What is Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Security?

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Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) security is the combination of tools, technologies, and people processes set in place to ensure that a VDI system is protected from cybercrime and other unwanted security breaches. As the popularity of VDI systems as well as desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solutions continues to grow, the question of security becomes increasingly in the limelight. 

Understanding VDI 

Before tackling the details around Virtual Desktop Infrastructure security, it’s important to understand how VDI works. Businesses that employ a virtual desktop setup centralize their operating systems, applications, and software in a data center, allowing their users to connect to virtual desktops through the internet from anywhere in the world which they choose to allow. These virtual desktops, have only an image of the business’ systems; all critical tools and technologies reside only in the data center, and users can connect to only the resources they need, securely, from any desktop, laptop, or mobile device. 

Many DaaS solution providers offer the same service to companies that wish to outsource this task. In this case, all operating systems, software, and applications reside in the cloud rather than an organization’s local, self-managed data center. 

Mission-critical applications can be shared more easily and securely with a disparate remote or hybrid workforce using a VDI solution. 

Security Threats 

According to Cybercrime Magazine, cybercrime is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion every year by 2025. Reports of breaches, companies being held for ransom, and other security problems are commonplace in business media today. 

VDI solutions, themselves, grew in popularity to address security concerns that surfaced as much of the workforce was forced to relocate to home throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns. IT teams struggled to keep company systems secure as individuals tried to log in from unmanaged, and in many cases, uncared-for home computers and other unknown devices. 

VDI, itself, can significantly improve IT governance and security since all mission-critical applications and data are centralized and not sitting on multiple endpoint devices; however, stolen passwords, insecure devices, and compromised open VDI sessions can still increase the risk of ransomware, malware, viruses, and other threats entering a system. 

VDI systems can be particularly vulnerable in several key areas: 

  • Networks. Networks that connect virtual machines share resources, and, therefore, pose a greater security threat to companies. As soon as one network is compromised, it potentially puts all the other connected parts of that network, such as routers, switches, and other network nodes, at risk. 
  • Hypervisor. Since the hypervisor is the software that runs VDI machines, it is a particular area of vulnerability. If cyber criminals manage to take control of the hypervisor by using malware to break through an operating system, they could damage all systems running within that hypervisor. 
  • People. VDI systems are frequently used with organizations that run remote workforces, and employees connected to the VDI can accidentally introduce security risks. This threat vector can be both unintentional or intentional as, obviously, if employees have malicious intent and are granted privileges, they can also do a great deal of damage. 
  • Maintenance. Finally, if a company is managing many persistent desktops, which are personalized to individual users, patching and maintenance of these devices can be time-consuming. Ongoing patching and maintenance at an enterprise level must continue in order to maintain security as well. This may mean that managing an in-house VDI solution can take many extra IT resources and may increase contract fees for companies demanding sophisticated security from a DaaS partner. 

Architecture of VDI Security 

How VDI security architecture is built can play a significant role in keeping a VDI system secure from cybercrime and other malware threats. Organizations managing a VDI system internally must create and maintain this infrastructure, while businesses seeking DaaS service providers should ensure that selected partners offer similar features. 

First, it’s important that a VDI system be managed using a single, unified platform. This allows administrators or DaaS partners to greatly simplify and accelerate the provisioning of endpoint devices, track devices and applications, and manage storage and networking issues. 

In many industries, companies must ensure that they are compliant with regulatory compliance requirements. VDI security systems should be able to provide real-time monitoring, alerting organizations immediately of any unusual situations so that corrective action can take place. Real-time monitoring plays a key role in keeping a VDI system secure. 

By relying on technology to conduct things like vulnerability scanning, IT staff or DaaS partners can better use their human resources to address complex security threats. Corrective actions such as network traffic blocking or isolating a potentially compromised virtual desktop can be triggered by automating this scanning activity. 

Finally, creating sophisticated data protection as well as redundancy may be the most important aspect of VDI security. Virtual machine and disk files as well as core dump files should be encrypted. In addition, many DaaS service providers may offer backups in multiple data centers, making recovery after a cyber breach much easier and faster. 

Processes Behind the Infrastructure 

Although having the right technology and tools is certainly a key component of VDI security, both the automated and people processes established behind that technology are just as critical to maintaining the integrity of a VDI system. 

If companies allow employees to connect using their own devices or computers, it’s important to establish strict access controls, multi-factor authentication, and other measures to prevent security issues. Prioritizing security patching and staying up to date on the latest antivirus software can also help.  

Finally, data should be encrypted as well as protected by a distributed firewall, and employees should be adequately educated about how to better protect data if their devices are stolen or lost. 

Ready to Learn More? 

Evolve IP partners with IT professionals to make the future of work better for everyone by seamlessly integrating essential workplace technologies, like VDI, into a single, secure solution, fine-tuned for the hybrid workforce. Contact Evolve IP today for a free consultation. 

Your essential IT ally for the enterprise hybrid workforce.

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