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When your computer or phone needs repairs, it can be stressful to entrust it to a repair expert. You may worry that they’ll uncover personal information or download sensitive photos without authorization.
A recent study suggests that a substantial number of computer repair shops violate customers’ privacy when fixing their devices. The researchers discovered that technicians accessed personal data and copied it onto external drives in 50% of cases studied.
What you can do to protect your data
When handing your laptop or desktop computer over for repair, you should consider what information they will have access to. Your stored data could include confidential items like passwords, financial records, photos and even important documents essential for work. Be mindful when giving away this sensitive data!
Documents and files can be invaluable to techs, but they also pose a risk if the technician isn’t cautious when accessing them. With access to your data, they could potentially uncover information that puts you at risk of identity theft, fraudulence, or legal trouble.
One study revealed that 50% of repair shops violated customer privacy when inspecting devices sent for repair. This meant they were able to access personal files and information without authorization.
Researchers also observed that female computer owners were more likely to encounter this issue than their male counterparts. To do so, researchers compared data from audit and interaction logs of devices taken to 18 different service providers such as national (big-box) stores, regional mom-and-pop shops, and device manufacturers.
Results revealed that many stores lack privacy policies or set up controls to safeguard customers’ data from prying technicians. Instead, they request device access credentials – ostensibly to expedite repairs – even though these aren’t mandatory for every repair.
They also discovered that some repair shops accessed images of sexually explicit content, including pornographic videos and photographs, despite not needing them for repairs. These researchers concluded that snooping on these images violated privacy rights for those volunteered in the study; hence why it’s so important to comprehend how these violations take place and take steps to prevent them.
To safeguard your data, the best practice is to encrypt it before handing it over to a technician. This can be accomplished with either third-party encryption software or the built-in feature on your device. With encryption, you have the option of protecting all or specific files and folders on your hard drive; alternatively, cloud-based solutions like BoxCryptor provide cloud-based encryption services.
What to do if your data is stolen
When taking your laptop or phone to the shop for repair, it’s not uncommon for sensitive information to be compromised. This could include anything from credit card numbers to personal photos and videos.
To protect yourself, always use a strong password to access your data and never share it with anyone, especially technicians. Furthermore, never leave your computer unattended as this could provide an entry point for malicious software which could steal data or install its own malicious programs.
To protect yourself, the best practice is to back up all of your important files before taking it to a repair shop. You can do this either with an external hard drive or cloud services like Google Drive or OneDrive.
Another way to protect your data on the internal storage of your computer is by password protecting it. Doing this prevents data loss and helps recover from a data breach if one does occur.
Finally, choose a reliable computer repair company with an excellent reputation. These shops should be licensed and insured, with an established track record for providing quality services. Moreover, their website should feature customer reviews.
The best repair strategy may involve using the best technology a repair shop can use to fix your computer. Additionally, it’s wise to back up data and utilize the most up-to-date security measures on devices; after all, computer repair businesses are highly profitable industries where a hacker with appropriate tools could wreak havoc on your digital life.
What to do if you suspect your data has been stolen
When taking your computer or mobile phone for repair, it is essential to safeguard the sensitive information stored on the device. This may include your email address, passwords, bank details, social security number and other personal data.
If you believe your data has been stolen, notify law enforcement and issue a public notification. This could include sending out an email, website, or toll-free number so those affected can take steps to minimize damage and help prevent future breaches.
Additionally, alert your family, friends and neighbors of any sensitive data you have. This is especially critical if the stolen accounts contain Social Security numbers or credit/debit card numbers; thieves could potentially use this info to open new ones in your name.
It is wise to change the passwords on any other devices connected to your computer, such as a printer or external hard drive. Furthermore, using encryption software on the hard drive like Bitlocker for Windows or Filevault for macOS will protect it.
Any reliable computer repair shop should be well-versed in encryption methods and use them to protect the data on your device. However, if you are uncertain what the repair technician needs access to, it’s wise to store all important documents on an external hard drive for extra protection.
Another way to protect your data is by making sure you do not leave your browser signed in when taking it for service. Your browser can store bookmarks, saved passwords and other sensitive personal information which you do not want others to have access to.
It is especially critical if you have sensitive photos or videos stored on your computer that you do not wish to share with the repair person. Letting these remain on the device could give malicious hackers an easy way to identify who owns what, leading to blackmail attempts using intimate pictures or videos.
If you suspect your data has been breached, it’s wise to consult with legal counsel and an independent forensic investigator about the breach. These professionals can help assess the severity of the breach, collect evidence, and suggest remediation steps. Furthermore, they may assist with any federal or state privacy laws that may have been broken during a data breach.
What to do if your data has been stolen
There are a few steps you can take to protect your data. One is using an effective anti-virus program and encrypting your hard drive, along with password protecting files and folders. Furthermore, cloud storage services like Google Drive or OneDrive offer convenient cloud storage solutions for important documents.
Thirdly, be mindful of your computer’s security when giving it over for repair. Don’t leave a browser open or signed in when giving your machine to a technician; these are both places where personal and professional data could be stolen.
If your computer contains sensitive data such as financial or identity info, it’s wise to take extra precautions before sending it for repair. For instance, creating a guest or limited user account so the technician cannot access it while working on your machine might help. Moreover, encryption of important documents and spreadsheets using file encryption software like Bitlocker for Windows or Filevault for macOS will provide extra protection.
Researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada discovered that technicians at local repair shops often breach customers’ privacy. After recovering logs from laptops repaired at 12 different locations, researchers discovered six shops had accessed customers’ personal information and two had copied it to external devices.
These findings are particularly alarming, as damaged and repaired devices were more likely to contain sensitive information such as sexually revealing photos or large amounts of financial data.
If your data has been stolen and you believe the damage has been done, take immediate action. Depending on what was stolen, you may be able to recover it through private claims or in court with a patent or trademark lawsuit.