Posts tagged ‘Remote Desktop’

Remote Access

Many years ago I wrote numerous blog articles relating to VPNs, and primarily PPTP VPNs. Hits on those blog pages are up 300% since the Coronavirus outbreak due to people looking for ways to work from home. I wanted to warn PPTP is an old solution and is considered to be “broken” and very insecure. Please consider other options.

Rather than creating new articles explaining how to configure various remote access methods I thought I would provide some suggestions and links as it has all been written before by very talented IT folk.

Firstly VPNs. I would always recommend using a VPN appliance/router over the server itself. It is more secure, authenticates at the network perimeter not the server itself, and allows more control. Cisco, Sonicwall, Juniper, Watchguard, and others provide very good solutions . However one concern with any VPN solution is the fact that though it is a secure tunnel, it also allows any and all traffic between an unmanaged remote client computer and the corporate network. Viruses can travers the VPN tunnel, should the client PC be hacked the hacker has direct access to the corporate network, and the remote user can easily copy/steal corporate data that they maybe should not. In addition VPNs occasionally just do not work due to network addressing, slow ISP service, or blocked protocols by ISPs.

If you do want to set up a VPN on a windows server, I would recommend SSTP.  Thomas Maurer has a great configuration guide:https://www.thomasmaurer.ch/2016/10/how-to-install-vpn-on-windows-server-2016/

Perhaps a better option than a VPN is a terminal server, now called a remote desktop server (RD Server). I have never seen the RDP protocol blocked, performance is usually better than a VPN, and all data stays on the corporate network. If set up correctly it uses the Remote Desktop Gateway service and SSL which is very secure. You can, if you like, also use this within your VPN tunnel and if using a business class VPN solution restrict traffic to RDP.

Another alternative if you don’t want to set up an RD Server is to configure the RD Gateway service on your server and allow users to connect securely to their own desktops PCs with the same level of performance. This was a built in feature of SBS and Server Essentials 2016 and earlier.  Mariette Knap has a excellent article on configuring the RD Gateway service, specifically on Server 2019 Std:https://www.server-essentials.com/support/setup-rds-gateway-as-a-replacement-for-access-anywhere-from-the-essentials-experience-role

Regardless of what method you use, as soon as you allow any remote access, make sure you configure Group Policy to enforce strong passwords and to lock accounts after ‘X’ wrong password guesses.  (I use 5, and lock out for 30 minutes). You can set this on the server for domain wide deployment or on an individual PC using GPedit.msc. For both it is located under Computer Configuration |Windows Settings | Security Settings | Account Policies .

The other alternative of course is to use cloud based services such as Microsoft’s Office 365 which you can from any where, at any time.  If dong so, make sure you enable multi-factor authentication for security.

I hope this is of some help and please stay safe n these uncertain times.

 

 

 

Multiple RDP Sessions on a PC –legal or not

There are many web sites outlining how to reconfigure windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 to allow multiple concurrent Remote Desktop Sessions, basically making a desktop PC a terminal server. On many occasions I have pointed out doing so is a licensing violation, however I confess I have never seen this specifically stated in any ELUA.  I have been privy to discussions with Microsoft where this has been discussed, and Microsoft employees and support site personnel have often posted it is not permitted on various  sites.

Having been asked to verify this I reviewed various EULAs (End User Licensing Agreements) and it seems Microsoft more often explains in detail what is allowed than what us not.  Much like your insurance company doesn’t state in your home owners policy you are not permitted to have bonfires in your basement.  Some ELUAs such the one for Windows 7 mentions; “The single primary user of the licensed computer may access a session from any other device using Remote Desktop”, but does not state you can have multiple sessions.  It does however state you can have multiple users sharing a single session using NetMeeting or Remote Assistance, which means both users are sharing the same desktop and application, not separate sessions.  The intent with this is to assist an end user.

The modification is promoted as a patch, but a patch would be provided by Microsoft. This ‘patch’ was created by someone named DeepXW who on their own web page refers to it as “Crack termsrv.dll, remove the Concurrent Remote Desktop sessions limit”.

Most of the reputable sites explaining the hack also include a disclaimer explaining it is a violation.  I have posted some examples at the end of my ramblings . Sites such as Experts-Exchange have even banned posting the hack as they have confirmed it is a licensing violation.

We also need to consider if this hack were legal, you would also require buying RDP/RDS CALs (Client Access Licenses), and if Office were installed you would only be legit if you purchased volume licensing with one license for each user. The latter two are requirements on any multi-session Microsoft O/S.  The Office 2013 ELUA does clearly state that you cannot have multiple sessions: “Remote access. The user that primarily uses the licensed computer is the “primary user.” The primary user may access and use the software installed on the licensed device remotely from any other device, as long as the software installed on the licensed device is not being used non-remotely by another user simultaneously.”  This same issue applies to third party software which in many cases has the same limitations.

Granted the hack does work, with some occasional Winsock issues, and though the chances of being caught are minimal, if discovered in a Microsoft audit, which does happen, the penalties are stiff.  I strongly encourage folk to approach this in a more secure, manageable, and legitimate way by using a Microsoft Remote Desktop Services Server (formerly called Terminal server).

Sample comments from various sites outlining the hack:

However, be warned. Before you begin, I need to warn you that patching the file and allowing more than one concurrent Remote Desktop session will violate a few lines in the Windows XP EULA. Proceed with caution and at your own risk. I shall not be liable for any damage caused to you, your computer, your data or your dog/cat because of this.  From <http://www.petri.co.il/multiple-remote-desktop-sessions-on-windows-xp-sp3.htm>

Desktop, which basically only allows the single primary user of the licensed computer to access a session of the computer. And that essentially tells us that the trick we revealed to enable multiple concurrent user in remote desktop in Windows 7 isn’t a legally licensed, despite that it’s really a good useful hack.  From <http://www.nextofwindows.com/how-many-concurrent-connections-allowed-to-access-a-windows-7-computer/

I think you find it is a license violation, as win 7 is single user at time OS.
As with all version of windows you need a license for all current users.
If you “hack it” you have violated the TOS and have voided the windows license.  From <http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/windows/en-US/41e9e500-714a-443b-bff2-55f0d500d3d1/concurrent-sessions-remote-desktop-in-windows-7>

A quick note: enabling multiple concurrent RDP users may be against the Windows 7 End User Licensing Agreement (EULA). Please be sure to check the EULA beforehand and know that we do not recommend making these changes in cases where they may violate the EULAFrom <http://www.optimusbi.com/2012/12/05/enable-concurrent-rdp-connections-windows/>

Regardless of what solution you come up with, concurrent desktop access (if you are not sharing a single session) is in violation of the desktop Windows EULA.   From <http://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1190558

TS/RDS performance issues.

Are you having Terminal Server (Remote Desktop Services) performance issues when logging on, redirecting printers, or the print spooler hanging?  Eric Guo has a recent post outlining these performance issues can be due to; “hundreds or thousands of Inactive TS Ports”…..”in certain scenarios on 2003 Terminal Servers and 2008/2008 R2 RDS Servers.”  The first server I checked had hundreds. He has provided a tool “InactiveTSPortList” on CodePlex that will allow you to list and/or delete the inactive ports (requires Live ID sign in):

http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/partnerwinserver7rcthreads/thread/c860f54b-2d16-495f-9e5f-d28d72d63302

Direct link to Codeplex:

http://inactivetsport.codeplex.com/

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