July 10, 2019//Tony Howlett
Virtual private networks (VPNs), a staple of enterprise networks, offers a method of secure remote connection between users and the private corporate network.
The problem is that VPN technology hasn’t really evolved with the changing nature of enterprise business. The perimeter has expanded and fractured with work from home arrangements becoming a norm and many new parties, including vendors and other third parties, needing access to corporate resources.
New partnerships and technologies changed the access needs of the user, and network managers were left to maintain a secure environment while also controlling both internal and third-party access.
While many enterprises still use VPNs for all remote access, some enterprises have begun to separate the types of users and access needed and now seek alternatives to the limited capabilities of VPNs.
In order to discuss solutions that are good alternatives for VPNs, it’s important to understand exactly what features it delivers for an enterprise and where it is and isn’t a good fit.
A VPN’s main objective is to secure the data traffic while it is in “motion” to and from the host network. A VPN is not a good catch-all technology for all remote access use cases, especially for third parties and vendors.
The following platforms are some additional solutions to consider as alternatives to VPNs.
An Identity & Access Management, or IAM, platform can provide additional protections for a VPN. Instead of just a username and password, identity management technology can incorporate a comprehensive verification process.
A lost post-it note is not the only key needed to access network systems. This solution enables you to implement multi-factor authentication on top of the VPN connection. You can also integrate it with your vendor’s IAM solution to delegate the authority to them.
Now, session activity is connected to the individual user, and network managers can be sure they have authorized access.
In addition, this solution allows for access privileges to be tied to the user, not just a connection so other functions can be tracked.
Often, IAM solutions provide additional levels of access so that users can only access the resources they are authorized to use.
However, while this VPN alternative manages identity protocols allowing for more granular activity monitoring, it does not provide any additional protections for privileged credentials such as server or domain administrators.
In order to securely manage the credentials for privileged accounts, a different solution is needed.
If identity management establishes the identity of individual users and authorizes them, privileged access management (PAM) tools focus on managing privileged credentials that access critical systems and applications with a higher level of care and scrutiny.
These high-level accounts must be managed and monitored closely, as they present the largest risk to security. These high-level accounts are targets for bad actors because of the administrative capabilities they allow.
The key areas of a PAM solution include advanced credential security like the frequent rotation of complex passwords, obfuscation of passwords, systems and data access control, and user activity monitoring. These features reduce the threat of unauthorized privileged credential use and make it easier for IT managers to spot suspicious or risky operations.
Another critical element that VPNs lack is the ability to enforce least privilege policies. PAM tools allow network managers to ensure that users only gain access to the applications and systems that they need at the time they need them.
As an enterprise business expands, they will have a growing number of technology partners that require some level of privileged access to networks and systems. These third-party privileged accounts introduce a unique challenge that a PAM solution alone cannot address.
When an enterprise has vendors, partners, or IT consultants, remote network access is often required to support their technology and applications. With that, privileged access is often necessary. These elevated permissions require more advanced security than internal access accounts, which often have more limited oversight. Additionally, vendors can have many support representatives that join and leave the organization. This becomes challenging for an internal IAM or PAM solution to manage.
To mitigate these risks, a vendor privileged access management, or VPAM, solution allows for controlled onboarding, elevation, and termination of access privileges for external users.
In addition, new proposed regulations concerning remote access require specific features to stay in compliance. VPAM solutions incorporate those guidelines to offer robust authentication protocols, access controls, and auditing tools.
VPNs used to be a standard for third-party remote access, but now with alternatives available, there is no reason to continue using an expensive and onerous system that offers limited security capabilities that wasn’t built to manage vendor access.
If you want a solution that is flexible and can meet your expanding needs, look for a solution that was built for a growing company structure. To learn more about how SecureLink can streamline your vendor management processes and how your current methods are probably putting your company at risk, check out our brochure that goes deeper into the issues with PAM, vendor-supplied tools, and VPNs.