30th May 2017
THE HACKED BT BROADBAND SCAM
Today a friendly Indian-esque voice greeted me when I answered the phone at the office. “Hi, my name is XXXXX and I’m calling from BT’s technical team. There is a problem with your broadband, and we’re going to have to switch off your internet for 3 months because you’ve been hacked.” My suspicions were immediately aroused, since we don’t have BT broadband! We use PlusNet with a 4G backup…
Let’s see how far we can take this, and find out how they’re doing things then…
OK, I said. Can you help me?
“I’ll just pass you through to one of our Engineers.”
The first thing the “engineer” did was to get me to make sure my computer was on. Always useful, I guess. Can’t hack one that’s turned off!
Then he taught me how to use the Windows Key and R shortcut to bring up a box that looks like this:
In it, he had me type “EVENTVWR”, which opens up Windows’ built-in Event Viewer, a legitimate tool used by IT people everywhere to see what might be wrong with a computer.
Event Viewer looks like this, at first:
Then he guided me to Custom Views:
Then to Administrative Events:
Oh dear. Lots of Errors. Now what?
I asked him about some of these errors, and he said they were the viruses that the hackers had put on there. They’re not!
Yes, there are a few issues in my computer that need fixing, and it was very kind of him to draw my attention to them, but don’t be fooled into thinking these are viruses, malware or other malicious things. Microsoft Windows is a giant collection of little bits of software, each doing their own thing, and frequently some will have errors or warnings. The Scammers know that this is a quick way to display a list of technical-sounding things with red Error symbols, just to scare you into doing the next bit, letting them into your computer. Which brings me neatly on to:
He had me go back to pressing Windows Key and R, then typing www.teamviewer.com
That takes us to TeamViewer.com where it is possible to download software to let the scammers in to your computer. They told me the software would connect me to “BT’s secure servers”. It doesn’t!
“TeamViewer”, “QuickSupport” and “Teamviewer Host” can all be used to access your machine if you download and either run or install them. There are also many other remote access programmes out there; too many to list here.
It should be noted that TeamViewer is a very reputable remote access company. We even use them ourselves. The Scammers are playing on that good reputation, and using the free versions of TeamViewer for illegal and immoral reasons.
Now at this point I had a decision to make: let him on to my computer in the interests of research, or cut him off.
I opted for option 3, wind him up by playing dumb and pretending I couldn’t find the download. After wasting 5 more minutes of his time, he finally hung up.
I don’t know exactly what he would have done once on my machine, but it’s almost certain I wouldn’t have liked it. As an IT company, we’ve seen scams aplenty before where scammers lock your computer and demand a ransom to unlock it; there is of course the latest WannaCry virus which encrypts your files, and there are lots of other things they could do besides.
The lesson in all this:
Educate yourselves, by reading things like this.
Protect yourselves, by:
- Verifying the company who is calling you. These folks said they were from BT. I could have asked them to prove that in some tangible way, like having my BT account number or some such. A real company should be able to satisfy you in some way or other. 9 times out of 10 the scammers will hang up if they get a question they know they can’t answer. If you can’t be sure they are who they say they are, hang up, and call the company directly with the number off their official website.
- Never letting someone onto your computer unless you are 100% sure who they are.
- If you do let someone onto your machine, watch them like a hawk. Have a plan to disconnect them quickly. There will often be a “Disconnect” button somewhere obvious, or failing that you can just turn off your computer, at the socket if needs be.
- Finally, one of the best things you can do to protect yourselves is back things up. There are lots of ways of doing that, like portable hard drives, network storage, and cloud backup systems.
Get in touch with us if you need advice.