It’s hardly a secret that TalkTalk has had problems with tech support scams. Or at any rate its customers have, leading to suspicions that some of the scammers “… know more about their intended victims (and their issues with TalkTalk) than they should.” I don’t suppose for a moment that TalkTalk is actively cooperating with known scammers, of course, but it was widely reported last year that three call-centre workers at Wipro, to which TalkTalk outsourced some support services in 2011, had been arrested on suspicion of – according to the BBC – selling TalkTalk customer data.
The BBC’s recent report also asserts that TalkTalk customers are targeted by “an industrial-scale fraud network in India”. Commentary from Sophos hints that the issue is ‘related not to TalkTalk but to one of its subcontractors’.
TalkTalk has set up a site in cooperation with Get Safe Online called Beat The Scammers, which it describes as “an education and awareness campaign … designed to help you protect yourself from the growing threat of scams”. The site does seem to offer some reasonable advice and offer a certain amount of insight into how these particular scammers appear to be operating, though it seems focused on old-school cold-calling rather than on pop-ups directing victims to ‘helplines’. Still, most of the old tricks are still used by ‘next-generation’ scammers. And in fact, I quite like the idea of ‘The Nevers’, a short list of things that a TalkTalk representative ‘will never do’. For instance:
- Ask for a customer’s full password (apparently they may ask for two digits)
- Ask for bank details to process a refund (details the company should already have)
- Ask the customer to send money through services like MoneyGram or Western Union (two services very commonly used by scammers)
However, the company has also upset some of its customers, according to Kat Hall (writing for The Register), by blocking TeamViewer, a remote access/desktop management tool – TalkTalk blocks TeamViewer – Wants to protect customers from phishing and scamming.
It’s perfectly true that TeamViewer, like AMMYY and several similar tools/sites, is widely used by support scammers. But it’s a legitimate service also widely used for entirely legitimate desktop management purposes. A blanket ban on its use is rather like an anti-malware application deciding to make it impossible for a customer to run ‘Possibly Unwanted’ or ‘Possibly Unsafe’ applications. We don’t do that – well, most of us don’t – because although it might make some customers safer, some people would be seriously inconvenienced by it. Apart from the fact that those people would have to take their business elsewhere, it hardly seems appropriate for a security company to deny its customers access to legitimate services. There is a classic tripod model of security, said to consist of Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. Take away availability, and what you have is no longer security.