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The security of corporate remote access setups has slipped over the last 12 months, according to security audits by penetration testing firm NTA Monitor.

NTA's VPN Security Report 2007 shows that IT organisations have a third fewer vulnerabilities per test than cropped up in the equivalent study last year. But organisations in other sectors (such as government and finance) are running even more insecure set-ups.

"Although the IT sector has clearly improved its security over the past year, that's not the case for everyone. On average, nine vulnerabilities were found per VPN test performed in last year's report; that figure has risen to 11 in this year's report," explained Roy Hills, technical director and founder of NTA Monitor. "Seventy-three per cent of tests also discovered at least one medium level flaw, indicating that external users may be able to disrupt services or potentially obtain unauthorised access."

The majority of vulnerabilities uncovered by NTA Monitor (65 per cent) in all the tests were rated as low-risk, generally involving the leakage of information that could be valuable to attackers. Medium risk flaws - more serious risks that create a potential means for external attackers to disrupt a VPN service or gain unauthorised access to corporate networks - made up 16 per cent of the flaws identified. The remaining 18 per cent of vulnerabilities uncovered were considered informational, highlighting issues such as poor housekeeping.

NTA recommends operating VPN connections through a dedicated VPN system rather than a firewall, improving encryption and authentication methods and undertaking regular independent security testing (as well it might). ®

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