Some organizations still use jump box servers to provide access to their data centers and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud servers. However, for many organizations, there’s a better way to provide secure access to infrastructure. In this article, we’ll discuss why jump box servers are an obsolete solution for modern DevOps organizations and explore how an emerging cloud architecture can replace them while improving security.
What Is a Jump Box Server?
In the past, the jump box server was a mainstay for many IT organizations and DevOps teams as a way to establish a clear funnel through which traffic passed to their infrastructure. The idea was simple: designate one server as the control point and force users to log into that system first. Once authenticated there, they could traverse to other servers without having to log in again. This was a great solution at the time, but now it’s outdated in comparison to the other options that exist.
This approach had numerous benefits, including ease of use after login, and it aided organizations in meeting compliance regulations because they could provide straightforward audit logs. It also paralleled the way most organizations implemented identity and access management (IAM) across their environments. Jump box servers, like Active Directory (AD) domain controllers, allowed admins to establish a secure perimeter around IT resources. And once users were inside the perimeter, they faced fewer internal security measures.
What Are the Risks of Using a Jump Box Server?
However, this approach also exposed organizations to enormous risks. Once a user — or a bad actor — breached the perimeter, they could traverse through the organization’s networks and resources with relative ease. For example, in 2015, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced it had suffered one of the government’s largest data breaches, which was the result of a compromised jump box server. As Wired put it in a postmortem of the breach: “By controlling the jumpbox, the attackers had gained access to every nook and cranny of OPM’s digital terrain.”
On top of that, this incident occurred about a decade ago, so if the jump box approach was outdated then, it’s considerably obsolete now.
What Is the New Approach for Users to Access Data?
As the IT landscape has evolved, organizations have abandoned the concept of perimeter security in favor of more dynamic methods such as Zero Trust security, in which all network traffic is untrusted by default. On top of that, the identity has become the new perimeter with the popularity of hybrid work, and identities need to be locked down dynamically to keep devices and resources secure.
Modern cloud architecture enables organizations to take a Zero Trust approach, increase their flexibility, and grant granular server access permissions for each user. This architecture — which drives the domainless enterprise model — is built around a cloud directory service like JumpCloud. From a cloud directory service, admins can establish a secure channel directly between their directory and each server, regardless of where it’s located. They can then systematically and automatically provide and revoke access to those servers with granular access permissions tailored to each individual’s role.
This approach requires users to authenticate to each IT resource uniquely and separately to protect each access point and prevent overly broad access to resources. It doesn’t require a jump box server, a VPN, or any other on-prem infrastructure to provide access.Modern cloud directory services can also manage SSH keys and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA/2FA) to further protect access to servers, as well as accelerate server auto-scaling to keep pipelines running smoothly.
At JumpCloud, we’re committed to helping organizations secure access to all their IT resources — not only servers but also devices, networks, and more, entirely from the cloud. Our open directory platform replaces jump box servers and enhances identity and access management across your environment.
Check out all of JumpCloud’s primary features and pricing to see if it’s the right solution for you. And, if you’re more of a hands-on person, try out the platform for free for up to 10 users and 10 devices, no strings attached.