What it is, why it is used and how to minimize risk
Before opening your door to a contractor to repair a broken window or door, you likely looked into things to ensure they could be trusted to enter your home and get the job done. You certainly don’t want someone in your house who may rob you later.
The same goes for technicians asking for remote access to your tablet, smartphone, PC or laptop.
In some cases, consenting to have a bona fide computer technician remotely access your personal device can help you when you are struggling with glitches or other technical issues. It is the same approach that many are familiar with when they run into trouble on their work devices and they call IT for a quick rescue.
However, it is important to understand how remote access technologies work and what steps you can take to protect yourself from criminals who use it to gain access to your device to import viruses and ransomware, or steal your identity to commit fraud.
How it works:
Remote access software is the key that unlocks your device to outsiders. You get a message on your screen that requests that you agree to connect with a technical support agent who can then remotely control your device, diagnose issues and fix them without ever stepping foot in the user’s home.
Typically a person experiencing technical issues with their device would reach out to a software company, manufacturer or other trusted vendor and explain their issue to a technical support agent. This can be over a phone call or through a secure online chat. The agent may then verify the user’s identity and ask that the user download or activate the remote access software (which in some cases may already be installed).
Once the software is active, the user will be asked if they consent to giving the technical support agent access to their personal device. Sometimes a one time PIN or passcode will be provided by the user to allow the support agent to connect to the device.
Once the technical support worker has access to a machine, they can operate the computer as if they were sitting in front of it. They have direct access, allowing them to address most technical issues.
As a complainant to our office noticed in one case, a computer services company pre-installed remote access software on a computer he bought from them. One of its support agents was then able, during a service call, to access and delete software from …….