VPN Alternatives for Business

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are one of the most commonly used solutions for secure remote network connectivity. However, they have a number of limitations that negatively impact network performance and security. Deploying a VPN alternative can enable an organization to improve visibility and security of their wide area network (WAN) while also increasing performance and teleworker productivity.

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What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

VPN solutions are designed to provide secure, remote access to an organization’s network. They create an encrypted connection between the client – typically implemented as software on an employee’s computer – and a VPN gateway within the enterprise network.

VPNs encrypt traffic flow between the client computer and the enterprise gateway, protecting against eavesdropping. Additionally, VPNs provide an experience similar to being directly connected to the enterprise network, enabling easy access to internal resources. This also ensures that all business traffic flows through the organization’s security stack before being allowed to continue on to destinations outside the enterprise network.

What are VPNs’ Security Risks?

VPNs create an encrypted connection between two points. However, they have various limitations that create potential security risks to the organization:

  • Degraded Visibility: VPNs are designed to be a point-to-point solution for secure remote access, meaning that all employees have a distinct connection to the enterprise network and each business site requires its own link to other sites. The resulting complexity of the enterprise network makes it difficult to perform threat detection and data analytics across the enterprise WAN unless the organization’s VPN solution is designed to combine visibility across all encrypted connections.
  • Inefficient Routing: VPN infrastructure is often designed as a “hub and spoke” model, where all traffic flows through the corporate network en route to its destination. As companies’ users increasingly work remotely and data processing and storage moves to the cloud, this creates an inefficient detour that degrades network and application performance. As a result, employees may attempt to connect directly to cloud-based resources, robbing the enterprise of traffic visibility and the ability to inspect cloud-bound traffic for potential malicious content.
  • Lack of Built-In Security: VPNs are designed to provide an encrypted connection between a remote worker and the enterprise network, with the intent of providing a user experience similar to being connected directly to the enterprise’s Wi-Fi or an Ethernet port. A VPN provides no protection against malware, data exfiltration, or other security risks. Unless an organization has a full security stack deployed between the VPN and the enterprise network, infected remote machines can be used as a stepping stone to attack the enterprise network.
  • Limited Scalability: As a point-to-point security solution, VPNs scale poorly. With the sudden surge in remote work, this has resulted in severely degraded network performance. As a result, organizations and employees are commonly adopting insecure workarounds (such as the use of split-tunnel VPNs or making local copies of sensitive data) to reduce the impact of poor VPN performance on employee productivity.
  • Software Vulnerabilities: The sudden surge in telework has made VPN endpoints a common target for cybercriminals. Exploitation of unpatched VPN software vulnerabilities is one of the top three most common methods by which cybercriminals infect an organization with ransomware.

What are the best VPN Alternatives for your business?

VPNs are an effective remote access solution for legacy networks, where most of an organization’s IT infrastructure was located on the enterprise network. As users, storage, and data processing move away from the local network, many organizations are seeking virtual private network alternatives. Two of the most common choices are software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and Secure Access Service Edge (SASE).

SD-WAN is designed to be a more efficient alternative to the VPN. Instead of implementing point-to-point connectivity, SD-WAN provides optimal routing of encrypted traffic between a network of SD-WAN appliances. Secure SD-WAN solutions are designed to add the required security as well by integrating a full security stack into an SD-WAN appliance.

The main limitation of SD-WAN is that it can only provide secure, optimized connectivity to points where an SD-WAN appliance is deployed. SASE solves this problem by deploying security services in the cloud. Security services can be deployed near cloud-based resources or geographically-distributed remote workers, minimizing the network performance impacts associated with routing traffic through the SASE network.

Selecting an Alternative Remote Access Solution

As organization’s IT infrastructure increasingly moves off of the corporate LAN, VPN solutions are growing less effective as a secure remote access solution (especially for teleworkers working from mobile devices). Secure SD-WAN and SASE provide a secure, high-performance alternative to legacy remote access solutions.

Check Point offers Secure SD-WAN and SASE solutions that enable organizations to implement secure, optimized remote access to their employees. Contact us for more information and check out a demo to see our solutions in action. You’re also welcome to request a trial license to see how an upgrade to a modern secure remote access solution can simplify and optimize your organization’s WAN.

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