TeamViewer: Secure remote access and a lot more

Does an app that shares desktops, sets up unattended remote control, facilitates online presentations, allows online audio/video collaboration, and provides VPN capability interest you?

Being able to access files on the work or home computer remotely is important to many people, including me. Hence my continuing quest to find the ultimate remote access app.

Meet TeamViewer

When I started researching TeamViewer, I thought it was simply another remote-access application, with the typical set of features. I was mistaken, TeamViewer offers more. How many remote access apps provide VPN connectivity and audio/video conferencing?

Something else caught my attention. TeamViewer is ported to the iPhone. That's an important consideration for me. As a consultant, I never know when I might get a please-help-me phone call. Being able to access computers remotely with my iPhone is a definite advantage.

Some questions

To learn more about TeamViewer I contacted Constantin Falcoianu of TeamViewer GmbH. We exchanged the following questions and answers during an email conversation.

TechRepublic: How did TeamViewer GmbH the company get its start? Is TeamViewer the only product? Falcoianu: TeamViewer was founded in 2005 to serve the need of connecting people with one another so that they wouldn't have to meet in person. This helps save time and money normally spent on traveling.

TeamViewer GmbH has developed TeamViewer as well as complementary software solutions such as TeamViewer Manager, TeamViewer Portable, TeamViewer Host, TeamViewer QuickSupport, TeamViewer Web Connector, a Mac OS X version, and an iPhone version. They all serve the same purpose of connecting people.

TechRepublic: Could you give an overview of TeamViewer? Falcoianu: TeamViewer is one of the leading desktop sharing and remote control software solutions with over 60,000,000 users in more than 50 countries around the world. The software is available in 16 languages. TechRepublic: There are several remote access applications on the market. What makes TeamViewer stand out?

Falcoianu: TeamViewer is an all-in-one solution for desktop sharing, remote control, online-presentations, and online collaboration. If you have one of those needs, TeamViewer will be able to help.

There are plenty of features included in the software, such as remote rebooting, VoIP, video conferencing, session recording, changing of view directions, VPN, and finally file transfers. TeamViewer is also available for Windows, Mac OS X, and as an iPhone app. The software is absolutely free for non-commercial use. For companies, TeamViewer has affordable lifetime licenses.

TechRepublic: You mentioned that VPN access was one of the additional features. If the session is secure, why would a VPN option be needed? Falcoianu: VPN technology is different from shared access. It allows computers to join remote networks. For example, VPNs allow people to reach remote printers or databases, not just computers. TechRepublic: TeamViewer has two ways for someone to log into a remote computer. What is the purpose of that? Falcoianu: TeamViewer has the capability of providing remote access within seconds if someone needs help with their computer. This can be done by using QuickSupport, a small executable file that doesn't need to be installed nor require administrator privileges on the remote person's computer.

Also, TeamViewer can be used to remotely access an unattended computer or server. For this purpose, TeamViewer Host is used. The program runs as a service on the unattended machine.

TechRepublic: I was surprised, every application on my computer has a new button in the upper right corner. I believe it is called the QuickConnect button. Could you explain what it does? Answer: The QuickConnect button is a feature that enhances the connection being shared by two or more parties. By clicking on the QuickConnect button, you share the associated program with everyone instantly. TechRepublic: TeamViewer offers the option of using VoIP or conference calling. Is it possible to have multiple remote sessions running concurrently? Falcoianu: Yes, you can have multiple concurrent sessions from your computer to different partners, and share the VoIP or conference feature with all of them. TechRepublic: I've read that TeamViewer's encryption is based on 1024 Bit RSA private/public key exchange and 256 Bit AES session encoding. Could you explain what that means? Is there a difference between encryption and session encoding? Falcoianu: For the connection, TeamViewer first generates a set of 1024 Bit encrypted RSA private/public keys which are exchanged. That key pair is needed for the encryption of the symmetrical AES 256 Bit session keys. In other words, the RSA keys keep the AES 256 Bit secure during the set up phase of the encrypted session. This offers state of the art security for every session established by TeamViewer. TechRepublic: The TechRepublic members are security-conscious. What assurance can you give that neither TeamViewer GmbH nor anyone else can decipher session traffic? Falcoianu: The technology used to encrypt the sessions is based on the same standards as https or SSL and is considered to be secure by today's standards. The private/public key exchange ensures that TeamViewer routing servers and as a result, TeamViewer GmbH cannot decipher the data stream which is sent through the network since the private key never leaves the client's computer. Final thoughts

TeamViewer is quite an application, being able to accomplish many different tasks with just one program. My experience with TeamViewer has been positive when both parties are computers. That was not true with the iPhone application; it always required several attempts to complete a connection.

I want to thank Constantin Falcoianu and the people at TeamViewer GmbH for taking the time to answer my questions.