Home Technology Research shows that 50% of repair shops have snooped on customer devices

Research shows that 50% of repair shops have snooped on customer devices

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WTF?! For many people, even the most tech-savvy, there are times when repairing a phone or PC is beyond their capabilities. Such occasions often require the device to be professionally repaired, but that also carries the risk of technicians gaining access to your private data. According to a new report, this is something that happens about 50% of the time, and is even more likely to happen if the client is female.

As reported by Ars Technica, a new study by researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, looked at the logs of laptops repaired overnight by 12 stores (national, regional and local) in the greater Ontario region. between October and December 2021.

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

The actual numbers could have been even higher, as the researchers visited 16 stores, but two of the laptops’ logs were irreparable, and two outlets made on-the-spot repairs rather than leaving the devices overnight.

In three cases, the technicians tried to hide their snooping by deleting Windows Quick Access or Recently Opened Files. In the case of the unrecoverable logs, one employee said they installed antivirus software and ran a disk cleanup to “remove multiple viruses on the device,” while the other offered no explanation.

The only problem with all of the laptops was that the audio driver was disabled, an easily fixable issue that certainly doesn’t require access to personal files.

Half of the machines are made to look like they belong to male owners and the other half to female users. The researchers attached documents, both sexually revealing and non-sexual photos, and a cryptocurrency wallet with credentials, as well as custom logging software.

Another worrying part of the study was taking a laptop to a shop to have the battery replaced, a simple procedure that does not require access to the operating system. When asked if the work could be performed without providing a password, three refused to perform the procedure if the client did not hand it over, four agreed but warned that they would not be able to verify their work or be responsible for anyone asked for removing the password and one said they would reset the device if needed.

The report is alarming for anyone considering bringing a device in for repair: nearly all locations asked for passwords when they weren’t needed, half of the stores snooped for personal information, several tried to hide/remove evidence of snooping, etc. But yes, this kind of thing is not new. Last June, Apple paid an Oregon woman millions after two employees of Pegatron, one of Apple’s largest repair companies, posted explicit images and videos of her on social media using an iPhone she had sent in for repair. It is incidents like this that have led Samsung to roll out maintenance mode for its Galaxy devices, which can block access to sensitive information, including photos, contacts, or messages.

Masthead: Difight

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