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UK ISP TalkTalk Blocks Popular Internet VPN Tool TeamViewer AGAIN

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 (9:46 am) - Score 12,686

Broadband ISP TalkTalk is facing criticism after they once again blocked UK customers from being able to access the TeamViewer service from their network, which apparently stems from a fear that it is being used by scammers to target their subscribers.

A similar incident with TalkTalk’s network-level filtering (Home Safe / Kids Safe) occurred in March 2017 (here), although it didn’t last long because the provider soon found itself suffering from a torrent of complaints and concern over a possible breach of Net Neutrality guidelines (exceptions are made for security issues but it’s questionable whether blocking a Virtual Private Network client like TeamViewer would qualify).

Unfortunately the same block now appears to have reoccurred and various topics have already been created about it on the ISP’s Community Forum (examples here, here, here and here), complete with plenty of complaints. Similar gripes can be found on Twitter and The Register has also heard the same music.

A TalkTalk Community Support Agent said:

“TalkTalk will evaluate the use of services across our network that are specifically used by scammers when targeting our customers.

Our top priority is protecting our customers while also offering control over their internet experience. Therefore, we have introduced an authentication requirement to use sites which we know are unfortunately used by scammers to take control of our customers’ computers and steal from them.”

Apparently the block on TeamViewer’s website and client can be lifted by asking TalkTalk’s staff directly to remove the restriction, although some subscribers report that this doesn’t always work (here) and apparently the ISP won’t give customers more control over this option (via ‘MyAccount‘) until sometime in early 2018.

We should make clear that TeamViewer itself is a perfectly legitimate application and the vast majority of users are normal people. Indeed I often use it myself for helping to solve technical problems with computers belonging to distant friends or family (one of whom is an elderly TalkTalk subscriber), not least because it’s free and makes remote desktop access a lot easier to setup; although such features are by no means unique to TeamViewer.

Sadly 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’s a pretty BIG RED FLAG for you to hang-up.

On the other hand there is an argument that says TeamViewer itself could perhaps be doing more to tackle those who abuse their service. Likewise they don’t always respond to people who try to contact them, but then they are a free provider (don’t expect any support unless you pay for the premium option) and tackling abuse on connections that are fully encrypted is rather difficult (i.e. not even the operator may be able to see what it’s being used for, which is good for personal data security).

Lest we forget that broadband ISPs often face similar challenges when attempting to stop crafty criminals on their own networks. However since TalkTalk now seem to be in the habit of blocking legitimate services, purely because they can be abused by a tiny number of people (this is true of just about everything online), then why not go even further? Why not block email access too? Lots of nasty scammers use email.

In the meantime TalkTalk’s decision will be giving TeamViewer’s rivals a nice boost by forcing users to switch to a different client (funnily enough the scammers have that exact same flexibility), although customers may eventually also choose to switch broadband provider too. This might not have been such a big issue had the ISP’s lax security not exposed customer details in the first place.

UPDATE 10:32am

The official statement is as follows.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Protecting customers is our top priority. We are filtering a small number of sites that are being used by scammers to take control of customers’ computers and steal from them. The legitimate users of these services can obtain access by chatting to us at www.talktalk.co.uk/chat or asking the Community Team at www.talktalk.co.uk/community.”

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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14 Responses
  1. Avatar CarlT says:

    *cough* http://berec.europa.eu/eng/netneutrality/

    ‘The exceptions are limited to: traffic management to comply with a legal order, to ensure network integrity and security, and to manage congestion, provided that equivalent categories of traffic are treated equally.’

    I’m sure they’d make the claim this falls under the ‘network integrity and security’ part. I’m reasonably sure that falls apart under scrutiny.

  2. Avatar Not lying sob says:

    **************, I am talktalk customer and I can access the TeamViewer.

    [Admin note: please do not swear in comments]

    1. Avatar Are you Max!? says:

      And your name is Max, right?

  3. Avatar DVS999 says:

    Seems the author doesn’t take into account less technical Talk Talk users. I recovered a PC for a friend’s elderly relative. They had no idea what Team Viewer was and therefore followed the instructions from the ‘Talk Talk’ rep and narrowly avoided loosing their entire life savings and some seeing as the scammers applied for a loan in their name. It was only the diligence of their bank that saved them.

    1. Avatar Real1st says:

      Bah. There’s only so much you can do to protect people from both themselves and common scams (not just internet ones), especially if they don’t read the information that their ISP sends out to warn them about it. A degree of self-awareness is required in all things.

      So if they weren’t aware of the issue surrounding TeamViewer then why would the story be any different if another remote desktop software was used? The problem is not the software.

  4. Avatar DVS999 says:

    I’d agree the issue isn’t the software but more should be done to protect the average Joe. I think talk talks solution is not ideal but it will help some. The fact that you can have the block turned off if you need Team Viewer gives the best of both worlds.

  5. Avatar RICHARD WALTON says:

    Spot on Real1st ☺️

  6. Avatar Mike says:

    You only need to type “quick assist” into Windows 10’s search to get access to it’s built in (and much easier to use) remote assistance tool. No one needs to touch team viewer with a barge pole anyhow.

    1. Avatar Simon says:

      And this works with people on a Mac?

      DIdn’t think so

    2. Avatar Mike says:

      “And this works with people on a Mac?”
      https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/microsoft-remote-desktop-8-0/id715768417?mt=12
      so yep appears so. All you need now is a Mac in real life rather than the delusional one.

    3. Avatar Mike Hunt says:

      If you have a Mac you need a doctor not TV.

  7. Avatar Twigish says:

    Team viewer is not a vpn it is a remote access client of you can not get that correct then you can not be taken seriously won’t be reading anything from you again.

    1. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Oh thank god. Don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out, at least until you return to troll pedantic points under yet another nickname.

      On the point itself. The debate around whether or not TV is a VPN would require a separate article and is largely irrelevant to the story.

      In principle TV’s tunnelling is often described as a VPN for the sake of familiarity, although technically the way they handle encryption/decryption means it functions differently under the hood. You can of course argue about the details but.. ZZzzz, it’s Christmas.. chill.

    2. Avatar Mike says:

      Virgin Media, Talk Talk or B4RN noticed how he trolls mainly those stories? Probably better to throw him out the window rather than allow him to use the door, you are too civilised Mark 🙂

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