Monday, October 28, 2013

Securely Allowing Remote Support Connections to a Personal Computer

One of the most common concerns from people looking for technical support stems from concerns about allowing remote support connections to their personal computer.  A quick thought about the kinds of files we have on our computer, saved email log ins as well as other automatic account log ins, financial documents, saved tax forms, and more.  Giving someone you do not know remote access to your computer to provide support can be uncomfortable if you have not done it before.  Listed below are answers to commonly expressed concerns about allowing remote support connections.

Does it matter what specific customer support software is used?  
Odds are this will not make much of a difference.  There are a few big brands that are household names most people would recognize and there are also hundreds of proprietary and open source options.  Every company and individual has access to any of these and essentially they all accomplish the same things and use the same protocols only with different interfaces.  What is more important than the software brand is the ability to see what the support person is doing at all times.  You should be able to watch your mouse move, programs open, and settings change as they are applicable in real time as the support person works on your computer.

Once I allow a remote support connection can someone reconnect to me at any time or without my knowledge?
With normal use of a remote support connection with a company or individual you know and/or have some sort of relationship with, including being a customer, should be safe.  In these instances, there is no way to reconnect at a later time by the same person or anyone else.  Support sessions should require you to put in some or all of the following:  a session name, a session password or code, clicking on a link in an email from someone at the support company, downloading and running the remote support software installer, and allowing keyboard and mouse control.  Not all of these are required by any particular software, but these are some of the common things you will be asked to provide and or do to allow the remote support session to begin.  All remote support sessions will require a small downloadable file to be run the first time for each type of remote support software.  This executable will not allow remote access at a later time without putting in the same type of information required when you initially allowed remote support.  Allowing a support person to connect once does not automatically give them access at a later time without your knowledge.  NOTE:  Nothing is 100% full proof when it comes to security.  It would be remiss to say that no one has ever used remote software to install secondary spyware software in the background without the knowledge of the recipient.  However, you can show due diligence by asking questions and watching the screen at all times.  Also, most reputable companies record these sessions and audit them regularly to ensure the customer's safety in these sessions.

What should I do before allowing a connection?
Before you allow a remote support connection, be sure to close any open windows or programs that might have sensitive or critical data of any kind.  There is no way to know ahead of time what types of settings the remote support person will need to access, so closing all open windows will prevent any sensitive data from potentially being seen from being open in the background.

What should I do during a remote support connection?
If there is a place where you need to enter in a password, never tell the support person your password.  Type the password in yourself then allow them to change whatever settings are necessary to fix the issue you have.  Most support people will not ask for your password, but if they do, tell them you will type the password in.  If for some reason you absolutely have to give your password, be sure to change your password once you get off of the remote support session.  Also, always watch what is happening during the remote support session.  You should be able to see everything the support person is doing and it is highly recommended people watch the entire session.  If you have concerns about what the support person is doing or what programs or files they are accessing, ASK QUESTIONS.  You  have the right to ask any and as many questions as you need to feel comfortable and confident in what is being done on your computer.  Having the work explained to you often alleviates misunderstandings that can happen during a remote connect session.

How do I know the remote support session is disconnected?
Once the remote session is active, an icon for the remote software should appear.  On a Windows device, this icon will appear in the taskbar in the bottom right corner, on a MAC device, the icon will appear in the dock at the bottom of the screen.  Once the support connection is over, this icon will show that it has been disconnected, or disappear entirely.  If the icon remains, hover over it with your mouse and the status should show it is disconnected.  If you are still concerned, shut down the software completely.  

What should I do after the remote support session is over?
If you do not think you will ever utilize a remote support connection again, you can delete the installed software.  On Windows 8, 7, and Vista, go to the Control Panel, Programs & Features, highlight the program and click Uninstall at the top.  On Windows XP, go to the Control Panel, Add or Remove Programs, highlight the program and click on the Remove button.  On a MAC, click Go in the Toolbar, select Applications, then click the application to remove, click the Cog and select Move to Trash from the drop down menu.

Allowing a remote support connection can be really helpful when you are having issues with hardware or software and is normally completely harmless to your computer and your data integrity.  The tips above should help provide an insight into what things to pay the most attention to during a remote support connection.  Lastly, if you feel uncomfortable with what someone is doing during a remote support session, and have asked for clarification but still do not feel comfortable, you have the power to disconnect or end the session.  You can always try to connect with someone else from the same company at a later time or take your computer to someone you know or can talk to in person if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Happy and safe computing at all times!

No comments:

Post a Comment