Remotely control your PC using a Gmail account

By Mark O’Neill

Now here’s an intriguing little program for all you Gmail aficionados out there. You can now send remote commands to your PC by emailing your Gmail account. Available commands include shutting down the PC, running a program and opening a webpage in your browser.

Entitled Gmail Remote Control (GRC), it is a small executable program which sits on your computer scanning your Gmail account, waiting for you to command it to do something. For this to work properly, you need to have the following :

  • a Gmail account (yeah I know, pretty obvious, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some idiot tried this with a Yahoo account and then complained it didn’t work!)
  • the target computer must be on and running. There must also be an open internet connection.
  • the Gmail Remote Control program must be logged in and running on the target computer.
  • Windows XP (sorry Vista fans).

If you are a mistrusting person by nature and would prefer not to reveal the password to your main Gmail account then just set up a new Gmail account solely for the purpose of using this program.

OK so when you have Gmail Remote Control open (nothing needs to be installed), enter the log-in details for the Gmail account and log in. You should now see a clock running. That tells you that the program is working normally. You should also insert this program to run in your daily startup process. It would be pretty bad if you were away from home, needed to use this program and realised that the GRC program wasn’t running!   However, you need to log in with your Gmail password everytime you start up GRC.

This didn’t occur to me personally but the developer’s website says that in some cases, the GRC program doesn’t work properly first time around and to make it work, you need to install an OCX file. Just see the webpage for more details on that if this affects you.

So you have GRC running. You’re now out and about doing your thing and you realise you forgot to shut down your computer at home. Doh! Assuming GRC is running on the target computer and you have internet access on another computer, here’s how to use Gmail to send a remote command to shut down that computer at home.

Send a blank email to the Gmail account registered with GRC. In the subject title, enter the word shutdown then send it :

grc1.gif

Since GRC is constantly scanning your Gmail account, it will act as soon as the email hits your inbox. It will then proceed to shut down the computer it is sitting on. But here’s the thing – after waiting some time, go back into your Gmail account and delete the email. Otherwise, when you go home and switch the computer back on again, GRC will kick in, check the Gmail account, find the shutdown email still sitting there and will proceed to shut the computer down again! So to break that vicious cycle, delete the email before you get back.

But it’s not only shutdown that GRC is good for. You can also tell it to run a program. Just send that email to your Gmail account again, this time entering the path to the program between <open>tags. This command will tell GRC to open up my AVG Anti-Virus on the target computer :

grc2.gif

Once again, GRC will see that email and carry out the command you have given it.

The third command is to open a webpage in your default browser.   Say you’re at a buddy’s house and he tells you about  a great new website you should check out.   You don’t want to forget about it so maybe it would be good to have that page open and waiting for you when you get back home?

Fire up the email and send the following to your Gmail account :

grc3.gif

When GRC gets the command, it will open the desired URL for you.

GRC is quite a useful program if you use Gmail a lot and you want to be able to manipulate a computer remotely.   There’s also lots of possibilities for its usage.   Parents could use it to shut down a computer from another room if their child is not doing their homework but playing games instead.   You can also use it to open programs that you might be using as a covert security camera.    IT departments could use it to shut down a particular computer at the other end of the building or in a completely different location altogether.

Can you think of any uses of your own?   Let’s hear them.





30 Responses to Remotely control your PC using a Gmail account

  1. Good: Seems like a good way to send remote commands from anywhere, including a cell phone. It would also be a good alternative to port knocking.

    Bad: I can see a whole new opening for pranks and spam. How easy would it be to send a <code> [open

    • Jeffery : even if you send a message to everyone in your email list, you won't really be able to get their computers to open any bad websites. Each of your contacts would need GRC installed on their computer and it would have to be logged in and running. You would also need to know the Gmail address that they are using for GRC. If you keep the email address a secret, there's no way anyone can remotely tamper with your computer.

      But if people do know your GRC address, you can at least stop them from remotely shutting you down by changing the shutdown command to something less obvious (configurable in GRC's settings).

  2. Good: Seems like a good way to send remote commands from anywhere, including a cell phone. It would also be a good alternative to port knocking.

    Bad: I can see a whole new opening for pranks and spam. How easy would it be to send a <code> [open

    • Jeffery : even if you send a message to everyone in your email list, you won’t really be able to get their computers to open any bad websites. Each of your contacts would need GRC installed on their computer and it would have to be logged in and running. You would also need to know the Gmail address that they are using for GRC. If you keep the email address a secret, there’s no way anyone can remotely tamper with your computer.

      But if people do know your GRC address, you can at least stop them from remotely shutting you down by changing the shutdown command to something less obvious (configurable in GRC’s settings).

  3. GRC is a dangerous app, as described here. Imagine the following [open] commands

    [open ]http://www.policemancomevisit.org[/org]

    or

    [open]http://access_evil_website_with_browser_exploits.com[/open]

    Lest you think you're OK because no one knows that you have GRC installed:

    1) download list of email addresses — easily available

    2) select all Google addresses from list

    3) send an email like the above to 5 million addresses. Bingo, you've just spiked lots of people…

    Alan

  4. Pingback: Contrôlez votre PC à distante avec Gmail — Etan Online

  5. I wouldn’t install anything of that sort in my PC whose internal behavior is not known. If it was an open source app or a software from Google, I would — but this one seems too suspicious/risky.

  6. I wouldn't install anything of that sort in my PC whose internal behavior is not known. If it was an open source app or a software from Google, I would — but this one seems too suspicious/risky.

  7. GRC is a dangerous app, as described here. Imagine the following [open] commands

    [open ]http://www.policemancomevisit.org[/org]

    or

    [open]http://access_evil_website_with_browser_exploits.com[/open]

    Lest you think you're OK because no one knows that you have GRC installed:

    1) download list of email addresses — easily available

    2) select all Google addresses from list

    3) send an email like the above to 5 million addresses. Bingo, you've just spiked lots of people…

    Alan

  8. Want to surprise someone? just set up this software on his system and link it to a gmail account with a shutdown email. The moment he goes online computer goes off!!

  9. Ooh. am going to try this when I get home – means I can do far more than before – I’m always a little reticent about using remote PC software but I guess one from google should be ok….

  10. Want to surprise someone? just set up this software on his system and link it to a gmail account with a shutdown email. The moment he goes online computer goes off!!

  11. Ooh. am going to try this when I get home – means I can do far more than before – I'm always a little reticent about using remote PC software but I guess one from google should be ok….

  12. Pingback: Remotely control your PC using a Gmail account » www.crankup.net

  13. Pingback: Remotely control PC using Gmail account | Freeware

  14. This sounds extremely dangerous. It would be easy to use zero-day exploits in. Or, it could be merely extremely annoying if someone indeed sends the shutdown message to a zillion random addresses (most people NEVER change default settings – a fact).

    Also, it sounds inconvenient: you have to manually delete the mails. Last time I checked, computers were invented to do such boring things for people. GRC should download the message, execute the job and delete the message.

    Thirdly, why is it limited to Gmail? I didn’t check the program but I can’t see it anywhere that GRC would post messages back to the user – it would be nice to read the status of the jobs in Gmail.

    I can always appreciate hacks like this and the general idea is indeed very nice (Gmail is accessible everywhere, remote desktops are not) but this needs some serious work.

  15. This sounds extremely dangerous. It would be easy to use zero-day exploits in. Or, it could be merely extremely annoying if someone indeed sends the shutdown message to a zillion random addresses (most people NEVER change default settings – a fact).

    Also, it sounds inconvenient: you have to manually delete the mails. Last time I checked, computers were invented to do such boring things for people. GRC should download the message, execute the job and delete the message.

    Thirdly, why is it limited to Gmail? I didn't check the program but I can't see it anywhere that GRC would post messages back to the user – it would be nice to read the status of the jobs in Gmail.

    I can always appreciate hacks like this and the general idea is indeed very nice (Gmail is accessible everywhere, remote desktops are not) but this needs some serious work.

  16. I'm really excited for this. Some people talk about VNC, but you can't use VNC to screw around on your home computer when you're at work.

  17. I’m really excited for this. Some people talk about VNC, but you can’t use VNC to screw around on your home computer when you’re at work.