Sensitive Data, Geek Squad, and Stealing

I just read “Geek Squad hacked dead porn star’s computer” and I have a question, given the multitude of reports of how Geek Squad has been stealing people’s porn.

If you take your computer anywhere to have it serviced, or if you have anybody but yourself work on your computer, what precautions have you taken against them stealing your data?

There are lots of upstanding computer guys out there that have ethics and can be trusted to fix your computer and not go scavenging around. There are computer guys that are absolute unprofessional scumbags, too. I’ve worked with both types. How do you know your computer guy is trustworthy? For example, we know that Geek Squad was copying porn. But how do we know they weren’t also copying your TurboTax data, Microsoft Money files, bank statements, email, etc.?

Yeah, we don’t. At this point you pretty much have to assume they did.

So what do you do about this? The best way to handle this is to never let someone else touch your computer if you have sensitive data on it. This includes porn. However, that’s fairly impractical if you aren’t a computer person yourself. My suggestion then is if you don’t absolutely trust your computer guy never let the PC out of your sight. Don’t drop it off. Don’t leave the computer guy alone with it.

Another thing that makes this hard is that these folks have the tools and the talent to undelete files, too. When you delete a file it doesn’t actually get deleted. Instead, the computer just forgets where the file is. There are tools to get the computer to “remember” those files again. All that porn you deleted right before you took the computer in? Yeah, they can find it. And, if they copy your data to a network drive, a flash drive, or an external hard drive, they can undelete it again later.

There are ways to deal with this, though, and the upstanding computer guys should have no problem finding ways to prove to you that they aren’t stealing your data, especially if you are up-front with them about it. One way is for them to do a full format of their media after they are done, while you watch. A full (not quick) format will make it much more difficult to undelete files, but it also takes some time to do. Another way is for them to only work with CDs and DVDs. When they’re done you can destroy the media afterwards. Or, you can get your own external hard disk and have them use that. Afterwards you can use the disk to maintain a backup of your data.

In conclusion, I might seem paranoid, but your computer is full of all sorts of your private data, and things you probably don’t want others seeing. So come on, watch who you’re letting see it, eh?

1 thought on “Sensitive Data, Geek Squad, and Stealing”

  1. I run Linux so if I take my laptop anywhere I pull out the original winders hdd and drop it back in before it goes anywhere. Even before I ran Linux I always had a spare drive with windows loaded on it just in case I had to get repairs.

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