The Importance of Securing RDP and SSH Accounts

Securing RDP and-SSH Accounts

Securing RDP and SSH Accounts is crucial in the digital era to protect remote networking activities. This article emphasizes strong password management and comprehensive security measures to shield RDP accounts from unauthorized access and cyber threats, ensuring a secure remote working environment.

Born in the Information Age and quickly forced to maturity by the pandemic, remote networking technology is now an indispensable part of our daily lives. It enables us to work from home, take a class remotely, shop at stores virtually, stream entertainment on demand, visit a doctor through telehealth, communicate/game/video chat with friends and family anywhere at any time, and countless other activities – if you have a reliable network connection and a properly working computer. But what if you don’t…have a properly working computer, that is?< No problem. Along with remote networking technology has come remote networking support. Today you can call a service provider or the helpdesk at your organization and allow a member of the IT support staff to take remote control of your PC and fix the problem virtually, whatever it is. Suddenly your cursor is flying around the screen opening preference windows at light speed, clicking boxes and changing settings you didn’t know existed, and voila! your system is back to optimal conditions. Software updated. Access restored. Conflicts resolved. Files transferred. How’d they do that? Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and/or SSH is how they did that.

Why Securing RDP Accounts is a Necessity?

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is one of the most popular communication protocols for remotely controlling networked systems. It allows users to connect to an organization’s on-premises computers through the Windows operating system. RDP comes with all current Windows OSs (and supports Macs as well).

RDP is commonly used by IT teams to perform server maintenance, updates, and other support tasks remotely. Many companies also use the protocol to allow staff to access their office desktop computers and company servers from another device, allowing them to work remotely. In addition, Microsoft positions RDP as the default method to manage Azure virtual machines running Windows.

The trouble with RDP is that it is password based. This exposes organizations to malware and ransomware attacks if weak sign-in credentials are used that can be easily broken by brute force attacks. So, while RDP is a valuable tool for remote administration and employee support, it also becomes a significant security risk if exploited by hackers.

Further, RDP connections almost always take place at port 3389. Hackers know this and use the port as a point of entry to carry out attacks. RDPs are a common target for man-in-the-middle (MITM) cyberattacks, and RDP accounts can be vehicles to deploy malware or targeted ransomware campaigns.

Once breached via RDP, there is nothing stopping the cybercriminals from moving laterally through your infrastructure, elevating their privileges, installing backdoors, setting up fake user accounts, and attacking every networked resource.

Understanding SSH Security and Its Importance

Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol to remotely managing servers, infrastructure, and employee computers securely over an unsecured network. SSH is used to authenticate and encrypt connections between two devices for secure data communication, remote command-line login, file transfers, and other secure network services. It is often used by DevOps and DevSecOps teams for secure access to servers during application development cycles. Whereas RDP is for Windows, SSH is primarily for Linux and Mac.

SSH uses public/private key cryptography for security. Each pair of encrypted keys must match before granting remote access to the requested resource. SSH also allows for tunneling, or port forwarding, which is when data packets can cross networks that they would not otherwise be able to cross, and permits IT administrators to bypass firewall restrictions.

Despite its inherently strong use of encryption and public keys, any protocol can be abused by cybercriminals if sufficiently determined. SSH’s tunneling capabilities make it particularly appealing to attackers. As with RDP, there is a default port for SSH, usually 22. Hackers know this too. This port can be used to access servers on the other side of a firewall. Data packets directed to port 22 are not blocked, and can then be forwarded to any other port.

SSH keys can be compromised and stolen, again in part due to the creation of weak credentials. Hackers target SSH keys in order to gain unauthorized control over a company’s servers and sensitive data. The larger the organization, the larger the attack surface as their many servers may use thousands of key pairs, and tracking and updating those keys is close to impossible. Once an attacker gains a SSH key, they may have persistent access to network assets for months or years before being discovered.

Securing RDP and SSH Accounts with Passpack

There are two sides to every coin. As much as organizations rely on RDP and SSH to enable remote networking and support, cybercriminals will try to exploit those same tools for malicious purposes. All that is needed is one user’s credentials to tunnel their way through entire network infrastructures.

If the number one vulnerability of RDP and SSH is weak sign-in credentials, then the number one priority for companies using these protocols should be securing RDP and SSH accounts via strong password creation and credential protection. That’s where Passpack comes in.

The Passpack Password Management solution safely locks away RDP and SSH account passwords in a secure vault where only authorized (role based) users can access their confidential data. Passpack puts the policies and rules-based access controls in place for good password hygiene, creates strong credentials, and limits resource access to those who need it (least privilege protocol) – all with 360° visibility into every password-related activity for total control, monitoring, and tracking.

There are other countermeasures you can deploy to increase protection, such as keeping software patches up to date, locking down ports, implementing IP restrictions, beefing up firewalls, using a VPN, or just-in-time access. But effective password management should be your first line of defense. Don’t let your own tools for enhancing your organization’s remote productivity be turned against you. Take control with Passpack.

Try the new Business Plan free for 28 days and see how easy it is to enable secure password sharing and protect your RDP and SSH accounts with Passpack.

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