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Security Warrior by Anton Chuvakin, Cyrus Peikari

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Remote Desktop/Remote Assistance

Integrated remote control is one of the most useful features of Windows XP. This concept is not new, as illustrated by PC Anywhere, VNC, and Back Orifice. The fact that this technology now comes included with the Windows XP operating system has opened a new chapter in the history of Microsoft's family of desktop operating systems. However, several security issues have been discovered since the release of XP that can make these new additions a potential security risk.

Abusing the Remote Desktop

The Remote Desktop feature obviates the need for third-party remote control programs. It allows an authorized remote user to connect to his machine from anywhere, provided a direct connection exists. In other words, the client and host must have a direct path by which the data can transfer, which means any existing firewalls and/or proxy servers need to be manually configured to allow Remote Desktop to work.

To set up this program on the host, the operating system has to be told to accept incoming requests for Remote Desktop. If the server administrator wants to allow multiple users to connect (one at a time), extra accounts can be added to the Remote Desktop settings. To access the settings for Remote Desktop, perform the following steps:

  1. If the Default view is enabled, click the Start button.

  2. Right-click on My Computer and select Properties.

  3. Click on the Remote tab.

  4. Check the "Allow remote users to connect remotely to this computer" box.

  5. Click the Select Remote Users... ...

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