Study shows 50% of repair shops snooped on customer devices

midian182

Posts: 8,303   +103
Staff member
WTF?! For a lot of people, even the most technically proficient, there are times when fixing a phone or PC is beyond their abilities. Such occasions often require taking the device to be repaired professionally, but that also means the risk of technicians accessing your private data. According to a new report, this is something that happens around 50% of the time, and it's even more likely to occur if the customer is female.

As reported by Ars Technica, a new study by Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, looked at the logs from laptops that had received overnight repairs from 12 shops (national, regional, and local) in the greater Ontario region between October and December 2021.

Disturbingly, not only had technicians from six of the locations accessed personal data, but two of them had also copied data onto a personal device. The report found that workers were more likely to access personal data if the item being repaired belonged to a female customer, and they tended to seek more sensitive data in these instances, including both sexually revealing and non-sexual pictures, documents, and financial information.

The actual figures could have been even higher as the researchers visited 16 shops, but two of the laptops' logs were unrecoverable, and two outlets performed repairs on the spot rather than keeping the devices overnight.

In three instances, the technicians attempted to hide their snooping by deleting Windows Quick Access or Recently Accessed Files. In the case of the unrecoverable logs, one worker said they had installed antivirus software and performed a disk cleanup to "remove multiple viruses on the device," while the other gave no explanation.

The only issue with all the laptops was that the audio driver had been disabled, a simple-to-repair problem that certainly doesn't require access to personal files.

Half the machines were made to appear as if they came from male owners and half from female users. The researchers added documents, both sexually revealing and non-sexual pictures, and a cryptocurrency wallet with credentials, as well as custom logging software.

Another worrying part of the study involved taking a laptop into a shop for a battery replacement, a simple procedure that doesn't require access to the OS. When asked if the work could be carried out without giving a password, three refused to carry out the procedure if the customer didn't hand it over, four agreed but warned that they wouldn't be able to verify their work or be responsible for it, one asked for the password to be removed, and one said they would reset the device if it was required.

The report is a concerning one for anyone thinking about taking a device for repairs: almost all locations asked for passwords when they're weren't required, half the shops snooped on personal data, several attempted to hide/remove evidence of snooping, etc. But then, this sort of thing isn't new. In June last year, Apple paid an Oregon woman millions after two employees at Pegatron, one of Apple's major repair contractors, posted explicit images and videos of her to social media using an iPhone she sent in for repair. It's these sort of incidents that led to Samsung rolling out Maintenance Mode for its Galaxy devices, which can block access to sensitive information including photos, contacts or messages.

Masthead: Difught

Permalink to story.

 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 811   +741
Nothing that a tightly enforced Federal Law couldn't address. Say 5 year minimum prison sentence for anyone that snooped and 10-15 years for anyone that stole data for their own personal use.....

Hmmmm

A Federal Law used to lock up over 50% of the population?

I wonder how that will work?

Oh, we could start making laptops that never break I suppose....
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,042   +3,940
TechSpot Elite
Well, this is disturbing because I live in Ontario. I honestly don't understand why they hide the identity of the shops who were involved in this kind of activity. They should've been exposed for the scumbags that they are.

Hopefully, CBC's Marketplace will do an investigation because this is terrible. Exposing corrupt businesses in Canada is their raison-d'être.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,740   +6,498
Scare tactics which probably sponsored by Apple. They don't want us to repair their overpriced devices, simple as that.
The repair industry is corrupt as hell. Look at how hard it is to find a car mechanic who can both do the job properly and not royally screw you over somehow. Of the 10 ish mechanics ive had over the years there's 1 I would trust. Most would say something similar.

Computer repair shops are no different. The number of machines people have brogue me over the years saying the repair shop told them they needed a new motherboard or processor or other such gibberish when all they needed was a new HDD or a virus scan is eye opening.

This is why its important to learn how to repair and maintain your appliances, and why right to repair and sustainable repairable design should be prioritized over vapid styling.

12 out of 12 repair shops say that
6 out of 12 are lying.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 8,234   +7,575
Pervs will be pervs. :rolleyes:

Well, this is disturbing because I live in Ontario. I honestly don't understand why they hide the identity of the shops who were involved in this kind of activity. They should've been exposed for the scumbags that they are.

Hopefully, CBC's Marketplace will do an investigation because this is terrible. Exposing corrupt businesses in Canada is their raison-d'être.
In the US, at least, the reason for not exposing the shops: Lawyers.

It would be better if some media outlet did it.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 19,120   +8,232
But yet here I am, hopelessly locked in the past, with naught but a few old desktops, a telephone landline, and not a cell phone to my name.

Maybe I should grab a broken cell, take some pictures of my cat's a**es, then take it to a few repair shops.

Celebrities were having nude photos of themselves, "stolen" in this manner. You have to wonder if they put the photos on the phone, broke it on purpose, then took it to the shop. "I'm a victim". Well maybe.

I frankly don't see the point to having porn on a cellphone anyway. It's the sort of thing you store on your media server, then blast it up on your 70" TV..

I can almost comprehend watching a movie on a train riding to work. But "erotic art" no. You'd probably get locked up for "enjoying it the way it's intended to be enjoyed" ;) Then afterwards, not be allowed to live within a mile of a school/. :rolleyes:

Hey, I'm just the messenger.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,297   +950
Microsoft hiding it's file locking stuff away - or mostly in Pro versions - is somewhat at fault.

Tax returns, bank & visa statements , Wills, Identification documents etc,

All this should be easy and intuitive.

Yes settings are important - especially if shared family PC. Limited Accounts , Admin account , Super Admin Password ( giving right to delete on limited accounts - but maybe not see ) .

Personally I just Zip/rar - as easily transferrable ( make sure hide folder names ).
Don't store sensitive stuff on C drive as well - so when I had hardware checked with shop - I bought it with - all other drives removed.
Don't like Chrome unlock - is Admin - TBF only store passwords openly that are not important - Library etc
 

captaincranky

Posts: 19,120   +8,232
Rage against the machine...
51stuoV9QUL._AC_UL600_SR600,600_.jpg
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,042   +3,940
TechSpot Elite
Pervs will be pervs. :rolleyes:


In the US, at least, the reason for not exposing the shops: Lawyers.

It would be better if some media outlet did it.
Well, I don't know if you've ever seen it, but the CBC has investigative shows that expose bad behaviour in politics and business.

One is called The Fifth Estate and it uncovers political corruption. It's one of the only two TV shows in history to win an Academy Award, the other being The Twilight Zone.

The other is a show called Marketplace that investigates bad actors in business and takes on the role of a consumer's advocate. Most people outside of Canada have never even heard of it but everyone that I've shown it to on YouTube wants a version of it in their country. You can learn invaluable lessons to make you a more informed consumer by watching this show. Check this out:
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 3,042   +3,940
TechSpot Elite
But yet here I am, hopelessly locked in the past, with naught but a few old desktops, a telephone landline, and not a cell phone to my name.
If you don't need it, there's no reason to have it. (y) (Y)
Maybe I should grab a broken cell, take some pictures of my cat's a**es, then take it to a few repair shops.
🤣 🤣 🤣 🤣
Celebrities were having nude photos of themselves, "stolen" in this manner. You have to wonder if they put the photos on the phone, broke it on purpose, then took it to the shop. "I'm a victim". Well maybe.

I frankly don't see the point to having porn on a cellphone anyway. It's the sort of thing you store on your media server, then blast it up on your 70" TV..
I kinda think that it would be better on a VR headset. ;)
I can almost comprehend watching a movie on a train riding to work. But "erotic art" no. You'd probably get locked up for "enjoying it the way it's intended to be enjoyed" ;) Then afterwards, not be allowed to live within a mile of a school/. :rolleyes:
Considering what's out there and popular, I'm surprised that the people in school are allowed to attend. :laughing:
Hey, I'm just the messenger.
With a very sane and rational message. (y) (Y)
 

captaincranky

Posts: 19,120   +8,232
I shouldn't be surprised that this is a thing... but I am. :laughing:
Oh hell, there's a "for Dummies" book for just about anything. Although, there probably are a few exceptions, such as, "Fertilizer Bomb Making for Dummies", and maybe, "Nuclear Reactor Construction for Dummies".. :eek:

Elon Musk should have read, "Taking over Twitter for Dummies", before he made his move..
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,297   +950
Rage against the machine...
51stuoV9QUL._AC_UL600_SR600,600_.jpg
Actually Hard drives - helped me - bought a hard drive - asked how much to install - $30 USD - no way Jose - Was just a bit nervous about all the electrostatic scare stuff and master , slave drives, jumpers etc - less internet help stuff back then - turned out super easy- now built quite a few PCs - repaired northbridge fans, case fans etc - only thing was the hassle of pwr led and all those cables - what was the black triangle again - negative or positive ? - now they simplified that . Never done water cooled - but that is plug and play now - no bleeding lines etc .
Ripping CDs also helped my PC was bad at scratched CDs - was silly to struggle for a couple of years - when just had to get a good one
 

p51d007

Posts: 3,366   +3,029
If you are ignorant enough to store any "risky" images on your computer, that's on you.
NEVER store photos and the like that someone could use on your computer. Put them
on a flash drive or external drive.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 19,120   +8,232
If you are ignorant enough to store any "risky" images on your computer, that's on you.
If you are stupid enough to put risque images....Fixed
NEVER store photos and the like that someone could use on your computer. Put them
on a flash drive or external drive.
Given the somewhat tentative reliability of flash and external drives, plus the need to encrypt the files....Meh.

Methinks an air-gapped desktop, with yourself as the administrator and sole user, along with a 14 (or so) character password, is the way to go. If you're really paranoid, or have extremely disturbing things to conceal, buy internal storage drives that can be encrypted. (y) (Y)

I live alone, never go near chat rooms,or the dark web, so I just spring for the cheapy Barracudas. But they tend to lead a bit of a "brick-carious".existence. So, don't forget to backup. At fifty bucks a pop, (2 TB)`, they're well within the scope of "throwaway electronics".

Hell, even if you don't live alone, just don't leave a copy of, "Computer Repair for Dummies" laying around.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 8,234   +7,575
I see what you did there. What with the sly word play on, "boys will be boys". (At least I think that's what you did there)..;)
I can always count on you to get something of that nature, Captain. :laughing: (y) (Y)
Well, I don't know if you've ever seen it, but the CBC has investigative shows that expose bad behaviour in politics and business.

One is called The Fifth Estate and it uncovers political corruption. It's one of the only two TV shows in history to win an Academy Award, the other being The Twilight Zone.

The other is a show called Marketplace that investigates bad actors in business and takes on the role of a consumer's advocate. Most people outside of Canada have never even heard of it but everyone that I've shown it to on YouTube wants a version of it in their country. You can learn invaluable lessons to make you a more informed consumer by watching this show. Check this out:
I do live close enough to Toronto to occasionally get TV reception, but there is nothing I watch regularly - mostly because OTA reception is spotty at best.

I watched part of that Marketplace video and it looks like they have had quite a bit of positive impact over the years. The US has several shows 60 Minutes, 20/20, Frontline, but I'm not sure that they have had as significant of an impact as Marketplace. And then there is Consumer Reports. I am reasonably sure that they have had a big impact, not to mention Ralph Nader and his organization.

I don't think that the US has a political show like The Fifth Estate, but I think it would be a great idea. Heck, there's nothing that anyone can do to stop political telephone SPAM in the us, and certain people would almost certainly take any show like that to court and claim Fake News.