UltraVNC – free solution for encrypted remote access

ultravnc_icon I have been quite happy with CrossLoop (and TightVNC which it uses or separately) for remote access. Still these are not universal, with CrossLoop’s human presence on both sides requirement and TightVNC’s lack of encryption.

Rush had mentioned UltraVNC more than once in comments, though not completely positive remarks. :) So I decided to poke that – another open source VNC-based solution for remote screen access.

What it does

Just as rest of VNC bunch this one is client-server application to set up remote access and control for computer. It is of stand-alone flavor, not tied to any third party service (does promotes Teamviewer with banners and such).

You have complete control, but you are on your own with connectivity puzzle as well.

ultravnc_interface

Strong features

Simply put UltraVNC packs most complete set of features I had seen in such kind of app. They are nothing marvelous separately, but most utilities make their picks. UltraVNC on other hand makes no compromises:

  • flexible connection quality options;
  • chat;
  • file transfer;
  • block of remote controls and screen;
  • repeater and NAT hole punching addons;
  • command line parameters and silent install instructions;
  • password or domain authorization;
  • creation of setting-less Single Click packages;
  • more (and even more) stuff.

Encryption

While UltraVNC doesn’t come with encryption out of the box, it has support for data stream modification (DSM) plugins.

To use such plugin you need to place it into UltraVNC folders, both of server and viewer, and configure them to use it. There is option to generate pre-shared keys, but it will work with password alone as well.

Downsides

So far only issue I encountered is browser access (via Java applet embedded in server) not working. Possibly because of encryption, I saw no mention on how well it plays with DSM plugins.

And more sensitive part is usual VNC issue of 8 characters limit on password length. Weirdly server doesn’t make mention of that – any password you type in will be silently cut to first eight characters.

Since it’s your headache to protect servers from being brutforced it does seem short. It is probably best to go with pre-shared encryption key from the start.

Overall

Highly comprehensive and functional solution for those who like to tinker with settings. It doesn’t have ease of use, common to hosted services, but being free and powerful makes up for that.

Home http://www.uvnc.com/

Download http://www.uvnc.com/download/index.html

DSM plugins http://msrc4plugin.home.comcast.net/~msrc4plugin/index.html

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5 Comments

  • You know… It was a year before I realized my 14 char password was getting chopped down to 8. They should mention that.
    Even after all my complaints and gripes, this is still my choice for remote access. I’ve tried a bunch of the others and this one is the only one that does everything I want, it’s open source, free and reliable. (At version 1.02, I’m not a fan of 1.05 and haven’t tried 1.08 yet).
    The other thing about uvnc that is really cool is the single click. (UVNC SC http://www.uvnc.com/addons/singleclick.html) I find this to be extremely helpful. SC allows you to create a single executable file, that can be emailed or downloaded, that allows a user to connect to a incoming server and give it control.
    IE… Mom F’d up the computer 400 miles away and talking her through an installation and setup would take twice as long as getting there on a pair of roller skates, uphill and in the snow. Instead you create the custom UVNC SC, e-mail it to her, she clicks it and you’re in, problems fixed in less than 20 min. The other cool feature is that after you disconnect, all traces of the app are automatically removed. The biggest difference between the UVNC and UVNC SC is that with the SC only the helpee can initiate the connection, not the helper. That way it is possible to give someone remote access on an as needed or one time basis.
    Good read, Rarst. It had been a while since I checked out their site and had no idea they had released 1.08. I’ll be messing with that all day.

  • @Rush

    Viewer cuts passwords visibly, so I noticed it fast.

    I mentioned Single Click in features, but hadn’t got to testing that part yet. Will probably do for a separate post on it some time later.

    One new issue I had encountered today is that colleague couldn’t use viewer with encryption on his notebook with Vista – it kept crashing. :( Naturally I am more inclined to blame Vista. :)

    By the way had you got to trying CrossLoop?

  • Not yet. Keep meaning to, but… kinda burnt. I’ll make a point of it tonight.
    The whole vista thing is why I went backwards from 1.05 to 1.02. Never had problems with 02

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