back to article I beg you, please don't back up that secret directory full of photos!

Welcome to Friday and to On-Call, our weekly regurgitation of readers' real-life tales getting stuff done in the field. This week, a tale of domestic rapture from reader “Adam” who was once asked to sort out a friend's slow-running Windows PC. Adam had his mate bring the PC over, then got to work booting it from a Linux disk …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some things seen can't be unseen.

    If you've ever fixed computers this is a mantra that stays with you especially if your workmates love to search and use tools to show deleted files. It's especially funny dropping innuendos when they come to collect. Watching all your workmates announce they are going for a shit one after the other while trying to keep a straight face is a killer.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge


      Unprofessional, that is all I can say.

      There is very little difference between an IT person and a specialist in sexually transmitted diseases.

      When the next patient comes in you can (and should) suspect a cocktail of Chlamydia, Syphilis and Gonorrhea. If you are a professional, you will deal with professionally, prescribe the appropriate antibiotics, etc. There are some cases when the individual in question is a threat to the society, then you call the cops. However, for the majority of questions you are _BOUND_ by an implicit oath of silence simply by nature of being a professional, not a witch doctor.

      If you are using the opportunity for sh*ts and giggles, well...

      1. DropBear

        Re: Unprofessional

        Actually, there is every difference between those two. Doctors kinda tend to be _actually_ bound by the Hippocratic oath they take and a whole bunch of other rules regulating their trade, including patient confidentiality. As a "hey mate please fix my PC would ya" victim, IT people are not actually bound by any of the above or indeed anything whatsoever at all. Except their conscience, that is. And that's why these sort of incidents tend to highlight what kind of person you are - exactly because there's nothing restraining your worst. Or best, as applicable.

        1. RedCardinal

          Re: Unprofessional

          >>Doctors kinda tend to be _actually_ bound by the Hippocratic oath they take

          *cough* a myth, medics haven't been required to take a Hippocratic oath since at least the 30s. Some (most?) medical schools do offer some sort of similiar oath but they're not compulsary.

          1. AC Wilson

            Re: Unprofessional

            Yes, but there are very explicit laws and regulations concerning doctors and patients confidentiality, oath or not.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unprofessional

        Yes it is unprofessional, however as I stated it wasn't myself and any machines I have since personally fixed for friends I make a point of not looking. I haven't worked in building and repair of systems for a very long time.

        Now here's a moral question for you as you have taken the high ground, is it your duty to check a computer when recovering data that the person is not involved in illegal activities. I'll reference the Gary Glitter case as an example where had it not been for PC World sniffing about he wouldn't have been caught when he was which probably led to saving children from abuse.

        1. Richard C.

          Re: Unprofessional

          I would say no - you haven't got a duty. If you had (and routinely checked machines) but missed a very well hidden image, allegations could then be put to you that you deliberately ignored it and purposely let them get away with it.

          Whereas if you make it a policy to just "treat it all as data" and ignore the contents, then I would imagine (I am not a lawyer yadda yadda), you'll have a deniability aspect there. Of course, if the backup software lists the file paths and there are quite a few files in "Totally illegal stuff/Keep hidden" then it gets a nice grey area (ditto if you temporarily back up files - making you have possession of illegal materials)...

          1. Danny 14

            Re: Unprofessional

            OP: there is a difference between being bound by an oath and having professionalism though. Afterall, what next? Adding yourself as a mailbox user to other people's email boxes? Recovering backups to a personal USB so you can snoop through at your leisure?

            If it isn't "illegal" (i.e. being in a school there are things that shouldn't be going on) then just keep quiet and carry on. All part of the job.

        2. joshimitsu

          Re: Unprofessional

          If you got a cleaner in your house, is it their job to start sniffing for drugs in the cupboards under the sink, or illegal weapons while they vacuum under the bed?

          Or you get a builder to build a summer house at the end of the garden: is he supposed to look out for buried bodies or leave a hidden camera in case you plan to use the place to store kidnap victims?

          I think a technician should stick to the system and program files or whatever their anti-malware programs find, and stay out of drives marked "PERSONAL".

          1. rhydian

            Re: Unprofessional

            "Or you get a builder to build a summer house at the end of the garden: is he supposed to look out for buried bodies or leave a hidden camera in case you plan to use the place to store kidnap victims?"

            So imagine this hypothetical builder is replacing a patio and discovers someone who's been Trevor Jordache'd [1] underneath it? Is he meant to just bury the body again?


            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Is he meant to just bury the body again?

              Only if he's paid extra for it. Wasn't in the original job spec, see?

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Unprofessional

              There's a difference between stumbling across stuff inadvertently and going looking for whatever you can find.

              That may be the answer to the Gary Glitter conundrum. If the techs simply stumbled across the material they did the right thing. But I'm sure a lot of potential commercial business left PC World after that, just in case they went looking.

          2. PNGuinn

            Re: Unprofessional

            NO, but if in the course of my work grubbing about in lofts, under floors, inside and behind cupboards, units etc tracing, repairing and running cables, pipes etc I find something illegal - for example illegal drugs, weapons, illegal images or evidence - or possibly even reasonable suspicion - of criminal activity (not necessarily directly connected with my grubbing about) I'm obliged to inform the appropriate authorities PDQ.

            Tuning a blind eye could get me into extremely hot water in the future.

            Some things are illegal because of the terrible consequences they have. I don't want to take moral (or legal) responsibility for ducking my responsibilities.

            Fortunately I've never been in that position.

            1. Cynic_999

              Re: Unprofessional


              ... I'm obliged to inform the appropriate authorities PDQ.

              Tuning a blind eye could get me into extremely hot water in the future.


              Obliged by whom, and what sort of hot water do you imagine you would get into?

              In fact, reporting something illegal that you come across could well get you into hot water with a nasty set of people in certain circumstances.

              There is no obligation in the UK for any ordinary citizen to either report a crime or to assist a person in distress. Laws in other countries may vary.

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: Unprofessional

                Legal obligation, maybe not always, but moral obligation... that's another matter. Now, if you want to get into the whole jurisprudence debate, I'll be here all month.

                Of course, if you chose to not assist in certain circumstances you could be held to be a party to it. e.g. if you stand there, hands in pockets, and watch someone being raped.

              2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: Unprofessional

                "There is no obligation in the UK for any ordinary citizen to ... report a crime"

                No, you can volunteer to become an accessory after the fact.

              3. lpcollier

                Re: Unprofessional

                There may not be a specific law, but I think charges could be brought depending on circumstances. If you fix a PC and in doing so transfer images that you know are criminal (for whatever reason) then arguably you're facilitating the ongoing crime by providing the new or repaired PC. I'm pretty sure there's provision in UK law to prosecute in that sort of circumstance. Regarding non-ongoing crimes (e.g. you see an image of some past illegal acrivity), again I wonder whether if you have a friendship relationship with the perpetrator there could be scope for a prosecution. I think it's a bit different that just driving past a potential crime scene in your car and not stopping or reporting.

              4. Scorchio!!

                Re: Unprofessional

                "Obliged by whom, and what sort of hot water do you imagine you would get into?"

                By law. Failing to report a crime makes him an accessory.

                1. TRT Silver badge

                  Re: Unprofessional

                  Not in all cases. If you wish to search it, the term is misprision of a crime.

                  Currently in the UK you commit a crime for failing to report: Suspected money laundering in a regulated sector, suspected financial offences related to terrorism in either regulated sectors or general employment, information about an act of terrorism, crimes of a sexual or abusive nature to children or vulnerable adults in your household (which includes when an adult stands in loco parentis).

                  Prior to 1967 in the UK, there was a common law offence of misprision of a felony. Some US states still have such laws.

                  There are certain obligations one has as a citizen, such as to serve on a jury, to stop when requested by a police office, to assist a police officer in the course of their duties if requested (this is a weird one that is still being tested in court in relation to angry mobs).

                  There are still exceptions, such as the spousal evidence rule (excepting where there is violence, abuse or sexual abuse within the household), and the professional privilege rules.

                  So all in all, it's a tricky one to decide the legal obligations. Certainly if one stumbles across something totally heinous, such as child abuse images, a rape in progress, GBH in progress etc. then one definitely has a moral obligation, as viewing these without taking action would imply tacit approval of the crimes and make you a party to them.

                  I have a feeling that the law lords aren't done with this one yet!

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unprofessional

              Sure, but if you make a point of going into that other part of the house completely unconnected to what you are doing and turning over the closets and searching the desks, AND you find evidence for something illicit, di you think you should report it ?

              I don't think you'd get many jobs if people knew you were in the habit of ransacking their house while you were at it.

              Seeing a directory to be copied over and it contains .jpg or .mov or whatever files, in what way are you required to open those; in fact, in what moral code are you even permitted to open those without permission from the owner ? Looking at these files is entirely unprofessional and a despicable act in general.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Unprofessional

                "I don't think you'd get many jobs if people knew you were in the habit of ransacking their house while you were at it."

                Hidden cameras make it clear that this actually happens across a wide swathe of tradespeople.

                Why would computer-fixers be much different?

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: illegal drugs,

              Of course, you'd have to sample them to know if they were illegal or not.

          3. Scorchio!!

            Re: Unprofessional

            "If you got a cleaner in your house, is it their job to start sniffing for drugs in the cupboards under the sink, or illegal weapons while they vacuum under the bed?"

            Only if their job spec takes them into those areas will they see them and, if they do, they are duty bound to report the presence of drugs or firearms. Similar caveats apply to working on people's PCs. Don't like it? Don't leave stuff lying around.Take an interest in your personal security.

        3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Unprofessional

          " I'll reference the Gary Glitter case as an example where had it not been for PC World sniffing about he wouldn't have been caught when he was which probably led to saving children from abuse."

          OTOH if your PC was full of your business's financial data would you, post GG, have taken it to PC World for service?

        4. Scorchio!!
          Thumb Up

          Re: Unprofessional

          "Now here's a moral question for you as you have taken the high ground, is it your duty to check a computer when recovering data that the person is not involved in illegal activities."

          Absolutely. Had the article been about just such a case there would have been a different set of responses. Confidentiality for paedophiles? I think not. There is no Hippocratic oath for IT. Moreover, there is room here to say that IT specialists should be mandated reporters, in the way that the helping professions are; that is, if you have reason to believe that an offence has been or is being committed you are duty bound to report it, whilst also being duty bound not to facilitate such a thing by an error of omission; here, particularly in the helping professions, there is the concept of an agreement or contract; the professional in effect reads out the client's rights, indicating that if the question of illegal behaviours arises, they must stop and the professional will tell them to disclose to the police, not in the consulting room. Perhaps the time is ripe for IT professionals to catch up with the helping professions in this regard.

          If an individual wishes to keep this sort of salacious material, then it is their responsibility to properly encrypt it (VeraCrypt springs to mind) and not leave it lying around on a hard drive, using the weakest form of protection. It is also the case that people who do this sort of thing should a) keep backups of their encrypted containers, b) keep both original and backup on separate external drives, c) learn to repair their own systems and d) have a variety of emergency boot discs to repair systems and recover lost files.

          To prevent loss and snooping I keep backups of my stuff as outlined, and when on the road I leave nothing on my notebook [1] that is not backed up/encrypted. At home I have a completely different set of precautions that my portable drives supplement. The data I protect are my fiscal data and my academic/research work.

          Returning to the current case; how certain are we that the man whose computer was to be repaired was not forcibly (using violence, threats, intimidation) prostituting his wife? Was he likewise forcibly using her as a pornographic 'actress'?

          [1] Even though it's a HP enterprise machine with a lot of security.

      3. banalyzer

        Re: Unprofessional

        I'm with you all the way on this, absolute discretion is a requirement, anything less than that is a breach of the trust that the person whos system your fixing has put in you.

        I always request that they take a backup if they can before handing to me so that a full wipe is possible, if not I have a 1TB external that can be cleared to house the backup and a virus checker run against that before restore. I get the person to check that everything is there and then wipe the drive within a couple of days of handing back.

        I try to view as little as possible and I would never mention what I may have seen to anyone. This should be the minimum standard applied when this kind of trust is placed in yourself.

        1. 2460 Something

          Re: Unprofessional - @banalyzer

          Completely agree, Discretion is everything.

          I was recovering the HD from a friends machine the other week. He couldn't remember what was on it, but there he knew there was a family album on there that wasn't backed but he didn't know the path. As I was going through looking for it I also came across him and his missus's special album along with all of his other stuff (word/excel/mp3's). Meh. Not a big deal. Got it all recovered, rebuilt his machine and copied it back onto his new HD. When he came back over to collect I took him through using a password manager (he had them all stored in his browser with no master password set), better backup procedures and showed him how to use truecrypt for his intimate folders and told him which folder he needed to encrypt. Job done.

          What is the big deal with someone storing their intimate pictures on their own computer? Should I try make him feel embarrassed because he and his wife like to take intimate pictures of each other? Is the idea that people have sex such a shocker? If I am helping someone out for free or even if I am being paid to fix their pc then that is what I am going to do. It really shouldn't be a surprise to come across items of this natures as part of the job. As long as I don't come across anything illegal I am fine. What other people get up to in their own time is their choice and I can respect their choices without it diminishing my own views and beliefs.

          1. Stevie

            Re: Unprofessional - 4 2460 Something

            Well said in every detail.

            Have a pint.

          2. Scorchio!!

            Re: Unprofessional - @banalyzer

            Uh, TrueCrypt? Really?

  2. eJ2095


    Yup This very reason i just look at it and go format reinstall i dont even bother to back up

    There own sodding fault for not doing it in the first place (And yes i have advised many many times)

    Also i like the other bit where they say "They was just surfing the net" and it got infected....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lol

      Also i like the other bit where they say "They was just surfing the net" and it got infected....

      Have you not been keeping up on security news in the past few years? Unless you have Javascript disabled, "just surfing the net" is one of the most dangerous things you can do on a computer these days.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lol

        Who has scripts running in a browser these days?

        Come on - there's flash control, ad block. No script.

        Control your Web activity and the Web becomes safer and better :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lol

      Also i like the other bit where they say "They was just surfing the net" and it got infected....

      "I was just surfing the net when I encountered these explicit photos of my wife with some kind of pervert..."

      1. Scorchio!!

        Re: Lol

        "Also i like the other bit where they say "They was just surfing the net" and it got infected....

        "I was just surfing the net when I encountered these explicit photos of my wife with some kind of pervert..." "

        A few years back I read of a case of a man who was browsing porn and found the wife. With a dog. More recently there have been a few reports of housewives who earn extra cash by selling their services.

  3. chivo243 Silver badge

    Ouch! Walked a mile in Adam's shoes

    A computer illiterate friend, we'll call him John, asked me to give his computer the once over. He didn't ever clean out his downloads folder. There were quite a few "men getting spanked" vids there. I just closed the folder, and went on about the service.

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: Ouch! Walked a mile in Adam's shoes

      I had the same. Two friends who were surgeons. I reinstalled and then they wanted the screen saver to show their pictures. I ended up seeing pictures taken by their 13 year old son of the mother frolicking naked in the bath and the house.

      Nowt queer as folks.

      Avoided them like the plague afterwards.

    2. x 7

      Re: Ouch! Walked a mile in Adam's shoes

      "There were quite a few "men getting spanked" vids there. I just closed the folder, and went on about the service."

      what the Thai girls would describe as a "full service" by any chance?

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        Re: Ouch! Walked a mile in Adam's shoes

        Hmmm back in the 90's I worked at a company where there was the usual 'z-drive' shared drive with no structured filesystem and all the usual cruft on there.

        Once, to test some recursive treewalking code (with a legit business case), I'd written a VB (probably VB5 or 6) app to recurse folders and copy target files (defaulting to images) to a folder on the Z: for my manager. He tried it, it ran silently, and proved the case, and we moved on. Of course, to get the programme to him, I'd dumped it in a folder on the shared drive which should have been private (in a moral, not a secured sense) to the team. It was called imgtidy.exe. And we'd forgotten all about it...except the target folder started filling up with a LOT of stuff from others hard drives, including some un-un-seeable ones. People had trawled the common drive to find programmes to install/run, and run them without any provocation and certainly no encouragement.

        Thank goodness we now at least have some sense of partitioning etc.

    3. Ian 55

      Re: Ouch! Walked a mile in Adam's shoes

      NONE of the PCs that I've been asked to fix or have been left outside people's houses have ever had anything interesting on the hard drives. Not porn, not passwords to interesting places, nothing.

      I'm almost disappointed.

  4. Chris Miller

    I had a very similar experience circa 2000. An IT manager had decided to use a work server to store images of himself and a group of friends keeping company with a gimp (and we're not talking picture editing software, here). Nothing illegal, whatever floats your boat etc - but ... keeping them (unencrypted) on a work server, that someone else has admin rights over? Not a great idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Years ago, when the net was young

      Our (all male) engineering group had a "naughty photos server". This was about 1990, and "naughty" was Playboy centerfold naughty...nothing illegal, nothing gross, but it was at work on a work server.

      And the photos had all been FTP'd from various servers on the 'net.

      How times change. We would never think of doing it today, obviously.

      Oh, and if you DO have a "hidden" directory, full of photos of you and the missus in the alltogether...first of all, congratulations, and secondly, before you bring the machine for service, perhaps a little housecleaning is in order?

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Years ago, when the net was young

        1990, im surprised they weren't ascii art. Must have been some connection you had, we had a 28k external connection (but a really quick 64k link to JANET). "surfing" (if you can call it that) via a text based browser.

        1. Martin Silver badge

          Obligatory Dilbert

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Years ago, when the net was young @Danny

          I was thinking the same thing.

          Where I worked at that time, there were various floppys with GIFs formatted for 256 colour VGA floating around (I believe. Of course I never had copies). I think they were downloaded by others from dodgy dialup bulletin boards and USENET.

          We had a 64Kb/s leased line to a proto-ISP in 1990, but it was all FTP, Archie and Gopher.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Years ago, when the net was young

          @Danny -- We did :-) I worked for one of the "also ran" minicomputer manufacturers. The one whose sales office was once used for an "artistic" photo shoot of a woman clad only in green body paint.

      2. Guy Geens

        Re: Years ago, when the net was young

        Our (all male) engineering group had a "naughty photos server"

        A former coworker of mine used to work in a team like that. Every day, they would assign one team member to search all of Usenet for naughty pictures (back when it was actually feasible to go through "all of Usenet", probably around 1990). Anything he found good enough was stored on a share for the rest of the team.

        before you bring the machine for service, perhaps a little housecleaning is in order?

        Unless you know beforehand when your computer is going to give up, that might be difficult.

        1. Scorchio!!

          Re: Years ago, when the net was young

          "[...]back when it was actually feasible to go through "all of Usenet", probably around 1990[...]"

          It ended a little later than that. I used to GREP news servers for research purposes. When it suddenly stopped ISTR a lot of talk about spammers searching servers for targets to spam. Those were the days of 'Spamford Wallace', a man for whom being caught was no disincentive.

      3. Simon Harris

        Re: Years ago, when the net was young

        "Oh, and if you DO have a "hidden" directory, full of photos of you and the missus in the alltogether...first of all, congratulations, and secondly, before you bring the machine for service, perhaps a little housecleaning is in order?"

        Naughty pictures - that's what external drives were invented for - then there should be no compromising folders to rummage through when the computer goes bang - (provided you remember to manage your browser download folders and caches regularly).

      4. William Towle

        Re: Years ago, when the net was young

        > at work on a work server [...] We would never think of doing it today, obviously

        Because these days it would be hosted on the printer?

        // true of one place I've previously worked at, according to former colleagues

        1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Re: Years ago, when the net was young

          That reminds me if the zipped files on floppy disk me and an old friend uses to share(wiped clean on the outside at least) abs never left that lying around where idle hands could get hold them.

      5. Displacement Activity

        Re: Years ago, when the net was young

        > And the photos had all been FTP'd from various servers on the 'net.

        > How times change. We would never think of doing it today, obviously.

        We might not, but most of us are probably getting on a bit. About 6 years ago I had a short gig with a significant engineering company, doing electronic design. This was an all-male environment, but I replaced a girl who had recently left college. I personally have almost never worked with any females over the past 30 years. Anyway, turned out that this girl was frequently on youporn, completely openly, on her work computer, in an open plan office. She had her back to the window and the half-dozen or so guys around her all knew she was doing it, and came and watched occasionally.

        1. x 7

          Re: Years ago, when the net was young

          "this girl was frequently on youporn, completely openly, "

          that could be taken to mean she was a porn star.............

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Work computers are entirely different to personal ones. No files stored on a work machine are "private" except as flagged by authorized people in that organization. That is, things like payroll files, pay advice emails, etc are private, but can be looked at in specific circumstances.

      Even when asking to have a PC repaired, there's no implicit permission granted for those doing the work to ever view the contents of files. The contents are private unless specifically involved with the repair work. So if a picture, for example, was suspected to contain malicious code (a pretend picture) then files of that type could be examined, but viewing private files on a private machine just because one can is wrong and should not be supported.

      If, for example, I kept my tax records on such a PC, should I expect that they should be examined to see if I was fiddling my tax by a PC repairer ? So shouldn't my pictures etc be treated equivalently ? Possible exception where a crime very likely IS exposed by name as viewing file names is inevitable; so a file labeled (say) "snuff photos of a 10 year getting it" (to be maximally offensive) might be grounds for a police referral. And of course one can remain quiet if it turns out to be sad photos of clients moggy being put down after being run over, bad taste in labels is still not a crime.

  5. x 7

    I had to do a data recovery on an old PC that had a failed motherboard

    The PC was used by a father and son, father in his 60's, son in his 30's. When I got looking I found both had their own secure areas, with intimate photos of the men, individually with a woman.The same woman: the fathers wife, aged in her late 40's. As best I could tell the father didn't know the son was shagging his missus. And these photos really were x-rated. She appeared to have quite a wide and varied sexual appetite. As best I could tell neither man knew about the others photo collection

    They didn't want the PC back, they just wanted the photos and data back on DVDs. So how was I supposed to stop the wrong person looking at the wrong photos? In the end I decided it wasn't my problem - all the photos got retrieved and placed on DVDs. I went back to the house, handed the disks over to the father at the door (I didn't attempt to show them what I'd recovered), grabbed the money and ran. As I heard it, the son moved out a week or so later

    1. Havin_it

      Not to be a back-seat driver about it, but if it was apparent they "both had their own secure areas", wouldn't it have been appropriate to give them back a DVD each, irrespective of contents?

      Funny story though. I can only imagine the speed of your departure!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah had something similar once when fixing someones laptop, lovely lady, we will call her Sally, married to an ex Welsh rugby star, lets call him Terry, their laptop had a variety of nasties on it that required hours and hours to fix, it was like the virus archive at Kaperski, would have been quicker doing a wipe and reload, but she assured me her documents were important and needed to be preserved.

    Off I went, scan, clean, reboot, regedit, scan, clean, reboot, regedit, etc, this went on for 2 days, but because she was such a nice lady I wanted to give her what she wanted rather than take the easy route.

    Eventually I got most of the crap out and it was down to dealing with the nested zip archive virus problems, in those days antivirus software wouldn't scan archive within archive within etc past a certain point, so it was time to do it the hard way and go manual.

    Sally's documents folder was pretty clear, there was one issue in her "prayer diary" folder, and another in her "charity work" folder, but nothing serious, so it was time to deal with Terry's folder...

    Oh dear... seemed Terry had a bit of a thing for Filipino ladyboys, full on boobs and balls stuff, and the source of their issues was down to him using some sort of Russian LimeWire like software to source material of his "particular" tastes.

    Many hours later, more than a few videos/photos having to be burned from the system, and the removal of this dodgy Russian porn downloader, I thoroughly bleached my hands, took my £10 from the nice Sally with a big crucifix around her neck, handed the laptop back and never watched rugby again.

    1. Danny 14

      personally I would have live Linux and copied the documents and pictures to external drive. I very very rarely remove virus's these days. It is easier to get a new image set up for them (partitioned on the same drive if they don't want to buy a new USB drive) as they will be back in a month of clicking.

  7. Robigus

    Been there sooooo many times, that I gave up too.

    "Defender of the Faith" - radicalised religionised friends son? Check*

    Work colleague and his friend fisting each other and more? Check.

    Friends wife in latexy/gimpy stuff? Check.

    One is almost thankful when a colleagues son's computer just has a bit of porn on it. Normal teenager? Check.

    Doesn't anyone just collect stamps any more?

    * Nice response from Dad: "Little bastard. I'm taking him out for a pint."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Normal teenager? Check."

      My various friends' teenagers would often need their PCs sorting out. Sometimes it was a crash - sometimes viruses. I never mentioned what I saw when recovering their files - apart from general lectures on security. The modern equivalent of books on their shelves - or the magazines under the mattress.

      One twenty-something had a dead disk - and he hadn't been backing up his music compositions. Even changing the electronics board for an identical revision one didn't fix it. He wanted me to send it off to a data recovery company - until I enquired whether he was happy for ALL his pictures to be in the hands of a stranger. After that he heeded my oft repeated warnings to do immediate backups to the provided external drive.

      It was some concern that one late teen boy never had any pr0n images. Either he had unsuspected techie skills or was leading the life of a monk. The latter reminds me of a confidential question he put to me once - along the lines of "Do even monks do it?". I assured him that 98% of men did - and the other 2% were probably liars.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It was some concern that one late teen boy never had any pr0n images. Either he had unsuspected techie skills or was leading the life of a monk. The latter reminds me of a confidential question he put to me once - along the lines of "Do even monks do it?". I assured him that 98% of men did - and the other 2% were probably liars.

        Or perhaps you're oblivious to the full gamut of sexual inclinations and preferences that exist among humans? Some people really are completely non-sexual - as in; no sexual drive whatsoever. Sometimes I envy such people.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Or perhaps you're oblivious to the full gamut of sexual inclinations and preferences that exist among humans?"

          Hmm - what the "Joy of Sex" didn't teach me - the early days of the internet did. In my role as an atheist "godfather" many questions about life, the universe, and everything were answered with as balanced a view as possible.

          The teen in question did have a medical condition, and a priggish attitude, which he eventually sorted out when he matured in his twenties.

          As to sexual drive - the effect of anti-androgen pills for shrinking aged prostates has an interesting mental effect. The brain recognises when one should be stimulated - but there is a missing kick from the hormone system. It becomes a case of enjoying the aesthetics without any inclination to do anything. It isn't physical impotence - just a "meuh" reaction of the brain which decides doing some programming would be more fun.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A friend of mine worked at the PCWorld store that found Gary Glitter's stash.

    1. Tachikoma

      Stuff like that always worries me when looking at someones computer/laptop

  9. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Been there, done that - got a t-shirt out of it once!

    (Found a non-sexual but somewhat embarrassing party pic that somehow ended up on the t-shirts for that guy's stag night.)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Progress bars

    You know how people working on several PCs at the same time learn to read diaglogue boxes from their peripheral vision ?

    This comes in handy when you are the customers house running the virus scan and it's popping up all the filenames as it goes. Of course you have a chat to pass the time but can see the filenames and their discomfort as it hits their porn stash.

    As for rebuilds, data is data, so I just move it with everything else and leave it where it was, much like you don't open their documents, pics are the same, but sometimes Windows doing thumbnails of files and folders gives you an eyefull (of someone getting an eyefull..)

    Some of the queries I've had include "make sure you backup the D drive" and "did you recover EVERYTHING" ?

    Ho hum.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Progress bars

      Back in the late 1990s the university lab I worked in decided backups would be a good idea. We got an external QIC tape drive, expecting everyone to manage their own backups. As it happens the drive plugged into the printer port and was somewhat fussy about the port's configuration - the upshot being that my PC turned out to be the only one that it actually worked on. This meant that everyone had to network share their drives to make backups, and it would all come through my PC to the tape drive.

      Of course, the backup software had a dialogue box which listed every file as it went to the tape. Watching the porn filenames stream through from one guy's computer, I was surprised there was any room left on his hard drive for actual work stuff!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Progress bars

        And, of course, the text messages which reveal their little pet names for each other. The best one I've fond to date is "My little smut-muffin".

  11. wolfetone Silver badge

    Me thinks Kevin's wife isn't suitable for what the yoof would call "wank bank material".

    1. Anonymous Coward
  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the olden days

    Worked in "Internal Support" for an ISP in the olden days before the Internet was popular, online pron was a bit rarer and server hard drive space was much more costly. We'd regularly have to trawl users personal space for downloads that shouldn't be there and that we could remove to save server space.

    We did all sorts of things when we found what we were looking for. Usually, we'd just delete it. Occasionally we'd out the perp to a boss if we didn't like them (ie. was one of those that would cause our dept extra work). Our favourite though was firing up Paintshop Pro and writing "Internal Support Was Here" in big red letters across all the images - when we went back a few days later the images would be gone! Usually, never to return.

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: In the olden days

      "Paintshop Pro"

      Did anyone have a kosher copy of PP inthose days?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In the olden days

        "Did anyone have a kosher copy of PP inthose days?"

        All the PCs I set up had a legal copy - even at GBP80 a throw.. Kept updating them until v7. After that the UI changed so much it wasn't worth updating. Still use V7 for my picture work. I think I saw a pack of floppies in PC World with an official free copy of V7.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: In the olden days

          I had a legit version of PSP v7 - I had legit versions of 5 onwards - I stopped after v8.0. Wasn't that after Corel bought them?

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: In the olden days

            I bought v5 and still use it. It does the basics perfectly well. I can't think of any piece of software I've got so much value out of.

      2. AustinTX

        Re: In the olden days

        I still don't, hehehe.

      3. DropBear

        Re: In the olden days

        I still use PSP9 as my sole graphic editor; I got pretty good with it on a non-professional level and I have no interest to try to re-learn that in something else. The interesting part is I got it bundled with an SD card I once bought, so it's actually legit...

        1. Uncle Slacky
          Thumb Up

          Re: In the olden days

          I took a copy of PSP6 from a previous employer (dead easy, no copy protection and everything in a single directory tree) and use it to this day - it runs great under Wine.

      4. Peter Simpson 1
        Thumb Up

        Re: In the olden days

        I actually paid for a copy. Good tool.

      5. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: Paint Shop Pro

        I still use a rather elderly but entirely legit and paid-for v7 for my digital photography work. A lot of my camera club friends are a bit bemused that anyone can use anything other than Photoshop, but Paint Shop Pro does the job admirably. When I submitted a panel of photos for (successful) distinction award by the Royal Photographic Society, every one of them had been post-processed in PSP.

  13. Blofeld's Cat

    Cannot unsee ...

    This reminds me of a former colleague who decided to keep his collection of pr0n on his work machine.

    To hide the images he renamed them to things like "draft whatever report.doc.jpg", and put them in several different folders.

    Late one evening his PHB (who was more technically adept than usual), accessed his machine over the network looking for a draft report. Unfortunately for our hero the PHB had the "thumbnails" view selected in Windows Explorer at the time...

    The next morning my colleague found all his pr0n files contained a photo of the PHB grinning and holding up a card reading "Don't do this again".

    1. John G Imrie

      Re: Cannot unsee ...

      The next morning my colleague found all his pr0n files contained a photo of the PHB grinning and holding up a card reading "Don't do this again".

      I rather like his boss' attitude over this :-)

    2. Simon Harris

      Re: Cannot unsee ...

      Top boss!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The joys of bachelordom

    My porn is right there on the NAS with everything else.

    - Backups

    - ISOs

    - Photos

    - Pr0n

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The joys of bachelordom

      Why would you store porn?? Shirley that's what the Internet is for… With way more choice than your NAS can contain.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The joys of bachelordom

        Storing it does seem a bit old fashioned, but some of the material was provided by the auteur, and as such is not generally available.

        1. bpfh Silver badge

          Re: The joys of bachelordom

          Following the rules of the internet, you probably should upload it to 4chan:

          Rule 34: There is porn of it. No exceptions.

          Rule 35: If no porn is found, it must be made

          1. jelabarre59

            Re: The joys of bachelordom

            > Rule 35: If no porn is found, it must be made


            Ugh, Janet Reno porn???? (or, for your Brits, the close-but-not-AS-horrific equivalent would be Margaret Thatcher).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The joys of bachelordom

              Believed to be popular with the "punishment" crowd; with whips, chains etc. Goes down a treat.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The joys of bachelordom

        Back in the days when the most prolific source of porn was the alt.binaries...whatever newsgroups (are they still there? it must be 10 years or more since I did that) and you had to piece together and decode blocks of uuencoded data (the good newsreaders would do it for you automatically), it just kind of accumulated!

      3. DropBear

        Re: The joys of bachelordom

        "Why would you store porn??"

        That's so not a valid question it's not even funny. THIS IS WHY!

  15. Sir Runcible Spoon


    Back in my ISP support days, the company ran a lot of hosting, which happened to include porn sites.

    Since part of my job might involve me having to see the contents of these sites, I actually had a clause in my contract that excluded me from the 'no porn at work' punishments. They also forgot to remove that clause when I moved out of support into other areas of the business.

    Not that I ever needed to invoke it of course :)

  16. Andy00ff00

    Kevin, are you reading this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yea. but a bit difficult at the mo. tablet on the car roof, camera in one hand and ... hang on ...

  17. jason 7

    Yeah been there.

    Before I started my business I was asked to sort out a loan laptop that had been given to my Gf's sister from her best mate. It was really crufted up and wheezing and so I did a search for JPG to see what they had been up to. Straight away with my GF's sister watching over my shoulder came up loads of pics of her best mate in split crotch knickers etc. and her Bf doing stuff to himself that his parents wouldn't approve of. Gf's sister was shouting "Turn it off turn it off! That's my best friend!! I can't see that!!!"

    She decided to play it cool and didn't act surprised when the mate looking rather concerned asked for the laptop back the next day to "get some stuff off it!" I guess they remembered what was on it.

    We could never look them in the eye again so I learnt my lesson to never go looking.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Yeah been there.

      We could never look them in the eye again so I learnt my lesson to never go looking.

      Which one?

      <Gets coat>

  18. GregC

    I used to work at a mail order photo processing lab, back in the pre-digital days. Back then, mail order was the preferred option for a lot of folks making their own 'entertainment'. Of all the things I saw there, the one that is seared into my memory for some reason is the lady who decided that a traffic cone would be a good thing to sit on. As in, insert.

    Makes my eyes water every time I remember it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the early 80s we had a large mail order processing lab who also had a local customer counter. I wanted a poster size print of one of my slides of a good friend. It was very tricky to print - with a high contrast range of skin tone highlights and shadows. It took them several attempts to get the dodging and burning right. It was obviously becoming uneconomical for them - but they (a woman) insisted it was a pleasant change to have to exercise their skills. I did wonder how many of the rejects ended up on their colleagues' bedroom walls.

      My friend was happy for the world to see the picture. My favourite boss admired it - so with the friend's permission he was given a framed poster copy. He kept it on display in his office - and complained that the cleaners would often move the large potted plant to obscure it.

    2. DropBear

      Then I advise you never to look up similar imagery including certain pictures where the traffic cone's place is taken by a certain plant usually living in deserts. Equipped with lots of spines.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        " certain pictures where the traffic cone's place is taken by"

        A 10-pin bowling pin - with the handle being the only part visible.

        That, with a followup image from a german fetish site was when I switched off imaging previews in email, after thoroughly bleaching my eyeballs.

        On the tech support side - as postmaster of a site I used to get a reasonable amount of double bounced stuff when people bolloxed up not only who they were sending to, but their own email client configuration (sender address). The one occasion when I had cause to make a call to "the law" because of this, I was told the situation was already under control and 3 weeks later read about the person concerned being in court on similar charges to Mr Glitter.

        When working on people's systems we'd make it clear that whatever was on their machines was private, but if we happened to find any criminal material onboard during cleanups we were legally obligated to inform the police and that our staff didn't appreciate seeing disturbing images or hardcore porn in any case, so please move that stuff to a backup disk BEFORE handing the computer over.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Never do tech support for your mates. "

    "Never do tech support for your mates. You learn too much about their lwives

  20. lansalot


    A friend gave me her dad's PC to fix once... I fired it up, and there was a videoCD in it with a suggestive label. Being an inquisitive fellow, I double-clicked.

    A couple of rather nice young ladies taking an interest in each other, so I let it play for a bit. Until one crapped in the other one's mouth. Ewww...

    Plug out the wall, knock on the door, "sorry, nothing I can do with it!!". Ruined my "he can fix anything" reputation for a bit, but yikes. I can't pass a coffee table without retching any more.

  21. jake Silver badge


    All I can say is don't go there, unless you absolutely have to ...

  22. AustinTX

    The things you learn about your friends

    I guess what surprised me the most, when I worked on one client's PC, was who the photos showed that it was that did what. You see, one of them looked like Johnny Weir, and the other like Colonel Sanders. Johnny Weir does not look good in a leather chest harness, and Colonel Sanders does not look good wrapped in saran wrap.

    I also used to work for a local dialup ISP which did a really piss-poor job of setting permissions on user directories. They had a telnet address where, upon connection, all guests were provided the text-only web browser Lynx as a shell. There, customers could access forms to update their password, contact info, etc.

    Did you know, Lynx isn't a half-bad file manager too? Not as good as Midnight Commander, but you can browse around, and it even facilitates downloading files locally. So, the keystrokes are "(press G, period, enter)" (Google that WITH the quotes for a treat), and they were not disabled by the ISP.

    Years later, after they had supposedly "hardened" their network to try and sell "security services", anyone could still browse the private folders and files of most customers. The ISP had been very popular at one time, and had a ridiculously short domain name, so many of my friends and colleagues had email and web space there. It was amusing to find out who among them were furries, prostitutes and foreskin-restorers.

    1. AdamKR

      Re: The things you learn about your friends

      Foreskin restorers, you say...? Learn something new every day.

  23. Michael Prior-Jones

    When sorting out other people's laptops in a previous job, I used to take a certain amount of delight in the names people used for their "secret" pr0n folder. Easily my favourite was the one called "Culture"...

    1. AustinTX

      I always kept my various .bat files in C:/belfrey

    2. Scorchio!!

      "When sorting out other people's laptops in a previous job, I used to take a certain amount of delight in the names people used for their "secret" pr0n folder. Easily my favourite was the one called "Culture"..."

      Really? If you looked at mine you'd find \Art and culture, \Data security, \Hardware and home, \History, \Academic Web saves, \Baroque, and the Liszt goes on; if you look for pr0n you'll be very disappointed, because the directories genuinely describe the content, although perhaps articles about the Venus de Milo might border on classical pr0n. The pr0n debate has always left me cold, though I know of a friend and his wife who enjoy the stuff together. He showed me a sample that he had on his hard drive - before I fixed his creaking system for him - perhaps as a way of killing my curiosity, which he didn't need to do but, as a way of making my life easier I equipped him with a massive portable drive and drive imaging software, both on a bootable disc and in installable form.

      I never had posters of women at home, on my bunk wall in the army or at school. I like to do the job rather than watch; call me old fashioned, but I prefer the gourmet taste of pussy than films of pussy pummelling. I suppose it takes all sorts, eh?

      Anyhow, really what we're talking about is people taking responsibility for their own machines and information security - including Apple users! - for many reasons.

      As an aside, one of my exes used to work for the now proprietor of the Daily Express. She used an Apple to stretch Henry the Horse's penis for one of this man's masturbation mags. The bone (pardon my unintended pun) of contention between the two of us was the Mac vs PC war. I knew that the Mac is crap, she thought it was good. Well, it was good for stretching dicks. <Shrug>

  24. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Edison Chen

    A reminder of why it's good to be very careful with this sort of thing:


    "Computer technician Sze Ho-chun was convicted on 13 May 2009 of three counts of obtaining access to a computer with dishonest intent, and received a custodial sentence of eight and a half months."

  25. unwarranted triumphalism

    An important lesson for aspiring chefs

    Always keep your prawn biryani recipes on an external volume.

  26. theOtherJT

    About ten years ago...

    ...I was working as the junior member of a 2 man IT department for a college. Students would rock up all the time with "My internet isn't working! Help!" which nearly always meant that we'd detected something horrible coming off the network port in their room and blocked them at the switch until they brought the offending machine in for decontamination.

    This one girl brought in her pc with a DVD in the drive. Nothing terribly surprising about that, but this machine was in a real state and we had to resort to a live CD to get it booted, I didn't think about the DVD, I just put it on my desk until the computer was clean. When she came to get it back, I thought I ought to put the disc back in. She had her machine set to auto play DVDs. I saw the look on her face go from "Oh, thankyou, wouldn't want to leave that behind" to "Actually, what IS that?" to "Oh god NO!" just as it started playing a shaky camcorder quality porn film staring her, some other girl, and about 10 obviously incredibly drunk guys.

    All you can really do at that point is close the lid and tell them to just take it away. No, really, I don't want to know. Don't say anything, just take your machine and go and we'll forget this ever happened.

    1. x 7

      Re: About ten years ago...

      " a shaky camcorder quality porn film staring her, some other girl, and about 10 obviously incredibly drunk guys"

      were the two girls fugglies? Is that why the guys needed beer goggles?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A good friend of mine asked me to see if there was anything I could recover from a nuked laptop. Her family photos had been on there and she was only then seeing the value of a backup.

    So I ran various recovery tools and manually went through something like a quarter of a million files looking for the missing photos.

    It's the last time I do something like that, *especially* for a mate. There wasn't any porn or anything like that, it's just you realise how large a part of someone's life their laptop often is. I ended up feeling like a bin raking stalker. It was deeply disturbing.

  28. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

    Be careful with screensavers

    I decided as a favour to a friend to help her load MP3 files on to her ancient MP3 player (iRiver I think, years ago). This was a bit fiddly, but all sorted, everyone happy.

    Chatting to her, computer in the background decides to go into screensaver mode, set to display pictures. Friend and her girlfriend hiking, friend and her girlfriend on holiday, friend's girlfriend on floor in artistic topless shot.. *do not look at the computer, do not look at the computer, deny you ever saw it*. Unfortunately I think my expression wasn't quite perfect, but we both engaged in plausible deniability, and it fortunately wasn't the first in a long sequence of more explicit photos.

  29. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I have to say I'm a bit frustrated here

    All those years of IT support for mates and some acquaintances and I have never, ever found anything even remotely racy on any of them.

    And I know none of them have ever had anything as technical as an external disk.

    I must have very boring friends.

    1. VinceH

      Re: I have to say I'm a bit frustrated here

      "All those years of IT support for mates and some acquaintances and I have never, ever found anything even remotely racy on any of them."

      I can say the same. Almost.

      I have only ever seen one photograph on someone else's computer that I wish I could unsee.

      That someone else was a relative, and the picture was a webcam shot of him standing with his shirt lifted and trousers and underwear down. Presumably taken for a dodgy dating site, or a webcam conversation with a six foot biker dude pretending to be a woman. Or something.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clouding the matter

    It appears from this article that people commonly use their PC's for such content, so you can only wonder about what happens when people move to the cloud.

    Are there some sysadmins having interesting days every day - and potentially leaking private data for personal enjoyment ??

    Will the cloud providers turn prudish and start dropping people's personal data as it breaches *their* morals.(i.e. the data police)

    Will people stop downloading as "saving" just puts it back somewhere else on the Internet

    As they say, may you live in interesting times ...

  31. podgerama

    My longest serving mate once asked me to fix his pc. It had been upgraded and upgraded since its inception as cyrix 6x86 machine running windows 95 up to an AMD K6II running Windows XP. His latest change of motherboard wouldn't let it boot so he left it with me, but he asked me not to look at the contents of one drive in particular. We are the kind of mates who endlessly take the p*ss out of each other, and never miss an opportunity to have a dig, so this was a red rag to a bull. I found out that he had a thing for blondes (nothing unusual there). Blondes tied to chairs. Badly Photoshopped celebrity blondes tied to chairs to be precise. As hundreds of images of women with the heads of Brtiney Spears, Melissa Joan Hart or Jenny McCarthy 'shopped onto the bodies of women were beaming back at me from my monitor. I gave him back his computer elaborately tied up with a ball of string with a cheap joke shop blonde wig attached to it, it took him a week to look me in the eye again.

    The other one was the father in laws computer, he needed to be upgraded from vista to 7 to be able to run office 2013, the machine was slow so I decided to stick in an SSD, I needed to clear some space as the new drive was 240GB and his drive was 320 and almost full. A quick run of treesize found a 160GB folder named c:\apps\media. I saw one file name in there and didn't need to see any more. That directory was left out of the cloning, the original drive put into a USB caddy and handed back over when the upgrades were done. I told him that his downloaded "songs" were too large but on the original. My mrs later took me aside quietly and said "by songs you mean his porn don't you" as a statement not a question.

    1. GregC

      I gave him back his computer elaborately tied up with a ball of string with a cheap joke shop blonde wig attached to it, it took him a week to look me in the eye again.

      Love it :)

    2. jake Silver badge

      _@ podgerama

      "My longest serving mate"

      Who will never trust you, ever again, with anything. And he's going to tell his other mates. Nice going, Friendless.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Found at work

    At a big 5 accounting firm... Win95 to Win2K upgrade. Process was user would hand in their laptop, and go off to a Win2K training session (on pool laptops). When the training was finished, they would then pick up their upgraded one laptop, including data migration. One user had so much dodgy stuff on it we just passed it over to HR and let them deal!

  33. jason 7

    Data recovery is the best one.

    They haven't had the chance to delete off the naughty stuff before handing it over.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing particularly remarkable, but

    I have a female friend, whom I consider a strange lady, but she's a good friend nonetheless.

    I was forever having to fix her Windows 98 PC because it would stop booting, I think because she would always power it off without shutting down first.

    One time, I think that in addition to this, her hard drive was full so I installed a larger one and copied over her files. To this day, I still remember finding a load of rather explicit jpeg files in the root directory, but it wasn't until I'd looked at one or two of them that I realised that they were of her and a man (presumably her boyfriend.) I copied them all into a sub directory on the new HD and returned the computer. That was the last I heard of it.

  35. phuzz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Porn isn't necessarily the worst...

    I was migrating a file server at one of our clients, and due to the half-arsed way it had been set up, many user's music libraries were being stored on the file server.

    As I copied files to the new server, the filenames scrolled past and suddenly I saw:

    D:\shares\users\{REDACTED}\My Documents\My Music\Justin Bieber\Believe\{bunch of wma files}

    Yep, that was some good blackmail material right there :)

    I still have the screenshot of filenames I threatened to 'accidentally' print out on their main printer

  36. x 7

    Blackpool is a place to be wary of........I've had several gay chaps from there ask me to do data recovery on their PCs, and the photos I've found were often at the extreme end of leather/bondage/buggery fetishes. I ain't gay, so the jobs were never fulfilling - but the customers paid, and paid well.

    To be honest, I reckon there's a market to be had in towns with a large gay / swinger population such as Blackpool in confidentially recovering "personal" data. I wonder how much trade such a listing on would bring in?

  37. GlenP Silver badge

    Only Once

    I did get a laptop back from a leaver for the usual archive-check-cleanup operations before it could be reissued. Found some iffy-looking directories in his My Documents, but decided I wouldn't look at the files. Just dropped them onto a CD (it was a while ago) which I passed to HR and then wiped them before archiving the work stuff.

    Now as far as I'm concerned what people do in their own time is up to them, but to do it on a work laptop and then forget to wipe the evidence before handing the machine back seems fairly stupid.

  38. TRT Silver badge


    None of the many dozens of machines I've had to deal with for work colleagues have had secret pr0n stashes on them... But one lady... well, I didn't know that photographing & videoing your childbirth was actually a thing.

    At a college I worked in, one guy repeatedly asked for the old LC475 Mac lab to be opened up for open access because he liked "peace and quiet", despite it not having a resident technical support like the newer PPC labs. Getting suspicious, we just Appleshared into the cache folder for the browser and sorted by time, most recent at the top. I felt sorry for him truly I did. I mean, if you're going to be dragged before the Dean for violation of the Internet use policy, at least let it be for something decently disgusting instead of 200+ drawings of Disney characters in flagrante delicto.

  39. rhydian

    As mentioned, this is the biggest test of professionalism...

    When I do data recovery (both at work and at home) then I will rarely (if ever) go out of my way to look for anything in particular (unless the user has requested a particular file/folder).

    However, if I did come across something that was obviously illegal (e.g. opening an image file to check the data was readable and finding child pr0n) then I would report it. Something legal but not my business? Then it isn't my place to judge, tease or generally be an arse so I'll just copy it and say no more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: As mentioned, this is the biggest test of professionalism...

      "[...] and finding child pr0n"

      I can think of many friends' and relations' family album innocent photographs over the years that would fall foul of current interpretations of that category. No doubt modern digital archives contain similar material. Apparently in the eyes of the law an innocent picture in a book or an album only becomes illegal if stored in digital form.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: As mentioned, this is the biggest test of professionalism...

        [snip]I can think of many friends' and relations' family album innocent photographs over the years that would fall foul of current interpretations of that category.[snip]

        This, 1000 times this. A friend sent me pics of her daughter in the bath, (I've been great friends with the lady for many years, and the daughter was finally conceived after a long list of miscarriages, so she's very VERY proud). The pics were 'look she can sit up in the bath' but I felt it necessary to delete them because of the way the law would see me having them. :\ It's sad... most of the baby pics she's sent I have held onto for her in case she ever loses a hard drive, but that one, probably not.

        1. lorisarvendu

          Re: As mentioned, this is the biggest test of professionalism...

          "This, 1000 times this. A friend sent me pics of her daughter in the bath,.."

          My parents took a lot of photographs in the 1960s on slide film, a lot of them with me as a baby and toddler (yeah, I'm old). They both died years ago and now I have the slides in various boxes in the attic.

          Somewhere in the collection are a couple of slides of me at the age of 2 standing up in a bucket being bathed by my mum. I've often wondered what would happen if I took them down to the local supermarket to be converted into photo form. Presumably they would be reported to the Police as child pornography, but then what would happen when it was found out that it was me in the photo? Would I still be prosecuted? I'm curious, but obviously not curious enough to risk a conviction just to find out!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A regular occurrence

    I used to work for a large fruit based company* and have had many similar experiences at the bar. Here are a few for your entertainment.

    Data transfers were fun - the photo software would show each picture briefly as it was imported. Thousands of innocent pictures of holiday beaches, families etc. plus some things I cannot unsee. We took to moving the import window off the edge of the screen so only a small corner of the images were visible.

    Having completed a repair on a machine that had not been powering on, I booted it up and the desktop background featured a naked lady. Not unpleasant, but some warning would have been nice.

    Helping a customer with a phone issue, I got their other half to call his number - this resulted in a picture of the other half giving the customer a blowjob coming up on the screen.

    One guy would come in every couple of months to ask us to wipe his machine because he was convinced his ex girlfriend was spying on him. On one occasion, he had a porn disk stuck in the DVD drive. We just extracted it and handed it back in a plain envelope.

    I once helped a porn actress who was having problems uploading photos to her web site...

    My favourite of all was the rather harassed looking mother who came to see us. "how can I help today?" I asked. "How can you stop the photos from my phone appearing on my 9 year old son's iPod?" she replied. Awkward.

    *You don't need to be a Genius to work out which one...

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A fruit based company...

      Erm... Tangerine? Apricot? Blackberry? Orange? Raspberry? Cherry?

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: A fruit based company...

        No, it has to be the Banana Bar in Amsterdam.....

  41. Bc1609

    The first time this happened to me I was still at school

    Upper sixth, and my all-boys' boarding school had just gone co-ed. I had a reputation as a handyman - locked yourself out of your room, borked your laptop and so on - and about a term into the year one of the new girls brought me her laptop. I can't remember exactly what was wrong with it, but it must have had something to do with recovering a lost file, because I turned on "View Hidden Files and Folders" in the hope of finding some temporary Word files. There was a hidden directory in My Documents containing a single video file; being even more stupid than I am now I double-clicked it without thinking.

    The video was of a young lady who had attached a prosthetic to her teddy bear; I don't think any more description is necessary. A few seconds of this played out in front of me and the girl whose laptop it was before I recovered myself enough to close the window and carry on as though nothing had happened. It made for a fairly interesting relationship for the rest of the year.

    1. jelabarre59

      Re: The first time this happened to me I was still at school

      Ah yes, girls and teddy bears, makes me think of this scene from "Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The first time this happened to me I was still at school

        "[...] makes me think of this scene [...]"

        That reminds me of Leslie Thomas's novel "The Man With The Power". The eponymous reverend gentleman enthuses about the innocence of his 15 year old daughter - exemplified by that fact that she still takes her china doll to bed with her. The one with detachable legs.....

  42. GX5000


    This happens at least once a week at my homedesk.

    I just copy the crap the way I find it and carry on, blind as can be...that's what I'm paid to do.

    Now the "found next to the Garbage bin" PCs some on my friends bring in to see if anything can be salvaged, yes, we've found your naughty pics and personal info, it's been ogled then deleted.

    When will people learn not to just drop kick the old PC outside after the new one gets setup? ugh.

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Seriously

      "found next to the Garbage bin" PCs

      Is that the modern equivalent of 'found in the bushes' or 'found by the railway tracks'? - the now legendary sources of pr0n in my schooldays.

      1. Haku

        Re: Seriously

        "Hedge porn", so named because of its location and contents...

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    many many years ago a very attractive Italian student asked me to see if I could fix her PC. It was dissertation hand in time and she was very very stressed.

    lots of spywear+virus+toolbars and other crap slowing things down to almost unusable.

    It also had a couple of folders full of downloaded porn, plus the search history was mostly porn sites.

    I cleaned everything up, printed the dissertation for her, and when she came to collect the computer she asked me if I found anything to worry about. I told her about the folders, so she said she would pic it up the next day

    She cam to pick the computer up with her boyfriend and asked again what I found, and wanted to know details. After I told her she turned round, and the next thing wack, and her now ex boyfriend was flat out on the floor.

    1. x 7

      that story does rather raise the question of what to do when a woman asks you to fix her PC, and the problem is due to her husband / partners porn-viewing habits. I've had the situation a few times, and come to the conclusion you have to tell the truth.

      All you can do is simply but bluntly explain that the problem is due to "someone" browsing dodgy websites, and then explaining what kind of sites they are, and why they are risky. You can't hide the truth - if you do, then you're simply creating a bigger problem. Their relationship is obviously already failing - its not down to us to hide the truth

  44. captain_solo

    How did that get there?

    I have had 2 of these situtations, I generally don't do Windows so for the most part I don't end up fixing people's PCs, but it has happened a couple times.

    One friend with a bunch of kids asked me to clean a laptop that was having issues, and it was absolutely chock full of trojans and malware. It was sharing out hundreds of directories, all appeared to be mostly illegal music/movie files that had been put there by one of the trojans as well as a smaller amount of what appeared to be really low quality porn imagery. I basically just cleared the whole directory structure since it obviously wasn't personal files, did a backup and reimaged and restored the laptop, but didn't put the torrent crap back on there. She asked me if I thought it was her kids downloading that stuff, it didn't look like it to me, way too complicated of a file/directory structure to be random downloads. I installed some security software (they had none) and encouraged her to have a talk with the boys about installing and downloading from torrent sites being really risky, generally its people that really just don't know what they are opening themselves up to.

    Second one was a bit uncomfortable, but the computer was one that multiple people used all logged in as the same user, so the two of us who were working on it had no way of telling them who had downloaded all the stuff. Just showed the person in charge what was there, and continued doing the upgrade/updates and let them handle it. Told him there was really no way to know who it was unless they had info about who was using the computer at a specific time months earlier. Later they talked to us about how they handled it, but it was really none of our business, and we assured them that its not all that unusual.

    My dad had a laptop returned to the manufacturer for repair work and the first thing they did before any service was wipe/re-image the laptop. The instructions for return basically said "hopefully you have a backup" Their fine print said it was to protect them from liability from data breaches or illegal content being transferred to their systems. Probably a good way to handle it, but a little rough on the customer service side since most people don't have good reliable backups which is why they call their buddy and ask you to fix it without wiping it.

    1. Myvekk

      Re: How did that get there?

      The manufacturer of my laptop (Alienware, now owned by Dell), specifies that this will happen & to make a backup before sending it in. When a previous one died completely, (onsite service came out & basically replaced EVERYTHING except the hard drive, which I could still access in a USB caddy), they gave me the drive before sending it back. I got a new laptop back with double the RAM & a better video card, since the spec had changed since mine was made over a year before. :)

  45. Mike Dunderdale

    The not porn but equally fun..

    Is when you have a take down notice for a student downloading and sharing

    Vanilla Ice's Greatest Hits.

    I kid you not.

    1. Roq D. Kasba

      Re: The not porn but equally fun..


    2. jelabarre59

      Re: The not porn but equally fun..

      > The not porn but equally fun..

      > Is when you have a take down notice for a student downloading and sharing

      > Vanilla Ice's Greatest Hits.


      Wouldn't that be a 0-byte file?

  46. jerryboam

    Aargh bleach my eyeballs

    My job involves working remotely on the clients PC and I regularly see users return to a PC forgetting that I am remoting it. The worst was an ex-CEO of a national company, a 70-80 year old male who opened the fox, clicked a link and we both were treated to Vietnamese men fisting each other.

    The bleach in the eyeballs did not work ...

    1. jcitron

      Re: Aargh bleach my eyeballs

      Oh yeah and I still can remember what I saw too!

      My first encounter was back in 2007. Now I've been repairing and building PCs since the early-1980s and it took 20-plus years before I encountered anything that made my stomach churn. I was at work and doing the usual IT stuff including monitoring internet activity.

      One particular user was flagged due to a high amount of internet usage and p0rn hits under his username. The others were just high-net users from streaming radio or music during the day, which we didn't care so much about. We'll call this heavy duty user "Joe". Joe liked trannies and she-males and had quite a search history built up in the log files in addition to quite a stash of images on his local drive. I had the honors of speaking with him and handing him over to HR for termination. During our monitoring of his usage, I could not look him in the eye directly!

      Another incident happened recently. Being the resident tech at my house, I get to fix various machines for both family and friends of family members. One lady-friend calls me up telling me that her husband's PC was very slow and had difficulties burning stuff to DVDs and wanted me to look at it.

      I powered up the machine and did the usual scan for naught bits. It found the usual Trojans and other malware plus the usual other crap we find on abused PCs. After the gazillion reboots the machine I was then ready to see why the DVD wouldn't work. I opened up his "My Documents' folder only to find gay p0rn staring at me in the face. The Explorer settings were set to large tiles and there was every possible weird thing anyone could imagine seeing! I did test the DVD which worked fine. It's issues were related to the amount of background processes causing time-outs and preventing Nero from operating properly.

      A few days later, I handed the machine back to the lady and told her it was all set. I never said a word about what I found, though I shutter today when I think about it!

  47. Maty

    take care folks ...


    But it's my understanding that if you access really illegal porn - i.e. CP on a computer you are repairing, the cops might decide to charge you as well if you report it.

    The point is that it's illegal to view this stuff unless you are properly authorized. And repairing a mate's computer does not count as being authorized. So if you show any great familiarity with the contents of illegal porn folders, you might be in trouble.

    I strongly urge you to look up 'Strict liability' as a legal term - as a non-legal expert, my reading of the law is that why you saw the porn, or your intentions (mens rea) don't count. You viewed it, so you're guilty. From a moral standpoint, you have to report this stuff if you find it, but it might be worth thinking hard about reporting how you knew what the material was.

    1. GrumpenKraut
      Black Helicopters

      Re: take care folks ...

      Gone through that:

      When working at an ISP we had "child porn" uploaded to our FTP server, it was basically shots taken at a random beach. No nudity or worse, but it was apparent the shots were taken secretly. I informed police. First thing they said was they would not persecute me. My reaction was "WTF?" and they explained that by the letter of the law they could, but of course would not. Police was nice and grateful, thanking me for being one of the few who'd report and not just silently delete evidence.

      This happened in GrumpenLand, about 199x for x in {7,8,9} IIRC.

      Icon because: none of that.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    best bet is..

    In the event of finding CP/etc on a drive, send it in a Jiffy bag inside another with "Illegal material recovered from xyz postcode abc," mailed directly to the police. Having a bank of wiped drives of the same model and make is handy, for plausible deniability.

  49. Chez

    In my helldesk days, we had a computer come in that was absolutely loaded with all kinds of stuff. I wasn't there to see the guy drop it off (or pick it up), but the wallpaper, the screensavers, it was all pr0n. We dubbed it the "pornado", and I still laugh about it with my coworkers every now and then.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Some things seen can't be unseen."

    Off on a bit of a non-porn tangent.

    About 15 years ago the research team I was in was developing robots for orthopaedic surgery. As it had become known that one of my hobbies was photography, I was given the job of photographing the joint replacement procedures we were doing with the robot. Now, this was back in the day before digital cameras were common (and, having a Minolta SLR, before they had even produced a digital camera) so all the pictures - mostly closeups of the surgery - were film and had to go to be developed.

    I'd got to know the people in my local Snappysnaps quite well, so I took the roll of film in to be developed, and, as usual, warned the girl on the front desk that they were fairly graphic surgical pictures (they were happy to print this sort of picture as long as I warned them first). An hour or so later I went back to pick them up, and the front desk girl told me -

    "we got to your film, and then I heard a scream from the printing machine - oops, I forgot to warn them about your pictures!"

    1. AustinTX

      Re: "Some things seen can't be unseen."

      This reminds me of when I and a girlfriend dropped off some film at a 1-hour place at the mall. I was distracted arguing with her about the personal nature of the photos (she didn't care) that I didn't notice, until returning, that their developing machine displayed photos on a conveyor along the front window. And to think the staff gave *us* dirty looks!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Accidental findings

    A friend bought a Nintendo DS or something similar of off ebay, gave it to his kids without thinking, few week later bored and browsing the things memory, loads of hardcore kiddie stuff in a subdirectory (his actual word where along the line of "I'd like to kill whoever did these").

    Said he was too scared to report it for fear that he would be implicated, he has security clearance and a family he decided it was way to much risk and deleted it.

  52. Triggerfish

    Friends of friends

    So years ago, an old Uni friend I ended up going out for a drink with him and his friends, lovely married couple gorgeous wife, both work in IT...also turns out they were swingers. Quite disconcerting to go into their computer room and find two PC's with Huge CAD CRT monitors both with umm home photo screensavers going.

    It's quite weird holding a conversation about the computer set up and discussing hardware porn when there's hardcore porn showing me quite a lot more of the wife than I expected to see.

  53. Stevie


    "Didn't even keep a copy for myself". Hmmmmmm.

    I wonder how many times Adam "forced" himself to see things he couldn't un-see before the "revulsion" set in.

  54. John_Smith_854


    You basically gave up a lifetime's worth of fun for a cheap laugh.

    The way to do it is to restore the hidden pic directory along with everything else, but remove the -h attribute. Also remove it from one or two system files in the root directory. Casually mention that your backup program occasionally messes up file attributes.

    At some point later make sure he catches you glancing at his wife and smiling. He'll always suspect that ypu've seen the Pictures, but he'll never be sure. It'll drive him nuts and provide you with a steady supply of fun.

  55. Disk0
    Thumb Up

    There's the unknown...

    ...and then there's the "who cares to know it", the stuff that can't be unseen, the kind of files that reflect the gruesome reality of the real life of people - like health records, financial statements, and message logs.

    The stuff that makes me work on other people's computers in Stevie Wonder mode - because if it's not some kind of contrived anime or real world accident videos one might stumble upon, there's trade secrets, confidential information and personal exchanges, stuff anyone who values their sanity should avoid as much as Scientology, growing an ironic beard or the notion that in Medieval times we were all better off. Whatever it is you have on your computer, I didn't see shit, I didn't look, I have no idea and I will never ever want to know. I will gladly do whatever I can to get your hardware to boot an operating system, load applications and get on a network, but for the love of all that is good and useful in this world don't ask me to look at your files.

    Interesting though how easily many otherwise professional and conscientious folks hand over their laptop or phone, with their entire life on there, to a "lowly" tech worker with about as much hesitation as a seagull spotting a shrimp at low tide. Either they assume we've seen it all anyway, or they inherently trust us to be the information professional we like to imagine ourselves to be....

  56. Herby

    I am surprised that...

    No-one has mentioned Simon, or what a BOFH would do. Then again, I'm sure there is a story hidden in there that would make us all proud.

    Now where is the cattle prod (buzzzzert)

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just the normal

    Have been repairing home computers for over a decade now. Everything sounds pretty normal here to me. You soon get used to avoiding the pictures and download folders.

    One of the funniest is the innocent looking female client whose laptop I fixed... only to have a folder full of personal bondage porn in a local farmers barn... (I assume it was her husband)

    Or the or the Single Father with Son client whose hard disk I was recovering files from. Lots of corruption meant I kept having to look into folders. You learn a cheeky way of talking to these clients. This folder was lots of photos from his iPhone. Photos of his kid, and dozens of random women he had met. Generally with a lack of clothing (the women, not the kid). I remember sending him a text about saving his photos of "kid and conquests". The good part of this is when you handle these kinds of incidents with humour the clients are happy and come back.

    Some of the weird stuff I have seen on clients PCs could fill a book. You soon learn to stay well away from personal and pictures folders. But some times you just don't get a choice. Just treat people with respect, and a bit of humour, and these things are soon handled.

    But if it is a mate - you obviously have to take the piss :D

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It doesn't even need to be recovery...

    ... technology is a right tell-tale.

    A month or so ago I was on a work trip abroad. We hired a car. The driver got the passenger (both more senior guys) to connect his phone to the car entertainment system so the phone-based SatNav audio would play through the car's speakers. I hadn't been paying attention from the back, until I realised, staring us all in the face from the entertainment system screen, was an obviously porn-site URL "[whatever][whatever]" in 32-point text! No-one said a word, but it was a couple of excruciating minutes before the driver pressed a button beside the screen and made it go away.

    Until now, I'd assumed it was just some recently-cached link on the phone - but I suppose, just maybe, it had been left on the hire-car system by a previous hirer? (I'm not familiar with excess consumer tech in cars)

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always preface the repair with...

    "Is there anything on there that you'd rather have me wipe the computer than find or do you want me to spend my time fixing it?" Only one person was smart enough to choose a low level format and fresh install. It isn't that I'd look, but I don't want to be involved anytime someone shares this stuff with others and it becomes public in their social circles.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never had to view or read the files I was backing up.

    Since I've never had to browse through peoples images or read their doc's and emails while helping them fix their computer I can't really sympathize.

    Though for those people who must do such things I can imagine it to be quite the burden.

  61. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip

    Never forget the words of Coupling

    It's supposed to be a comedy, but it's really partially a documentary.

    There are several stages of living alone, the final stage is : leaving porn out on display.

    Don't leave the porn and the toys out, and always have a separate logon to your computers. You don't want a friend to suddenly ask to use your laptop/desktop to do a presentation, with your logon full of pr0n in the documents folder, and when the browser is used to browse to the bbc, it sends them to the other type of BBC..

    On Android, a blank file called .nomedia is your friend to stop the gallery scanning directories you don't want scanned.

  62. UncleZoot

    I'm not to judge.

    I'll run virus scan and malware scans, then use my recovery software to just discover DOC's. XLS, JPG, and movie files, transfer them to temporary holding, then blow out the disk. A fresh install and flip the recovered files back over.

    I don't want to know what's on your machine. It's your business not mine.

  63. ClockSmith

    Don't Look / Don't Tell?

    1) Worked in a shop for almost a decade in the early 00's. I'm with the poster above, that I really went full Stevie Wonder during data recovery. I really, really, really don't want to know what all of you do in your spare time.

    As a time saving measure, we used to pull drives to the bench linux boxen, and yank the users directories over to a newly imaged drive with scripts. Took us a while to tweak to run just right, but I have no idea what files you had, and I continued to never know. If there were multiple users, each one got their documents tree on the new drive sitting in a directory on their desktop. We found customers appreciated that.

    I had several discussions with customers who wanted to install monitoring software on systems because they had kids/teens. I declined to recommend or install it, suggesting good communications with the kids and keeping the computers in a public area of the house.

    This came from:

    2) Back at the end of the 80's and early 90's, I had the experience of being briefed with content pulled from bugging and telephone taps. It was actually very uncomfortable to read transcripts of conversations from people who were not directly involved in the situation, and had no idea that there personal conversations were being recorded for posterity. Made me very aware of communications security and my environment.

  64. Rob Daglish Bronze badge

    Didn't Look, was shown...

    ...the videos a mate had taken of his missis after I sorted some viruses on his PC. Mind you, about 8 other people got shown the videos that day. I still can't play pool...

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once seen or heard, its never unseen or unheard...

    Had the (gay guy, not homophobic...but a slightly relevant point later in the story) FD director for a company I was working for ask if he could bring in his laptop for me to look at as it was "acting up"..."Sure..." I said thinking that it can't be that bad....

    So a couple of days later he comes in and hands me this grubby looking laptop. As I start pulling this out of the carrier bag (should have set off alarm bells right there) I lifted the lid and was trying to press the power button without much I asked if this was the problem...

    "Well it was working fine (how often do we hear that line?!?) and at the weekend I was having a party, we were sitting around the laptop watching porn and doing some coke as you do and some of the guys shot over the keyboard...."

    He stopped as I reached for the carrier bag and started putting it back in "...and that's when it stopped working..." he continued

    He had a very blank look and a total lack of understanding as to why I said I think he needs to send it back to the manufacturer for repair and that there was little I could do as I "suspect it is a hardware fault" before running off to find some bleach to wash my hands with.

    Sadly a 100% true account of what happened.

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