Thursday 23 July 2009

Who you gonna Trust to repair your PC or Laptop?

A Sky News investigation uncovered the shady dealings of some computer repair shops in London. An undercover reporter presented a laptop for repair at several computer repair shops, with the only problem being an easy to detect loose memory chip. However Sky had rigged their laptop to monitor how it was dealt with utilising keylogger software and they even had the laptop camera video the dodgy goings on.

One cheeky rogue trader charged the reporter £130, saying the laptop required a new motherboard, even though the original motherboard was absolutely fine, however more sinister and worrying was the invasion of customer privacy. Computer shop repair engineers were recorded rifling through marked private documents held on the laptop (folder was titled "private"), one scoundrel was captured actually stealing documents, removing them onto a USB memory stick, which included a text file labelled as holding passwords for Facebook, Hotmail, eBay and an online bank account. After lifting this information he went on to try to access the online bank account.

Unfortunately knowing the IT repair industry as I do, these kinds of abuse of trust is common place, IT repair staff, especially those with time on their hands are always likely to have a snoop, and within this subset of snoopers, there are those who will go that step further and actually do something devious with the information they find. I have even heard of computer shop chains employees doing the same type of snooping; just recall how Gary Glitter got caught for downloading illegal images.

Putting this Risk in Context
We all need to understand that sending your personal computer or laptop to a computer repair shop is on par with leaving a “stranger” alone in your home to carry out a domestic repair. If you aren’t happy trusting a stranger to do a domestic repair all alone in your home, why on earth would you trust a stranger to repair a problem with your personal computer all alone?

What should you do to Protect Yourself?
As with my “stranger in your home analogy”, you must insist on having your computer repaired while you are present, either have an engineer come to your home and repair it in front of you, or have it repaired while in your presence at the shop. Remember it’s not like having your car repaired at garage, as we have all kinds of personal and sensitive material digitally stored on their computers these days, I mean you really wouldn’t leave your car at the garage for repair, if your car contained your bank account books, your correspondences and r all your photo albums.

If you must give your PC or laptop to a third party for repair, if you are IT savvy I would either remove the hard disk or fully encrypt the hard disk. For the non-technical, I would advise approaching that family member or friend who is computer literate, just like with good lawyers or indeed good handymen, everyone should make a point of knowing a computer techie they can trust.

1 comment:

Amber Keele said...

wow! this was actually really helpful! i have always had a problem with tricky IT guys...