Security

TalkTalk Bans TeamViewer Remote Access Tool To Combat Scammers

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The move is aimed at tightening security, but users slated the ISP for giving them no warning

ISP TalkTalk has blocked the use of remote access tool TeamViewer over its network as a security measure, amidst ongoing reports of users being targeted by scammers.

Users began reporting on Wednesday that TeamViewer, which allows users to take control of a remote computer in order to fix problems, had abruptly stopped working.

Scam

Anti-fraud measure

According to reports on TalkTalk’s forums, the ISP’s technical support staff initially told users the issue was due to a technical problem.

It was only on Thursday that the company issued a statement acknowledging that TeamViewer – along with other applications that weren’t specified – had been deliberately blocked.

“Apologies for the confusion, but I can confirm that we have implemented a number of network changes that have blocked a number of applications including TeamViewer,” a member of TalkTalk support staff said.

They said the move was intended to protect customers from “phishing and scamming activities” and included blocking a number of websites and applications.

“We’re working hard to minimise the impact on our customers,” they said. “We are working with TeamViewer and other third parties on implementing some additional security measures that would enhance the security to all customers of these services but we will continue to block any sites/applications reported by customers to reduce the opportunity for fraud to take place.”

Surprise move

Users said they had previously used TeamViewer for years without problems and criticised the ISP for making the change without notifying users.

“Businesses and IT departments worldwide can use TeamViewer but Talktalk customers can’t,” one user wrote. “Extremely unsatisfactory customer service IMHO.”

Users routinely employ TeamViewer to fix technical problems with family members’ computers, but the system has also been used by telephone scammers pretending to be calling from an ISP or from Microsoft.

Such scams involve tricking a user into handing over control of their computer to the scammer via TeamViewer, after which malicious code may be implanted on the system.

TalkTalk has been particularly badly hit by scammers in recent years, in part due to the theft of customers’ personal details on several occasions, including a hack in October 2015 and the reported sale of data by staff at Indian outsourcing company Wipro.

Scammers made use of the data to convince users they were TalkTalk tech support staff, then tricked them into installing malware that stole funds from their bank accounts, with some losing as much as £10,000, according to police reports.

According to whistleblowers who contacted the BBC, TalkTalk scams were run on an industrial scale out of several call centres in India staffed by hundreds of employees.

TeamViewer security risks

TeamViewer has been used by scammers in other ways, as, well, with a number of users reported being targeted through the application after their login credentials were stolen in a hack on LinkedIn.

An IBM computer security professional last year described watching as a remote attacker took over his PC via his TeamViewer account, for which he had reused credentials obtained in the LinkedIn attack.

TeamViewer said last June it had introduced new security measures as a result of the hacks.

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