RDP Hack | How to Make RDP Invisible to Hackers?
How to Make RDP Invisible to Hackers?
As RDP hacking has seen a substantial spike in the past couple of years, it is essential to try and learn more about RDP, its risks, and the common methods hacker use to target RDP. It’s also important to discuss solutions to make RDP invisible to hackers and secure Remote Desktop Connection.
What is RDP?
Microsoft Windows has a built-in remote desktop component called Remote Desktop Services (RDS) which enables users to access and take over remote computers for various purposes such as remote assistance, file sharing, using remote apps, etc. Remote Desktop Services which was known as Terminal Services in its early years, uses a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft called Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDP official client software is called Remote Desktop Connection.
Although there are many third-party remote desktop software packages out there, RDP is currently the most common remote desktop tool in the world. So, if your company uses remote desktop for daily activities, chances are you are already using RDP.
What is RDP Hacking?
In the recent years, RDP has gained lots of popularity, not only among many individuals and businesses from different industries, but also between hackers and cybercriminals. It’s proven to be quite easy for hackers to exploit vulnerable RDP connections to connect to remote targets and use them to carry out their evil plans.
Hacking RDP connections opens many doors for cyberattackers. What hackers do after taking over a remote computer via RDP could vary, from an attack to another. For example. one attacker may plan to do cryptojacking, i.e. remotely generating cryptocurrency using the resources of the victim’s computer, without their knowledge. In this case, the hackers would never reveal their presence, so they can continue to steal processing power, for a long time in silence. Another common agenda may be using the compromised computer to access the rest of the systems on its local network. This especially works like a charm if the hacked system has administrator permission.
RDP hacking for Ransomware attacks
RDP hacking has turned to the single main means hackers use to infiltrate their victims’ systems for initialing ransomware attacks.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that encrypts all files on the victim's system, then demands a payment, usually in cryptocurrency like BitCoin, in exchange for decrypting the files.
According to statistics gathered by Coveware, more than 50% of ransomware incidents in the first quarter of 2020 were conducted through RDP hacking. Additionally, based on a report released by Beazley, ransomware attacks had a sharp increase of 25% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the last quarter of 2019.
Another related bad news is that new findings by the Emsisoft researchers show data theft and blackmail are becoming more and more common in ransomware attacks. They estimate that in the first half of 2020, more than 11% of ransomware attacks were Exfiltration + Encryption attacks i.e. they included data theft in addition to the usual extortion that ransomware hacks are normally about. This puts ransomware victims in the long-term risk of blackmail or possible sale of their secrets and important information to their rivals, etc.
Putting together these facts and numbers gives us a pretty good idea regarding the risk which RDP can expose your computer to. And as horrifying as it is, hopefully, it will motivate us to learn more about how to protect RDP from ransomware attacks and other troublesome incidents.
How to Hack Remote Desktop Protocol?
There are many ways to hack the Remote Desktop Protocol. With a simple Internet search, you can find many tutorials explaining how hackers enter Remote Desktops. For example, using RDP software vulnerabilities, especially on older systems whose owners have neglected to install security patches, can be very effective. Several ready-to-use RDP Exploits are available online, and new methods and malware to use RDP vulnerabilities are introduced every once in a while.
One of the most straightforward RDP hacking methods is discovering the RDP login info. One common way to hack an RDP username and password is using Brute Force Attacks , in which the hacker uses a bot to try random combinations of usernames and passwords from a predefined dictionary, hoping to eventually guess the correct pair. Therefore, setting a strong password for your RDP is a vital step for protecting your system from RDP hacking. Likewise, avoiding to use the default username and other obvious names is important.
It’s worth mentioning that not all the hackers who have successfully cracked your RDP password use it to access your system and do their dirty work, right away. In fact, many RDP hackers discover RDP login info for servers, networks, and other devices just to sell it to the interested third-parties on the dark web. This group usually works on a large scale, and when they have successfully collected a significant amount of RDP credentials from vulnerable RDP connections, they put it for sale in bulk on the darknet marketplaces that are dedicated to selling such illegal materials.
The thing is finding an interested customer may take a while, which means that your system may have been already compromised and your credentials may be up for sale at an RDP shop, but you may not know it until someone purchases your access info and use it to launch an attack against you.
How to make RDP invisible to hackers?
There are various tips to create a more secure Remote Desktop environment for you. Let’s start by discussing the two solutions that make you invisible to RDP hackers.
An important factor to carry out a successful Brute Force Attack is knowing the remote system’s RDP port. By default, RDP uses port 3389. Some experts believe changing the RDP port from its default port to another would be helpful, while others disagree and say whatever port you change it to, the hackers will have lots of time to scan ports and find it afterward. To solve this problem, you can use RDP protection tools that allow you to dynamically change the RDP port, after a certain period. This way, hackers are very unlikely to have enough time to find your new RDP port and RDP credentials, before the port changes again.
Another RDP invisibility technique is to restrict IP addresses belonging to the hackers and bad actors. The problem is how can you know their IP addresses?
One common answer to this problem is using a firewall to limit RDP access to trusted IP addresses. But this method is pretty inefficient and can cause so much inconvenience and trouble for traveling users, new users, etc.
But what if there were a system that could monitor the behavior of remote users, collect some useful data such as IP addresses and geographic data, and analyze them to detect suspicious users ? This way, you can make your system’s RDP invisible to potential hackers, without having to restrict your connections too much.
How to make RDP secure?
Other than using a powerful RDP protection tool, like SunFirewall, that offers options to help you hide from the hackers, what else can you do to make RDP secure? Here are a few important points to stay safe against RDP hacks.s
- Do not underestimate the necessity of security updates. When a product’s creator confesses to its weaknesses and releases patches for it, it should be taken seriously.
- Always use strong passwords. Using some form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a no-brainer in this day and age. However, not all the multi-factor authentication methods are at the same level in terms of efficiency and security.
- Set up a trustworthy firewall on your system, and equip it with carefully-defined rules that fit your needs, your work environment, etc.
- Set up an account lockout policy that automatically locks your account after a defined number of failed login attempts.
- Limit RDP access to specific groups of users who really need this permission. By default, all Administrators have the right to log in to RDP, but leaving it like that can be unnecessarily risky. To be extra secure, you can revoke all default RDP permissions, and instead, create new carefully-defined accounts with RDP privileges that people (admin or otherwise) use just for connecting to the RDP.
- Enable Network Level Authentication (NLA).
- Use a commercial pass-through VPN over your remote desktop connection, to add a layer of encryption to your RDP connection.