What Is Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)?

What Is Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is now widely used by businesses to enable remote workforces, but if left exposed to the Internet it can provide cyber threat actors access and exploit vulnerabilities.

Security practices such as network level authentication and encrypting RDP communications can help minimize the risks of RDP exposure.

What is the Remote Desktop Protocol RDP?

RDP provides employees with remote access to computers, allowing them to control desktops and access applications, files and programs remotely from a distance. IT professionals typically use RDP to maintain and troubleshoot computers and servers remotely while it also comes in handy for employees working from home or remotely.

RDP connects to servers over network port 3389 and uses encryption technology to transmit its data back and forth securely, allowing users to securely access any computer and its information remotely – such as licensed software, saved files, audio tracks or anything else stored therein. RDP can also help employees manage their desktop computers from any location remotely allowing them to do their jobs more easily while away.

Since RDP requires keyboard and mouse movements to be encrypted and transmitted over the Internet, delays often arise when working with this service. Depending on your connection speed and distance, RDP may take several seconds before users can interact with their desktop display and application windows. It also enables workers to use low-end mobile devices to access servers with greater computing power, making complex resource intensive apps simpler to navigate.

What does ‘remote desktop’ mean?

RDP allows IT professionals to remotely access and control user desktop computers or servers over the Internet or another network. It works by creating a secure connection between Windows desktops and an RDP server over this connection; IT professionals can then troubleshoot software issues remotely while making necessary modifications at any time from anywhere in the world. RDP can also benefit employees working from home or while traveling.

RDP uses encrypted connections between client machines and remote servers in order to protect user activity against threats from third parties attempting to intercept it. It uses network port 3389 along with core Internet protocols like TCP/IP and User Datagram Protocol (UDP) in order to transfer mouse movements, keyboard inputs, desktop display data between them.

At RDP, it is imperative to comply with security best practices when using it, such as using the latest version, enabling two-factor authentication and using VPN to protect remote access. Furthermore, it is also vital to monitor network activity to ensure no RDP servers are exposed on the public internet.

How does remote desktop protocol work?

RDP creates a dedicated network channel for data to move between local and remote desktop machines using TCP/IP protocol, allowing professionals to control “headless” computers (such as rack-mounted servers in data centers) without needing monitors and keyboards for control. RDP also has other capabilities, like clipboard redirection which enables remote sessions to copy/paste content between their connecting device and system being accessed.

As part of their initial connection process, both client and server will select an enhanced security protocol from either Negotiated or Direct available options – to encase all subsequent communications during their session.

Threat actors frequently utilize RDP connections to gain entry to networks. Once inside, they can exploit weak user credentials and move undetected between systems and servers to deploy ransomware or other malicious software. To prevent this, companies can implement multi-factor authentication for all users as well as ensure security updates are applied promptly.

Features of RDP

RDP allows employees to remotely connect computers or servers and gain access to them remotely for work-related needs like troubleshooting devices or installing updates. Like cloud computing, RDP enables users to work from any location – even when not physically present at their workplaces.

RDP differs from traditional remote controls by transmitting signals via radio waves; instead it uses the internet to transfer data between local and remote systems in an encrypted form to prevent security breaches. Mouse movements and keyboard commands are transmitted in this fashion to keep data protected and prevent security breaches.

Once connected, information is transmitted using a Static Virtual Channel which is then encased, framed, and packaged before being uploaded onto the internet and received at its destination system. When data arrives it is then interpreted and executed by RDP systems which include audio redirection, file system redirection, graphics rendering – but these features may be affected by network latency which could result in inconsistencies with user experience and potentially cause lag or even incongruences for end-users.

What are the benefits of RDP?

RDP allows users to work remotely from any internet-enabled location and access their desktop and applications just as if they were sitting directly in front of them, increasing productivity, flexibility and mobility while decreasing support costs for IT support services.

Data encryption also eliminates the need for VPNs and frees up space on users’ unsecured personal devices by securely storing information locally – an invaluable feature for organizations with legacy IT setups that want to implement remote working capabilities.

RDP offers many advantages for remote access; however, it can present certain challenges. Due to mouse and keyboard actions being encrypted and transmitted over the internet, there may be a slight delay in response time and system reliability can vary. To combat these issues, companies should implement best practices for securing RDP connections such as updating software versions, enabling two-factor authentication, ensuring connections do not expose themselves publicly internet and employ performance-enhancing features like Cloudflare Spectrum which reduce latency for an optimal experience for their users.


RDP and VPN both allow remote work, yet there are distinct distinctions between them. VPN encrypts Internet traffic while RDP connects directly with physical desktop computers or virtual servers.

Organizations often worry about the security of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), particularly if it is accessible over the public internet. Cyber criminals use automation and scanning tools to search out remotely accessible RDP ports that have weak sign-in credentials that they could leverage for brute-force attacks and credential stuffing attacks against an environment.

RDP does not provide sufficient auditing and visibility over sessions, thereby hampering auditability and visibility for enterprises. An alternative privileged access management solution, like BeyondTrust Secure Remote Access, allows enterprises to enforce least privilege and exert granular control over employee, vendor and contractor access remotely. IT teams can store passwords securely for remote sessions in a vault that injects them automatically when used – never exposing it directly to end users! Consequently MFA requirements can even be implemented remotely to prevent hijackings and lateral movements by prevent unauthorized hijackings and movements between businesses and their workers.

Properties of the Remote Desktop Protocol

RDP can be especially beneficial to organizations that rely heavily on remote employees, as it enables them to remain connected across devices and platforms when traveling or working from home. RDP also makes it easy for IT personnel to repair and troubleshoot remote machines more efficiently.

However, RDP can present some challenges. A user may experience latency while using it if their Internet connection is slow; furthermore it can be vulnerable to security vulnerabilities such as hash attacks and computer worms.

An RDP session of a remote employee can become accidentally disconnected from its server for any number of reasons, leading to productivity and data losses. To counteract these issues, businesses can implement secure RDP solutions like VPNs to create secure tunnels between remote user’s device and network; providing high levels of security and performance as well as helping reduce managing remote workers costs.

The Benefits of Remote Desktop Protocol

Think of RDP like a remote-controlled car: users can remotely operate powerful PCs without investing in expensive special purpose hardware. RDP provides many benefits for individuals and businesses alike.

IT teams that need to ensure data integrity can easily manage devices and servers with this technology, thanks to RDP’s encryption feature and access control features.

1. Makes device management easier

RDP makes device management much simpler for both IT teams and employees, enabling IT personnel to troubleshoot problems remotely while performing updates, while employees can utilize RDP when working from home or traveling for business purposes.

Imagine controlling a remote-control car: buttons on the controller transmit commands via radio waves directly to the car, which then displays them onscreen. RDP works similarly: commands are sent from keyboard and mouse directly to server which then transmits them onto computer to display onscreen.

RDP provides network security by constantly encrypting information to protect against hackers who try to gain entry over the internet and gain access to sensitive files or subscribed applications from outside threats, while only authorized personnel may view them.

2. Simplifies data access and management

RDP allows users to take complete control of an IT system via the internet, simulating their experience as though sitting right in front of it. They can thus use their files and applications whenever and wherever it suits them best.

RDP utilizes various mechanisms to reduce bandwidth usage, including data compression and persistent caching of bitmaps and glyphs in RAM. This enables RDP software to provide a high-quality remote desktop experience on low-bandwidth connections.

Additionally, it enables organizations to easily onboard and configure new employees remotely without incurring additional hardware upgrades. IT teams can manage devices from a central location which saves both time and energy otherwise spent traveling to each device for management – not to mention protecting the bottom line by decreasing maintenance costs.

3. Enforces maximum security

RDP creates a dedicated network channel to transfer mouse movements, keystrokes and desktop displays securely using network port 3389. All data transferred using this connection is encrypted for added protection.

RDP can be compromised when left exposed on the internet, posing a serious security risk to any organization. Luckily, there are ways to combat this. First off, IT must identify which systems have RDP open to internet and address them quickly; next they should use PAM solutions to route all RDP connections; this adds another layer of encryption while preventing breaches to spread further into systems outside.

BeyondTrust Secure Remote Access addresses the auditing and visibility limitations of native RDP by providing centralized identity-based controls with tamper-proof logging of sessions and searchable video recordings of sessions. Furthermore, this solution enforces least privilege access while offering granular control over remote access for insiders, contractors, and vendors while safeguarding every session using more robust 128-bit SSL encryption than that offered natively by RDP.

4. Supports remote working

RDP provides employees with a secure way of accessing work systems from home or on the road. It helps reduce hardware and software costs as well as allow employees to utilize personal devices.

RDP transfers graphical information from monitor to user and input from user to server; transmission processes can cause latency issues which inhibit system performance and productivity.

Cloudflare Spectrum was designed to optimize RDP connections for an exceptional experience, by minimizing network latency and speeding data transfer for a real-time working experience. Users can access remote computers and servers from any location – even secure Wi-Fi networks – ensuring employees can keep working productively when away from the office – an especially advantageous benefit of legacy on-premise IT infrastructures.

5. Increases productivity

Through RDP, users can gain access to their desktop environments, applications, and files from anywhere around the world – increasing productivity and efficiency while eliminating physical documents that expose work files to theft or cyberattack.

RDP also allows IT professionals to remotely connect to computers that do not feature monitors or keyboards, such as rack-mounted servers in data centers. IT specialists can easily troubleshoot and repair these devices using RDP, saving both time and money.

RDP helps team members collaborate more effectively on real-time projects by enabling real-time communication and collaboration, leading to increased productivity while decreasing onsite IT support needs and cutting business costs. Furthermore, this eliminates travel expenses for employees working customer service or telecom who may need to visit the office on occasion.

6. Enables cost-savings

Businesses spend a considerable amount on tech solutions for their employees. By opting for remote desktop services, their IT costs can be drastically reduced as all employees require is an internet connection and device they own to gain access to work.

RDP features advanced coding that virtualizes graphics while simultaneously reducing bandwidth usage, so it works efficiently over slower connections. Furthermore, RDP enables redirect audio playback, supports multiple displays simultaneously and permits users to disconnect without needing to log off before disconnecting completely.

RDP provides central management of virtual desktop instances in VDI environments while providing enhanced security features to protect sensitive information. Additionally, RDP helps eliminate compatibility issues as it ensures a uniform experience on all devices regardless of operating system and configuration; thus increasing employee satisfaction and productivity while saving IT staff valuable time managing all desktops remotely, thus saving on hardware costs.

The Challenges of Remote Desktop Protocol

Remote working allows employees to complete their duties from home or while travelling, while IT teams use it to troubleshoot devices and implement updates.

However, RDP presents IT professionals with several challenges they should be mindful of. These include:

Cybercriminals can exploit vulnerabilities to gain entry to remote systems and utilize RDP for distributed denial-of-service attacks.

1. The risk of downtime

RDP provides cybercriminals with the perfect opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities. Once they gain access to an employee device, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities by intercepting or brute forcing the remote desktop connection credentials in order to take over control of it and steal data.

These attacks often use ransomware or other types of malicious software to encrypt key systems and disrupt business operations until IT professionals can resolve the problem and restore operations. Delay and exposure to security vulnerabilities can result in lost revenues for businesses.

Other security risks arise from weak user sign-in credentials. Employees frequently use the same password to login to RDP and other applications, leaving these remote connections vulnerable to attacks such as MITM (Man in the Middle). Strong password management policies can mitigate this risk by moving RDP remote logins behind Single Sign-On (SSO) technology that uses more robust authentication methods than an average user password.

2. Multiple causes of interruption

RDP allows employees to remotely access office devices from home, making it a powerful tool for IT teams looking to troubleshoot software issues or deploy patches without disrupting workforce operations.

Employees working remotely require a reliable network connection in order to remain productive. Should their network suddenly go offline, this could cause serious productivity delays as employees may no longer be able to connect to their office computers if using personal applications that hog bandwidth.

Businesses looking to avoid network interruptions should limit bandwidth consumption on remote networks. Furthermore, they should monitor invalid login attempts and implement a policy which locks out users after three consecutive minutes in order to prevent unapproved users from taking over and seizing control of their company’s remote access system. Doing this will also protect their security infrastructure against possible worm attacks or hacker activities.

3. The need for expert knowledge

IT professionals need the ability to troubleshoot issues remotely from home or the office using RDP, with remote work becoming a standard practice in many companies.

RDP offers numerous advantages, but its security limitations should not be overlooked. Due to communicating over open port 3389, it’s vulnerable to hacker attacks. Furthermore, RDP lacks data encryption features commonly found in more secure systems.

To protect against vulnerabilities, organizations must implement best practices. This includes creating strong passwords and using multifactor authentication when needed as well as closely monitoring system access. Furthermore, an alert mechanism should be established when unauthoritied users log onto RDP to help prevent data theft; additionally they should monitor repeated failed login attempts that could indicate a brute-force attack.

4. Increased security vulnerabilities

RDP, like any IT product, is vulnerable to cyberattacks. Many of the same threats affecting all software programs exist for RDP as well, including brute force credential attacks, zero day exploits and poorly managed passwords.

Even after performing a comprehensive security analysis, organizations remain vulnerable to exploits. Furthermore, RDP hosts which support listening port 3389 are vulnerable to attacks from adversaries familiar with its protocol.

To mitigate these risks, organizations should make sure all RDP access is only available via VPN and disconnect any direct Internet access to hosts. Furthermore, organizations must encourage MFA authentication and password management protocols as well as implement network segmentation with frequent audits conducted to detect any possible exploits of vulnerable systems.

5. Network dependency

RDP provides IT professionals with a convenient method for troubleshooting device issues and installing security patches without impacting business operations, but also exposes them to potential attacks by cybercriminals exploiting brute-force attacks and other vulnerabilities to gain entry to systems.

RDP connections require network connectivity, which may be adversely affected by slow Internet services. This can lead to lag and degrade the user experience when running resource-intensive apps.

Cybercriminals often target RDP, as its default port 3389 allows them to intercept communication between client and server machines. IT professionals can reduce this type of attack using virtual private networks or firewalls that block unauthorized port access, as well as educate their teams on best practices like multi-factor authentication and keeping software up-to-date.


RDP can be an essential tool for remote workers, but its presence also opens your network up to potential security breaches. To guard against an attack via RDP, ensure it complies with compliance standards, has an established update cycle and offers features designed to thwart current threats.

Attackers are constantly looking for entryways into networks, making any vulnerability a serious threat. Take DejaBlue for instance: attackers could perform reconnaissance and lateral movement across an organization’s network simply by accessing an RDP port – then gain full control of an system and steal sensitive data!

Implement a centralized and tamper-proof logging and monitoring solution for remote sessions to help protect against attacks of this nature. Furthermore, multi-factor authentication should also be supported by this solution, requiring users to provide something they own (OTP/security key/device), something they know (password), as well as something they are (facial recognition/fingerprint scanning/biometric verification etc). BeyondTrust Secure Remote Access provides this capability as well as enhanced 256-AES encryption for RDP sessions that is much stronger than what natively exists within RDP protocol itself!

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.