3 Preventable Help Desk Horror Stories

If you read our 3 keys to an all-star help desk, you’ll know that we put a lot of attention on the little things—tweaking issues that slow down everything else—but we don’t hear much about those tickets that send a chill down your spine, the moment you lay eyes on them.

Most tickets are easy and don’t take a lot of time. Every now and again a doozy comes in—a ticket worthy of the title “Horror Story.” Here are 3 horror story help desk tickets from our very own team and tips on how to prevent them from even happening.

Ransomware virus

Ransomware has been on the rise in the past two years, with over 60 new variations targeting mobile users alone. The malware gets onto your system and encrypts every single local file, and then brings up a little window with directions on, basically, how to pay the ransom and get your data back.

Ransomware popup

It’s a major threat that’s hitting businesses nationwide, and some even pay the ransom. When one of our clients was hit with Cryptolocker, we recognized it immediately and isolated the computer as quickly as possible so it couldn’t spread to other computers or the network.

Prevention

To prevent the virus from spreading even further, the first step is to cut it off from your other systems and the web—either disconnecting wireless or unplugging physical cables. Even a simple shut down can stop the situation from escalating if you’re quick enough. After isolating the infected device, our engineer was able to reverse the encryption of the data, without paying a ransom.

On principle, the best defense is to have a good backup system in place, and to backup your data often. Beyond that, it’s about keeping antivirus up-to-date, staying informed on the latest threats, and educating your users on how to recognize suspicious emails. Check out our post Newmind PSA: Precautions to take against the ransomware threat for more specific tips on handling the malware.

Phishing scam

In the past year, a 1000+ user client of ours was hit with a phishing scam, and their situation shows just how effective phishing can be—the initial scam only hit a couple users. Those users clicked links in the email and entered login credentials, and on top of that there was a Trojan attached to the message, so when their accounts were compromised, the program started firing off emails to other addresses in the domain, so it just spread like wildfire.

Any seasoned IT worker knows just how disastrous this kind of intrusion can become—unfettered access to email, cloud data, or worse. Even with a rapid response from our team, it was almost 3 weeks before we had entirely cleared their system of issues and set everything back to normal.

Prevention

It takes rapid communication to stem the problem before it gets out of hand—the first priority for our team was to catch up with the client’s internal IT team, draw up a plan for communicating action steps and precautions, and meet with their executive-level leadership so that a warning message could reach their entire organization.

Phishing messages look vaguely legitimate. The average user might not think twice about it, which is why the best course is simply educating users on the qualities of an illegitimate email, and the principle that you should never give out your credentials in an email.

Lost software licenses

Either a user switches computers, or an employee leaves the company and there’s an interest in transferring a licensed application, like Adobe Creative Suite, Dropbox, to a new computer instead of purchasing that license again. Yet when the time comes for a reinstall, the license key is nowhere to be found…

Suddenly you’re stuck combing the registries manually, and decrypting for the license ID directly. And what’s worse? Sometimes that doesn’t even work.

Prevention

Unfortunately, there is no “easy way,” apart from keeping track of information important to the license (such as installation packaging and discs). If your company is large enough to warrant it, an inventory of licensing is a must for preventing an extremely tedious and lengthy license-hunt.

In some cases, the software license info can also be accessed through a browser (common practice for Adobe products), in which case users should keep track of their login info (through a tool like Lastpass) so that when the time comes, you’re not locked out of the license retrieval process over a forgotten password.
Now that the scary stuff is out of the way, you should read on with our 3 common help desk tickets and how you can eliminate them at the source. If you’re looking for a deeper solution to improve security and boost your response time, check out our service page and drop us a line.

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About

Luke manages Help Desk operations at Newmind Group and entertains daughters at home. Playing music and nerd games take up any spare time he can find!