back to article The Filth Filter is part of the chipset, honest. Goes between the TPM and SEP. No, really

IT folk don't so much give gifts as recycle old hardware. A worthy endeavour, until the inevitable call for help comes on. Our response? Depends on how evil we're feeling at the time. Welcome to On Call. Today's story comes from "Les" (not his name) who spends his time these days tinkering with electronics and passing the odd …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "How will you respond to the phone call?"

    One day I got a call from an acquaintance.

    He was utterly panicked because his Windows machine was showing him an FBI warning on boot-up.

    I reminded him that the FBI has no jurisdiction in France, and told him to bring me the desktop.

    I purged the unwanted malware with a Linux distro that boots on CD and told him not to go view pr0n on just any link.

    Haven't heard from him since.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "How will you respond to the phone call?"

      "Haven't heard from him since"

      Difficult to get a 4G or WiFi signal in Guantanamo... but they will definitely be continuing to purge him of, erm, malware

    2. Anon
      Paris Hilton

      Re: not [...] just any link

      Were suitable links supplied?

  2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    "Stop – you're scaring me," said the worried Cynthia.

    That's because the light only started flashing after she'd been using the laptop while her son was out...

  3. GlenP Silver badge

    I Wish...

    ...I'd found the dodgy, but legal, images on a user's laptop while he still worked for the Company, could perhaps have had some fun. Unfortunately it was only after he'd left and returned the machine that we found it so I reported it to HR and wiped the disk.

    1. Steve Button Silver badge

      Re: I Wish...

      Hopefully you also wiped the screen and the keyboard.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: I Wish...

        I do that anyway, although at least one recent return I had to put gloves on before I'd even handle it - it won't be reissued despite thorough physical cleaning.

        1. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

          Re: I Wish...

          > ... it won't be reissued ...

          Saving it for special occasions?

          1. MrDamage Silver badge

            Re: I Wish...

            They're the laptops you put aside for the idiots who seem to spill a drink on their laptop every other week.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: I Wish...

      We had one student who insisted on using the open access room in the corner suite that no one ever used because the machines were ancient (LC475 when every other room had PPC G3 at least)

      So we adjusted the file sharing on those machines and sat back watching the temp cache folder of the active browser application.

      I actually felt quite sad when he (a 23 year old mature student) got pulled into the principal's office and confronted with a dossier consisting of mainly Disney porn, but we had a duty.

      1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

        Re: I Wish...

        Well, if something exists, there's pr0n about it somewhere in the internets

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Re: I Wish...

          (Rule 34)

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: I Wish...

            You wouldn't BELIEVE what Thumper was equipped with in the version I saw. Let's just say the nickname wasn't from his foot hitting the ground.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I Wish...


              1. TRT Silver badge





        2. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: I Wish...

          .. considering that, if the rumor* is true, Disney itself has a vault full of the stuff, I'm not surprised.

          ( the rumor is that if you work for disney as an artist/animator/etc. anything and everything you create is belongs to them. even the adult material, especially if it involves disney charecters. And since people are people...)

      2. zuckzuckgo Bronze badge

        Re: I Wish...

        > confronted with a dossier consisting of mainly Disney porn ,,,

        I guess you just had to take the mickey out of this poor guy?

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: I Wish...

          Gives a whole new meaning to Steamboat Willie...

        2. TRT Silver badge

          Re: I Wish...

          His reputation remained Snow White.

          Even after encountering a poisoned apple.

  4. Antonius_Prime

    I now need to revise my 2022 goals for work...

    Because I know I get these resets all the time.

    And I **WILL** be attempting to use that excuse.

    This is less of an On-Call and more of a BOFH lesson, in fairness.

    1. Flere-Imsaho

      Re: I now need to revise my 2022 goals for work...

      Yes, the BOFH is strong in this one...

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I now need to revise my 2022 goals for work...

        Santa should put a Windows Vista disc in his stocking.

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: I now need to revise my 2022 goals for work...

      My thoughts exactly. Absolute BOFH material, that man

  5. technos

    I tried this on with my parents.

    My brother had set up a PC and webcam connected to the living room TV so they could Skype their relatives. I hadn't seen it, but since I was the one visiting, I got charged with fixing it when it suddenly didn't work.

    My brother had put the PC in a bad place. Folks were always bumping it on the way into the hall, knocking cables out. There were four cables out; Ethernet, audio, microphone, and finally power. Thanks to wifi and internal sound, none of the cables mattered until power.

    As I plugged them back in I shouted for Mom.

    "You two been watching porn on this? You tripped the filter."

    My mother, with a straight face, yelled into the kitchen for my father.

    "Honey? There's a porn filter on the TV."

    She then turned back to me. "Is it okay if we watch it in the bedroom?"

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      I guess many who have read your comment would have liked to see the look on your face when your mum riposted with that one

      Thanks for the laugh

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if, on hearing that, the kid actually dared it and kept a picture of granny pirn fixed to the front of the camera for shock value...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Filth filter?

    I thought this was going to be about too much dust getting stuck in the system fan....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Filth filter?

      It's not dust getting stuck there that I would worry about ..

  8. bofh1961

    Pure genius!

    "Les", I tip my hat to you.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Pure genius!

      Just the tip!

  9. David Robinson 1


    Given the demise of top shelf mags, should we start recycling our old laptops by leaving them in hedgerows with some suitable material left on the HDDs?

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Hedgepr0n

      If you did it around here, at least you'd also probably have a fly-tipped sofa to sit on and fridge for your beer to hand in the same undergrowth...

  10. Martin Summers

    I actually feel a bit sorry for the kid who was forever tarnished with a reputation for consuming filthy porn.

    I mean it's not as if every teenage boy looks at porn is it...

    Hmm, well actually. Never mind.

  11. adam 40 Silver badge

    Oh how times have changed

    When I worked at BT in the 90's there was a very healthy interest in pr0n mainly amongst all the permies in the office.

    It was almost like a daily competition seeing what extreme filth could be extracted from alt.binaries,pictures.erotica and displayed on the Sun workstations!

    1. Hazmoid

      Re: Oh how times have changed

      When I worked for a stockbrokers in the 90s, we had a problem with brokers browsing porn sites at work and sending pictures to their mates via email. Up until the point a dealer accidentally sent a porno pic to everyone on their public distribution list which just happened to be at the very top of the Exchange address book. He was marched out the door and we (IT) were told to crack down on the porn.

      One director was told that his collection in his private storage had to be removed. It was arranged in alphabetical order based on classification. ~1GB of data when a 5GB storage for a server was common.

      We also invested in SurfControl which had a Skin tone filter. I was tasked with browsing it and determining what was false positive, and documenting the other stuff for submission to HR. We ended up with an automessage that said something along the lines of "Your email was blocked by our filter because the images in it had too many items that appeared skin toned. If this is a legitimate email then please contact IT for release, otherwise, please inform the sender that you will not be able to view their emails if they persist in adding photos of people in them." This was enough for them to start using personal email for distribution.

  12. ThinkingMonkey

    A little nervous sometimes...

    I don't remember the exact wording of the law but in my state you are absolutely required to report any "illegal" content found on a user's system. (I use "illegal" in quotes since I'm not a lawyer and "sketchy" and "illegal", while clear in most cases is not always so crystal clear). If it is later found by somebody else and reported and it's found out that it was in my shop, I'll be answering some very difficult questions.

    Anyway, I was sweating bullets when a very nice grandfather-ly man I knew brought in one of his laptops to be fixed with some problem or another. When I started to back up his photos before re-installing the OS, I ran across about 100 explicit photos (time-stamped from about a week before) of a cute teen that I thought looked about 15. I recognized her as K***, his granddaughter.

    After pacing the floor for about 30 minutes and wiping the sweat from my brow and trying to decide which law enforcement, exactly, I was supposed to call, I decided to call him instead.

    "Hey man, how's it going? Listen, I have what may seem like an odd question. How old is K***?"

    "She's 19", he said.

    I said "You mean K***? Or the sister?"

    He said "No, K*** is 19."

    Amazingly he never asked me why I wanted to know. Perhaps he knew. I say that because she was a notorious "wild child". So I thanked him and went about my business fixing his computer. The really amazing part of the whole thing, to this day, is that the girl had those photos on her grandfather's computer. She had them in a folder in "My Photos" named "Special" as if that encypted them so ol' Grandpa couldn't get a peek. The absolute nerve of that girl.

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: A little nervous sometimes...

      "After pacing the floor for about 30 minutes"

      I would never be 100% sure what to do in a case like this. But I probably would have spoken to the girl as well, at a minimum verify her age. If she was indeed 19 I would have mentioned the photos to her. If under age, not a good look for Grandpa to have given the wrong age (although maybe only Grandma can keep it straight).

      "the girl had those photos on her grandfather's computer"

      That's one possible explanation. Another is Grandpa, and another is some third party.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: A little nervous sometimes...

        "...although maybe only Grandma can keep it straight...

        Oh dear. From personal (government sanctioned, legal) experience, that can't be guaranteed - I know I'm old, but I often wish I wasn't as cynical and world-weary.

    2. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: A little nervous sometimes...

      Why would you be looking at a customer's photos? Unless they were named something explicit, there was no reason for an IT admin doing a backup to be looking at them.

      Sure, there is case to be made for due diligence if the pictures are named 'BoffingMyGrandDaughter001.jpg'. But if the pictures were named a default camera name like DSC00001.jpg, I would question an IT admin's desire to look at them.

      This becomes an easy out if anyone ever asked why you didn't report it. There was no reason to examine the customer's files for explicit content while performing the job you were hired to do.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: A little nervous sometimes...

        "Why would you be looking at a customer's photos?"

        Or any other data? The computer may be a business computer containing commercially confidential material. It may be very convenient for a government to oblige, as the OP implies, a repair shop to check for any possibly illegal material on any computer they might get in their hands in the course of business but it means (a) they're probably cheating in requirements for getting a search warrant if they were to do it themselves, (b) they're trying to get the shop to do a lot of unpaid work on their behalf or charge it to the customer and (c) they're placing an undue burden on the shop in terms of what commercially sensitive information they may come across. As you say, best to keep clear of all user data.

        1. JT_3K

          Re: A little nervous sometimes...

          Concur to an extent, although I remember doing this sort of thing when Windows "helpfully" used to flash up thumbnails of all the image files it was copying in subfolders as part of the Copy display and at USB 1.1 speeds or on a 100mb network, you'd see them for a bit too long.

          I remember two major incidents in the same company. The first was a lovely old director-level gent who worked away from home regularly and his wife had sent him away with "personal content". As a massive supporter of our work and perhaps to save his wife from knowing, I somehow forgot to notify anyone of the incident. The other being a challenging regional director with somewhat questionable-morals who cited repeatedly that it was *his daughter* that had been using his work machine for *her* penchant for ladies from a particular region, that were evidently by some standards not ladies. This was subsequently dealt with by HR...three times on the bounce.

          Frankly, at that level, why they're incapable of providing a low-grade used machine for their "personal" use was always beyond me.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A little nervous sometimes...

      "I don't remember the exact wording of the law but in my state you are absolutely required to report any "illegal" content found on a user's system. (I use "illegal" in quotes since I'm not a lawyer and "sketchy" and "illegal", while clear in most cases is not always so crystal clear). If it is later found by somebody else and reported and it's found out that it was in my shop, I'll be answering some very difficult questions."

      Let me get this straight. You are obliged to go snooping through every laptop that comes into your hands because if there's anything illegal that is later found, you might be complicit? Is there no "plausible deniability" defence, ie you have no need to go romping through other peoples data, even if doing a backup? You analyse the integrity of the data without looking at it and check for malware etc.

      Our workshop guys are under strict conditions to NEVER go through other peoples data. If, in the course of doing legitimate work, a filename or thumbnail is seen that might indicate illegality, they then report it up the chain. Luckily, on the whole, what comes into our hands is warranty hardware faults, we don't care about the software. The HDD might well still boot up after the repair, but since the customer (not the user) will be reimagine it anyway, at best we might put a vanilla Win10 on it as part of testing.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: A little nervous sometimes...

        Not required to, but in the course of a repair it is reasonable that a small amount of unencrypted data will be seen.

        Eg by opening Windows Explorer and it rendering some thumbnails.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A little nervous sometimes...

      In the UK the similar laws do not confine themselves to someone's actual under-age. IIRC the clause is "...or looks under 18".

      That interpretation has also been applied in UK cases of obviously adult women wearing St Trinians outfits.

      A guy was convicted for viewing a gay web site that had clear US certification for "all models are over 18". It took several levels of appeal to overturn the conviction.

  13. 54bombay

    Dvd was a shock

    Many times over the years while fixing laptops and desktops, I have come across loads of porn.

    Plus other things like swingers sites, photos and videos of the person who owns the machine of a porn nature.

    One particular one I asked them to back up their data so I could reinstall windows. Well they didn't know how to which isn't uncommon. So I took the laptop and started backing up pictures documents videos emails etc. I came across a video of this guy and his wife they had placed the video at the bottom of the bed and set it to record as they went and videoed all the action.

    I thought well he must want to keep it so a made a dvd of it for him. On dropping the laptop round I gave him the dvd, "he said what's that" , "I said that's your video you left on the computer", he then replied, "what video", so of course I had to explain the look on his face was priceless and he begged me not to tell his wife that I had seen the video.

    A woman I know always leaves her videos and pictures she has taken on her computer for me to back up. These are explicit, she does some thing on the internet and sells pictures, underwear etc. When you have seen one sonic screwdriver being used for porn you have seen it all especially the one with the end crystal turning.

  14. J. Cook Silver badge

    Personal ethics compels me to not say a word about anything if I'm fixing a machine and see something of an adult manner. especially if I know the person. especially if they are the subject of said content. This has not really been a problem, as the only personal machines I work on anymore are mine and my parent's.

    company owned machines? Different ball of wax. if I have to investigate why someone's home folder is sitting at 25% of the entire volume that the user home folders are on and I see something, then I get to have a conversation with the InfoSec manager (currently my direct supervisor, who is wearing both hats), and let them deal with it.

    At one point we did have to crack down on people syncing their music devices or smartphones, because they'd sync their entire music library over, and we didn't need that copyright quagmire.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like