Remote desktop protocol (RDP) isn’t as secure as most people think. While it’s an incredibly convenient tool, it poses serious risks when it lacks the proper security measures. Why is RDP not secure, and how can users fix it? The answer lies within its core vulnerabilities. cybersecurity What Is RDP? RDP is a communications protocol that allows someone to remotely access a device over a network connection. It links a computer to a client and server, creating an interface for the original user to interact with. Even at great distances, users can use it to view and control the computer just like they could if they were sitting right in front of it. It’s useful for people who work from home, travel frequently, work in tech support, or are system administrators. Since it’s typically free and easily accessible, many businesses rely on it to support their remote workers. However, it’s valuable to hackers who want to exploit its extensive access capabilities. They often target it to rapidly deploy malware, attack critical systems, or extract data. Is RDP Secure by Default? RDP is not secure by default and has multiple high-risk vulnerabilities. How secure is RDP for daily use? Although it’s generally acceptable to use it in passing, continuous long-term use increases the chances of a cybersecurity incident occurring. It can lead to distributed denial-of-service, man-in-the-middle, ransomware, and brute-force attacks. Hackers have as an intrusion vector since it lacks built-in protection. Although organizations can strengthen it with additional cybersecurity measures, it’s still relatively easy to compromise. Thanks to it, some cyberattack types hit an all-time high in 2020. used RDP most frequently In fact, nearly say they’ve experienced more cybersecurity incidents since their employees began working remotely, with some claiming the amount has doubled. Even though RDP isn’t the only factor contributing to the sharp increase, it plays a prominent role. one-quarter of organizations Why is RDP not secure by default when it has a high potential for damage? While developers established basic security controls, it’s ultimately up to the user to protect themselves. It isn’t ideal, but there are far too many attack surfaces and entry points for them to cover everything. How Do Hackers Exploit RDP? There’s such a large variety of ways for hackers to take advantage of RDP. They can buy stolen credentials off the dark web, but phishing and brute-force attacks work just as well if those details aren’t available. Alternatively, they exploit vulnerabilities — like the one that affected Windows 7 through 10 in 2019 — or use unsecured ports as direct entryways. For example, Port 3389 is among the , so hackers target it frequently. Is RDP secure enough to keep it open? Generally, the answer is no. To be safe, users should check their settings and ensure they close it. most vulnerable RDP ports People who think they’re safe should take precautions, as anyone can easily search online to find openings. Shodan — a search engine for finding servers, devices, or ports connected to the internet — has found more than and over 14,000 vulnerable Windows servers as of 2021. 4 million exposed RDP ports Since using Shodan to find security vulnerabilities is perfectly legal, there’s no telling how many people could stumble across someone’s open port. All it takes is one malicious individual to take things further and launch a cyber attack. Why Do Hackers Target RDP? Hackers target RDP because it typically grants them access from any remote location. Instead of having to be discreet and wait for months to gain access to critical systems or data, it provides them with everything at their fingertips. They can find its vulnerabilities through a quick online search and easily exploit them, resulting in a low-risk, high-reward situation. Additionally, they target RDP because they can use it as a jumping-off point to gain entry into separate critical systems and infect them with malware. What begins as a brute-force credential attack turns into a full-blown cybersecurity incident. RDP is a hacker’s intrusion vector of choice since it can grant them generally unrestricted access. In fact, it was behind in 2020 alone. Instead of needing complex workarounds, they could easily navigate the desktop to find and encrypt files or even steal other credentials for future attempts. one in five ransomware attacks Many people used RDP when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to work from home, making it an even bigger target. Unsurprisingly, using it had significant cybersecurity consequences. Astonishingly, the number of in 2020 alone. While it is a practical tool for remote workers, its security vulnerabilities make it one of the least ideal long-term solutions. RDP attacks grew by 768% Can RDP Users Make It More Secure? Users can make RDP more secure if they implement additional security measures. Whether they use it routinely for work or only occasionally to get tech support, proven cybersecurity tools are essential. Here are several ways to make RDP more secure: MFA requires users to validate login attempts on a separate, secure device. With this, hackers would have no luck exploiting RDP, even with valid stolen credentials or a successful brute force attack. Multi-factor authentication: How secure is RDP over the internet when users have a firewall? If a server is behind one, hackers can’t use Shodan to find and exploit unsecured ports. If people are intent on keeping them open, it’s a necessity. Firewall: A self-signed certificate is a that safeguards information integrity. People can use it to restrict RDP capabilities, limiting a hacker’s ability for lateral movement through a system. Self-signed certificate: type of public-key certificate Network-level authentication uses the credential security support provider (CredSSP) — a security protocol for remote authentication — to validate a user’s identity before allowing a connection. Network-level authentication: A jump host is a server between the computer and the destination server. It blocks access so administrators can verify a user’s identity, preventing hackers from gaining entry. Jump host: How secure is RDP with a VPN? It increases protection significantly since it encrypts network traffic between remote users and their organization’s network. Virtual private network: This approach only permits specific instances of system or data access. Even if a hacker successfully exploits RDP, it prevents them from accessing files or progressing further through the network. Principle of least privilege: How secure is RDP when it has multiple security measures backing it? These solutions make it much more secure because they cover the main vulnerabilities. Even though some have their own flaws, their benefits generally outweigh the potential risks. Is RDP Secure Enough? With additional security measures, RDP is secure enough. However, users should be cautious, considering any vulnerabilities become public on Shodan. Continued preventative care is essential for maintaining cybersecurity despite its weaknesses.