What is Remote Access and How Does it Work?

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Jul 19, 2022

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Working away from your primary workstation is common. It doesn’t matter if you are telecommuting from home or traveling - sometimes, you must use a different device. And that's perfectly fine until you need a file or software on your main computer.

Such situations require support, so let’s explore what remote access is

What Is Remote Access?

This is the ability to exploit a device, system, or network that’s distant from you. Enterprises and technical support organizations commonly use it.

Employees often connect their personal computers with their office ones. This way, files, systems, and applications can be easily used from home, in meetings, or during work trips. Accessing data remotely allows companies to hire top candidates without geographical concern. And it helps facilitate collaboration between colleagues.

Technical support workers use this tool to fix client computers wherever they are. This makes troubleshooting much more manageable.

You need to install the software on both devices to access work remotely. This way, one computer can display the other’s desktop and allow the distant user to work directly on it. Some operating systems come with such software - for example, WindowsRemote Desktop and iOS’ Remote Login. Linux, though, requires third-party software.

Let’s now dig into how this software performs its magic.

How Does It Work?

Remote connectivity is not a new concept. It was even available before the internet was widespread. For such a connection, terminal emulation software controls a hardware modem linked to a telephonic network.

Nowadays, a combination of hardware, software, and network achieve connectivity. You can use remote access by connecting to a LAN, WAN, or VPN.

Be sure to choose a tool that is compatible with your computer. Pay close attention to the offered features and pricing differences.

After installing desktop sharing software, you’ll be able to link both together and begin working on the distant device - as if you’re sitting right in front of it.

Types of Remote Access

Here are three remote access methods for your consideration:

Remote Desktop Software

Your keyboard and mouse actions transmit to the host computer through this type of software. Meanwhile, that device’s display broadcasts on the remote computer. A reliable internet connection is necessary.

This type of remote system access can provide real-time viewing of presentations or files between coworkers or with clients. It allows entry to all the programs installed on the host without requiring them to be on the other computer. You can also pair incompatible PCs, like ones operating on Windows and iOS.

On the downside, there is no option to work offline. Also, while accessed remotely, the host device is not usable.

Another disadvantage is that this tool lacks functionality and security features to provide complex remote support to enterprises. It also lags in protocols to support the servers and databases large businesses require. 

Virtual Private Network

VPN software is the most common choice of all the remote access tools. It practically turns a public internet connection into a private one. 

The remote device joins the host’s LAN (Local Area Network). And the connection is through a secure tunnel. VPNs encrypt data to protect your online activities and keep you anonymous. When linked, your work happens on the other computer and it appears like you’re sitting in front of the primary device.

This type of remote access technology is helpful to companies with more than one office. It allows them to share databases safely. It also doesn’t burden anyone using the host computer while being exploited remotely.

A common issue of using a VPN is its slower connection speeds. Another is that all software requires installation on both devices. 

Privileged Access Management

This example of remote access is also known by the acronym PAM. It’s a set of tools that monitor and secure entry to an organization’s resources through privileged accounts.

PAM ensures security when accessing critical systems. These solutions include advanced credential security, user activity monitoring, system and data control, and others. They help prevent unauthorized network entry and reveal questionable activity.

Limiting users to only the necessary files and resources is a good practice when exploiting this tool.

Risks

A remote access connection comes with risks. It can make it easier for cybercrime to occur. That’s why you need security measures like multi-factor authentication and secure password protocols.

Personal devices commonly lack firewalls. If a virus infects yours, hackers can potentially exploit your company’s paired computer.  

For example, a Trojan horse may transfer from one computer to another without detection through such a connection. 

Also, be aware of possible scam calls where purported IT techs request remote access to fix an alleged problem. Probably best to check with your system administrator or your IP before allowing such.  

Securing Remote Access

Here are some ways you can better secure your remote connection:

  • Use strong passwords - complex passwords consist of at least 12 characters. Make sure they contain upper and lowercase letters and numbers. It’s critical to change your passwords often, never use the same ones, and never share them.
  • Employ two-factor authentication - you can control entry with the help of 2FA. You’ll have to set a username and a password. You will receive a unique code through a text or email message. And if you’d like to take it a step further - use multi-factor authentication, like facial and fingerprint recognition.
  • Use firewalls - set up a firewall through software or hardware to restrict access.
  • Update your software - regular updates provide you with the latest security patches - so make sure these updates are frequent to protect against any new viruses.
  • Set up an account lockout policy - make sure that your account locks down when someone enters an incorrect password several times. This can help block potential hackers. 

Wrap Up

Remote access technology comes in handy, especially during a pandemic. Being able to connect devices assists collaboration to efficiently complete tasks. 

And while working alone is challenging for some, hopefully, the above information makes it easier for you to understand remote connectivity and its benefits.

FAQ.


Should I disable remote access?

Unless you’re actively using it, it’s best to disable remote device access. Hackers can possibly steal your personal information or install malware on your device.

However, disabling the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) does not prevent other types of remote access. Nevertheless, it is best to turn it off when not in use. 

Can you tell if someone is remotely accessing your computer?

Yes, it's possible, and your first step is to disconnect from the internet. 

Then you need to check the following for anything suspect:

  • recently viewed files and apps,
  • browser history,
  • recently modified files,
  • login events,
  • any remote access programs,
  • unusually high CPU usage.

Furthermore, it’s important to scan your computer for viruses.

Can someone remotely access my router?

Yes, hackers can breach your router and home network. Sadly, what remote access is capable of doing for you can also be used against you. Cybercriminals can crack your password or exploit security flaws in the firmware.

Make sure you:

  • regularly update your software,
  • create strong passwords,
  • deactivate remote administration,
  • run virus scans.

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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