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What is Remote Access? Connect Your Computer from Anywhere

Remote Access Definition

Remote access refers to when you have the ability to access a different computer or network in another place. Remote computer access is often used to enable people to access important files and software on another user’s computer.

With remote access, a user can monitor, maintain, and control devices as long as they are connected to the same network. This opens up the possibility to troubleshoot issues without being in the same physical location as the device with the problem.

Remote access also enables you to access necessary files without having them sent via email or other means. You can also define who has the rights to the files, as well as organize users into different categories, giving some groups access to certain things while limiting the access of others.

What is Remote Desktop Access

Remote desktop access describes software that allows access to someone’s personal computer desktop by another user. During the interaction, the other user can see the target desktop on their own device.

What Is Unattended Remote Access?

In an unattended remote access setup, you can access someone else's computer or server without them having to sit in front of it.

How Does Remote Computer Access Work?

A remote access connection gives users the power to connect to a private network from a different location. Both users have to connect to the same network. 

Once both are connected to the remote access network, a protocol governed by access software interfaces that user's device with another user's device. The protocol gives one device the ability to access the functions of the target computer or server. This allows the keyboard, trackpad, touchscreen, or mouse of the controlling user to manipulate the target device.

How To Gain Remote Access To Another Computer and What Are the Protocols?

Although there are different remote access protocols, three of the most often used types of remote access are:

  1. Virtual private network (VPN)
  2. Virtual network computing (VNC)
  3. Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)

Some remote access methods involve limited access or sharing of resources, but VPNs, VNCs, and RDPs allow users to both gain access to and have full control over another person’s computer via a remote network.

Virtual Private Network or VPN

A VPN provides users with the ability to send and receive data between devices or via a private network that is extended over a public network. To gain access to another’s computer, both have to be connected to the same VPN and running the same access software.

Virtual Network Computing or VNC

With VNC, you have a graphical system through which users can share desktops. Whatever the remote user does on their keyboard or mouse gets sent to the other device, controlling it as if the person were sitting in front of it while also allowing the accessing user to see what they are doing on their own screen.

Remote Desktop Protocol or RDP

RDP is a program by Microsoft that provides a user with a graphical interface to connect with another computer via a network connection. The user utilizes the RDP client software while the other person’s computer runs the RDP software.

Internet Proxy Servers

With internet proxy servers, a server performs the function of a go-between, allowing you to connect with another computer within the proxy server environment. Both computers connect to the same proxy server, and one user then gains access to the other’s computer.

What Are the Other Types of Remote Access?

There are other ways to access the information of another person’s computer, and each allows for different levels of control and data sharing.

  1. Cellular internet service connects two devices via a wireless connection
  2. Cable broadband allows users to share bandwidth with each other
  3. Digital subscriber line (DSL) makes use of a telephone network
  4. Fiber optics broadband uses a fiber connection to transfer large amounts of data quickly
  5. Satellite makes use of satellites to enable devices to connect through the internet
  6. Local-area network/wide-area network (LAN/WAN) involves making use of an encrypted network that connects users who sign in to it
  7. Desktop sharing involves software that allows people to share their desktop with several other people at once
  8. Private access management (PAM) consists of tools that make sure only the right people have access to certain files and apps on a network
  9. Vendor privileged access management (VPAM) enables secure sharing over a network controlled by an outside vendor that limits connection privileges

What is Remote Desktop Access

A Remote Access Connection Manager (RasMan) is a service provided by Windows that manages VPN connections between your computer and the internet.

The Remote Access Connection Manager works by giving users the ability to organize RDP connections in groups. To make the group, the user initiates a “New” command from the File menu and is then guided through the creation of a group file.

Remote Access Security Best Practices

When engaging in remote access, regardless of the protocol, it is important to remember that your computer will be exposed to at least one other user. Because files can be transferred from one computer to another, the possibilities for the transfer of malware exist, as well as unacceptable access by an intruder. Here are some best practices to ensure remote access security.

  1. Use endpoint protection: Endpoint security makes sure each device involved in the remote connection is safe. It typically involves antivirus software, firewalls, and other measures.
  2. Use a secure connection: Public Wi-Fi can put both users at risk. A secure, trusted connection allows for a direct link that excludes unauthorized users.
  3. Use complex passwords: Use passwords with at least eight characters and a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper- and lower-case letters.
  4. Use multi-factor authentication (MFA): Multi-factor authentication, such as a username and a password coupled with biometrics or text messaging, adds an extra layer a bad actor would have to negotiate to gain access.
  5. Use an account lockout policy: If someone enters the wrong password a certain number of times, an account lockout policy can bar them from trying to connect again.
  6. Regularly update your software: Keeping your software up to date can keep your computer safe from new malicious viruses or malware.
  7. Limit how many users can use the service: The more users, the more potential access points for hackers or malware. Cutting down the number of users reduces the chances of infiltration.

Is Remote Access Safe and When Should You Use It?

With proper endpoint protection, multi-factor authentication, passwords, and software, remote access can be a safe way to connect two devices. It is important to keep an eye out for threats that may be particularly dangerous when two devices are connected remotely.

A Trojan horse, for example, would be easy to get from one device to another, and it could go undetected because it often appears harmless. Similarly, a Remote Access Trojan (RAT) can gain access to a machine and provide control to the remote hacker. The RAT can let an intruder access files and gain complete control of the device.

It is important to also be careful of dangers that could be spread accidentally through files sent from one computer to the other. Some of these include viruses, spyware, and other malware.

Remote Computer Access Solutions

Fortinet offers methods of remote access using a secure VPN connection. Protected by FortiGate, remote workers can access each other’s computers as well as those of internal workers safely and efficiently. The FortiGate VM next-generation firewall (NGFW) can support IPsec VPN traffic at speeds up to 20 Gbps. This enables seamless remote access without time-consuming glitches or delays.

Key Takeaways

Remote access lets you connect to another person’s computer and use it as if you were sitting in front of it yourself. The image of the other device’s desktop appears on your device, and your actions on your device can be used to control the other device almost as easily as if you were physically at the device.

The connection happens over remote access protocols, such as a virtual private network (VPN), virtual network computing (VNC), or Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Both users have to interface with the protocol for the connection to be successful, and both devices have to be compatible with the service. You can also connect using services like cable or fiber broadband, cellular service, or privileged access management (PAM).

It is critical to put security measures in place whenever you use remote access. Some best practices include endpoint protection, complex passwords, multi-factor authentication, updating your software, and limiting the number of users who can use the service. FortiGate provides users with a fast connection using VM next-generation firewall (NGFW) to enhance both security and effectiveness.

How Fortinet Can Help

The FortiSASE secure access service edge solution provides Fortinet-hosted, cloud-delivered secure remote access to support work-from-anywhere policies without sacrificing security or network performance. Users can securely access corporate assets directly from the cloud while enabling SD-WAN, CASB, DLP, IPS, and ZTNA.