Why sending your computer to be repaired is a bad idea

When your computer starts acting up, there are a few things you should consider. Ensure that your software and operating system is up to date and that you have done the necessary security upgrades. Tap or click here for more than 50 laptop models that are a security risk after a bad update.

If the problem persists, a more significant issue might be in play. This can be challenging for many, as taking a computer apart and poking around inside seems daunting.

You might consider taking it to a repair center. But that puts your privacy at risk. Read on for details from a new study showing computer repair shops’ dangers.

Here’s the backstory

A strange rattle in the case or the computer’s temperature suddenly spiking can indicate a fault with one of the components. Not everybody is technically inclined enough to remove pieces of hardware to locate the offender.

That’s when many people look toward experts for help and take their computers to a repair center. If you want to attempt it yourself, you need one of these affordable tool kits. 

For many people, the cost of the repair is the biggest issue. But a new study found that is the last thing you should worry about as your personal information and privacy are at significant risk of exploitation.

Researchers at the University of Guelph sent in a few computers for repairs and found that many repair shops routinely violated users’ privacy. 

“We drop-rigged devices for repair at 16 service providers and collected data on widespread privacy violations by technicians, including snooping on personal data, copying data off the device, and removing tracks of snooping activities,” the study details.

Researchers created male and female profiles for each device, populated it with internet search history over a few weeks, and included some non-nude but revealing pictures submitted by Reddit for the experiment.

Unsurprisingly, the folders containing these images were accessed even though they had nothing to do with the repair. Researchers also found that female individuals are more likely to face issues from non-consensual image sharing by technicians.

One regional repair center was at least transparent about its terms of service. It states, “(We) will not treat data on your device as confidential and disclaims any agreement with you or other obligation to do so.”

What you can do about it

The study found that 50% of repair shops violated customers’ privacy. Whenever you hand in a device for inspection or repairs, assume that everything on the device can and will, be accessed.

With that in mind, it forces you to take steps to protect your personal information. Here are some suggestions for protecting your privacy:

  • Before sending in your device, create a secondary profile that doesn’t contain any personal information. The technicians can then use this profile to diagnose problems and make repairs.
  • Remove sensitive data from your computer by backing it up to an external hard drive or cloud storage. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s better than having your privacy violated.
  • As an added measure, ensure that you are logged out of any social media platforms, email clients and online accounts. Where possible, enable two-factor authentication as an added security step.

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