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View Full Version : Another Dodgy Computer Technician report


Bryce W
02-01-2008, 10:28 PM
The media seems to love these. Send a machine to the big boys such as Geeksquad, Circuit City, Frys etc.. and record them opening personal files:
http://video.knbc.com/player/?id=212629

I totally agree that these technicians are dodgy but what do they expect when the store hires highschool boys to fix computers?

KNBC also wrote up an article on ways to protect your computer from dodgy technicians:


Back up files onto an external hard drive.
Don't leave personal files or photographs on your computer hard drive.
Password encrypt all sensitive personal files left on hard drive.
Install monitoring software onto computer.
Prior to repair, inform technicians in writing that they do not have permission to access your personal files.
Prior to repair, have technicians estimate in writing what repairs they plan for your computer and what files they plan on accessing.
Before you agree to any repairs, pay for a flat-rate diagnostic fee to have your computer checked out.
Do not sign off your rights by allowing technicians to make repairs on your computer without prior written approval.
Get a second estimate on expensive repair jobs or jobs that seem unnecessary.
Be as knowledgeable as possible about what is wrong with your computer before bringing it in for repair.
Be alert and get all terms and conditions of repair in writing.
Check the Internet for complaints.
Make sure the final total for is the same as given in the estimate given by the store before starting the repair.
If possible, take a friend with you who is technically sound and can sense if the repair store is offering the apt solution to the problem or not.
Never pay money in full before work is done. Always keep a balance so that if you are not satisfied with the repair service.
Keep all the receipts. They are a vital record.
Get a minimum of 90-day guarantee for software fixes and 120 days for network solutions.
If you feel you were overcharged or charged for a repair not completed, file a complaint with the state regulatory boardMost of that is pretty good advice, but I have an issue with one of them:
Get a minimum of 90-day guarantee for software fixes and 120 days for network solutions.Im all for guaranteeing my work. If the same thing happens again, with no user intervention then I'll do it again for free. However, if I remove some viruses and they get more viruses even though I installed an AV and patched the system... then who the hell can give a guarantee? let alone a 90 day one?

What do you guys think?

gunslinger
02-02-2008, 05:03 AM
Some of these I have no problems with. That being said if someone came to me with their computer and this list of rules I would most likely tell them to just fix it themselves if they are that scared I'm going to see something on their system and the data is that sensitive they are most likely doing something illegal or they are so paranoid about getting ripped off the need to just learn how to do it themselves. I think some of these are plain unreasonable , like the 90-day guarantee for software fixes and 120 days for network solutions. Would you make these same demands on any other professional? If you did I think they would also tell you to take your business elsewhere.

"If possible, take a friend with you who is technically sound and can sense if the repair store is offering the apt solution to the problem or not."

How about have that friend fix it for you instead. Then after he/she screws it up real good , bring it back to the real tech. ( I charge extra for those )

Yes, I am a little bitter, (can you tell)? If you have something personal in your car would you not remove it before taking it to the shop?

mypcguy
02-02-2008, 05:34 AM
I offer 30 days for all hardware fixes and 14 days for virus/spy removal. My clients feel that is fair. The bottom line is trust. If you don't trust the company to do the work, why bring it to them? That form looks like a prenuptial agreement gone bad.

Nathan H
02-02-2008, 12:18 PM
Yeah Bryce I agree entirely.

And Gunslinger has raised some very valid points.

Although I have not yet had the displease of this happening to me I feel that if some one asked me not to do this and not to do that, i would comply as best as i could, but i would advise them as the service they anted was outside the scope of my Terms & Conditions, therefore they would be charged a higher price.

After all they would have called me or brought there pc to me rather than me approaching them.

As for guarantees, i give a full year on all hardware, unless Reconditioned (Second Hand) then its 30 days.

And labour is guaranteed until i leave the premises, as i like many other have had the user deliberately tamper with settings and expect a free repair,

I am not being mean, i do use discretion and if a fault appears relatively soon after i have completed the work i will come back out, but i do remind my client there may be a charge raised if it is user error.

I have only done this once, most of the time I say "As a gesture of good will I'll wave the fee, but as the fault was not caused by me and the repair Id one is still working correctly, it should have been chargeable" most people think thats fair.


Just to add I haven't seen the video yet!!

RKDus
02-02-2008, 05:55 PM
I disagree, I think this raises a valid issue. I think it's totally unacceptable for techs to be searching through customers' private documents. As for zooming in on the girl, I mean come on ffs. This kind of thing was rampant in the repair shop I used to work for, and it's out of order if you ask me, not to mention legally questionable.

gunslinger
02-02-2008, 10:56 PM
Problem is there is no 100% sure fire way to prevent your private data from being seen other than encryption and if you are not smart enough to fix your own computer then you most likely don't have any business messing around with encryption. Don't want it looked at, don't put it on there.

RKDus
02-03-2008, 12:59 AM
I don't understand, are you saying that people shouldn't be able to have confidential files on their computer? And if they do that they shouldn't send it to get fixed if they have a problem?

Justin
02-03-2008, 03:10 AM
It's a shame. These places give the whole business a bad name. People are no doubt terrified because they don't understand how computers work. There is a large amount of trust given to us when someone hands over their machine. This is why these undercover stings make such good tv. It scares the hell out of the ordinary person to think about what they may or may not have done on their computer in the privacy of their own home becoming visible to someone else. As far as the analogy of leaving something in the car, if I take my car in for an oil change, the tech has no business rooting around in the glove compartment. I'm thinking that an ethics course should be required to work in some of these shops.

gunslinger
02-03-2008, 03:32 PM
I don't understand, are you saying that people shouldn't be able to have confidential files on their computer? And if they do that they shouldn't send it to get fixed if they have a problem?



What I'm saying is if its on your computer you run the risk of it being seen either by accident of if someone is snooping. If my system was taken from me right now and searched no personal info is on it, not my passwords, ssn# , no porn, no phone #'s, no tax docs. I have a few pics that I would not mind anyone seeing. I store all personal stuff on either an external drive or flash drive thats always with me and encrypted.
I can understand someone being upset that there personal things were messed with. But its one thing for the tech to go looking for your personal things, and another thing altogether if he finds your kiddie porn while checking for viruses. I think its up to the computer user to make sure their data is safe, and stop placing unreasonable demands on the tech.

See the first three things KNBC says to do.

seedubya
02-03-2008, 07:38 PM
RKdus and Gunslinger both have valid points. It is stupid to have unprotected confidential information on your computer, particularly when not in you possession. However, any customer has the right to expect that a computer tech working on their system is not poking around in their personal data. There is NEVER any need for anyone to open pics, docs etc. If such a need arose, eg in the case of a word macro virus or something like that then the customers permission should be sought before opening any such file.

Just another example of why this occupation is perceived as being full of chancers, con-men, shysters and the like.........

We need regulation. Self-regulation would be great but I doubt it'll ever happen.

RKDus
02-03-2008, 09:16 PM
I think we might be talking about different things here, you couldn't expect your average user to go encrypting their My Pictures folder. Just because a girl is good looking doesn't mean she should have some sweaty pervert going through her pictures every time her computer has a problem. I don't want to be suspected of dodgy behaviour any more than anyone else but the techs in this video deserve to be exposed.
What kind of regulation to you propose, Seedubya? I don't know of many ways other than the media highlighting the issue, as crude as it may be.

gunslinger
02-03-2008, 09:28 PM
Agreed. But you bring up an interesting point when you said any customer has the right to expect that a computer tech working on their system is not poking around in their personal data. They also have the right to expect that people will be people, and that means they cannot be trusted. I think its time people started taking a little responsibility for themselves and their own security, and stop blaming everyone else when they screw up. If you go to a dodgy site and give out your credit card # what do you expect will happen? How about going into a bad section of town in a really nice car? Or going to a bar here in the south and proclaiming rednecks suck? You have the right to do all of these things, but you should expect bad things to happen if you do.
I don't go snooping around in customers systems anymore than I need to, but in the process of backing up data I have seen more than my share of porn, tax papers, personal photos, and other things.
As far as needing regulation. I do see a need for it, but who is going to do it right? The government? Thats a joke. All that would do is snuff out the little guy completely IMO.

RKDus
02-03-2008, 10:26 PM
Agreed. But you bring up an interesting point when you said any customer has the right to expect that a computer tech working on their system is not poking around in their personal data. They also have the right to expect that people will be people, and that means they cannot be trusted. I think its time people started taking a little responsibility for themselves and their own security, and stop blaming everyone else when they screw up. If you go to a dodgy site and give out your credit card # what do you expect will happen? How about going into a bad section of town in a really nice car? Or going to a bar here in the south and proclaiming rednecks suck? You have the right to do all of these things, but you should expect bad things to happen if you do.
I don't go snooping around in customers systems anymore than I need to, but in the process of backing up data I have seen more than my share of porn, tax papers, personal photos, and other things.
As far as needing regulation. I do see a need for it, but who is going to do it right? The government? Thats a joke. All that would do is snuff out the little guy completely IMO.

People will be people? I can't accept that as an excuse. Why should society punish anyone who does anything wrong then? How is the girl in the video not taking responsiblity for herself, or how has she screwed up and blamed someone else? I've accidentally stumbled across stuff I know the customer wouldn't want me to see (pictures of the customer having sex with two Thai ladyboys for example!), but did the techs in the video "accidentally" open the girl's pictures and zoom in on her privates? Or maybe they were checking for data corruption :P
Anyway, I agree, I think regulation would be very difficult, hence the need for this kind of media thing. Any measure of deterrent is better than none at all.

seedubya
02-03-2008, 11:41 PM
Like I said earlier, I think self-regulation would be ideal. However, this has very wide implications in the whole "trade/occupation" vs. "profession" debate. At the moment IT services, particularly at the SOHO end of the market are perceived to be a trade/occupation. I would contend that we don't even meet the minimum criteria applicable to a trade (never mind a profession). For instance, electricians here in Ireland serve a 4 year apprenticeship, 3 on the job and 1 in college. In order for an electrician to trade independently he must be a member of one of two publicly recognised standards bodies. He must hold a certificate of competency from one of these bodies and he must renew it yearly. He has to comply with continuing education standards in order to renew. The criteria for a profession such as accountancy or medicine are even more onerous. A different example is mechanics. Anyone in Ireland can call themselves a mechanic however there is a self-regulation organisation for mechanics and most are members. They subscribe to a code of practice, are represented nationally when the interests of mechanics in general are at stake. The guys outside of the organisation find difficulty getting insurance, B2B work etc. and they are a dying breed. No loss coz most are cowboys anyway.

With any occupation it will either eventually regulate itself or it will be regulated for. Which would you choose?

With regard to what a client has the right to expect;
We had a case here a few years ago of a dentist who was molesting his female patients while they were under general anaesthetic. Did those women have a right to expect that no such thing would happen? Private data and private parts are in principle the same thing and a (supposedly professional) third party going where they no right to be is inexcusable regardless of the naivete of the client.

When the whole child pr0n thing on the internet was at it's height I was asked by a local newspaper what I would do if I found such on a clients computer. I said it would never be an issue for me because I never looked at clients private data. The only way I'd ever see it is if they were using it as wallpaper and if I saw that I'd hand it straight over to the cops. Thankfully, I've never had to.

My advice, formulate a written privacy policy. Put a copy on your website, give it to your clients and make it a condition of employment. If you find an employee breaking it fire them. You can be damn sure that YOUR private data isn't safe with them either...


I don't go snooping around in customers systems anymore than I need to, but in the process of backing up data I have seen more than my share of porn, tax papers, personal photos, and other things. Exactly how much do you need to? I know you can't avoid seeing file names, I know you usually can't avoid seeing thumbnails but why would you ever need to open any particular file, especially if it's obviously private? If you need to check the functionality of Word for instance, then create a test document. Some examples of what I'm missing here would be useful.

gunslinger
02-04-2008, 01:59 AM
"Exactly how much do you need to? I know you can't avoid seeing file names, I know you usually can't avoid seeing thumbnails but why would you ever need to open any particular file, especially if it's obviously private?"


Exactly what I mean, thumbnails and file names.
See the problem with "special reports" such as this is that they only show the worst ones. They also cause problems among techies because some feel the need to seem more professional than the rest. Also, they did not bother to show what papers they signed before dropping off the systems.

Blues
02-04-2008, 08:14 PM
I believe when they hand it over to you to repair they are giving you rights to access anything you need to access inorder to complete the requested service. I would still have this in writing to cover my own ass should they decide to come back to me. People often have thumbnail view turned on or picture screen savers they may not have it filtered for us. I won't be diving into these directories unless something is pointing me there. If you are doing any file transfers you may see a file name that suggest its something they would prefer to hide. This could in some cases be illegal items and then you have the moral question to go verify the contents to the name or pretend you didn't see it. There are some grey areas we aren't quiet the same as doctors in that we aren't bound by any laws on what type of information we can share about the client but there should be some level of common courtesy to respect ones privacy.

gunslinger
02-04-2008, 09:03 PM
Well said Blues.

If like in the video all that was needed was the power cable plugged in, then you have no need to look inside windows. On the other hand if its spyware/adware/malware/viruses we are talking about or data backup, I can almost guarantee you will see some private data or file names.For a customer to expect otherwise is IMO unreasonable. It would be like a felmale going under the knife for implants but saying she does not want the Dr. to look at her boobs.


By the way I would say about 99.8% of the time when there is a virus it came in with the file titled " lezbo_bigtit_gangbang.avi" and there is a good chance I'll see it.

Checkmate
02-14-2008, 01:37 AM
I've been repairing computers since '93. In all that time I have never had to go into someones personal files. I carry a CD/DVD that has samples of Movies, pictures, and music. I use that when I need to check out CD/DVD repairs and/or to make sure that programs are working properly. Granted when I am doing backups or data transfers, if you watch the screen you will see file names that I'm sure the EU would rather you didn't know about. When I encounter that I ignore it, it is not my obligation to condem someone for what they have on their PC. But that is just my opinion.

Blues
02-14-2008, 01:10 PM
I've been repairing computers since '93. In all that time I have never had to go into someones personal files. I carry a CD/DVD that has samples of Movies, pictures, and music. I use that when I need to check out CD/DVD repairs and/or to make sure that programs are working properly. Granted when I am doing backups or data transfers, if you watch the screen you will see file names that I'm sure the EU would rather you didn't know about. When I encounter that I ignore it, it is not my obligation to condem someone for what they have on their PC. But that is just my opinion.

That CD/DVD idea is nice and I won't care what I see when doing a data transfer unless it screams at me as being something illegal at which point I would have a moral dilemma on my hands between ignoring or turning it over to authorities. I can't say what I would do but I know Id have to decide if I run into this situation.