What You Need to Know About Virtual Private Networks

What You Need to Know About Virtual Private Networks | CyberDot | Cyber Insurance

Among the various cybersecurity measures you should put in place to protect your business, using a virtual private network (VPN) is crucial. VPNs make it possible to connect remotely and securely to a private network. For example,  securely connecting to a corporate network while using a public one.

When you use a virtual private network, all the traffic gets encrypted between the private network and your computer, so no one can access the information. VPNs can stop your internet service provider from tracking you and prevent those on a public Wi-Fi network from stealing information stored on your company network. Here’s everything you need to know about virtual private networks. 

Understand How VPNs Work

To fully understand the best practices involving virtual private networks, you must have a basic understanding of how they work. As a user, you can think of a VPN as a point-to-point connection that links your computer to a virtual server. Although you will be connected to a public network when using a VPN, the data acts as if it is sent through a dedicated private one. You would need a decryption key for the data packets that move over a VPN to be readable.

Ways to Use VPNs in Your Business

There is a vast array of uses for virtual private networks in a small or medium business. Among the most popular is securing remote access for employees and vendors. Additionally, VPNs can be used to make intranet connections within fixed locations, such as a branch office; as an extranet connection with a business partner; and to replace a wide area network for networks that are dispersed geographically.

Require VPNs for Remote Work

Although there are many applications for using a virtual private network for your company, the most common is the ability to let yourself and employees work remotely. Without a VPN, you would be unable to connect to your corporate network and access the information stored there without sacrificing security. VPNs are particularly useful when you work on a public Wi-Fi network, whether that is in a coffee shop or at an airport when you travel for business. To avoid the security concerns associated with accessing corporate resources on an unsecured network, require anyone who works remotely to use a VPN.

Require VPNs for Third Parties

Make the same requirement for any third parties that access your network. Whether this is a contractor, vendor, or supplier, there is a security risk if they do not access your network in a secure way.

Know the VPN Security Concerns

Virtual private networks connect to your company’s network. So they are some security concerns related to them that you must keep in mind. In this way, it is possible to develop policies that minimize those security concerns.

One of the biggest risks of a VPN is hijacking. Hijacking occurs when an unauthorized user takes over the VPN’s connection from a remote worker or third party. Man-in-the-middle attacks are also a threat and involve attackers intercepting data. Split tunneling is when someone uses the secure VPN connection at the same time they access an insecure internet connection.

Other potential security concerns include weak user authentication, malware infections on machines, giving too many access rights to the network, and DNS leaks. The latter is when computers use the default DNS connection instead of the virtual private network’s secure DNS server as they should.

Ensure Strong Authentication

To minimize the security concerns associated with using virtual private networks, begin by ensuring that you have a strong authentication procedure. This will minimize the likelihood that hijackers gain access to your network via a VPN. At the very least, set up two-factor authentication and include strict password requirements. 

Choose the Right VPN Service and Provider

While there is a range of VPN services available, not all are created equally. Pay attention to the reputation of the company as well as the type of encryption algorithm it uses. If a provider does not use a strong encryption algorithm, do not use its services. Additionally, make sure that the virtual private network you choose has support for logging and auditing, as well as digital certificates. They can reduce the risk of problems and allow quick identification and resolution if a problem does occur.

Opt for Strong Default Settings

When setting up the virtual private network, you will have access to a range of settings. Make sure you opt for the strongest ones. This includes a strong default security for the administrative functions and maintenance ports. In other words, make the default access minimal for those who connect with a VPN, and add more access on a case-by-case basis.

Use Perfect Forward Secrecy

Perfect forward secrecy (PFS) improves the security of VPNs by ensuring that any past encrypted sessions and communications that were recorded cannot be retrieved or decrypted, even if a long-term password is compromised. This is achieved by using different combinations of encryption keys with every VPN session. This way, if someone gets one of the keys, they will only be able to decrypt the information from that single session.

Have a Kill Switch

Your virtual private network should also have a kill switch. This switch does exactly what it sounds like, shutting down the internet connection or the specific apps using that connection if the computer in question loses the VPN. Essentially, the kill switch prevents an employee from thinking they have a secure VPN connection if the virtual private connection went down. This eliminates the risk of exposure of the internet address.

Conduct Training on the VPN

Before anyone can use the virtual private network, ensure that they have undergone training. This training should include information about what a virtual private network is and why you use it. As well as best practices for security when using a VPN. Ideally, those who will use the VPN should attend the training, as well as all security and network administration and their support staff.