A Comprehensive Guide to Deploying RDP Security and Evading Loopholes

In many situations, it may become necessary to access computers from faraway places. You may need access to some important documents stored in your home PC when you are away from home. Even in business setups, this can be a necessity. The Covid-19 pandemic that led to the closure of offices and schools across the globe also forced many companies and entities to resort to RDP tools and technology to continue the workflow. RDP is a technology created by technology giant Microsoft, and it is bundled in many versions of its widely used Windows operating system. Using RDP is convenient, but it does come with a few security loopholes.

Why do you need to be careful about bolstering RDP security?

Using RDP protocol and software solutions, you can access a remote computer running Windows from another Windows-based PC or devices running different operating systems, minus hassles. This is useful both for general PC users and network administrators and enterprise users. It operates over the web, using port 3389. At the same time, RDP works on an encrypted channel that is not enough for preventing diverse types of security attacks. Instances of RDP security compromise had put several users and businesses into jeopardy, in the past. So, it is better that you learn about RDP security flaws and adopt measures to boost the level of safety.

A glimpse into the prevalent RDP security issues

Since its inception, RDP technology has attracted its share of criticism. Microsoft bundles in its own RDP component called remote desktop connection and you can also opt for several third party RDP services and applications nowadays. No matter what tool you use, you need to know about security issues that target this technology.

  • A number of cybercriminals and hackers use the Brute-force attacks to take control of a Windows PC over RDP.
  • The instances of malware incorporating RDP modules to target Windows PC networks are also not rare.
  • In recent years, Ransomware attacks made using RDP are growing in number. Two infamous examples are the SamSam attack targeting the city of Atlanta and the RobinHood ransomware attack targeting Baltimore.

The RDP security practices you need to deploy

Owing to the inherent security loopholes in RDP protocol, the companies using this technology and tools have to boost the security measures. Listed here are a number of RDP security best practices you should adopt. This can be helpful both on a personal and enterprise level.

  • Updating the OS and getting security patches- This is an important step to bolster the default security level of your Windows-based PC. You should keep the option to download and install OS and security updates in the PC to be used as remote connection server enabled. The core security patches enhance the OS defense against RDP and other types of security attacks.
  • Using complex passwords- For logging into a PC through RDP, logging in with a system password is necessary. Do not ever make the password easy to guess. For example, refrain from using a nickname, names of pets, or DOB as system passwords in such PCs. It is prudent to use complex passwords, and that are hard to crack. You may combine lowercase and uppercase characters and include symbols to form complex passwords.
  • Restricting the number of login attempts- For additional security, you should limit the number of login efforts permissible under RDP. Enforcing such pre-defined account lockout policies will help defend the system against the infamous brute-force attacks.
  • Using a VPN- You need to secure both the host and client PC while using RDP technology and tools. For this, you should use a VPN application. When you connect through a VPN app or tool, the internet ID of the client PC is hidden. Once the VPN connection is active, the data exchanged between both systems remain encrypted. This can be handy when you want to access important documents and data using RDP. The nice thing is you can use VPN in smartphones, Windows and Mac-based computers these days. However, using a paid VPN is better in this regard.
  • Making Network Level Authentication activated- In Windows 10 based PCs, the Network Level Authentication feature is enabled by default. However, that is not the case with computers running some older versions of the OS. When you make NLA compulsory for system login through RDP, no one can access the host PC without using the proper user id and password.
  • Tweaking the system settings- To ensure any attacker cannot access the core system files in a host PC under RDP, you can make some changes to the system settings. You may, for example, disable the feature to mount local hard disk drive partitions for remote access. It is also possible to deny access to the system files folders for the remote or client PC/device.
  • Backing up data periodically- You may have installed a quality antimalware tool and use VPN for using RDP at home or office. However, it is better that you do not get complacent. No one can predict when a new strain of Ransomware or malware targeting RDP will emerge into the horizon! So, it is prudent that you keep taking backup of data of the host PC or server. This will ensure that even if your valuable data is lost from the PC, you have a copy in place.
  • Using RDP prudently- It is wise that you do not use RDP unless it is necessary. If you do not use it frequently, you will be less vulnerable to the different types of cyber-attacks. You can access data remotely through cloud applications and other ways too.

Summing it up

If you want to avail the advantages of RDP on a budget, using the default Microsoft app, namely the Remote Desktop Connection app makes sense. It is present in each iteration of Windows OS, nearly. However, not all Windows versions let you access all features of RDP, and older versions are known for more security vulnerabilities. You may consider using the third-party tools that are based on RDP when the budget is not a constraint, and you seek more security and features embedded. No matter what tool you use, practicing the RDP safety features is advisable.

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