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UPDATE ISP TalkTalk Blocks Teamviewer VPN Service Over Scammer Fears

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 (5:09 pm) - Score 5,974
teamviewer

In an surprise development broadband ISP TalkTalk has taken the decision to block the popular TeamViewer service from their UK network, which means that anybody wanting to use the Virtual Private Network (VPN) service will find themselves unable to connect.

At this point we should be clear that TeamViewer itself is a perfectly legitimate application. I often use it myself for helping to solve technical problems with computers belonging to friends or family (one of them is also a TalkTalk subscriber). This is partly because it makes remote desktop access a lot easier to setup, although such features are by no means unique to TeamViewer.

However even legitimate Internet applications can be abused and it’s well known that fraudsters, such as those in India who recently stole personal customer details from TalkTalk and used those to run a call centre scam (here), can also make use of such tools in order to defraud consumers. Generally if a so-called support agent asks you to install TeamViewer on your computer then that should be considered a red flag to hang-up.

Never the less this is not directly TeamViewer’s fault, although there’s certainly an argument that the company could perhaps do more to tackle those who abuse their service. In reality this is no easy task because such connections are often encrypted, which would make it very difficult for admins to police. Broadband ISPs often face a similar problem when attempting to stop crafty criminals on their own networks.

Despite this The Register are reporting that TalkTalk has now blocked TeamViewer and a number of other unspecified Internet services from use on their network, which is something that the ISP’s own subscribers are currently complaining about (here).

TalkTalk Customer old_nic said:

“Teamviewer has stopped working. I am unable to ping any of their servers from Talktalk (e.g. 178.77.120.6 up to 178.77.120.100). The servers are not down, and the problem does not exist via other ISPs. Lots of other Talktalk customers are reporting the same problem for several hours (look at the websites checking whether servers are up).”

TalkTalk Customer Ant1234 said:

“They keep telling me to reboot my router or can’t help me because I don’t have a TalkTalk router. I have given them the TeamViewer address range to unblock, fingers crossed the message reaches someone inside talktalk that knows what a IP subnet is!

Was probably blocked due to the recent TalkTalk TeamViewer scam, which was a result of TalkTalk being hacked and losing client records.”

TalkTalk Customer Colin956 said:

“Wasted most of this morning trying to fix this, 3 computers not connecting to teamviewer via TalkTalk “SuperRouter” – tried to connect by tethering my computer to iphone 4g – connected to teamviewer straight away. Back to router lost connection. Loads of reports on the internet about no connection via TalkTalk – why are they blocking it?”

TalkTalk Customer jimilawson said:

“Just spent an hour online with Tech Support which resulted in: ‘Actually, this is a known issue and TalkTalk is already aware of it and already fixing the issue as we speak.’ and ‘As of now, the engineers haven’t mentioned any time frame for this. We were advised to let you know to check it again after 24 hours.'”

A member of TalkTalk’s support team has since apologised for the confusion and confirmed that “we have implemented a number of network changes that have blocked a number of applications including Teamviewer.”

The ISP added that they were “working with teamviewer and other 3rd parties” on implementing some additional “security measures” that aim to enhance the security to all customers of these services.

However TalkTalk added that it would “continue to block any sites/applications reported by customers to reduce the opportunity for fraud to take place.”

A TalkTalk Spokesperson said:

“We constantly monitor for potentially malicious internet traffic, so that we can protect our customers from phishing and scamming activities.

As part of this work, we have recently blocked a number of sites and applications from our network, and we’re working hard to minimise the impact on our customers.

We would also urge our customers to visit our Beat the Scammers website to find out more about how they can keep themselves safe online.”

The move may also put TalkTalk into conflict with the EU’s new Net Neutrality safeguards, which are largely adopted in the United Kingdom through the Broadband Stakeholders Group and its voluntary 2016 Open Internet Code. Broadly speaking the aim of this code is to ensure that consumers receive full provision of open Internet access (e.g. no blocking of legal online services).

However the Net Neutrality rules do include a caveat, which gives broadband ISPs and mobile operators some flexibility to tackle threats to the security of their networks. No doubt there is some debate to be had about whether or not it’s right that this should be applied to a legal and widely used service like TeamViewer. Why not block email too? Tons of scammers use that as well.

Hopefully TalkTalk will be able to find a longer term solution to this and ideally one that doesn’t involve blocking the entire service, which may also give TeamViewer’s competitors an advantage (this aspect may also come into conflict with the Net Neutrality guidelines). Lest we forget that this might not be such a big issue if TalkTalk’s lax security hadn’t enabled the exposure of customer details in the first place.

We’d also quite like to know what other “applications” TalkTalk has added to their block list.

UPDATE:

Curiously customers are just now reporting that TeamViewer is working again, although at this time we don’t know if that’s due to a change made by the service or a sudden u-turn from TalkTalk following the earlier reaction.

UPDATE2:

Now TeamViewer has issued the following statement.

TeamViewer Statement

TalkTalk, a provider of telecoms and broadband solutions, responded to ongoing scam campaigns aiming at unsuspecting TalkTalk customers by bringing about extended traffic filtering in the United Kingdom. This step impairs the operation of various software products. Cyber criminals abuse legitimate software to rip off their unsuspecting victims.

The measures deployed by TalkTalk may affect the use of the popular remote support software TeamViewer®. TeamViewer and TalkTalk are in a close and constructive exchange to address this issue. TeamViewer denounces criminal activities in any form.

In the context of the current situations TeamViewer stresses:

* Scams aiming at unsuspecting individuals are despicable. Yet – as a BBC-article suggests – what makes the current frauds particularly hideous is the fact that scammers are using TalkTalk customer data. Several news outlets including tripwire reported that TalkTalk experienced a data leak. The criminals apparently obtained this data and are now using it in their scam-scenarios. This provides them credibility and facilitates their cunning schemes. The fact remains, however, that large organizations would never cold call individuals to offer help with some unfounded issues. Users are strongly advised to apply extra care and a healthy dosage of scepticism with unsolicited calls.

* The current impairments are not a sign of operational dysfunctions or a security issues at TeamViewer. It is a drastic measure brought about by TalkTalk. The filter affects several organizations.

* TeamViewer and TalkTalk are in extensive talks to find a comprehensive joint solution to better address this scamming issue.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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26 Responses
  1. Chris P

    Talk Talk should be fined for dropping traffic in this way. They have absolutely no right to filter traffic to legitimate destinations like Team Viewer.

    If Talk Talk want to do more to prevent their users from being scammed, they need to write letters to all their subscribers and warn them. not block traffic to legitimate internet destinations.

    I really don’t know how any one can purchase Talk Talk products now. The previous issues they had was extremely bad, but now they are prepared to take misguided arbitrary action, you have no guarantee on what kind of service (other than very poor) you will receive as a customer.

    The next time something doesn’t work over Talk Talk, you won’t know if its Talk Talk blocking access or the remote site. Chances are its Talk Talk blocking access.

    If you want a reliable Internet service do not buy Talk Talk.

    I wonder if this also affected their business customers?

  2. AndyH

    This was a bizarre move by TalkTalk.

    • cyclope

      A very Dumb move don’t you mean? These scammers use several different remote support tools TeamViewer is only one of them, in fact the TeamViewer was one of the better software solutions out there, and i have seen a lot of scam baiting videos and it’s very seldom that they use TeamViewer for some reason or other, this move by TT won’t do anything to stop these scammers,

  3. FibreFred

    Staggering decision I’ve never heard anything like this before.

    Talktalk about a knee jerk reaction

    Very poor

    • mike

      Fine if TalkTalk need to block bits of the Internet that are being used to scam customers. (like blocking phishing sites).

      But give transparency to customers if you’re doing it – publish the netblocks you’re blocking. Don’t leave customers in the dark wondering whose fault it is.

    • FibreFred

      Blocking sites sure, with notice.

      Apps? No not like this

      Isn’t this a reaction to their scamming sub cons?

      The agency we use are scamming using this app let’s block it at a network level – you couldn’t make it up

  4. TWKND

    Teamviewer likely have themselves to blame, they were compromised about a year back and kept quiet about it for a few months until it got uncovered. Someone from China attempted to access my PC but luckily didn’t manage it.

    There’s much better alternatives available from Microsoft and Google anyway.

  5. ash

    While odd and heavy handed,for the average person, who’d more than likely never use teamviewer let alone if they’ve even heard of it, it’s the easiest thing they could have done to protect their users, and after their last security breach, it makes sense for them to be over cautious and to do something this extreme, as people will always fall for this scam much like the phone call from Microsoft support

    • Nuccco

      The safest thing you can do for your computer security is turn it off at the power outlet.

      Right. That’s not a sensible move.

    • sentup.custard

      “people will always fall for this scam much like the phone call from Microsoft support”
      Please, don’t give them ideas!
      Next week’s news – “TalkTalk blocks all customers’ incoming calls to protect them from Microsoft support scammers”.

  6. FibreFred

    As a brand their rep is in shreds I expect their user base will be bought out or diminish soon

  7. As if I ever needed yet another reason to avoid TalkTalk like the plague, lo and behold they provide one.

    Arbitary actions such as this mean IMO at least TalkTalk can no longer be classed as a broadband provider.

  8. Jonny Roadley

    It’s worth mentioning the VPN part of Teamviewer isn’t installed by default. But as others have said – a rather bizarre move by TalkTalk.

    • Kevin

      TeamViewer itself is a ‘VPN’ service and that is what has been blocked, this is not referring to a ‘VPN’ facility to secure your internet transactions.

    • Jonny Roadley

      I’m on TT and can confirm TeamViewer has not been blocked. Unless it’s a phased roll out, or is only for users of TT who are using the TT router (I am not).

    • stef

      Jonny
      I think you’ll find it is not your ISP connection but that of the desktop you are trying to connect to.

      It definitely is still a problem. The desktop with the talktalk connection registers with teamviewer, because teamviewer ‘my computers list’ shows it as online, but talktalk wont let you connect.

  9. Paul

    The Register article linked to now confirms that TalkTalk have lifted the block:

    “Updated at 15.47 on 10 March to add: We’ve received an updated statement from TalkTalk: “We can confirm we have lifted the block on Team Viewer.”

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/03/09/talktalk_blocks_teamviewer/

  10. Darren

    Staggering they would even consider blocking anything let alone going through with it! Glad I’m not a TT customer, if I was I wouldn’t be for long after this stunt.

  11. Dominic Davis-Foster

    Why is anyone still a TalkTalk customer anyway?

    • Jasse

      I ama TT Business customer and it works very well indeed, But they were just about to get both barrels as they blocked it on my connection too! And they know I am a remote support company!

      I am going to look around for an alternative, but I assume this is why they did the U Turn, res they can justify , business they have NO justification for. They are over riding the very Worksafe tools they give us to set up our network just so.

  12. Enki

    I expect more blocking as Britain culturally moves towards Chinese state style internet.

  13. Enki

    I expect more blocking as Britain culturally moves towards Chinese state style internet.

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