From the Trenches: Worst IT Mistakes, Part 2

This week, I continue on the worst IT mistakes I've seen in my 10+ years as a repair tech, building on last week's tip about always being cognizant of the vulnerabilities of SSL VPNs. Taking that a step further, it's critical to know the difference between VNC and RDPs. Let me explain.

  • Not knowing the difference between VNC vs RDP

Coming from a computer repair background, I have used both VNC (Virtual Network Computing) and RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol, software protocol developed and owned by Microsoft) to gain remote access to a client’s computer for support. But there are important differences between the two that should be kept in mind. Here’s some important things to remember about VNC:

            1) It is not secure by default- you need to use add an encryption method to make it secure

  2) VNC ports over mouse and keyboard commands and does not create a new user session, meaning you take over control of the desktop as-is.  If you are helping a customer with support, they can see everything you are doing.

3) VNC needs a client running at both endpoints

As to RDP:

            1) It has limited security and additional protocols are recommended.

 2) RDP creates a new session, meaning only one user can access a machine at a time. This will boot off any current users logged in and close programs, unless the same user that is accessing remotely is the current user.  This is a key point to remember especially when developing remote access solutions for customers.

            3) RDP is Microsoft specific, it can connect to any Microsoft OS computer within the network that have RDP turned on

The lesson:  Know your protocol and know the path you are taking to the remote PC.  Don’t just take it for granted and neglect basic security. In fact, RDP recently faced some security issues.

“Leaving RDP open basically increases your attack surface,” says Rainer Enders, CTO Americas at NCP engineering. “If you have it running, you have an active connection that can be attacked. And the way it’s used, an app can be used from any machine.”

Chuck Romano is owner of MoonCat Computer Repair and has more than 10 years experience in the IT sector.