What do you do when a support professional asks you to disable your cybersecurity measures?
Support contracts have been a mainstay of the IT industry since its inception. Hardware, software, service providers and more all offer their own take on a combination of self-help, chatbots, phone support, remote support and onsite maintenance, for a varying degree of fees. But what happens when a combination of these support contracts contradicts one another, especially when it come to the topic of cybersecurity?
This scenario presented itself to me as I attempted to resolve a performance issue with my main work computer. For a number of days things had just been on an ever increasing slow down. Apps not launching, emails taking ages to send or receive, and synchronisation to my cloud storage provider had ceased to function at all.
As a former IT consultant and IT Manager I’m not without a relatively healthy level of technical skills, but this had foxed me. I had tried the usually public support forums whose creative spin on ‘turn it off, and then back on again’ did draw my frustrated face into a wry smile, but shy of reformatting and starting again – something I didn’t have the time or stomach to undertake – I decided to cash in on my support contracts and call an expert.
Their professionalism was faultless, I called and was swiftly connected to a support professional. Once we jumped through a few hoops of identification I granted them remote access to my computer.
The first question they asked me was “What’s that icon on your menu bar?”. Surprised that they didn’t recognise it, I told that it was my anti-virus, anti-malware, all singing and dancing cybersecurity solution from one of the World’s leading providers. Without so much as a second’s hesitation the support professional told me in no uncertain terms that I should disable that and uninstall it completely, then my performance would return and cloud synchronisation would recommence in a heartbeat. “But wouldn’t that leave me unprotected whilst connected to the internet?” I enquired. “It would, but the chances of any form of attack were minor”, was the reply I received. I thanked them for their insight and decided to make a secondary call.
That call was, of course, to the cybersecurity solution provider to ask their advice and to determine if their products may lead to performance and synchronisation issues. They informed me that such products may have had that effect a generation ago, but not today and although it scanned files continuously in the background it would not hamper performance in anyway. I took them at their word as they are one of the biggest and most respected providers of this particular technology.
So, I was stuck.
This situation is one that many IT professionals will have found themselves in, where a supplier of a product sees themselves at the centre of the IT world and that their product, be that an app, an operating system or service, is the most important piece of technology installed on an individual’s machine. If they think that any issue is due to something else that is installed, then their answer is to remove it.
But this strategy doesn’t work. Especially when it comes to security. Any business irrespective of size or complexity is not going to disable IT security, whilst machines are connected to the internet, for fear of being attacked or infected. Many studies have been done to show how quickly an unprotected desktop or laptop gets attacked, or compromised when connected to the internet. With software delivery mechanism now being predominantly online, as opposed to being on CDs or some other form of storage media, then simply setting a machine up requires a level of connectivity and hence a level of security.
Cybersecurity, at the desktop level, or endpoint level, needs to move from a solution that is a software application, to one that is embedded in the hardware. Admittedly many companies will have strong network protection, meaning that disabling cybersecurity measures at an endpoint level for a small window of time is an acceptable risk, but for SMEs, boutique businesses, or consumers that is not an option.
One of the first tasks to be undertaken when installing and commissioning a new piece of hardware should be enabling security, as opposed to connecting to a Google, Microsoft or Apple account, which is the direction that many are forced down.
Cybersecurity is not an add on, it is not an application, it is an attitude that needs to spread across all aspects of IT and should only be purposefully disabled if the risks are minimal and that it has been clearly identified, as opposed to my example, as inhibiting some other IT task.
Did I manage to get my desktop performance back and my cloud storage resynchronising. Yes, I did and I didn’t have to disable any of the carefully crafted cybersecurity solutions that I utilise. How did I do it? Well that information is available to any of you who wish to take out a support contract with me.