back to article Geek Squader gets fruity with customer porn

Best Buy Geek Squad workers are a caring, sharing, diligent bunch. In fact some Geek Squaders are so meticulous they will even take a backup of your nudie photos and MP3s while repairing your home PC, without being asked. According to, which carried out what it described as a "three-month sting operation", …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    External Storage

    Always backup the pics of ya missus to external storage but leave shortcuts to the non-existant drive on the PC.

    That really frustrates them!

    Is anyone really suprised that wehn you take your PC into anywhere like this, your files get browsed! Without it Gary Glitter would still be a pop star!

  2. david skinner

    Isolated incident???

    I'm quite sure this happens at more places than just the army.

    Anyone else remember the Gary Glitter - PC World incident......

  3. Andy Taylor

    Isn't this how they caught Gary Glitter?

    If it wasn't for the Geek/Tech guys trawling for porn, we'd still be being subjected to the Gary Glitter Christmas Show Tour.

  4. chris

    Why bother?

    I'd have thought any geek squader would be able to find plenty of free porn and music on the internet. Why on earth would they bother pulling it off customer PCs. Especially since people who feel the need to take a PC to the geek squad will probably have a poorly organised collection of dubious quality.

  5. Swineherd


    "If this is true, it's an isolated incident and grounds for termination of the agent involved."

    'termination of the agent.'


  6. Ben Weston

    It's amazing what you can find on customer's PCs

    Some people may vilify those of us to do rumage through customer's computers while we're repairing them. Considering one of my scans turned up kiddie porn though, my conscience is clean.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They should be ashamed...

    to call themselves geeks. I think it's terrible...

    That they got caught!

    This is why I always use a LiveCD, or take the disk out and slap it in a caddy. ;-)

  8. Simon Painter

    @ Officer Ben Weston

    So do you have a warrant? I don't care how vile the crime, if you search through someone elses computer without permission you should be prosecuted.

  9. Graham Dawson Silver badge


    The argument is, if you have nothing to hide then you've nothing to fear. On the other hand there's the whole issue of privacy violation by these people

    Still... all things being equal I'd rather have some tech geek pawing through my computer than, say, a government agent. Or microsoft. Not that _any_ of them would get the chance these days.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Simon Painter

    I'm sure it could be argued that by giving your computer to a company, without taking any measures to hide your files, you are in effect giving them permission to look at what's on there.

    If a police officer sees a crime being comitted through an open window as he passes by a house, should be ignore it because he hasn't been asked to look through the window?

  11. Glenn Carter

    Nothing to fear?

    "The argument is, if you have nothing to hide then you've nothing to fear."

    - Only if you trust the agency/government involved in the scanning not to abuse your data.

    - Also, theres some perfectly legal pursuits you still would not want others knowing...

    --For example, some enterprising soul could use computer email info to blackmail you if you were having an affair or something like that.

    -Also I may have nothing to hide but I still don't want random strangers having access to my credit card details...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They're welcome to it.

    Share the wealth, that's what I say. If they want to take a few tunes and copy my porn, it's not like I'm losing anything. The only thing that would constitute personal information on mycomputer is my CV - which I mail to complete strangers anyway.

  13. James Summerson

    @ Ben Weston

    Of course, the person who had the offending material on his PC can now claim, if this comes to Court, that one of your tek-geek snoops put it there. Well done, Sherlock!

    Also, you say that _one_ of your 'rummages' turned up something bad, what about the others? Just the plain old abuse of trust and civil liberties then. No matter what anon might think, handing over something for repair does _not_ grant the repairer licence to 'rummage' - no matter what the self justification.

    Can I pop round to Ben's house and have a quick 'rummage' through his stuff? I'm sure _his_ PC is as clean as his conscience...

  14. Peter Kay

    If you don't expect someone to look at your computer whilst repairing it deserve to get caught.

    One would also hope that if a customer had porn on their hard drive, they had put it through their own personal taste filter, so to speak. Which might be either good, or bad, depends on your own perspective.

    I don't really need to recount stories of pretending I didn't see various data on systems to spare the blushes of all concerned, do I?

  15. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Glenn Carter

    I take it you only read up to the first full stop? :P

    "On the other hand there's the whole issue of privacy violation by these people"

  16. Tom Peach

    Nothing New

    The guy didn't go searching through the PC, the wallpaper was three good looking gals and there was a "pictures" folder on the desktop. 99% of blokes would do the same.

    Most of you have probably read peoples email and looked at private pictures before the novelty of it wore off and you started to respect peoples privacy, the rest of you are liars.

    How is this different from the "quality control" that takes place when you get photo's developed anyway?

  17. Nexox Enigma

    Share the wealth?

    Surely if they were in the practice of sharing the wealth, they'd copy some porn back onto your computer after they copied yours off. Just seems fair.

    I do most of my computer repairs on house calls, and it is just odd to have someone standing over my shoulder when I open a folder and find a whole load of their porn movies in thumbnails. Then again the reason I have to work on their computers in the first place is often because they've been browsing porn using IE and their computers are totally stuffed.

  18. david

    Privicy is not just hiding porn

    There are many things which whilst legitimate you would want to hide from a technitian, even though you may not want to hide it from say the government, the fact you work for huntington life science or GSK may lead you mobbing or physical attacks by (militant) activists. Just because you have nothing to hide doesnt mean to say you want your life broadcast.

    In no way does you using your warrenty give the people at a repair shop permission to pick and choose what part of you life they can steal. I do not store passwords for my paypal (or similar) web site but there may many people who do so, which gives access to peoples cash. or more likley letters to the bank which usually contain enough imformation to identifiy the individual.

    Its ok for the knowledgeable it prof to spout rightcous comments about needing to spend an extra 200 ukp on usb removable media and then configuring the OS to store everything on there rather than use your pc as its set up. But the point here is that the geeks should not be snooping. If they suspect a crime they should ask the police to investigate. This is like your neighbour breaking into your house and going through your stuff because you might be burring your wife in the back garden - or just adding a new flower bed - either way its worth going through your underwear.

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  20. Brian


    Like there was any doubt? Of course they copied the porn, this article makes it sound like this is a surprise. If you have someone work on your computer. You should encrypt sensitive data or move it off of the device. Civil liberties or not, I don't leave valuables out where the public can see them regardless of the illegality of someone taking them. If you invite a worker into your home to work on the same computer, you should never leave them alone, and watch everything that they do. Common sense rules apply here. You can be right, or you can be safe, pick one.

  21. SnowHawk

    Reputation is what is to stop them

    "What is to stop them from loading keyloggers (or any other nefarious software) on a suspect's PC..."

    A business must maintain the goodwill of its customers, or it will shrink, or even die. That is what is to stop them. Several reputable, or even just frequently repeated but more suspect, reports that a PC repair service was planting malware on its customers PCs and that service will shortly have no customers. For evidence of this take a look at the Sony rootkit fiasco with their music CDs several years ago. It didn't take long for them to cry uncle and withdraw them from the market.

    Also look at the machinations that Best Buy is going through right now to see how much they desire the goodwill of their customers. I don't know how big of a piece of their business their repair service is, but if their response is lacking in the public eye, then it may well become unprofitable, and that is the last thing they want.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you have nothing to hide

    then you do not have children. Many peados would love the photos of your trip to the beach.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tsk Tsk geek

    Probably the best stuff he had in ages though.

    Wasn't Gary Glitter a nice folder on the desktop?

    If you need to have your PC looked at, get it done at home and offer lots of tea, saves them looking too hard

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    truly armature porn

    As a technical who worked in a large chain of computer shops, I can tell you that it is not the porn that is interesting, nor the MP3s – I can download that in minutes. It is “truly armature” porn that is fun to get. After a while, “normal” porn is boring, there are only so many combinations of positions/body types/hair colours, so after a while it is no longer exciting. So pictures of wives/girlfriends are the perfect catch, especially, if they walk into the shop to pick up the PC ;-)

    Did you ever wonder why you got “funny looks”? – Now you know. Thank “WinHEX” for the mere seconds it takes to scan a SD card for those deleted pictures of the second hand camera you brought in to sell.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copying data

    Hold on, here. The first thing i do with any customer's PC is to copy MyDocs - and any other personal folders - onto an external drive, and from there to CDs / DVDs (which are given to the customer as backup). I do this so that i can work on the machine with the confidence that whatever I need to do with it, no-one will lose their photos etc. Also because almost *no-one* except pros has backups of their data.

    I do NOT rummage around, nor read emails or anything else. And if I do happen to see a photo of a wife in her underwear, so what?

    But someone recording what I do might think I was squirrelling away terabytes of people's personal files. Not so - I keep the data on my external hard drive for a couple of days in case of some disaster, and then it's deleted.

    Copying things isn't always sinister.

  26. John Bailey

    Nothing to hide??

    Every time I hear that phrase, I really want to slap whoever said it!

    Someone bringing in a computer to one of these places is not an experienced user, so they are not going to have their private files on a thumb drive or encrypted. Its a miracle if everything isn't in the root of the C:\ drive most times. They will also have the passwords to every site they have subscribed to, including Ebay, Amazon, Pay pal, their bank, their kid's photos, their private adult photos of each other<who has a digital camera and never took a nude pic of themselves or their partner?>. People have got fired for less than this when such a photo gets discovered on the net.

    There is no expressed or implied permission to root around someone else's computer at any time. No more than leaving your front door unlocked makes you responsible for being burgled, and vindicates the person who just walked in and started helping themselves to your belongings.

    Same applies to someone who gains unlawful access to a network or a wireless node. Not securing it is not the same as allowing free use of the resource.

    Happily, I'm never going to have to use such a place, and my friends all know better than to trust their privacy to some pimply kid in a computer shop.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Armature porn?

    Is that, like, photos of a stripped-down electric motor?

  28. Entropy

    @ All the people saying "They shouldn't look through our files"

    If you don't want your files to be looked at then simply move them to a different location before handing in the computer(and if its really sensitive data, its better to wipe it entirely and better yet to have it encrypted). When you go to that shop and hand in the computer for repair, though it is true that you don't give those people the permission to "rummage" through your files their's nothing stopping them from doing so.

    >Happily, I'm never going to have to use such a place, and my friends all know better than to trust their privacy to some pimply kid in a computer shop.

    I wouldn't trust my PC to anyone, and its not just a privacy thing, I'm just happier knowing *exactly* what is on there even if that means hours spent reading documentation to fix a particular problem.

  29. Tim Bates

    Cause you have to try to find it :-S

    Why would you rummage around looking for pr0n or music? Even if you wanted that sort of stuff, you only need to go about finding the problem usually... The music and/or pr0n is usually related to it.

    Reminds me of the time I went to a house to fix a scanner problem. It was "the son's" computer, and he was still at school at the time. His mum booted the computer to show me the problem... She looked kind of embarrassed when the desktop wallpaper had a topless chick and there were collections of icons on the desktop for porn sites.

  30. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Wait a minute

    "This is like your neighbour breaking into your house and going through your stuff"

    Sorry, but no. The guy didn't break into a house, he was brought a PC for repair. That's like bringing your car to the garage, then complaining that the mechanic took a look at the trunk, in which you happened to have stored a load of skin mags.

    Privacy is in your own home, that is where you can expect to have it. Anywhere else and you must expect that some things will be discovered by the less delicate of our fellow man. And the sheer comic value of some people's pic folders is too tempting to not dig in to - especially since there is no way, short of having a PC specifically rigged for it, to discover what has been copied. And even that would not work if the tech took out the disk to slave it to a dedicated repair machine.

    I am knowledgeable enough in PCs to be able to repair and maintain my own - so I have never had to bring my PC to a repair store. Had that happened, the data disk would most certainly have been taken out of the casing, so as to remove any chance of discovery of my bank account details, financial spreadsheets and, as an afterthought, my vast collection of Garfield and other toons.

    An ounce of prevention . . .

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The people who take their machines....

    Obviously arent in the same position that the majority of the readers here are, we know how to keep things private in one way or another and have experience of the 'way things work'

    The people who pay to have their PCs looked at by these people are relying on someone to do a job, same as if I got a builder to do some work in my house.

    I wouldnt expect them to start digging around through my stuff and this thing is completely unacceptable too.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ David

    David - "burring your wife" in the back garden is no longer a crime under the Sexual Offences Act.

    Having such dreadful spelling, however, is.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Happens all the time

    Having worked as a PC repairs technician for a well-known IT retailer in a previous job I can say that this kind of thing happens more often than you think.

    A lot of techies will poke around a customers drive and help themselves to anything they find that they like. The rule is really, if you don't want someone else to see it, don't keep it on there, or at least put it somewhere better than 'My Pictures', 'My Videos', 'My Downloads', or the ultimate...'Desktop' <gasp>

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some of them want you to find it!

    Oh look there's my manage-a-trois on holiday photo album, I've left it on the desktop. Silly Me!

  35. Tim Schomer

    It surprises me...

    ...that they'd got the time to browse files on the machine, I can only imagine these individuals have no sense of professional pride and must be being paid by the hour, rather than by the job.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Define Rummaging !

    What exactly is rummaging around? Which folders is a Techie allowed to look at? Should they be restricted to add/remove programs & c:\program files\*.* If that is the case good luck getting your computer fixed.

    I agree with the above post, a decent techie would have discovered the screen capture software. No1. standard logging files are WMV. Any search for *.wmv would have discovered every movie. Porn and otherwise. Its standard porn finding practice. No 2. movie encoder uses 100% cpu and about 60Meg of RAM during screen capture. How would a techie not have noticed something like that hogging the resource. ?

  37. Peter W

    fixing a computer

    say I'm looking at a home pc - its broken and I can't fix it in 2 minutes flat.

    first thing to do is get all data off it in case it gets totally fried. That involves asking the user where they keep their files, and ALSO doing a search of the pc for any folders they've forgotten about. Hence, apparently, I'm doing something wrong by trying to make sure they don't lose their data....silly me! I'll just let them lose it all next time so they can keep a bit of tame porn secret....

  38. Jason


    You take your pc to a shop to be repaired, and you don't expect the person to go looking at your files?

    Well how the hell are they going to fix your problem if they can't look through your files??

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Search warrants are only needed by government agents

    I saw some comments above about charges getting thrown out because there was no warrant. That's not true. If some guy breaks into your home; finds your shrine to kiddy porn; steals some of the stuff; and then hands it over to the cops... this can count as evidence.

    The constitution only protects you from the government, not other citizens.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Graham Dawson

    You brought microsoft into this conversation? Seriously?

    I worry more about google desktop then microsoft anyday.

    Atleast my index stays on my pc...whereas google desktop sits on a server, waiting to be trawled by anyone.

  41. A J Stiles

    Easy way to deal with it

    What is required is a new law which binds a person to secrecy over *any* information which was not specifically volunteered to them and which does not constitute evidence of a criminal offence. In other words, make the person who acquires the information responsible for not disclosing it.

    So looking at the contents of someone else's hard drive wouldn't be an offence in and of itself; but telling any third party what you found there (and that obviously includes using any credit card numbers you found) would be, unless you found evidence suggesting that a crime had been committed.

    The same principle could also apply to used hard drives. (Mind you, anybody who doesn't do a full surface scan on a second-hand HDD -- which necessarily obliterates any pre-existing data -- before using it for anything important is an idiot).

  42. daniel

    Ways and means...

    You take your PC to a repair store, and describe the problem. OK. They should ask you (if you are nice to them) if you made a backup, and or/you request them to. By that, they are going to take a glimpse of (under windows) my documents, documents & settings (looking for the outlook / outlook express / thunderbird mailstores, address book & favorites), and have a cursory glance at the filesystem to see where else the user has hidden their files, especially as the system is probably going to get reformatted before being handed back to the customer.

    Looking at the browser favorites is also a good trick of checking out the system health, as if it's filled with pr0n shortcuts, then there is a chance that the machine is contaminated with malware... (Oh, sorry, I did not know that you were into hamsters & duck tape, but I understand why you are getting a lot of wierd popup windows....)

    On the other hand, running a potentially infested machine is not a good idea: Depending on what nasty was making the user bring the system in for repair may not be detectable / repairable from the user's OS (rootkit, infected system files...) - and that when operating, the nasties could be doing more evil on the system... oh, and certainly do not connect to your LAN, as then the system could be pumping spam or trying to infect the rest of your company while you are trying to find out WTF is happening...

    Then suddenly...

    God invented USB/IDE interface cables!

    Take the drive out and connected to a diagnostic system, that can also be used to take a copy of all the users files off the system pending format & reinstall...

    a) No customer software will be spying on you

    b) No evilware can run

    c) You have better access to the drives files (unless they encrypted their files...)

    d) You can check the drive for errors & quick format before reinstalling...

    e) While the format is running on your test system, you can do run memtes86 on their PC...

  43. Daniel Hedley

    @ A J Stiles Re: Easy way to deal with it

    Such a law would be unenforceable; you would need to show that a person could not possibly have acquire a given piece of information from any other source, and it would be very difficult to define what constitutes volunteering information in a sufficiently certain way.

    Further, it would act as a disincentive to anyone inadvertently stumbling across something which _might_ constitute evidence of a crime since if they acted on it and it turned out to be innocuous (or even just inconclusive) they would expose themselves to prosecution under your proposed law.

    I would also suggest that a person who neglects to write zeroes to every sector of a hard disk before handing it over to a stranger is not an idiot, but is simply not an IT expert.

  44. Colman

    No Kidding

    Do we not all read the BOFH? The Geek Squad is a huge employeer of PFYs. Give most young geeks access to customers hard drive and this will happen. No amount of training or supervision will stop it (however, when they are caught, they should be disciplined according to company policy so they learn that it is not acceptable).

    It is the computers owner that is responsible for make sure there isn't anything on the HD that they do not want to be seen by others.

  45. fon

    dont be an idiot, be safe...

    poster on ' Tuesday 10th July 2007 13:31 GMT (Search warrants....)' is dead right!!!

    - If you have such a shrine, keep it secret, not somewhere that anyone can find it!! - If you are that stupid, you rather deserve it...

    Likewise the 'car boot'... if it was kidie porn, you depend on what the garage does..

    whatever it is, get a second disc drive installed, just so you dont lose it due to your PC crashing - get a 'caddy', then you know your property is safe, not just from the PC, but anything else...

    AND if you have an older family member who is not that 'PC literate', then help them out! there are too many unscrupulous websites with nice names, that result in many awfull images appearing, to your gran's abject horror..

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yes, but what about what they might PUT on your computer !!

    I would be much more worried ,or as worried, about what might be put on my computer than taken off it !. How about they load it with trojans or anything else ,like may they want to set you up on behalf of someone/organisation ?.

    I guess that the fact they found stuff on Gary Glitters computer shows that they were fishing around looking for what they could find.

    The moral of the story, dont take your computer to any repair shop if you have anything on there that you wouldnt want the public to see.

  47. Tiim

    PCWorld staff are offenders here too

    Heresee maybe, but I've heard gossip from people about staff working at PCWorld in the UK who have their own external HDD's in the workplace to rip off and collect personal pron of users taking their pc's in to repair. If these are posted on the web then these guys should be prosecuted, pure and simple. Make them criminals! Where does everyone think most of the amateur pron on the web comes from anyway? Of course the majority is stolen (outside of Quantum sites)

    I've come across this sort of stuff before when repairing peoples pc's and whilst I might initially giggle, I don't copy the data and give friendly advice about encryption for the future to protect their blushes. Although once, since I took finding what I did so well, I was asked by a user to edit their home movies and burn to dvd's for playback on their homes dvd player. I had to turn them down, citing the fact that constantly running clips over over as part of the editing process into one smooth timeline was liable to harm my own brain irretrievably :)

  48. Tricia Pulley

    In my opinion...

    This is the equivalent of inviting a plumber into your house to fix your sink and having him rummage through your dresser, finding your private porn stash, and making photocopies to take home. DUH! That should simply not be allowed!

    If, however, that plumber were to see something in plain view that was illegal, like a dead body, while in the course of his plumbing duties, it would be his duty to report that to police. Thus, if while repairing a computer the technician happens to see something illegal, I think it's the same situation.

    Once I had to do some work on a coworker's work PC and when I did I found it riddled with pornography. I wasn't being nosy either! I was embarrassed, shocked, and frankly humiliated! The coworker knew I would be working on his PC and didn't bother to hide anything. There were icons for porn programs on the desktop, porn wallpaper, you name it. I don't know why I wasted my breath on a gasp since he had a Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar hanging up in his cubicle. Anyway, I REGRET not saying anything to his supervisor! He ended up leaving the company a few weeks later as rumors swirled that he was billing 65 hours a week but no one could figure out what he was doing. Unfortunately I KNOW what he was doing and it wasn't work!

    But I digress! Snooping is human, but unprofessional. It should be illegal in cases like these - it's a privacy violation. If, however, it leads to catching criminals, I'm all for it!

  49. Dale Morgan

    Whats the problem?

    What the geek people are doing is wrong, i wont deny that but the people sending their PC's for repair are obviously a bit stupid and shouldn't be allowed a home PC.

    If you can't maintain and repair your own PC you shouldn't be using it, or complaining about it when you unhidden porn stash is being viewed.

    morons that havnt got a clue about how cars work are still being ripped off by their garage.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pre-digital smut

    In days of old, anyone who ever took their amateur snaps of the missus moist bits in to a "discreet" photo lab to get prints, in the belief the techs would avert their eyes, was living in cloud cuckoo land. Most of the labs I worked in or dealt with had a fat folder of extra prints run off from choice customer smut. The weirdest thing was seeing girls you'd been to school with (and who'd gained notoriety for padlocked panties) getting wild and friendly with root vegetables. Especially nice if they picked the prints up personally.

  51. tony trolle

    Did you find the good stuff ?

    I always ask "is there anything on here you dont want me to see ?" . Depending on the problem I backup most stuff to DVD or a hard drive.

    Only twice has anyone said anything. Once it was about trade documents on company takeover which was on the 'net' any way; customer was a bit shocked about that.

    The other time a young girl who went 'arrrr' and red. Burnt pics folder to DVD in front of her and deleted folder, showed her to delete from the 'Recycle Bin' (she did not know its use) and a defrag to help hide it.

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