Tag Archives: vpn

What Is the Best Remote Assistance Program?

Geek!This is Preston Kemp’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Do you get asked to help people with their computers? Do they want you to come over to their house every time something goes wrong? I’m afraid I can’t tell you how to get them off your back, but why would you want to? People need to help other people more these days.

There might be an easier way to solve computer problems for people and make your job a little easier by remotely connecting to their computer. You can download TeamViewer, a free program for both Mac and PC users. It allows you to remotely connect to another person’s computer and take control and fix their issue. All you need to do is get the ID and password from the person you plan to connect to and you can connect to. There are versions for both Mac and Windows and is cross-platform compatible so for example, Let’s say your friend has a lovely Mac and is running OSX but you are running XP or Vista or vice versa; you can still connect and assist them as long as you have their ID and Password. Now you can help people no matter if they have a Mac or a PC.

It has far more functionality than the ‘Remote Desktop Connection’ that can be used for Windows. You can transfer files directly, without having to upload them to a file sharing website and then re-download them at the client computer. There is also a feature for doing a presentation which will allow them to only view your screen and not allow them to control it. TeamViewer also has an integrated feature that allows you to chat with the person to whom you are assisting.

Another of TeamViewers many features is the VPN hosting. If you have someone assisting you, there is an option to record the session so if you forget how to do something you can always go back and find out again by watching the session that you recorded. You can also optimize settings for speed and quality. You can also pick your own settings or let TeamViewer chose what’s best for your connection. Once you have the login credentials you will be able to solve problems just as if you were there in person, sitting at the computer with the issue.

What if I don’t like something they are doing on my computer? No problem – you can easily stop what they are doing by clicking a little X button at the bottom right corner of the screen, which will allow you to override anything they do. Your mouse can also “overrule” the assister’s controls – meaning that if you move the mouse, your mouse gets priority and prevents the assister from doing anything that you wish them not to do.

How do I know they won’t connect to my computer when I’m not using it using my ID and Password I gave them? Don’t worry; they can’t do anything because your password randomly changes every time you use TeamViewer so that they can’t gain control of your computer without your password.

Want a Free VPN for Public WiFi Hotspots?

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When it comes to accessing the Internet when you’re away from home, you never really know what you’re going to get. You have to stay secure to protect yourself. A friend of mine emailed me the other day, talking about this exact situation. He was traveling, and had to check his Gmail from an unsecured public computer. He apparently forgot to log himself out, as well. I asked him if he at least had used the more secure httpS instead of the plain http prefix… and he had not.

I even get nervous at times connecting to my email via my Sprint PCS mobile broadband connection. When I’m sending information back and forth wirelessly, if it’s not being done in an encrypted fashion I get nervous. You never know who will be sniffing packets of information. This is what you need to be aware of when you’re connecting to the Internet via a wireless hotspot.

One way you can help keep yourself safe is by using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. One program, called Hamachi is free for personal use. I’ve been using it for awhile now, as you’ll see if you check out that link. However, I want to tell you about another program that one of our community recently emailed me about.

HotSpot Shield is another free program that can be used on Mac or Windows machine. It’s been reviewed by people on CNN and CNET, with good ratings. Think of a VPN as a shield that surrounds you and whatever you are wanting to connect to. If you’re connecting to the Internet via an unsecured network, anyone can look at the packets of information you are sending out. What a program like HotSpot Shield does is to encrypt that data, so it cannot be seen and/or read by those would-be information stealers.

While on the road this week, I had a need to log into Ponzi’s machine at home in Seattle, via my mobile connection. She has VNC set up, but it was behind our firewall. I didn’t want to have to go through opening ports and all of that. Instead, I chose to use the new TeamViewer. TeamViewer can establish a connection to virtually any computer in the world with just a few clicks. It’s a way to share screens, or remote control another computer as long as the other person is at their computer and grants the access. It’s simple, and made things much easier on me. I was connected to her machine securely, and quick.

If you are going to connect to a wireless connection, whether wireless or wired… I urge you to use either HotSpot Shield or Hamachi. And of course, why not check out TeamViewer if you have a need to connect to another machine.

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Hamachi for Secure Network Computing


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http://live.pirillo.com/ – In the past, I have never really used VPN. It just seems so complicated and costly. However, using open wireless networks while out and about, I’m definitely concerned about privacy and safety.

My buddy WirelessPacket from our live chat room is on Skype with me tonight. He has convinced me that it’s time to try Hamachi. Hamachi is a free program that allows you to create your own Virtual Private Network, or VPN. He has made an excellent video tutorial demonstrating exactly how to use Hamachi. From his description:

“Hamachi is a simple, secure, and effective alternative to VPN. If you have ever wanted to access your home computer from the office, hotel or internet cafe look no further. With Hamachi there is no need to configure your firewall by opening ports and exposing you computer to nasty threats lurking on the web”

A standard VPN encrypts the traffic you send and receive… email, IM, web browsing, etc. A VPN makes your Internet activity more secure over a wireless network, but it’s also quite costly. Hamachi allows you to create your own VPN basically… for free! You can add other users to it, and share files with them in a secure manner. Some of the features of Hamachi:

  • LAN over the Internet Arrange multiple computers into their own secure network, just as if they were connected by a physical cable.
  • Remote Access Remote control any machine on your network with Remote Desktop.
  • Files and Network Drives Access critical files and network drives.
  • Zero-configuration Works without having to adjust a firewall or router.
  • Security Industry leading encryption and authentication.
  • Cost Effective Basic version is free to use.

Thanks, WirelessPacket, for showing this to me. This is definitely something I’m going to start using, and I hope others will, as well.

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Does it make pfSense to wear SSH SOCKS?

Adrian Hensler scribbled:

Just looking at your postings regarding VPN and Hamachi. Hamachi is pretty neat but if it has spotty support for the Mac why not try SSH (secure shell)? I know there are Mac clients like putty ( http://putty.darwinports.com/download/ ). SSH is great for tunneling data through. You can pipe your email, Web browsing, and IM and whatever else through SSH. It’s very flexible and once you’ve played with SSH (either the command line version or a GUI like putty, it’s easy to see many uses for it).

Here’s a page describing the Mac setup briefly: http://www.mikeash.com/?page=ssh_socks.html

I’m not sure why the author chose to use the Firefox “about:” way rather than the File | Preferences way, but that’s fine. This page might be a bit better description of the whole process, and here’s yet one more. Here’s one on setting up the SSH daemon on a Mac (not sure if there’s a better way, sorry). You could also just run a tiny linux virtual machine that includes a SSH daemon in something like VMware and just forward the appropriate port (22) to that.

It involves adding a dynamic tunnel and then changing Firefox to use that new local port as a SOCKS proxy. One caveat is that DNS requests are still done locally; so browsing history isn’t completely hidden. It’s possible to direct DNS requests through the tunnel as well; but it’s significantly more complicated. Also; it’s important to note that you can direct multiple ports through the same SSH tunnel – you could forward email / instant messaging / remote desktop; all through the same single SSH port at the same time; as long as you know and have access to the remote IP and port from the remote SSH server. The sister application SCP will work in the same manner for moving files securely.

Another issue might be that some users may not have access to change the Firefox / IE settings to add a proxy. In my previous job; these settings were locked by a group policy… but they didn’t lock the registry settings where these ‘lock’ options are set; so I just disabled the lock via the registry….

Like everything else; it seems more confusing than it is. Once you’ve set up a tunnel and see how it works; you’re set for a million uses. The fact that it is multi-platform is a huge plus for me – it works the same way on my Linux boxes and my Windows boxes. You can also set it up with multiple hops to get to places you might not have thought possible.

My personal solution is a router PC based on pfsense ( https://www.pfsense.org — amazing work done on this project) and I connect to that via either SSH or the Windows built-in pptp client – pfsense runs a SSH daemon if desired and also supports IPSec and PPTP tunnels. But for quick http proxies, it’s hard to beat SSH.

Jeremy Phillippe also suggests pfSense:

I’m not sure if you’ve considered (or are aware of) m0n0wall and pfSense. m0n0wall is a FreeBSD based router package that, among other things, will let you setup a PPTP VPN endpoint, which will let you almost effortlessly connect remotely from both Windows and Mac OS X to your home network and the internet from there. pfSense is an offshoot of m0n0wall, it uses a more recent version of FreeBSD and uses OpenBSD’s Packet Filter (hence the pf part), it also supports VPNs in this manner. It’s fairly easy to setup a spare machine for this (or get a small custom built device that will run either).

Virtual Private Sushi!?

“wirelesspacket” (quickly becoming one of my favorite chat regulars) sent this suggestion on virtual private networks for individuals.

I was reading your post about Tor or VPN.. Have you ever tried Hamachi? (http://hamachi.cc) Hamachi is an alternative to VPN. It was highly recommended by Steve Gibson in his Security Now podcast episode 18. http://aolradio.podcast.aol.com/sn/SN-018.mp3

Hamachi uses AES 256bit encryption creating an Ad-hoch local area network (LAN) using the 5 dot IP address range. (5.xxx.xxx.xxx range) It is also multi platform, running on Windows, Linux and OSX. Hamachi does not send any traffic from your network to there servers. Just your initial login, all connections from there on in are client to client.

Fully Secure.. Here is how you get started…

First, you need to visit the Hamachi website and download there free software. (Spyware free)

Second, install the software. The Hamachi software installs a GUI client with a virtual network adaptor that will allow you to connect to the Hamachi servers and clients.

Third, Create a unique Hamachi network name. You have the ability to use wildcard card characters within your network name. Making it virtually impossible for anyone to guess what network name you have decided to use.

Forth, Use a strong 64 key password. This can be generated at https://www.grc.com/passwords.htm . Copy and past your network password into the field provided.

Fifth, Download and Install the Hamachi software onto other clients. Have those clients join your Hamachi network. Do this by copying and pasting your network name and password. You have just now created a Hamachi network. (Doesn’t it feel great!)

Simple and efficient.

You now have the ability to use Windows file sharing, FTP, Remote Desktop Connection, VNC, play games and even VPN. All through the ad-hoc LAN network you have just created. (This is Sparta!)

You can now run a VPN server from the privacy of your own home or office without port forwarding. Start your VPN server and Install Hamachi onto that machine. On a machine that has Hamachi already configured. Open the VPN client you wish to use. Input the IP address of the VPN server on your Hamachi network into the client. The address entered should start with 5.xxx.xxx.xxx. You are now connecting to a VPN server over Hamachi.

Double the security and encryption. All done without touching any of the settings on your firewall.

The only problem is, OS X support is shaky. I may have to keep looking, I guess.

TOR or VPN?

I always get nervous on open and/or public WiFi networks – especially when it comes to checking sensitive information like email. Some people say that a VPN (a virtual private network) solves that problem, but I don’t seem to have anything other than a way to dial into a VPN server. Since I don’t have a VPN server, I’m stuck with half a solution.

I asked Matt Hartley about the situation, and he responded:

Not an expert, but I do ‘access’ to a VPN as a client user – it’s a Java based solution for the enterprise, though. It eliminates the need to forward ports as a client, among other headaches.

VPNs are generally used for connecting two office environments, even if it is allow a single user access to the servers and users of the main office, over a remote network, from a coffee shop as a remote user in his own ‘virtual’ office.

So if you were needing access to company files as if you were physically in the office, a VPN server could be practical for allowing secure, seemly ‘right there’ type access to the needed files and other office resources. Otherwise, just tighten up your browsing and communication security and use a remote desktop.

An example of some great server software would be from these guys. If you are merely looking to secure your browsing and email sessions like a non-corporate type, consider TOR. I tend to agree that it is useful for privacy protection with your communication data.

So, maybe I need to be running TOR on my laptop(s)?