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Sunday, 17 October 2010

Is My Personal Information and Identity Safe at the Computer Repair Shop?

What you are about to read may alarm you. If you take your computer in for repair, your personal information is at risk of getting into the wrong hands and you can become a victim of identity theft!

Most people don't think about it, and some take it for granted, but really how safe is your personal information when you take your computer in for repair.

Hi, my name is Bill Arnoldi. I own my own computer repair company and have over 18 years of experience in I. T. management.

This is a question posed to me by both my consumer and corporate customers over the years.

Not every computer repair tech or company adhere to the industry ethical practices of not snooping around on a client's computer. There are some steps that you can take to minimize your exposure to your personal information and confidential data being compromised, but in general, there is always some risk.

Here are some tips on reducing the chance that your personal information and personal identity stored on your computer will get into unscrupulous hands.

There are really two major components to consider when addressing procedures to increase the security of your personal information when you place your computer in the hands of a computer repair technician or service provider.

The first component is limiting the amount of personal information that you place in computer service provider's possession when you give them your computer to repair. You can do this by utilizing one or both of these procedures.

Don't give it to them in the first place. If you can keep your hard drive, take it out of your computer and ask the service technician to use another drive of their own to perform the repair. This really only works when the problem is NOT with your hard drive, such as in data corruption, possible failure, or infection by virus, malware or spyware.

If your computer still boots and you can access your programs, clear all your usernames and passwords from all your programs, messengers, and web browsers. Move all your personal data files to an external backup device like a flash drive or hard drive. Then you can use a utility to securely wipe all the deleted information from your hard drive to make sure it cannot be recovered. Remember, just deleting the information once does not really delete the data, you need special software to completely make the data unrecoverable.

If taking your hard drive out is not an option, try hooking it up to another computer to remove your personal data to another drive temporarily while your computer is in for repair. Also make sure to delete all the temporary files that may contain your personal information, such as the web browser cache, and other temporary file locations.

If none of these procedures are practical for you, then you have to establish confidence and trust in your service provider.

The second component to ensuring your personal information is safe with your computer repair person is determining their integrity and establishing level of trust and comfort with them.

Here are some ways you can feel comfortable with your computer service provider.

Find out how long they have been doing computer repair. The longer the better. In theory, if they were dishonest and lacked integrity, they would probably not be providing services anymore.

What have they been responsible for in the past? If they have experience in providing service to large companies, then they probably have a good track record for protecting customer data because large corporations demand security for their data before they let a person perform repairs on their systems.

What procedures do they have in place to prevent data theft or snooping at their company? This does not necessarily apply to the individual technician where they are the only person performing the computer services, but is more applicable to companies with several techs. They should have policies and protections in place to limit the ability on someone absconding with a client's data. in truth, these protections are not 100% effective but they can serve as a deterrent. Ultimately, in my opinion the only real sure method would probably be to strip search every tech before they left the premises. That's not happening, so therein lies a bit of risk regardless of the protections in place.

Obtain testimonials and references. Google them on the Internet. See if there are any complaints about their handling personal information. Get recommendations from friends or seek referrals to a tech that someone else has used successfully.

The sum of all this is that you need to do enough research or inquiries until you feel comfortable handing over your computer with your personal information on it to them.

Utilizing these practices is not foolproof. I cannot stress enough that the only bullet-proof way to ensure your personal information and identity is not compromised except is to make sure the computer repair company does not have access to it in the first place. The reality is that in most cases, this is just not practical or possible, especially where correcting problems on the hard drive to restore functionality is what is required.

Finally, keep in mind that in general the majority of computer repair and service providers are on the up-and-up. There are a few sour grapes in the bunch, but the rest of them are pretty good.

Bill Arnoldi is the owner of Fireball Tech Tucson Computer Repair and Core Business Strategies Internet Marketing, an former IT executive with over 18 years of experience in system design, networking and Internet marketing including SEO, SEM, WSO.

View the original article here


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