VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing

by Wayne Maples [Published on 20 April 2004 / Last Updated on 20 April 2004]

Network administrators should be familiar with VNC which is the poor man's PCAnywhere. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing and was developed by AT&T Laboratories Cambridge. VNC is easily to install and use and is the remote console utility of choice for penetration testers and hackers. It can be run as an application or as a service. It is also widely used as a legitimate support tool to make remote administration of win32-based servers. Check it out for its own value and to be familiar with its characteristics.

The important factors which distinguish VNC:

  • No state is stored at the viewer.
    This means you can leave your desk, go to another machine, whether next door or several hundred miles away, reconnect to your desktop from there and finish the sentence you were typing. Even the cursor will be in the same place. With a PC X server, if your PC crashes or is restarted, all the remote applications will die. With VNC they go on running.
  • It is small and simple.
    The Win32 viewer is about 150K in size and can be run directly from a floppy. There is no installation needed.
  • It is truly platform-independent.
    A desktop running on a Linux machine may be displayed on a PC. Or a Solaris machine. Or any number of other architectures. The simplicity of the protocol makes it easy to port to new platforms. There is a Java viewer, which will run in any Java-capable browser. There is a Windows NT server, allowing you to view the desktop of a remote NT machine on any of these platforms using exactly the same viewer. Note that the NT server is not multi-user.
  • It is sharable.
    One desktop can be displayed and used by several viewers at once, allowing CSCW-style applications.
  • It is free!
    You can download it, use it, and redistribute it under the terms of the GNU Public License. Both binaries and source code are available from the download page, along with a complete copy of documentation.

VNC Download site: Virtual Network Computing

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