Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Remote Access Support - Is it Worth the Risk? By Leo Notenboom

Typically when you call a software company or computer manufacturer to fix a problem they rely on you to describe what is wrong and then work with you to troubleshoot the problem over the phone. This can often get quite confusing.

Frequently these days, and with your permission, many such support desks can use remote access technology to view and even use your computer as you watch to solve your problem directly. This is certainly very convenient, but is it safe?

Not necessarily.

The real question you must ask before allowing anyone remote access to your computer is simply this: how much do you trust them?

Depending on the technology being used, you're giving that remote technician access not only to the problem but the rest of your computer as well - all of it - often with full administrative access Some technologies allow you to watch what the technician does while he or she fixes the problem, which can be both helpful and informative. But beware; they may also be exploring elsewhere in ways that you cannot see.

That's why it's all about trust.

Even if you are working with a reputable firm that you trust not to have some malicious intent, how can you be certain the technician actually knows what he or she is doing?

Certainly most companies are very probably reputable, and most technicians are indeed trustworthy and competent. But regardless, unless you have some way to actually confirm that, remote access still feels like a huge risk that just might not be worth it.

The bottom line? If you choose to allow support via remote access, make sure you are with a company you trust, and that you've established a level of trust with the individual technician handling your case.

And above all, be sure to back up your entire machine first. That's the ultimate safety net in case of error.

Get more free tech help and advice from Leo Notenboom by visiting With over 30 years of industry experience, including an 18 year career as a software engineer with Microsoft, Leo gives real answers to real questions from ordinary computer users at Ask Leo Subscribe to Leo's weekly newsletter now and receive a free ebook: "Internet Safety - Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet", a collection of steps, tools and concepts you need to know to keep your computer and your information safe.

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