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Hacking RDP

Need quick access to your files remotely? Herewith, an alternative to buying something.

As a consultant and a writer I spend a lot of time working outside the office. Unfortunately, it's within that office where a lot of my files are located. Out on the road, it can be a pain in the neck to set up a VPN connection just to grab a file or check mail.

Typical VPN connections often don't provide remote control access to the desktop. There are tools available like VNC or Citrix's GoToMyPC that can enable that access. But, VNC can have a choppy frame rate and GoToMyPC has a monthly fee.

So I thought, "What about Terminal Services?"

Opening TCP port 3389 from the Internet to my computer would probably be a bad idea (we'll actually talk about why that's a bad idea in this column next time). But the network security guy in me had a sneaking suspicion that people aren't necessarily looking for RDP connections on other ports.

So, I hacked RDP. Specifically, I hacked it to change the port it listens in on to a different port. Then, I enabled connectivity to that port through the firewall. In many cases, the corporate networks I'm working on away from the office are watching traffic on ports 80 and 443. So, I changed the RDP port to 444. Now, I can connect via Terminal Services to my office computer by starting the Remote Desktop Client and typing in rdp.gregsoffice.com:444.

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If you'd like to change your RDP port, navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp and change the DWORD value for PortNumber to the hex number for 444 (or any other TCP port value).

About the Author

Greg Shields is Author / Evangelist with www.PluralSight.com, and is a globally-recognized expert on systems management, virtualization, and cloud technologies. A multiple-year recipient of the Microsoft MVP, VMware vExpert, and Citrix CTP awards, Greg is a contributing editor for Redmond Magazine and Virtualization Review Magazine, and is a frequent speaker at IT conferences worldwide. Reach him on Twitter at @ConcentratdGreg.

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