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  work your office from home...
 
 The easiest and best way to connect people these days is via the internet. Although there is a lot of talk of security issues and reliability, the savings far outweigh the occasional blip in services and so many companies successfully use VPN (Virtual Private Networking) now that the amount of encrypted traffic almost precludes trying to steal information just because . Those who are looking for encrypted traffic just to try their hand as a hacker there will always be spoiled for choice when it comes to easy satisfaction anyhow. The original CHAPS v1 of PPTP that was originated by Cisco and has been used by Microsoft for some time can be broken into completely just by downloading a simple software (L0phtcrack) that could derive the username and password of a user who is logged in without their knowledge and then use that data to login. Microsoft have improved the encryption and mechanism of their system by upgrading to MS CHAPS v2 but there are still flaws in the system, for instance that enough data is passed on the wire to allow attackers to mount crypt-and-compare attacks.
 
 
Be in the office

While you're at home....

As a result of all this the security market was left open for other companies to offer alternatives to the  home user such as 3DES, L2TP and more recently the AES Rijndael encryption algorithm. Whichever method you are using - although don't use MS CHAPS v1, there are upgrades available no matter what OS you may be using - you can instantly see why this technology is so popular - coupled with internet broadband it allows you to be sitting on your office data network from anywhere in the world. Once combined with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) then you can have your office phone and data at your fingertips at the price of connecting to the internet. No more claims for phone calls or dial-in networking for you, you can just get on with your work!

I was at a meeting with some other IT Directors the other night and the consensus was that tele-working was the next big operation that we should all be prepared for. I was actually surprised that anyone even bothered mentioning it, the situation is so obvious.

There is no right or wrong answer to which technology will suit you for VPN but lets have a quick comparison of the most common options so that you can choose something that is better suited than most.

 

Supplier & Name Type Encryption Pros Cons
SonicWall VPN 2000 Hardware Unit  SSL/HTTPS
  • Easy to use and configure
  • One off unit cost - no license per user
  • No client software - works using SSL like a credit card purchase on the web
  • Because its SSL it fits neatly behind firewalls
  • Customised portal for each user
  • Active Directory/RADIUS/LDAP Integration - no password/username  setup for client or admin
  • Expensive compared to PPTP solutions
  • Is based on browser functionality - could bring problems with IE security
  • Is not a seamless connection - user experience is not consistent with a LAN
  • Email clients
Microsoft PPTP Software with WinNT, 95, 98 2000 & ISA etc or hardware on many broadband routers MPPE (Optional)
  • Comes free with recent Windows versions (since 95)
  • Is freely upgradeable to CHAPS v2
  • Simple to configure
  • 'Dial-In' style is good for users and the experience is consistent with being in the office once dialled in
  • Supported by Macintosh and Linux
  • CHAPS v1 is easily breakable and should not be used
  • MPPE encryption is optional and so clients can be a security risk unless keenly monitored to be sure they are using it
  • Viruses etc can travel from client to sever via VPN as all the ports are 'open' by default unless VPN packets are being inspected
L2TP and IPSec over L2TP Software client to some routers and servers Cisco & Checkpoint etc IPSec AES/3DES/DES
  • Coupled with IPSec is encrypted and authentic
  • Widely used
  • Compatible with certificates and shared secrets
  • Big overheads on performance for network and processing compared to PPTP
  • More to configure also
  • Not supported well in Windows
AES IPSec Some hardware routers - Checkpoint,  Draytek etc IPSec Rijndael/AES
  • No flaws in security have been uncovered - superior to DES/3DES
  • Has been accepted as the new US government standard and so will be widely used
  • Compatible with certificates and shared secrets
  • Big overheads as per 3DES and L2TP
  • No Microsoft client support so far without 3rd party software

So in conclusion the PPTP option is still a good one as long as you stick with the newer CHAPS 2 versions. MPPE supports 128bit encryption with most systems these days and CHAPS v2 seems to be good enough for the average SME as it is no longer hackable just by downloading a script or application. The ISA server option is still a little too complicated and expensive to be the right solution for SBS operations (you have to buy the server license and client access licenses for the Premier Edition of SBS)  so unless you are looking for a specific aspect of its capabilities, you are better off spreading the load of a VPN server to a hardware router as so many support VPNs and cost literally nothing. The big question is the one of voice integration. Do you want to extend the phone system to your tele-workers as well as your data? If so then have a look at out VoIP page for more answers on how to fit VoIP into your business model.

For more information on VPN solutions and possibilities, fill in the form on the contacts page or drop us a line.

 
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