STOP PRESS: Underpaid computer store workers are not very trustworthy!

This Consumerist piece about Why Geeks Steal Porn From Your Computer (When They're Meant To Be Fixing It, If They Get A Chance), is both informative and entertaining.

Let me tell you right now that if I were 21 again and working in some dead-end computer store McJob, I too would be rifling through the files of any user who needed our help to install iTunes. Anybody who is even marginally surprised about this would probably be horrified to see the contents of the back-room bulletin board of the average one-hour-photo place before the advent of the affordable digital camera.

There are some good tips in the Consumerist piece, but I disagree with the assertion that "drive encryption on your home computer is worthless". There are many easy-to-use encryption systems which provide data security that'll probably defeat the National Security Agency, never mind some dude in a pot-leaf T-shirt. If you just use Windows EFS and hand your password to the computer store along with the PC then they can of course access your data (and ordinary users who use EFS often lose all of their data as a result...), but there are other very fine options for people who just want to encrypt their accounting data, passwords and pr0n.

Hell, just putting that stuff in a Zip file with a ten character password'll probably do the job. Standard Zip encryption isn't very secure compared with many other schemes, but it's still often not practically attackable from any normal human's point of view. If the password's moderately long and not a dictionary word, and the attacker doesn't already have a copy of some of the data in the archive (giving the option of a "known plaintext" attack, which is the major weakness of standard Zip encryption), then a brute force attack is likely to take a very long time indeed. Even refined brute force attacks are likely to take centuries on current hardware.

Learning how to use encryption software is a good step towards learning how to use the rest of your computer like a "pro" as well. Before you know it, you won't have to hand your computer over to Super Excellent Computer Store's Data Commandoes just because you can't get rid of some crapware.

3 Responses to “STOP PRESS: Underpaid computer store workers are not very trustworthy!”

  1. Stark Says:

    The guys I used to work with always found it much more amusing to ADD porn and other amusing items to computers rather than steal it. I mean, really, why steal what you can get largely for free off the web these days. Besides, imagine the fun of when a customer bings back a PC because it keeps putting up random wallpapers of pictures that make goatse look like sunday school.

  2. Gareth Pye Says:

    Yeah, nothing like guaranteeing return business.

  3. Jax184 Says:

    Now I really do feel like a freak. I've been doing repairs for people for a very long time, including working in the back of a retail shop starting when I was 11 years old. Never once did I steal anyone's files, and the only time I looked through their files was when I needed to back them up. No searching for porn, no adding smut, just getting the job done.

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