How secure is a VPN connection? It's not as safe as you may think

Remote work and business travel. Public WiFi networks and prying eyes. Data security and personal privacy. These are among the top reasons companies choose to use virtual private networks. But do VPNs really provide the protection you’ve been promised?

A lot has changed in the decades since VPN services first came onto the corporate scene. The modern workforce is now filled with countless complexities—ones that make VPNs vulnerable at best, and ineffective in more instances than many may realize.

How secure is a VPN?

Many VPN providers claim to be the best at protecting sensitive personal information when employees connect to public networks. And in some instances, the VPN client does work as promised. By providing a strong encrypted connection on IT-manged devices, these solutions focus on safeguarding private information and protecting VPN users’ personal data. Someone snooping for security flaws in a public WiFi hotspot would be unable to see internet activity—unlike the user who takes advantage of public internet access without protection.

But what happens when someone’s working in the conference room located a few doors down, instead of a coffee shop miles away? A VPN will assume that internet traffic is safe. But far too often, that’s simply not the case.

Here’s why:

VPN security works to shield online activity from hackers and Internet Service Providers when employees work remotely. Its sole job is to shield online activity from snoops and spies looking to steal sensitive data. What it doesn’t account for is all the ways your attack surface is expanding.

After all, the days of IT-provisioned PCs and on premises-only solutions are long gone. Today’s employees regularly use their own unprotected mobile devices at work. They rely on cloud, SaaS and web-based apps, including unsanctioned ones, that can be accessed anywhere, on any network. As your attack surface continues to expand, there’s a lot of ground a traditional VPN company simply can’t cover.

Why VPN is not secure—and what to use instead

When it comes to protecting private information, even the best VPN can’t cover all bases. The reason? Unlike zero trust security solutions, traditional networking models put blind trust in users. Once network access has been granted via VPN technology, a user gains total access to the network.

In addition to over-simplifying authentication, VPNs are limited to remote access only. That means they fail to scale and secure the corporate network when users are on-premises, and can put corporate resources in a very vulnerable position. And if it's a free VPN with ad tracking and malware, those risks are magnified even more.

Still, the motivations for using VPN—stronger security, greater online privacy—remain relevant. And for that, there’s a much safer alternative.

Learn why Citrix Workspace is the better fit for your business

Replacing your VPN doesn’t have to be hard. Citrix Workspace makes it easy. Learn how you can get up and running with a fast, flexible VPN alternative—and securely deliver apps and data to employees anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Explore the VPN alternative

5 reasons you need to get rid of your VPN

Traditional VPN clients may not meet current complexities or match the ways people work today. But thankfully, there is a better option. The zero trust architecture of Citrix Workspace not only provides stronger security, but also a superior user experience.

Here are five reasons to replace your VPN with Citrix Workspace:

1. There’s a high risk of security breaches

VPNs expose entire networks to threats like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), sniffing and spoofing attacks. Once an attacker or malware has breached a network through a compromised user device connected to it, it can bring down an entire network.

With VPN-less access, users will get single sign-on to both internal apps and SaaS apps. It provides access at the application layer, thereby removing risk from any network-level attacks.

2. VPNs are hard to scale and create a poor user experience

Most VPN services were deployed to serve a small percentage of a remote workforce. When most of the workforce is remote, VPNs become bottlenecks, especially when delivering traditional client-server applications that consume a lot of bandwidth. And then there's the increasingly common "kill switch," designed to cut off internet connections altogether when the VPN fails. While it may help address some security concerns, this feature makes for poor user experience. 

Citrix Workspace not only helps optimize delivery of these apps, but can auto-scale to serve the entire workforce without configuring and deploying additional appliances. Better yet, they can be securely and seamlessly delivered to any device, over any network.

3. VPNs are accessed through unmanaged devices

This introduces risk, as IT has no insight into the health of personal computers and unmanaged mobile devices. These devices may be infected with keylogging or screenshot malware, which attackers can use to exfiltrate sensitive data.

Citrix Workspace features anti-keylogging capabilities, scrambling keystrokes that are captured by cybercriminals looking to exfiltrate credentials. Attackers will only receive indecipherable text, keeping usernames and passwords safe.

4. VPNs are not designed to detect dangers 

When VPN credentials are compromised, an attacker can enter the network and move freely to exfiltrate sensitive data. Even though they may be taking suspicious, malicious actions, VPNs aren’t designed to detect them or take corrective actions. Given the limited resources of most IT departments and the limited insights VPN clients provide, monitoring that activity can be overwhelming.

Citrix Analytics for Security uses machine learning to understand and monitor end user behavior across devices, data, networks, apps and virtual desktops. When it detects risky behavior, it can take proactive, automated action like session recording, logging the user out of their account or expiring links to shared documents.

5. VPNs compromise employee privacy

Connecting to a VPN server means all the traffic is backhauled to a datacenter. That obviously includes not only the business traffic, but personal traffic as well. With Citrix Workspace, employee data stays private because only corporate data is sent through the data center.

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