Show me an industry that isn’t increasing its usage of Desktop Virtualization (DV) and I’ll show you an industry that doesn’t exist. While different DV technologies are available, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure and Desktop-as-a-service are the clear choice, DaaS is essentially VDI hosted in the cloud. With VDI one deploys virtual desktops in her own on-premises data centers while DaaS takes the In-house IT burden and responsibilities to the cloud.
From Education and Healthcare, to Financial institutions and Governmental agencies, Remote application and DaaS is growing year on year. In fact, industry experts Gartner predict that by 2023 the combined number of on premises VDI users and cloud DaaS will grow by more than 50%.
Organizations are using different types of remote desktop technologies and solutions for a number of key reasons, including operational efficiency, improving their end-point compliance and remote access opportunities, enjoying the centralized management and security backups, as well as the end-user support supplied by market leaders such as Citrix. Newer deployment models provide a popular way to streamline costs, with no need to purchase software licenses, or individual workstations, items that can quickly add up. But what about keeping your data and applications secure? How does security measure up in a VDI environment?
What is the Risk of Using a Shared Infrastructure?
Traditional data centers allow for servers to be monitored for signs of threat, and isolated where necessary. However, in a VDI environment, you’ll often find that all servers and applications are on the same infrastructure, even end-user applications and those which need more security and control. Desktops are likely to be shared among a large number of users, perhaps only a step away from critical assets, applications, and data. As all of this takes place inside the data center, you’re not covered by traditional security solutions such as perimeter firewalls that only protect the entrance to your network.
An added element to consider is traffic inspection. Most end-user application traffic is encrypted using SSL or TLS, and compliance mandates require a high level of data privacy. At the same time, for security you need to have insight into traffic and communications.
For many organizations, these risks of VDI are too great. If just one VDI machine is compromised, the attacker can make movements elsewhere within the data center, and may well go undetected because of the complex environment.
Step 1: Apply User Identity Access Management
Two powerful technologies can be used together to allow enterprise organizations to leverage VDI without worrying about security concerns. First, let’s look at User Identity Access Management.
This solution often comes hand in hand with a Zero Trust model, as the idea is that any user can only access what they need for their role or activity, and no more. Rather than simply rely on initial authentication, smart User Identity Access Management allows you to create policy based on the identity of the user that is logged in, even when multiple users are connected to the same system at the same time.
Identities can be pulled from the Active Directory, and policy will control both new sessions, and ones that are currently active. Even before a user has logged into an application, protection is in place.
Step 2: Combine with Application Segmentation
A micro-segmentation solution with granularity can create control over even the most complex environment, helping you to build out your infrastructure in a secure way that gives you peace of mind when using VDI, even defining policy based on a process, label, or other asset information.
For example, using application segmentation, you can ensure that all applications and users within the VDI environment are segmented away from specific business-critical or sensitive applications in the wider data center. You can also ring-fence the VDI environment so that no attackers can achieve lateral movement elsewhere, even in case of a breach.
Together, you now have a powerful, unbeatable solution. First, your user is limited to only the applications and servers they are allowed to access as mandated by your User Identity Access Management policy. Secondly, each user cannot move outside of their relevant environment, an added layer of defense, without added reliance on any specific network or location.
Reducing Complexity with Visibility
Still in fear of attacker dwell time? Make sure that your security solution comes with real-time visibility into all of your active VDI sessions and their connections. You should be able to see:
- What specific users are doing, with identification
- Which processes are currently running and for what purposes
- How and where the processes are communicating
- The exact flows that are being generated
- Which specific applications are being used, and by whom
Another Zero Trust model mandate is to ‘Assume Access’. In this situation, when the assumed breach occurs, your IT team has accurate visibility into the source of the attack, and can see in seconds, (and without any physical or virtual taps) any lateral movement attempts from the original VDI environment to the main data center.
Lose the Fear of a VDI Environment
First, restrict the access from your VDI environment. Secondly, block access by user identity. In two steps, you’re done.
Guardicore Centra makes it simple to say yes to the benefits of a VDI environment. It integrates with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, and Active Directory to reduce the attack surface and improve visibility, even when considering the complex security reality of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.