The transition towards remote working and outsourcing was rapid during the Covid crisis. Now the dust is settling, UK companies are searching for effective solutions that answer the cybersecurity dilemma that accompanies work-from-home employees.
An effective solution to the remote working conundrum is by utilising a virtual desktop (VD). VDs support secure remote work by enabling employees to access work applications stored on your business network without the risk of leaving a gateway onto your actual network.
By centralising data, applications and access control, VD’s isolate users in dummy environments which simplifies the management of your cybersecurity and supports Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies.
These advantages provided by virtual machines enhance your cybersecurity defences without preventing employees from cracking on with their work with the minimum of fuss.
Centralised Data and Access Control
Work-from-home employees typically connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks that lack adequate encryption. This can make them vulnerable to sophisticated hacking techniques such as eavesdropping and IoT hacking.
By centralising data and isolating virtual desktop environments, IT professionals significantly reduce the attack surface that cybercriminals can exploit.
You will still find effective strategies that are already commonplace in an effective cybersecurity setup. For example, centralised access control such as multi-factor authentication defines and enforces user permissions and privileges.
However, Virtual desktops make logging in easier and less frustrating for employees by providing a single sign-on (SSO) which allows them to access multiple applications and services with a single set of credentials.
This streamlines access management and avoids having to go through multiple login processes in order to access standalone applications. It can also reduce the risk of weak passwords being compromised.
Administrators all have more authority over access controls. Like cloud computing, centralised authentication systems built into VDs can grant or restrict access to specific data and resources based on user roles, ensuring that employees only have access to the information necessary for their job functions.
This type of centralisation enables administrators to implement consistent security measures and policies across the entire network, reducing the likelihood of vulnerabilities or weak links in the security chain.
Virtual desktop environments typically generate detailed logs of user activities, system events, and security-related events. These logs can be easily collected and centralised for auditing purposes. They provide a comprehensive record of actions taken within the virtual desktop environment.
Moreover, if unusual activity is identified, VDs can be configured to generate real-time alerts in response to security incidents or abnormal user-behaviour; such as a user trying to access folders that are not related to their work allocation.
VD solutions also include a unified monitoring console that allows administrators to view and manage the health, performance, and security of all virtual desktops and related resources from a single dashboard. This simplifies the monitoring process and provides a holistic view of the environment.
Data segmentation is an effective strategy that enables IT professionals to isolate sensitive and confidential information from the rest of the network.
This is a VD’s superpower.
Even if a remote worker’s device is compromised, attackers may only gain access to a limited set of data rather than the entire network.
By limiting the exposure of critical data and resources, attackers have to overcome additional security barriers to access segmented data, and, therefore limit the likelihood of experiencing a data breach on the network.
In the event of a security breach or malware infection on a remote worker’s device, data segmentation helps contain the threat. Malicious activities are limited to the segment the remote worker has access to, preventing the lateral movement of attackers within the network.
Thus segmented networks allow for more focused security monitoring. Suspicious activities within a segment can be detected and investigated more effectively, reducing false positives and enabling quicker incident response.
Data segmentation also enables IT professionals to implement granular access controls from remote locations. As we mentioned above, remote workers are only granted access to the specific data and resources they need to perform their job functions.
This not only minimises the risk of unauthorised access from outside threats but could help you weed out potential insider threats — because every company has insider moles looking to exploit your network.
Alright maybe not, but there are industries which are targeted by hackers from the inside. However, all companies are at risk of suffering a data breach under GDPR. All it takes is for an employee to accidentally delete customer data.
ICO penalties, and embarrassment, can be avoided by adopting a data segmentation strategy. Virtual desktops give administrators the opportunity to revert back to screen capture and restore the data from a previously stored version.
Reduced Risk of Endpoint Attacks
Virtual desktops reduce the reliance on endpoint devices for data storage and processing. Even if a user’s device is compromised, attackers gain limited access to data because most data and applications reside on the centralised server.
That’s because VDs centralise data and applications on secure servers within a data centre, or more commonly a cloud environment. Endpoint devices, such as laptops or thin clients, primarily serve as access points to the centralised resources.
This means that sensitive data is not stored locally on individual endpoints, thus reducing the potential exposure in case the remote device of a work-from employee is compromised.
Because VD environments only store temporary data and user preferences on endpoint devices, critical data remains on secure servers. In the event of an endpoint compromise, attackers have fewer opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities on local devices.
Virtual desktop systems often allow administrators to take snapshots of VD environments to capture data on specific dates. These snapshots capture the state of a virtual desktop at a specific point in time.
If an endpoint becomes compromised and data is deleted or changed, either maliciously or accidentally, administrators can roll back to a clean snapshot, effectively removing any malware or malicious changes.
Patch Management and Updates
Remote workers are the most likely employees to fall victim to cyber-attacks that exploit software vulnerabilities which can be exploited by hackers. If threat actors successfully gain unauthorised access to a device, they can infect it with malicious code or use spyware to covertly obtain login credentials.
Software always develops vulnerabilities at some point, which subsequently becomes available in the public domain. And that can give hackers a heads up before remote working employees or consider performing a software update.
Patch management services avoid potential mishaps by automatically updating software without having to rely on your employees to execute the update.
While patching addresses known vulnerabilities, updates also improve overall security by addressing potential zero-day vulnerabilities that may not yet be publicly known. Regular updates provide a proactive defence against emerging threats.
We’ve previously written about the benefits of patch management which we recommend you read for more in-depth information.
How Can Managed IT Support in London Help Install a Virtual Desktop?
Given the benefits of virtual desktops outlined above, establishing a virtual environment for your work-from-home employees is a no-brainer.
However, there could be a minor, or major, snag for IT professionals who do not have any experience of installing VDs. It can be a rather technical process, even with Microsoft’s Azure virtual desktop.
Managed IT support services in London can help with the assessment, planning, infrastructure design and set up of a VD environment. This includes server requirements, storage, network configurations, and the selection of the virtualisation technology that aligns with your business needs without affecting the performance or scalability of your business network.
We can also assist in procuring the necessary hardware, including servers and storage devices, as well as licenses needed for VD deployment. Our experts work closely with you to understand your business needs and identify the most cost-effective and reliable solutions that suit your budget.
What Does Installing A Virtual Desktop Involve?
If you’re transitioning from a traditional desktop environment to a virtual desktop, our managed IT support team in London can assist in migrating user profiles, data, and applications to the virtual desktops. This minimises disruption for end-users.
We also handle the configuration requirements as well including the setup of virtualisation software, connection brokers, virtual desktop images, and virtualisation hosts.
Setting up the virtual desktop properly is a critical stage in the process. An incorrect configuration may not meet security requirements. As a matter of fact, misconfigurations are a leading cause of data breaches.
It’s, therefore, recommended that you leave security measures within the VD environment to qualified and experienced specialists. Configuration includes encryption, access permissions, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and antivirus solutions.
Correct configuration is also important for GDPR compliance. The ICO says brands are obligated to pursue security best practices available to them in order to adhere to regulatory requirements.
In addition, our cybersecurity specialists will run testing and quality assurance checks before rolling out VDI to all users. This helps to minimise disruptions by identifying and resolving any issues related to performance, compatibility, or functionality. This ensures a smooth user experience upon deployment.
Testing focuses on the continuous monitoring and optimisation of the VD environment in order to maintain quality performance based on user feedback and usage patterns. Providing a positive user experience by reducing latency and ensuring that users have access to the necessary applications and resources is a priority.
If required, we can also visit your offices to deliver training and user support. We generally train your IT staff to ensure they are familiar with the new environment and show them how to troubleshoot issues that could potentially arise.
Once we leave you to your own devices, (no pun intended), our award-winning help desk is still available to your IT team and remote users. We provide ongoing user support to address any issues or questions that arise during and after implementation.
However, we can also provide remote monitoring and maintenance service to continuously monitor the virtual desktop infrastructure for performance, security, and reliability.
Remote monitoring is an effective way to proactively address any issues before they become a problem. Our technicians routinely perform maintenance tasks such as software updates and patch management.
What Other Requirements Should You Consider When Installing A Virtual Desktop?
When installing a virtual desktop environment, it’s also important to consider secondary requirements. One of the considerations that can easily be overlooked is scalability.
As your business grows, you may need to scale your VD infrastructure to match the growth opportunities you build into your business network. Virtual desktops need to remain aligned with your evolving business requirements.
Whilst data backup is a given, it’s recommended that you consider designing provisional storage resources for the VD environment. Storage options such as old-school solid-state drives (SSDs) would suffice.
Cost considerations are usually high on the agenda from the outset. And this is where our outsourced IT support professionals in London pay dividends. We can help you develop a comprehensive budget that accounts for hardware, software licensing, ongoing maintenance, and user support.
Our experienced professionals help to optimise the initial costs of building a virtual desktop environment by monitoring resource utilisation, identifying cost-saving opportunities, and ensuring that you’re getting the best value from your investment.
If you have adopted a hybrid model, deploy work-from-home employees or simply want to add another layer of security to your cybersecurity defences, contact our IT support specialists in London today and ask us about our virtual desktop strategies.