WinVNC: Is my IS dept. syping on me?

I work in an office where I use a PC running Windows NT.

One of the software programs installed on my PC is called WinVNC (VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing). It loads automatically when I boot up.

My IS dept. tells me that it is a program that allows them (certain IS workers) to get an image of my desttop on their machines. It’s not just an image, actually, I do believe they can open folders, start/stop programs, etc.

Basically, it allows them to see what’s happening on my machine, which helps them diagnose and fix problems when I call up the IS helpline with a problem. All this without having to bother to leave their desks and come all the way over to my machine.

So … this seem like a legitimate use that helps out our technical support teams. But, can this software be used for evil purposes, such as monitoring my actions on my computer?

I’d really not be happy if my bosses knew how much time I spent cruising the SDMB while I’m supposed to be working! :smiley:

P.S. A trip to the WinVNC Web site doesn’t answer my questions … it’s all straight and narrow and basically describes the non-nefarious usage I outlined above.

P.P.S. I disable WinVNC every morning right after I boot up … drives the tech crew mad!


I use WinVNC at my job. (I work at a helpdesk; we take calls from across the U.S.) We also use SMS. We don’t use it for spying, but for configuring software and hardware.

Can it be used for spying? I guess, but your IS department probably has other ways to track your internet useage and e-mail.

We use VNC here at the company I work for. I am in the IT dept, and use this program many, many times each day.
If your company is or wanted to spy on your internet activities, there are far easier ways than VNC to do so. Like the firewall logs. VNC is really used for remote controlling a computer. Yes you can connect to a computer and look at what the user is doing, so it can be used for nefarious purposes. But there are far easier ways to spy on your internet/e-mail/programs than VNC. Keep it running. Maked the IT geeks happier. And you DO want happy IT geeks, trust me. :smiley:
PS - Hello everyone. I’m new here.

All: “Hi Whitey!”

The VNC icon in your system tray [on the taskbar, by the clock] should change color when another computer is connected to yours. I think it goes from a white background [not connected] to a black background [connected]. So you could tell by looking at the icon.

I also agree with WhiteyFoo and Knighted Vorpal Sword that if they wanted to spy on you there are much easier ways.

We use VNC quite a bit for remote admin, and it’s incredibly useful to be able to go in and fix something instead of trying to talk a user through the changes on the phone. It’s also useful for debugging because you can watch a user do something rather than just listening to them describe it.

I always use it to connect to other machines rather than being connected to, but IIRC, the VNC icon in the system tray changes when a remote machine connects. This lets the local user know there is a remote connection. It may be possible to disable that change, but it seems to make it less useful for spying. If your techies want to spy on you, there are much easier ways including apps that just grab a screenshot of your computer every few seconds and log them on a central server for review.

P.S. I would submit that you should reevaluate your definition of “evil” and “nefarious”. You’re provided with company equipment, company bandwidth, and payment for your time presumably so you can perform company work. It’s likely your company has an acceptable-use policy governing personal use of resouces (everything from photocopies to email) and it is well within their rights to monitor your use of those resources for compliance.

P.P.S In my company, you would be severly disciplined for that behaviour, and I run a pretty loose “fun” shop. You must have very patient techies if you still have a job when you waste resources and subvert system admin tools.

You’re lucky they use WinVNC. There are a number of other programs, such as those included with Novell NDS, that do the same thing as VNC but cannot be disabled by the user and offer no indication that your screen is being viewed. Think about this before you disable it. Pissing off the IT department might cause them to consider other means of remote support.

With most companies, you Do Not change the computer configuration in any way. The computer isn’t yours. Arbitrarily disabling software because “you don’t like it” can get you in deep shit.

Well, ZenWorks doesn’t come bundled with NDS, and being able to view workstations without user consent/notification is optional. I have my system configured to notify users when I remote control or view their system. File transfers can be done without any bother to the user at all, though, which I think is really nifty.
But believe me, we’ve got better things to do.

Yeah, got that mixed up a bit.

Hi everybody, and thanks for your replies.

The replies were very reassuring, and I’ve decided not to close out WinVNC every morning after I boot up.

Yes, I like to keep the IT types happy, and I really don’t think my turning WinVNC off in the past has really vexed them at all, because I would always start it up again before I would call our computer help desk with a problem (which is very rare anyway).

I was just a little paranoid, because the WinVNC icon appeared on my taskbar one day without any explanation from the IS department. And its arrival was simultaneous with the appearance of a “Computer Use Policy” splash screen during boot up that mentions thinks like monitoring and such.

Thanks again for the information!


P.S. And I’ll try to limit my non-work-related Web surfing to my lunh hour – starting right after I post this message …

Nice to see I’m not the only one still running Novell. :slight_smile:

How far is Novell from dead?

This far

Another helpdesker here.

We also use WinVNC at the college I’m at, but we don’t have it running at startup. It isn’t perfect, but it’s close.

And make sure you don’t annoy your IT people: “What did you say your password used to be?” :stuck_out_tongue:

(We also use Novell and ZenWorks for student labs, and Unix and NT servers for the main network and some apps.)

Well, by coincidence, the latest quarterly report came out yesterday. I don’t understand most of it, but profits look to be up, with pretty good growth in several areas.

It does seem like they have pretty much given up on going head to head with MS as a server OS, though. Which is a damn shame, really.

If you are really paranoid, you can disable it and turn it back on right before you call It with a problem.

But, I doubt any company will several their relationship just because of personnal usage during the work day. If they do, it is only an excuse and there are deeper reasons. On the counter point, if a company does use “mis-use of company assets” for termination, one can always argue that any other employee that surfs the net should also be let go.

The question is can IT already see where yuo surf, yes. Can they already access to all your files and emails, yes.