your IP address from leaking to third parties.
2. Use Perfect Forward Secrecy
Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) is used to encrypt communication and sessions so that they can’t be retrieved or decrypted if long term secret keys or passwords become compromised. Each VPN session uses a different encryption key if you install the PFS. So, if a hacker steals one key, they only compromise the information associated with that key and not all the other sessions.
Consider implementing both Backward and Forward Secrecy. Forward Secrecy guards your system against future compromises of past sessions, which could lead to losing sensitive data like secret keys and passwords. Backward Secrecy activates the “self-heal” of previously compromised sessions and prevents the loss of data from them. Forward Secrecy is preventative, while Backward Secrecy is mitigating.
3. Implement Proper VPN Configuration
Reckless handling of VPNs, including misconfigurations, is the third top reason for data breaches. The biggest threat with VPNs is that they expose an entire network to an attack, if not correctly configured.
4. Manage Software Vulnerabilities
Most cyber attackers exploit VPN vulnerabilities and leverage them to gain unauthorized access to systems and data. Choose a VPN vendor with a strong track record of vulnerability patching. Also, request a software bill of materials (SBOM) to validate the third party’s code and verify that it is up to date and secure.
Select a product that validates its code when running to detect insecure intrusions promptly. Once you deploy a VPN, ensure you regularly check for software updates and apply them. Follow your vendor’s guidelines for updating, for example, forcing a password change for users when patching vulnerabilities that threat actors commonly exploit.
5. Limit VPN Access
Cybercriminals look out for compromised credentials to access an organization’s internal systems. The more users with access to your VPN, the higher the likelihood that hackers compromise some of the login credentials to gain access. So, create firewall rules allowing only UDP ports 500 and 4500 for IKE/IPsec VPNs. Alternatively, you enable TCP port 433 for SSL and TLS VPNs.
Additionally, consider restricting access to and from the VPN and limiting access to its endpoint depending on your IP address allow-list. Block access to management interfaces through the VPN to prevent its use with compromised administrator credentials. That inhibits access to management interfaces and the performance of privileged activities.
6. Implement Zero Trust Architecture
Implementing Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) is becoming increasingly important for organizations as they adapt to modern cybersecurity threats and the evolving digital landscape. The core principle of ZTA is “never trust, always verify,” which means that access to resources is granted only after thorough authentication and authorization of users and devices, regardless of their location or network. This approach stands in contrast to traditional security models that implicitly trust users and devices within the perimeter of the organization’s network.
Zero Trust architecture enables companies to define specific places within their network that should be secured, also known as protect surfaces. Networks with Zero Trust solutions build multiple small perimeters for each defined protect surface instead of having only one overall network perimeter wall that every user has to go through. That means an attacker has to find their way through more security walls than just the initial point of entry into the network.
With a Zero Trust architecture, your organization better monitor workloads and processes, which would be rather complex in a multi cloud environment. It’s easier to see the steps taken or placed where multiple verification steps are required to perform a workload. It becomes easier to track malicious activities based on better information.
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VPN Security Risks - Best Practices for Corporate VPNs- Conclusion
If you’re a business entity with a team of employees, having a VPN solution is inevitable. However, more is needed, as you must also ensure the solution’s security to prevent attacks by malicious actors. VPN solutions are vulnerable to exploitation, ransomware attacks, and lots of other compromises. The above best practices guide you to reevaluate your existing VPN infrastructure and form the basis for any possible expansion.