Control your entire network from your iPhone!

November 23, 2008 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Alternate title:  My Duh moment!

A month or so ago, Jaadu, a great VNC client for the iPhone that’s normally $24.99, went on sale. I believe it was $4.99 for a few short days. Even though I didn’t have an immediate need, I bought it anyhow, thinking it would come in handy soon enough.

Yesterday, I finally tried it out as a test of my WPA Enterprise connectivity on my Home wireless network. Now, I know just how good of a bargain I actually got! It works amazingly well, much better than the other iPhone VNC clients I had previously tried.  In all my use so far, it hasn’t crashed (unlike the competition), or locked up my phone (again, like the competition).  The only thing I’ve seen wrong so far was that I lost the cursor once.  I’m not sure if that was a bug, or my fault, honestly.  Simply reconnecting fixed it.

Anyhow, this got me to thinking how convenient it would be to control my home network from anywhere.  Since I work in the network field, I’m very security oriented, so I was hoping for some security built into Jaadu, but it is a fairly standard VNC client, so everything is sent unencrypted.  I read a bit about Jaadu Connect, which is their simple way to get a PC or Mac set up so that you can connect to it via Jaadu across the Internet.  It looks like it automatically configures your router to handle port forwarding, etc.  Jaadu Connect doesn’t add anything in the way of security, so if someone happens to connect to your VNC port and can guess your VNC password, they will be in complete control of the target machine.  It’s not that I think that’s extremely likely, but cyber-criminals do frequently scan the Internet for open ports, and if there is any way that they might be able to determine that a VNC client is running on the other end, they could potentially try a dictionary attack.  Yea, so I’m paranoid.  That’s probably why I’m good at my job.

Oddly enough while I was out eating dinner tonight, it struck me.  Duh!  The iPhone supports VPN!  This is one of those features that I read about, thought “That’s nice – it could be useful”, and never bothered trying.  Here I am trying to think of “outside the box” ways to secure VNC, when it’s built right into the iPhone!  I’m so used to things being difficult, I overlooked the obvious!

So, when I got back home this evening, I enabled the L2TP server on my Safe@Office, gave it a strong passphrase (generated via 1Password’s great password generator), added the VPN permission to my iPhone’s user account, and added a rule to let VPN users do stuff on my network.  After that, it was a simple matter of setting it up on the iPhone, and BAM!  I can now connect over AT&T’s 3G network securely back to my Home network, and remote control my machines via my phone from anywhere within the AT&T coverage area.

I did have to lower the color setting to “Hundreds” instead of the “Thousands” I was getting over WiFi, but with that setting in place, it performs at an acceptable speed.

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Entry filed under: iPhone, Networking.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jeshii  |  January 13, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    I totally understand. I haven’t done VNC outside my home network because I am paranoid, so I’m glad to know I’m not the only one. And I was thinking, “Maybe there’s an another app that does some sort of secure vnc…” But this is a great way to do it! But I know nothing about VPNs… oh well, something else to learn about! XD

    Reply

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