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PC repair shops found to be snooping customers' data

by Parm Mann on 22 July 2009, 10:00

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A Sky News investigation has found that PC repair shops are wrongly diagnosing computer faults and consequently charging excessive amounts - all whilst attempting to steal a customers' data.

Such behaviour will come as little surprise to most, but the investigation acts as a stark reminder for those a little less tech savvy.

Sky's undercover investigation made use of a notebook equipped with screen-capturing software and a hidden built-in webcam, both used to capture the work of the so-called PC repair specialists.

To make the notebook appear faulty, Sky loosened a memory chip to prevent Windows from loading. A repair would simply involve having the chip pushed back into place. Pix 4, a repair shop in Shepherds Bush, diagnosed the fault correctly and repaired it free of charge. Sadly, the following shops didn't perform as admirably:

Revival Computers in Hammersmith, West London, claimed a new motherboard would be required at a cost of £130. At the same store, Sky's surveillance software captured employees browsing files and copying holiday photos onto a memory stick. Inside one of the system's documents, another employee found fake banking login details and repeatedly attempted to access the customer's bank account.

Digitech in Putney, West London, were quick to fix the fault but were also found to be browsing through the system's pictures. A Digitech technician attempted to hide his tracks by clearing the list of recent documents, and a statement from the firm states that the photo browsing was merely an attempt to ensure working memory.

Others include Micro Anvika on Tottenham Court Road who charged £145 for a full examination, and Evnova Computers in Barbican who also claimed the motherboard needed replacing.

Then there's PC World in Brentford. Although not found to be snooping data, PC World Brentford demanded an advance payment of £230 for a new motherboard. The store has since apologised and refunded the money.

Back in 1997, PC World staff at another store found child pornography on the system of one Gary Glitter.

Source: Sky News

HEXUS Forums :: 19 Comments

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Doesn't surprise me. Some really dodgy people out there.
We've been known to go through user's files when laptop's come back to be repaired, but then again we are dealing with company computer's with a requirement to check for non-standard software/machine usage.

Some users are really bad!

Still, when you take your pc into a shop to be repaired you expect them to no rip you off and over charge, i'd expect most pc shop's to go into your file structure, not because they should, but i'd just expect people to do it. lol
I would never take a computer to a repair shop, but saying that I've repaired a dozen computers and laptops. I've snooped at there file esp the hidden ones… lol

Why are people suprised at this finding, its a common procedure.
Ethics. Thats what these cowboy repair idiots r lacking.
I am totally unsurprised by this file browsing… the wife/daughter's webcam pics for their ‘special friends’ probably being the prime target, closely followed by bank details! I would expect it to happen if I were taking my computer into a shop (the Gary G example as proof of expectations!!).

I wonder how many of those repair shops deliberately misdiagnosed the problem, and how many are just incompetent… I have encountered many people who *think* they know how to repair computers because they one upgraded their own RAM or graphics card…

This is why you should always take it to a knowledgeable friend if you have one, at least you can trust them not to rip you off even if they do look at your amateur pornos!