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Top VDI Security Best Practices

VDI Security
November 12, 2021 / Scott Arnold, Product Manager at Evolve IP

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) security is no doubt growing in popularity. With the new normal of a geographically diverse, remote workforce, more and more organizations are seeking ways to keep employees connected across disparate computing environments in a secure and well-governed manner. VDI is a top solution.

However, a VDI deployment can introduce four unique areas that are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime and malicious attacks.

  1. Virtual Host Server: This is a server that hosts and provides compute resources like CPU and RAM to all of the VMs that comprise the desktops for the end-users. Depending on the size and scale of the deployment there many be one or more virtual host servers.  Malware can be used to attack the virtual host server’s operating system, which may result in taking over the virtual host server and gain access to storage and potentially sensitive data.
  2. Virtual machines: Since each virtual machine has an operating system and configuration, it needs to be patched and maintained in order to be secure. Without automatic updating, the entire VDI can be put at risk.
  3. Network: If a network remains secure, much is protected on a VDI system. However, if a network is breached, all machines that share the same physical resources can be in danger through routers and other network connections.
  4. Team Members: Both innocent employees, as well as those with malicious intent, can be sources of vulnerabilities. Since they are connected through the VDI deployment, their actions, whether intentional or not, can introduce openings for cybercrime like ransomware, malware and exposure of sensitive data.

Since increased security is one of the main drivers for businesses to adopt VDI, it’s important to understand and implement VDI security best practices. Here are some of the top approaches for 2022:

Get a Bird’s-Eye View

Although security is often easier when hardware, software, applications, and data are stored centrally, VDI security must reach across a wide variety of operating systems. Be sure basic security measures such as firewalls, antivirus protection, and intrusion protection/detection systems (IPS/IDS) are in place. You’ll want to have visibility over the entire environment and enable real-time alerts so that suspicious activity can be addressed immediately.

It’s also important to take each endpoint device into account in an overall security plan. Consider how and when employees, contractors, and others may need to interact with your system and build appropriate access and permission security protocols to minimize vulnerabilities. A documented access policy that describes who has access to specific data and systems is a great start to defining access to specific resources and is necessary in complinace constrained industries. Modern endpoint security includes antivirus solutions, email security, behavioral analysis, and application and content whitelisting. Agentless software can improve performance and reduce IT maintenance. Be sure your endpoint security solution can handle the entire VDI stack.

Employ Encryption and Multi-Factor Authentication

Obviously, in this day and age, a VDI must encrypt any sensitive financial, medical, or personal information as a basic security measure. Be sure that you secure end-to-end encryption, which can prevent unwanted interception and theft of data. Encryption converts plain text into ciphertext, which requires a specific key to decode into usable data. Be sure to know that your data at rest is also encrypted.

In addition, multi-factor authentication (MFA) is standard nowadays, which requires all users who attempt to log in to provide multiple proof of identity. These usually include entering a code sent to a mobile device, using a fingerprint, entering a password, or answering a security question. Most VDI systems offer MFA at the connection server, which then reroutes users to a virtual desktop.

Implement Thin Clients

One of the biggest challenges in managing a remote workforce is that employees working from home or other remote locations often perform actions on the client-side of a system that can introduce vulnerabilities to a company system. Changing settings, installing questionable applications, and other such seemingly innocent behaviors can offer entrance points to malicious activities. A persistent VDI solution allows such settings to be saved, regardless of where a specific user logs in. This can be an advantage because the user interface will be consistent regardless of the entrance point, but it can be a security risk.

Companies who opt for non-persistent VDI solutions can use thin clients, which allow connection to your company infrastructure without opening the organization to these potential vulnerabilities. Upon log out, all settings return to a secure default level.

Setting Limits and Boundaries

Although you never want employees to be without access to the information, system, and tools that they need in order to do their jobs efficiently and effectively, you also want to limit their access to extraneous areas requiring access. Anytime unneeded areas are opened up to more users, more points of entry are introduced into an overall system.

Data Loss Prevention addresses these types of exposures. For example, shut down access to USB drives on networked printers, remove the ability to copy and paste from the virtual client to a desktop, and remove the ability to capture and share screens which can all pose security risks. Limiting unnecessary access like these examples should be incorporated into your plans for using the desktops.

In addition, another key part of setting those limits and boundaries is keeping user privileges up to date. For example, companies may want to include canceling access to the company’s system automatically when an employee leaves or after a set period of latency.

Bring-Your-Own-Devices Security

If you have employees who want to connect their personal devices to a company network, you’ll want to take extra security measures if you allow Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD). Besides enforcing the basics like using strong passwords and MFA, you might also want to leverage single sign-on software to secure access to your sensitive applications and scan wireless networks before connections are made. You’ll want to ensure that operating systems and applications are up-to-date and within your organization’s IT governance.

Rely on Experts

While VDI usually refers to an internally managed data center, a very similar alternative is Desktop as a Service (DaaS), which is offered by a third-party vendor. Because managing multiple companies’ systems is their core business, these vendors are often on the cutting edge of cloud-based DaaS security developments. Subscribing to such a service means you benefit from their expertise and experience without constantly having to upgrade security internally.

Conclusion

VDI is an excellent solution for today’s modern workplace, facilitating remote work environments with optimal governance and security. By taking into consideration these VDI security best practices, your organization can ensure that a large number of desktops, laptops, and mobile devices can be managed while protecting sensitive applications and data for your company.

Contact Evolve IP today for a free consultation.

Categories: Virtual Desktops / DaaS
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