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The Year of the RAT: Benefit Safely from SaaS and External Collaboration

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[fa icon="calendar"] Apr 30, 2020 12:25:24 PM / by Eric Gaudin

You want want your employees to benefit from best-in-class SaaS services, or to use the latest technological equipment. But, you're concerned by the security challenges tied to new technologies, and by the exposure of your infrastructure to external connections. The news is full of stories on recent hacks achieved through external contractor access or illegal access to internal systems.

Despite RATs (Remote Access Trojans) being vicious malware designed to find holes in your security, there are efficient tools to mitigate risk and empower your employees with the benefits of external collaboration.

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External access: A key element of the digital transformation

Being able to open your IT infrastructure to external users has great advantages for your business.

With increasingly distributed workforces, some even working remotely full time, organizations need to facilitate remote connections into their IT systems, so employees and third-party collaborators can easily continue working.

  • With business applications such as ERPs hosted and managed by solutions providers, connecting remotely allows internal teams to benefit from the latest capabilities and significantly reduce the burden on your IT team, which can instead focus on business-critical tasks.
  • For companies using specialized equipment requiring specific expertise, external specialists are needed to ensure precise functioning. Remote connection allows a specialist to connect quickly to respond to an incident, or perform ongoing maintenance, from any location.

Businesses of all kinds, from Finance to Healthcare to Manufacturing, can exploit the advantages gained by enabling remote IT access. A medical center can’t afford to have one of its MRI scanner systems down for hours, for example, while waiting for a specialist to come on site and make the repair. On factory shop floors, new programs to meet changes in demand often must be designed and pushed by external experts to the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs).

Although facilitating external access to critical data and systems provides great business advantages, however, it also comes with increased risk and exposure to RATs.

What if a RAT targets your infrastructure?

Adapting to the new digital practices for business and operations increases your IT attack surface. Despite the best internal protections and practices, your cybersecurity ends up facing external connections and relying on the security management of third-party contractors.

RATs are experts at intercepting user identities and using these stolen user privileges to infest an IT environment and expand across it. In order to truly benefit from external access without fearing the worst, it's important to consider the following questions:

  • Can you guarantee that the person accessing your critical assets is who they say they are? And is this person entitled to access these resources at this time for this purpose?
  • How can you ensure that the identity has not been falsified?
  • What about third-party partners? Can you ensure that their security practices meet your standards?
  • That the passwords provided to your employees are enough protected?
  • How do you know that a file being transferred from outside your company does not contain malware?

Keep RATs out, even if they already have the keys

Just because malware has stolen some credentials to access your systems, it doesn't have to mean you're in trouble. A few key protections ensure that even with keys in hand, the malware won’t be able to corrupt your environment.

  • Automatic rotation of critical credentials. Advanced solutions also rotate a password once it has been checked out. This quickly limits the availability of corrupted credentials and requires a RAT to break it again to regain access.
  • File analysis. Analyzing files transferred to your systems is a must have. A RAT won’t be able to upload a malicious file that can be used to start a new RAT’s nest and infestation.
  • Multi-factor authentication. Requesting multiple layers of authentication ensures valid identities. A malware program can’t infest your network even if it acquires the first type of credentials.
  • Identity federation. Federating internal and external identities aligns user access rights and maintains homogeneous access control.

 

Earlier blogs in this Year of the Rat series demonstrated how advanced security capabilities of Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions offer efficient credentials management tools and robust session management. An additional feature is the ability to analyze files being transferred through a session to ensure that even a legitimate user session is not used to introduce malware.

Furthermore, Identity as a Service (IDaaS) provides an additional layer of security, to integrates with third-parties actors, or when granting external access toward internal resources. IDaaS solutions offer a number of key security mechanisms:

  • Federate user identities across different organizations thanks to integration with internal, external, and cloud-based directories such as ADs, LDAP or from the Google Suite, for example. Gain precise control over the identity and access rights of all users, even when the user is hosted on external systems.
  • Provide contextual Multi-Factor Authentication so that if a credential is corrupted, critical access will be challenged with a second authentication mechanism.
  • Enable silent authentication and Single-Sign-On (SSO) to limit user password fatigue. What's more, if you reduce the number of times a user has to authenticate manually, you reduce the chances that a credential can be intercepted.
  • Grant access based on user context. For example, only a user that is within your premises will be able to connect to certain critical assets.

Have a successful and safe year!

The Year of the Rat is now well under way and we hope that everything is going according to plan. From a cybersecurity standpoint, malware and Remote Access Trojan (RAT) are always on the loose with new infestations occurring all the time.

PAM and Identity solutions can help you proactively protect your IT infrastructure from as-yet-unknown attacks, with security at multiple levels:

  • On the endpoint, with the enforcement of the Principle of Least Privilege that eliminates the possibility to acquire elevated privileges locally.
  • On your perimeter, with the protection of sessions, reinforcement of credentials, and prevention of systems bouncing so a RAT won’t be able to take over nor corrupt your whole infrastructure.
  • On external connections, with a centralized entry point to control who is accessing your infrastructure, from where, under which circumstances, thereby minimizing the opportunities for a malware to get in.

IDaaS offers solutions to empower business collaboration between companies and teams by guaranteeing user identity security so that a RAT won’t be able to steal the identity of your employees, your remote workers, or your external contractors.

PAM solutions enhanced by IDaaS capabilities deliver holistic cybersecurity to keep your business running so you can enjoy a strong, prosperous and lucky year.

 

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Eric Gaudin

Written by Eric Gaudin

Overseeing privileged access to your vital infrastructure, Product Marketing, WALLIX