Strategies to Minimize RDP Exposure

Strategies to Minimize RDP Exposure

With more organizations adopting the remote working model, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections have grown, but hackers relentlessly attack the RDP to access and exploit the company’s internal network.

Moreover, attackers employ sophisticated ways to leverage the exposed services, insecure systems, and vulnerable network endpoints. They aim to ultimately gain control over the target system, execute questionable codes, and harvest credentials.

The primary method in RDP attacks is the brute force password guessing method, where the hackers guess innumerable combinations of passwords and usernames. Other approaches include exploiting vulnerabilities in outdated versions and configurations or compromising user accounts with stolen login credentials procured via phishing attacks. Here are a few strategies to minimize RDP exposure.

Employ Multi-Factor Authorization (MFA) and Network Level Authentication (NLA)

An MFA solution prevents RDP attacks by adding a supplementary security layer to the authentication process. The solutions require users to provide multiple independent authentication methods- a password and a one-time code sent via SMS or email. It becomes challenging for hackers to access the system as they require numerous pieces of information to confirm authentication.

NLA implementation helps prevent RDP attacks since it requires users to authenticate the credentials before gaining access to the system. NLA authenticates the user before initiating an RDP session; hence, if the authentication fails, the connection immediately aborts.

It allows businesses to secure themselves against brute-force attacks and other malicious behavior. Moreover, NLA prompts the users to connect using TLS/SSL protocols to maximize the system’s security.

Assess RDP Server Logs

RDP server log monitoring helps prevent RDP attacks by offering insights into malicious activity. Administrators, for example, can monitor the number of login attempts and failures or determine IP addresses utilized to gain access to the server. They can assess review logs for any unexpected shutdown or startup processes and user activities.

Efficient monitoring allows administrators to detect malicious activities and take necessary action to secure the system before any attack.

Enforce an RDP Gateway and Replace the Default RDP Port

Remote Desktop Gateway (RDG) provides secured access to an internal network or resources acting as an intermediary between internal and remote users by encrypting traffic and authenticating users. This supplementary security layer helps businesses protect sensitive data from potential cyber-attackers and ensures the data is inaccessible and secure.

More importantly, hackers actively discover internet-connected devices running RDP ports with the help of tools allowing them to search for accessible RDP ports using port scanners. Businesses must change the default port utilized by the RDP to prevent attacks as it goes undetected by hackers.

On the contrary, hackers target non-standard ports, so businesses must proactively look for brute force attacks targeting the RDP ports.

Leverage Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN allows users to access resources remotely and securely while protecting the data from hackers.

VPN protects businesses against RDP attacks by offering an encrypted connection between systems. It also restricts the direct link to corporate networks diminishing the risk of remote code execution and other similar attacks.

At the same time, it offers a supplementary security layer since traffic is routed via a secure tunnel making it challenging for hackers to penetrate.

Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) Restrictions

Enabling RBAC restrictions helps businesses reduce the damage that hackers cause after gaining access to the network by stationing user access limitations restricted to limited users.

System administrators can construe individual roles and allocate privileges as per job roles with the help of RBAC. It makes the systems tight and secure as the users cannot access the part of the system they do not require.

Station an Account Lockout Policy, Allow Automatic Updates, and Secure the RDP Connection

An account lockout policy protects businesses against RDP attacks by restricting the number of attempts a user makes before their account lockout. It prevents attackers from utilizing brute force methods to guess user passwords and limits the number of unsuccessful attempts. This supplementary security layer minimizes the chances of unauthorized access that the hackers gain via weak passwords and stops the hackers from attempting numerous login attempts.

At the same time, businesses must regularly update the operating system to address all the known RDP vulnerabilities and their patching to eliminate the chances of exploitation.

Monitor and Keep Track of the RDP Server

Organizations must keep track of the RDP-enabled systems in the environment. They must ensure there are no unsanctioned RDP servers within the network. They must consider enabling monitoring and logging on RDP server logs. It makes it easier for businesses to identify who is accessing them.

At the same time, businesses must monitor RDP network traffic for unusual access, connections, and session aspects, helping enable adequate visibility into RDP services misuse.

Also Read: Best Approaches to Prevent and Mitigate Risks of Account Take Over (ATO)

Why Do Hackers Prefer Targeting RDP?

  • To exploit vulnerabilities- RDP is prone to numerous security vulnerabilities that attract cyber-attackers to access sensitive data.
  • To determine any weak passwords- Since users protect RDP connections with a username and password, hackers can discover weak passwords and utilize brute-force tactics and other tools to crack passwords.
  • To discover unprotected ports- Hackers can readily find open, unprotected RDP ports. Effectively scanning the network offers them direct access to the server they want to target.


While an RDP attack is devastating, businesses can take many measures to protect themselves. Implementing these strategies will make it challenging for hackers to target the organization through RDP. Organizations must understand that hackers target RDP infrastructure for opportunistic attacks and as a part of targeted attacks.

Moreover, businesses must rapidly install robust mechanisms for tracking and eliminating an RDP attack. Businesses can, for example, station security tools capable of spotting login attempts repetitions to an RDP system.

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