With a remote access VPN, you will have access to localized information without having to be within the location where the information is stored. Due to this fact, remote access VPNs increase productivity and also reduce the costs of staffing, because there is no need to depend on other people being physically present at the location to access network resources.
VPN remote access enables secure access to network resources by creating an encrypted tunnel across the Internet space. The omnipresence of the Internet together with modern VPN technologies permits organizations to securely and cost-effectively extend their network reach to anyplace, anyone, and anytime.
What is Remote Access VPN?
As stated earlier, remote access VPN enables you to connect to the network without being physically present, but what is remote access VPN exactly? Remote Access VPN can be defined as a VPN created to allow multiple users to connect to a particular network and use the network resources without a physical presence where the network is located.
Using an available internet connection, remote access VPN removes a lot of challenges faced by remote users, since it is very easy to find an internet connection and connect to it anywhere. Although getting an internet connection is very easy, those connections are not usually as trustworthy or inexpensive as one may think.
VPN Solution for Remote Access
In addition to permitting users to make use of network resources remotely, a VPN solution for remote access needs to account for the fact that different users may require different access permissions and also use different devices. For example, some users may have Windows-based devices while others have Apple-based devices. A standard VPN solution enables the connection of these devices to the network easily and safely.
VPN solutions also provide a secure solution that enables limiting access to non-employees, like contractors or business partners. With a VPN solution, contractors and partners’ network access can be restricted to Web pages, specific servers, or files they are given access to, thus making the network safe and reducing the risk of the network been compromised.
How to deploy remote access VPN
When you want to deploy a remote access VPN, there are two major modes to that end, which are the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and IP Security (IPsec). Each of these modes has its own pros and cons depending on the access requirements of the users or the organization.
Different VPN solutions can offer either IPsec or SSL protocols or some can offer both technologies as an integrated service. Offering the two technologies combined enables the organizations to set up their remote-access VPN without the need for any additional hardware or administrative complexity. SSL-based VPNs offer remote-access connectivity from almost all internet-enabled premises through a Web browser and its native encryption.
SSL VPN does not need any additional software before it can be installed on the network. With this feature, SSL can be configured and used directly without any extra configuration or third-party software.
IPsec-based VPNs are the deployment standard remote-access technology employed by many organizations. IPsec VPN connections are created through a pre-installed VPN client application on the user’s desktop, thus focusing it majorly on desktops managed by the company.
IPsec-based remote access also gives a lot of flexibility and customizability through moderation of the VPN client application. Using APIs, IPsec client software enables organizations to control the interface and the functionality of the VPN client to be used in the application like integrating with other computer applications and some special use cases.
SSL AND IPsec
Both IPsec and SSL VPN technologies provide access to every network application or resource. SSL VPN gives additional features like easy connectivity for remote user desktops, desktop application maintenance and also user-customized portals upon logging in.
SSL VPNs offer two kinds of access, such as clientless and full network access. Clientless access does not require any specialised VPN application on the user’s desktop. All the VPN traffic is sent through the web browser. No external software is needed or downloaded.
Since all of the software and network resources are used through a Web browser, only some client-server and Web-enabled software such as intranets, applications that have Web interfaces, email, and file servers can be accessed.
Moreover, this limited access is usually a perfect fit for remote contractors or business partners, since these remote users need to only have access to some limited resources on the network. Furthermore, getting all connections through a Web browser removes the provisioning and support problems that come with having a special purpose VPN allocation, which SSL VPN does not require.
SSL VPN full network access permits access to all software, servers, or resources that are available on the network. Full network access is delivered using a lightweight VPN client that can be downloaded straight to the user system using a web browser when connected to an SSL VPN gateway.
Since the VPN application client is dynamically downloaded and updated without the need of any manual, software distribution or interaction of any form from the end user, there is little or no system support required from an IT organization.
This reason, therefore, minimizes the deployment and operation costs of setting up an SSL VPN. Like clientless access, full network access provides complete access control and customization depending on the access privileges given to the end user. Full network access is chosen naturally for employees that need remote access to the same network and application resources they use when they are in the office, or for any client-server software that cannot be delivered through a web-based clientless connection.
Handling network security loopholes
Network security is a top priority. When IPsec and SSL VPNs are deployed as separate solution points, there are more endpoint security issues to consider. The only way to ensure complete security on your network is to maintain the unbreakable security of all the traffic going through your remote users and your VPN gateway.
Attackers can try to gain access to your network in ways such as attacking any remote device that has a vulnerability or through an inadequate firewall. If you have weak encryption, attackers can intercept the data during transmission between your network and remote users. They can also take a direct approach, such as disguising as an employee or an entitled remote user.
Choosing Between IPsec and SSL: Which is Better?
IPsec technology is deployed widely since it is understandable for end users and has a well-detailed deployment process. Many organizations see that IPsec reaches the standards set by users who use the technology.
But SSL, on the other hand, has a dynamic, auto-update desktop application, easy access for external user desktops and customizable user access that makes the technology a compelling choice for reducing operations costs and increasing network access for remote users like business partners and contractors.
As such, organizations use both SSL and IPsec approaches. IPsec is mostly left as the existing installed base. Then, SSL is deployed for new users, especially remote users, extranet business partners, and contractors.
When both technologies are implemented on the same platform, the remote-access VPN solutions make the choice very simple. It is best to deploy the technology that has been optimized for your operating environment.
IPsec provides a set of modes for securing all your internet-based communications by encrypting and authenticating the information as it passes to and fro between the endpoints. IPsec is also an open standard technology, which means that its specification has already been published and is available to be used by anyone. SSL VPN works at a higher network level than IPsec VPN and, because of this, IPsec VPN is considered more secure.
Why IPsec is better
Perhaps one of the highest benefits of IPsec VPN is that it has a robust functionality. IPsec is a protocol suite that was designed to secure Internet Protocol (IP) communications. It permits a wider range of standard-based spectrums, authentication algorithms and open protocols than SSL VPN.
A major use of SSL VPN is Transport Layer Security (TLS). Since SSL VPN is not a standard, all vendors offer a proprietary technology. Because it is browser-based, it is prone to common internet threats. For example, phishing sites can be used to steal user login authentication. Moreover, registered IPsec VPN users do not have to worry about processes being handled badly or malfunctioning.
Remote workers have high expectations placed on them, and IPsec’s ability to provide secure access to a complete network makes it a better choice than SSL VPN (which provides access to just some specific resources). Originally, when IPsec VPN was implemented, it was considered to be extensive and labour-intensive. But this perception is caused by the meticulous process inherent in ensuring that all endpoints on the network are taken into account.
In order to increase security, the VPN application is uploaded to each designated device on the IPsec-enabled network. SSL VPN, on the other hand, is browser-based, but when only web proxy functionalities are performed, SSL VPN will need a client and also similar user application privileges on that device.
How SSL has failed
SSL VPN was created to be an easy solution that requires only web browsers without any administrative rights. With SSL VPN all that is needed is to open a secure web page and receive a response from the web server to create an SSL VPN tunnel.
With this ease of use, SSL VPNs have some issues relating to network and important business resources access because SSL VPN is only supported by web-based applications, like Outlook for the web.
Remote SSL VPN users saw they have restrictions on some resources on the network that they had while using the direct network connection or using IPsec VPN. The lack of full network access reduced the usefulness of a common SSL VPN connection.
The birth of the hybrid protocol (IPsec/SSL combined)
There are new remote access VPN solutions that are hybrids of IPsec/SSL VPN technologies that offer all-in-one environments. For a remote access VPN solution to reach the required standard of all users in the organization, there is a need for parallel support of both tunnelling technologies.
Both technologies have their individual specialties and advantages. IPsec VPN is preferred when you want to fully integrate employees — both remotely and physically — who acceso many applications. It is more secure since it is harder to attack. SSL VPN is preferable when contractors or business partners need only limited access to a small amount of specific software, which is web-based or has static ports.
IPsec is undoubtedly a very secure, large, and transparent network available to businesses. When evaluating remote access VPN solutions, looking for a huge degree of integration that gives high-end security with cost-effectiveness and operational efficiency is paramount.
You can also consider a hybrid IPsec/SSL VPN solution when you need to offer remote access to all kinds of users. With the increase of global labour and the recent increase in mobile devices used by employees, choosing the right VPN is very important.
What to consider with remote access VPN security
Worms, spyware, viruses, data theft, hacking, and application abuse are considered among the highest security issues on today’s networks. Because of how VPNs are structured and deployed, remote-access and remote-office VPN connectivities are the common points of entry for this kind of threat.
For all the new and existing SSL and IPsec VPN installations, VPNs are usually deployed without having proper endpoint and network securities. All unsecured or incomplete VPN security can lead to a large number of network threats. To combat these types of threats, the system that is used to connect to the VPN gateway must be well secured.
User systems need to have endpoint security measures, such as security for files and data downloaded or generated during VPN sessions, antivirus, anti-spyware, and personal firewall. The VPN gateway should provide integrated firewall, anti-spyware, antivirus, and intrusion prevention.
Alternatively, if the VPN gateway does not provide any of these security functions, you can deploy additional security equipment adjacent to the VPN gateway to provide the appropriate level of security. Software for firewall, anti-spyware, antivirus, intrusion prevention, and full endpoint security capabilities can provide a secure VPN solution without the necessity for any extra equipment, structure or operational complexity.
Bottom line, pros and cons
Remote access VPN enables users to gain access to network resources without having physical access to where the network is located.
In addition to giving users the ability to access network resources remotely, it should be known that different users may need various access permissions, due to the use of different devices.
Therefore, remote access VPN needs to make sure the devices can connect seamlessly and securely. To deploy remote access VPN, there are two primary tools — IPsec and SSL VPN technologies.
These technologies make sure users can securely access organization network resources. The technologies mitigate network loopholes such as worms, viruses, malicious attacks and threats.
- Remote access VPN reduces deployment costs, complexity, and need for extra administration.
- Protects from unwanted cyber attacks.
- Remote access VPN, if not properly configured, can cause security problems.
Mikaela is an investigative journalist that likes to cover the ever-changing world of technology. She tries to keep her finger on the pulse of digital trends and share her insights on the most relevant topics, including big tech, security, privacy, and data breaches.