Remote Desktop Protocol or more popularly known as “RDP” attacks have been the primary focus for attackers and hackers during the COVID-19 crisis because of the increased work from home (WFH) scenarios. RDP is a proprietary protocol, or a technical standard, developed by Microsoft that gives people remote access to a desktop computer by connecting to another machine or virtual apps through a network connection.
RDP credentials are being sold on dark web marketplaces for as low as $3. The credentials allow hackers and criminals to spy on companies without resorting to malware. The sale of RDP credentials is allowing attackers to retrieve data from firms in government, healthcare, retail, education, and other sectors.
Here’s everything you need to know to protect your confidential data.
Why Are Attackers Interested In It?
Hackers and attackers are aware of the fact that employees are spending their time working from home via remote access. This means that most organizations — both big and small — trust their confidential data to pass via RDP. While the proprietary protocol is reliable and effective, many IT companies fail to make security their priority.
When employees use easy passwords without multi-factor encryption and additional authentication layers, it becomes easier for attackers to use RDP to gain access to sensitive data. Besides, this opens the door for data breaches, espionage, and more. In forums on the dark web where RDP access credentials are being sold, merchants offer access to thousands of computers for as less as $3 for Windows XP to $9 for a Windows 10 system.
Attackers can gain access to a remote network with the correct password. Moreover, ransomware teams use this protocol to execute their attack, thereby promoting their status to admin, disabling the security software, and encrypting company networks.
A team of researchers at Flashpoint have been examining authentic criminal marketplaces that sell RDP data and have gained access to global networks up for sale.
One of the most popular underground forums selling access to such networks is ‘Ultimate Anonymity Services’. It offers over 35,000 RDP credentials for sale in different countries for a range of Windows Operating Systems (OS).
The group behind the store posts ads in Russian and English, and similar to most Eastern European-based operations, UAS doesn’t sell credentials of Russian accounts. The researchers found thousands of credentials in India, China, and Brazil for sale in the store. It mostly offered credentials for targets across the U.S., particularly around California, Virginia, and Ohio.
How Can You Make RDP More Secure?
The best way to protect your systems against this vulnerability is by using a blend of brute-force attack monitoring and dark web monitoring techniques. The former alerts the admin of failed login attempts, while the latter determines the employee login data that has already been sold online. However, to avoid vulnerabilities found in previous versions, it is crucial to ensure that the latest version of the protocol is being used.
Organizations can shift to Windows Virtual Desktop. Its robust management, inbuilt security, multi-session Windows 10 capability, and optimizations for Microsoft 365 apps makes it the perfect solution. On the other hand, OneDrive can also be installed to access files securely or for file-sharing purposes.
Other alternatives include a virtual private network (VPN) using MS Terminal Services Client. However, at the 2019 DEF CON hacking conference, the majority of security flaws in the most popular VPNs were revealed.
The Bottom Line
If your company is using RDP, you need to be in touch with cybersecurity professionals to ensure that your network has the highest level of security. Azure has some excellent inbuilt security options for Windows Virtual Desktop and is increasingly becoming the best choice for businesses to replace outdated and less secure RDPs. Secure remote network setups are available for businesses of all sizes — only if you know where to look.