COVID-19 has forced various employees, including IT teams, to work from home. However, the biggest questions continue to come up over whether the surge in remote working is prioritizing information security.
Today, many businesses use RDP to access their computer systems and servers remotely. RDP protocol enables IT departments to manage Windows systems remotely and efficiently.
What is RDP?
RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) is a Microsoft proprietary protocol that allows remote connections to other computers, mostly using TCP port 3389.
It also provides network access for a user over an encrypted channel. Network admin uses the RDP port to diagnose issues, log in to remote servers, and perform other remote actions. Remote users use the RDP server to log in to their network, which helps them access emails and files. It helps you remotely manage all computer maintenance-related tasks. You can easily share screen, audio, video, and files with the connected remote PC.
RDP connection is available for most Linux versions, Android, Mac OS X, and other operating systems. An open-source version of the RDP port is also available. It supports different network topologies, like LAN, Mesh, etc as well as ISDN protocols – NetBIOS, TCP/IP, etc.
How does RDP work?
You can access a remote computer or Virtual Machine and display its desktop services on the computer you are using with RDP. It helps you control the remote computer with your mouse. The keyboard helps you operate the remote machine and any apps residing on it.
The computer system from which the connection request starts must run RDP client software. Moreover, the computer that is being accessed must run RDP server software called Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH).
By default, all Windows computers include RDP protocol accessible to connection requests. However, Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) is accessible only to Windows Pro and higher versions. But, if you are running Windows Home, you must upgrade to Windows Pro to use RDC.
Features of RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol)
Here are the important features of RDP:
- It allows users to use their local printer through a remote desktop service.
- This helps users to access local serial and parallel ports directly.
- You can use ten monitors simultaneously.
- You can use the language bar on the local computer to control its settings.
- You can access their local files on a remote desktop port.
- You can share the clipboard between your remote Desktop and the local computer.
- You can optimize the rate of data transfer in low-speed connections.
How to Connect to a Remote Desktop on Windows?
All Windows PC and Windows Servers offer Remote Desktop Connection applications available as part of the default installation, including versions of Windows 7,8,10, 11.
Here are steps to connect to a Windows Remote Desktop port on another Windows PC or server:
Step 1) Perform the following steps:
- Select Windows key + R and type mstsc into the Run dialog box.
- Then select the OK button to start the Remote Desktop Connection application.
Step 2) Type your hostname or IP address of your Windows Remote Desktop in the text box, then press Connect button.
Step 3) Next
- Type the IP address of your computer!
You can confirm the remote connection’s display configuration and color quality under the Display tab.
You can select peripherals that you want to share with your Windows Remote Desktop by selecting Local Resources > More. This option allows you to share your local printer with the remote PC.
Windows can automatically determine the quality of your remote connection. For that, you need to select your connection speed under the Experience tab.
Certain enterprise networks require you to use a Remote Desktop Gateway to connect to a secure network for a tunneled Remote Desktop Port connection. You can set this configuration by clicking Advanced > Settings.
When you are ready to make the connection, press Connect. You may require pressing Yes to a warning about the connection’s identity.
Important tips for establishing secure window base RDP connections
Here are important points to remember before establishing a secure Window Remote Desktop:
- You should never permit RDP connections over the internet.
- You can have secure passwords with the correct device for any situation.
- Enable NLA (Network Level Authentication), which helps you to ensure that a connection only occurs when it is authenticated.
- Restrict RDP connections to non-administrators.
- You need to minimize the number of incorrect passwords for your account before it is locked out.
- Remote Desktop Protocol will always use the highest possible level of encryption.
Best Practices for Additional Security
Here are some best practices for using RDP:
- Limiting the specified set of individuals or IP addresses to access the RDP port is important.
- Close all unused ports after completing a task or project.
- Use the latest version of Windows and update and patch it regularly.
- Change the default port. Windows remote servers use port 3389 for RDP.
- You should ensure you are using the latest client and server software versions.
- You should use two-factor authentication and deploy strong passwords.
- Need to put in place a lockout policy to save the RDP system against any brute force attacks.
- You should not allow the server to accept connection attempts made by any specific untrusted hosts.
- You need to make sure that users access the corporate network remotely only using a VPN (virtual private network) connection.
- It is advisable to scan the network continuously for RDP instances.
What are the advantages of using RDP?
Here are the pros/benefits of using RDP:
- It helps you to run an application or an entire desktop on centralized servers.
- Provide an entire desktop or just an application Windows operating system.
- It helps you to secure remote access without the need to establish a VPN connection.
- RDP allows employees all over the world to access their computers.
- Helps you to manage virtual machine-based desktops or session-based desktops on centralized servers.
- Using Remote Desktop helps you adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy for workers away from the office.
- It allows you to access your desktop data from anywhere in the world.
Alternative to Remote Desktop
Here is some alternative for Remote Desktop:
- SolarWinds Dameware: This RDP tool offers remote support and control tools to enterprise teams, both in-house and MSPs. It is a cloud-based tool, but you can install a local version on on-site Windows PCs and servers. It offers multi-factor authentication and multi-platform support.
- RemotePC: Remote desktop software, also called remote access software or remote control software, allows you to control one computer remotely. This app allows you to remote into a computer from a mobile device. You can also record the session to a video file.
- TeamViewer: It is a free remote desktop and support tool for consumers. This RDP software offers paid plans for enterprise users. It allows you to connect to multiple workstations remotely. TeamViewer also enables you to enhance the performance of your system with GPU for hardware-accelerated image processing.
- Chrome Remote Desktop: This is a lightweight and free remote desktop application. You can use this one of the best remote desktop apps within the Google Chrome browser on other major platforms.
What do attackers do with RDP?
Once the attackers know the server they have control of, they can start malicious actions on your device. Some malicious activities are:
- Clearing log files that contain evidence of their presence on the system.
- They can schedule backups and shadow copies, disabling security software or setting up exclusions in it.
- The meaning of RDP is a Microsoft proprietary protocol that allows remote connections to other computers.
- You can access a remote computer or Virtual Machine and display its desktop services on the computer you are using with RDP port.
- It is important to limit the specified set of individuals or IP addresses to access the RDP port.
- RDP helps you to run an application or an entire desktop on centralized servers.
- Some best alternatives of RDP are: 1) SolarWinds Dameware, 2) RemotePC, 3) TeamViewer, 4) Chrome Remote Desktop, 5) GoToMyPC