RDP, VPN, MFA… WTH?

Recently overheard at the ITS Help Desk: To use that program from off campus, you can RDP into the terminal server, but in order to RDP you have to connect through VPN, and that requires that you have MFA set up… Wait, what?

With the increase of Etown’s remote learners and some updates to the network security, there’s a whole new set of acronyms in use across campus. Here’s some basic information about each of them and how they may impact you:

VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is an encrypted connection from an Internet accessible device to a secure network. In our environment, we use a program called Cisco AnyConnect to connect to the Etown network from any computer that is connected to the Internet. Once you’re connected through the VPN while off campus, you can access almost all the files, folders, and programs that you can use when you’re on campus. So, you’ll be able to access your professor’s public folder, your class folder, and other shared materials when you connect through the VPN.

Every person with an etown.edu account has VPN access enabled. And, Cisco AnyConnect is available for installation on PCs and Macs through a link in Jayweb. For more information about how to install the Cisco AnyConnect software and details on how to connect to the VPN, check out the information in this set of knowledgebase articles.

MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication, or MFA, is a security measure that requires more than one method of authentication from different categories of credentials to verify a user’s identity. MFA is sometimes called Two-Factor Authentication, or 2FA, and is required by Google if you have a Gmail account, and probably in use by your bank and other accounts you access through the Internet.

In simple terms, to login, a user has to prove who they are by presenting something they know (their password) and something they have (a code on a cell phone). Without both pieces of information, any requested logon will be denied. So, if you have MFA enabled, even if someone acquires your password, they won’t be able to access your account since they won’t be able to provide the required second factor code.

Although MFA isn’t mandatory for all user accounts at Etown, it is required to use VPN. And, ITS is working toward full campus enrollment in MFA, so enrolling now will bring us closer to that goal. You can find more information about MFA at Etown and how to set it up in this section of the knowledgebase.

RDP

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) allows a user to remotely control another computer as though they were working on it directly. Using RDP, through the campus quarantine, many members of the Etown community connect into their office computers and perform their normal job duties from their home offices.

The Remote Desktop Connection software is installed as part of the standard operating system on all Windows computers; just type “remote desktop” in the search bar of Windows to access it. For Mac users, Microsoft has a free app for use on your MacOS devices through the App Store.

While a number of the computers on campus don’t allow an RDP connection for security reasons, students who need to use software that won’t install or run correctly on their personal computers can RDP to the ECSTUDENT-TS terminal server to use a wide variety of academic software. There are similar terminal servers available for faculty and staff use. The “Connect to Office Computer or Terminal Server” section of this knowledgebase article for PCs and this knowledgebase article for Macs provides detailed instructions and screenshots of the RDP process.

Not Sure What You Need to Use?

If you’re learning or working off campus, you’ll need to connect through VPN first, then you can use the RDP program to access the terminal server or computer. If you’re on campus, you’re already connected to the Etown network, so you can skip the VPN step and go straight to the RDP connection. In either case, make sure you’ve enabled MFA to add the extra security to your account!

Hopefully, this will help to shed some light on these newer terms. As always, please contact the ITS Help Desk with any questions or concerns you have. BTW, ITS stands for Information and Technology Services.

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Posted in Computer Tips, Digital Citizenship, Home Page, New Student Tips, Teaching and Learning, Training, Windows 10 Tagged with: , , , ,

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