On Family Tech Support

No, grandpa, double click!

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on January 3, 2016

Family tech support services seasonal discount: malware removed and Chrome installed the low price of a cup of tea and Christmas cake.

In all seriousness, teaching elderly family members the dangers of remote access tech support scams is important.

If you’re going to install Team Viewer for remote help, make sure teach how to identify it’s you and not someone else: phone call, sms, etc

Part of the Christmas holiday period for many tech-savvy people is the traditional tech-support event. You go to an aunt or uncles or grandparent’s house, you mention a word that sounds like a technology they’ve heard of (facebook, cable, printer), and then you are roped into giving free services to fix the Cryptlocker infection on their pirated version of Windows XP.

While for some it may feel like a burden, I do enjoy fixing the odd machine for someone who helped raise me, and while I don’t extend my services out to just anyone, I will offer some advise as to how you can make your life easier, especially if your relative is not local.

Install TeamViewer. TeamViewer allows for remote control of a machine, which is highly useful for off-site diagnosis. However, this is the main vector for a scam so common it now has it’s own wikipedia page: Technical support scam.

Typically, a phone call and some slick advertising can be all it takes for Aunt Irene to start downloading a screen-sharing application and for her system to be compromised. However, as a tool for remote support, it is useful.

When I was serving my time fixing a machine as per the above tweets, I was shown a printed invoice that looked to be a proper invoice for tech support services. I did double check the bank statements of the relative in question, and they didn’t appear to have paid out any money, but the invoice, and the contract of service seemed completely legitimate.. apart from the fact the company was listed as being based in the UK, changed Australian GST and billed in USD.

I highly recommend that if you want to be a positive force in the technical adventures of your relatives, you initate an education plan something like the following:

  • Show them how you’re installing TeamViewer, and demonstrate how you can remote in with your machine and/or phone
  • Use a password!
  • Tip: if you get a licence for TeamViewer, you can have a name and profile picture popup, but iirc free licences do not have this feature

  • Work out a process to use if they require your help
  • Let them call you. Make sure you say when you are remoting in. Have them watch you remote in.

  • Make sure they know what a technical support scam is, and how they shouldn’t let anyone they don’t know or trust access their machine, either remotely or physically.

  • Review the basics - remote tech support is hard, but doubly so if you ask them to power on their machine and only the monitor gets turned on.

Once you have all this down, then you can start cleaning up their desktop and such what.