Published February 2018
Remote support is where someone helps someone else with their computer by connecting to it over the Internet and sharing its screen, while the people talk on the phone. Although I like to visit customers in person (and in many cases it is required) I’m increasingly using remote support because of its obvious advantages: I can often help sooner; I can help people outside my area; and I can reduce carbon emissions.
Last year the Internet provider TalkTalk began blocking various remote support services on the grounds that they can also be used to defraud people. You’re probably familiar with such scams: you receive a call from someone pretending they work for Microsoft (for example) and have identified a fault with your computer, and can use remote support to help. If you fall for it, you give a stranger unfettered access to your computer, waste your time, possibly pay a large sum of money, and feel foolish afterwards because these scams have been around for years and you thought it could never happen to you. It’s horrible, and anyone who’s been a victim has my sympathy.
But a blanket ban on remote support services is not the answer, and this is effectively what TalkTalk has done. To connect to the service I use, GoToAssist, customers visit fastsupport.com and enter the code I give them by phone. But a TalkTalk customer trying to visit this site now sees this:
Or in some cases the following (amusingly, in this example, because a secure connection to fastsupport.com was attempted, Chrome has detected TalkTalk intercepting the connection, and is effectively warning the user of TalkTalk’s attempt to warn the user):
Throwing the baby out with the bathwater, using a sledgehammer to crack a nut — whatever you call it, it’s an overreaction, and a real spanner in the works for me doing my job.
It’s possible TalkTalk wants to be seen to be doing everything it can on the security front, after the record-breaking fine it received following its data breach in 2015. But if blocking remote support services was a sensible way to protect people, all Internet providers would be doing it and there’d be no such thing as remote support anymore.
Luckily, the block is not set in stone. TalkTalk customers can allow remote support services by logging into the ‘My Account’ website and turning off the block. This sounds reasonable, but I don’t agree. Many of my customers are novices and not confident with such things — that’s why I’m helping them! A lot of them don’t know what My Account is, let alone their password.
At the end of the day, all you should need in order to avoid computer support scams is to be aware that they exist.
I’m a computer technician and tutor serving North Oxford, Kidlington, Woodstock and the surrounding villages. Visit my home page to find out more and get in touch.