Ask Leo: Is it safe to allow a technician to remotely access my machine to fix it?


By Leo Notenboom

Is it safe to allow a tech support person from a reputable firm to have
remote access to your computer to solve a problem? I recently had an issue that
required me to contact such a company, and permitted the tech to view my
desktop. My problem was solved, but I couldn’t help thinking that this was a
bad idea. Can they browse around inside your machine if you give them this kind
of access?

How much do you trust them?

No, seriously, how much do you really trust them?

Because, all other issues aside, this is all a matter of trust.

It depends on the technology that the remote assistant uses, but yes, you
are in fact giving someone the potential of complete access to your

They could presumably do whatever they wanted.

Now, most of the remote access technologies used by these firms allow you to
watch what the technician is doing as he or she does it. That’s kinda cool, and
often even instructive.

The problem is that once connected, there’s actually no guarantee that there
isn’t more going on that you can’t see.

That’s why I say it’s all about trust.

Remote access is a wonderfully appealing tool. Rather than relying on your
description of the problem the technician can see the problem, and investigate
directly on your computer. Rather than trying to walk you through a complicated
set of steps that you don’t need or care to actually understand to resolve an
issue, the technician can just do it for you.

I really, truly, honestly get the appeal.

The problem is compounded because there are several levels of trust at play
as well. You might trust company X – many companies are absolutely worth your
trust. You might trust that they or their technicians don’t have malicious
intent. But how do you trust that the technician you’re talking to actually
knows what he or she is doing? How do you even tell?

Article continued here…

[This post is excerpted with Leo’s permission from his Ask Leo blog.]

Leo Notenboom has been involved in the tech industry for nearly 30 years. After retiring from an 18 year career as a Microsoft Software Engineer Leo went on to create Ask Leo!, a free web site where he answers real questions from ordinary computer users.

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