Both Remote Desktop Protocol and Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) are commonly used services that allow for working away from the office. In this blog you’ll learn why, though they are similar services, VPN is the more secure option of the two.
What is the difference between RDP and VPN?
Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP): A user views the screen of their main computer from a remote computer. With the keyboard and mouse, a user runs the main computer as if they were sitting in front of it.
Virtual Private Network (VPN): A user can connect a computer to the network as if the computer is actually a part of the network- accessing drives, email servers, and more. A VPN essentially extends the business network to the home user over the internet.
How is Remote Desktop less secure?
Over the 10 years I have been in IT, I have witnessed many instances where users needed access to their work computers from home, and do so using the Remote Desktop Protocol. They achieved this by allowing connections from the internet directly to their office computers through their network firewall. By doing this, they are essentially exposing an entryway into their network. It is through this entry way that a malicious hacker can access sensitive data on their computer, and entire network. They do this by throwing an arsenal of username and password combinations at your computer until they achieve the ultimate goal: un-authorized access to your computer system, and an exposure of your sensitive data. You’ve heard the importance of a strong password- and this is exactly where it comes in.
Not only can hackers potentially discover your username and guess your password, they can also utilize a remote exploit to capture and expose your username while you are utilizing your computer remotely. Hackers have been getting exceptionally better over the years at finding remotely accessible computers over the internet, and are stopping at nothing to achieve access to your computer and network.
If you absolutely need to remotely access your computer, but still want to keep your data secure, the answer is VPN.
When setup correctly, a VPN allows a remote user to access their corporate network. Remote users connect to their work network without exposing their work computer to the entire internet. With VPN, the connection to your corporate network is strongly encrypted, creating a secure “tunnel” to your network, and your data evades detection from prying eyes.
Not only is VPN encryption stronger, VPN doesn’t suffer from as many software vulnerabilities as the Remote Desktop Protocol does, lowering the scope of possible intrusion by remote exploits. Even more so, you can lock down a username and password with a certificate of authentication as well. This means even if an attacker were to use the correct username and password combination, they would be denied entry into your network without the required security certificate. By adding this step, you can ensure that the user connecting with a specific username and password is indeed who they say they are, and not an impostor.
VPN will not, by nature, grant you remote access to a computer. It will only grant you access to the network that your computer is connected to. That means that Remote Desktop can still be enabled on your computer, but exposing it to VPN instead would create a more secure environment in the event you need to access your computer remotely over the internet.