Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Businesses Crime Government Security Software The Almighty Buck United States Technology Hardware

Why You Shouldn't Trust Geek Squad (networkworld.com) 389

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: The Orange County Weekly reports that Best Buy's "Geek Squad" repair technicians routinely search devices brought in for repair for files that could earn them $500 reward as FBI informants. This revelation came out in a court case, United States of America v. Mark A. Rettenmaier. Rettenmaier is a prominent Orange County physician and surgeon who took his laptop to the Mission Viejo Best Buy in November 2011 after he was unable to start it. According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal found an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck." Westphal notified his boss, who was also an FBI informant, who alerted another FBI informant -- as well as the FBI itself. The FBI has pretty much guaranteed the case will be thrown out by its behavior, this illegal search aside. According to Rettenmaier's defense attorney, agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant for his home, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records. Plus, the file was found in the unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with sophisticated forensics tools. Carving (or file carving) is defined as searching for files or other kinds of objects based on content, rather than on metadata. It's used to recover old files that have been deleted or damaged. To prove child pornography, you have to prove the possessor knew what he had was indeed child porn. There has been a court case where files found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it's impossible to determine who put the file there and how, since it's not accessible to the user under normal circumstances.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why You Shouldn't Trust Geek Squad

Comments Filter:
  • That reminds me of the Apple store: had to replace the screen of a MBAir. The "Genius" guy asked me to give my password so that he can check "eveything is ok" after the replacement.. Nothing to hide there, but I only made him a guest user / password (was a replacement at no charge). Why the heck would he need to login?!
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      Why the heck would he need to login?!

      Do you have a hot wife, or do you look rich enough to have one?

    • Eh? I've never had the Apple Store ask me for my password. What they've asked me is if I have my data backed up (Answer is always yes... to three different places, actually.); because when they depot your computer they run a full diagnostic and anything is even a little bit out of spec they pull and replace the component. So you're very likely to get it back with a fresh HD imaged back to the default OS version that shipped with it.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:39PM (#53645911)

    than their warrantless searches

  • by darkain ( 749283 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:41PM (#53645923) Homepage

    GeekSquad is full of shit. Was away on a working vacation (being a remote employee who travels the country and logs in from wherever I happen to be at the time). My laptop died on a trip. Needed it replaced ASAP. Picked up a netbook from BestBuy locally, since shipping one would take too long. They were the only option in town where I happened to be at the time. The power supply on this netbook died in under a week. Took it in to BestBuy to replace the power supply. GeekSquad demanded a $40 "fee" to remove the hard drive from the netbook, and place the hard drive into a new netbook... Again, for a failed power supply, which is external to the netbook to begin with! They simply wouldn't replace the power supply, they claimed they could only replace the entire unit, and had to swap the hard drive. Fucking scammers. So much for the BestBuy "Warranty"

  • As it should be... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:43PM (#53645931)
    Kiddie porn on a computer doesn't imply guilt for the owner. He could have been the subject of a rick-roll type thing, via email or web, and quickly deleted the offending image, which he may have had no intention of downloading/viewing. It's not even close.

    And, the individuals involved should be sued into homelessness for invasion of privacy, etc. Best Buy, too, to the extent they were aware and didn't prevent it.
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      He could have been the subject of a rick-roll type thing

      That explains the 300 Goatse images in my deleted file space.

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      Kiddie porn on a computer doesn't imply guilt for the owner.

      True. Maybe the kid came onto him.

    • Kiddie porn on a computer doesn't imply guilt for the owner.

      Are you a lawyer? Considering the many people arrested for having kiddie porn on their computer, your argument doesn't seem to hold in a court of law.

      • Just guess what happens if the malware du jour, instead of sending spam or encrypting your files, plants some kiddie porn then gives you an offer. Or, if you have said something not expressing love towards Hillary/Trump/Putin/Erdogan, not say anything to you and call law enforcement immediately?

    • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @12:37AM (#53646137) Homepage Journal
      I certainly can see the benefit of living in a police state where everyone is hoping to get dirt on everyone else, but I also see the benefit of living in the US with it's traditional values of privacy and limited police power, where fighting crime is less of a priority than making sure the citizen is protected from having their home invaded by the cops or their stuff taken or their liberty denied without due process.

      In any case, if I were a low paid tech worker, I think I would have significant incentive to fabricate evidence. $500 is a weeks pay, at least, for these guys.

  • by Doke ( 23992 ) on Tuesday January 10, 2017 @11:43PM (#53645935) Homepage

    This one was a possible paedophile. Since it was only one photo, it was probably something sent to him, or from a popup on some random website.

    What else do they look for? Credit card numbers? Tax records? Other identity theft info? Anything embarrassing they can ransom?

    The other problem is they used a tool to scan unallocated space for deleted files. That takes time. Are they charging customers for that extra time?

    • by haruchai ( 17472 )

      The other problem is they used a tool to scan unallocated space for deleted files. That takes time. Are they charging customers for that extra time?

      I would not be even a little bit surprised.

    • Aren't these geeks busy enough? Not sure they have time to scrutinize your disk that deeply
    • What else do they look for? Credit card numbers? Tax records? Other identity theft info? Anything embarrassing they can ransom?

      I'd be much more concerned about what they can/will put on there to implicate you. Rewards do funny things to people, they become most shady when money is involved. I wonder how many instances of planting of illegal items, reporting it and collecting the $$$ occurs.

      • I'd be much more concerned about what they can/will put on there to implicate you. Rewards do funny things to people, they become most shady when money is involved. I wonder how many instances of planting of illegal items, reporting it and collecting the $$$ occurs.

        Given the fact these guys are smart enough to have a job at geek squad how many would be able to pull it off without leaving incriminating forensic evidence?

        If there are more than a few instances I would expect someone to have learned about file system structures and transaction logs at their hearing before being carted off to jail.

  • by mmell ( 832646 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @12:11AM (#53646053)
    If the Geek Squad finds child pornography on the hard disk of a computer in their possession, shouldn't Best Buy be held criminally liable for possessing child pornography? Unless they can establish a chain of custody (i.e. - the first thing we do is a hardware binary image of all storage which we can absolutely prove is an accurate and unaltered copy of storage as received from the customer)? That's what law enforcement agencies have to do, in part to prove that any evidence they find was not planted by them.

    I have a second concern along the same lines . . . let us assume that the Geek Squad isn't engaging in shenanigans for profit. How are they inspecting my hard drive, and can they assure me that they won't cause a data loss?

    • by blindseer ( 891256 ) <blindseer@@@earthlink...net> on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @04:20AM (#53646637)

      I was taking an information security certification course from an interesting character. He was a USMC sniper, police officer on a narc team, then a lecturer offering courses in Microsoft and security certifications, and running a part time data forensics job with one of his old friends. He says he gets a call from the local PD about data recovery on a computer that they say has child porn on it. My instructor tells his partner not to touch the computer. Then tells him that as mere possession of child porn is a felony the only way they could legally touch this is with some kind of immunity or being deputized. The partner seemed to really want the job since it could mean good money and putting a bad guy away. My instructor, a retired police officer, knew that being in possession of child porn regardless of the source is going to be problematic.

      He talked a bit more on this and he seemed to imply that child porn cases can fetch good money for the technicians because so few people are willing to do it. There is an obvious "ick" factor that so many healthy people have. There are legal problems to deal with, as in all your ducks in a row or by doing exactly as the PD requests can still end up with getting charged with a crime.

      So, you have a presumably high dollar and experienced technician with considerable knowledge on how files can be hidden as well as a beat cop level of legal knowledge on this, and he won't touch it for what I can assume is much more than the $500 that these "geeks" could get. Do these Geek Squad people even know what they are doing? Can they be trusted? Would they be willing to be a witness in court? Would the prosecutor even want the typical Geek Squad member testifying in court?

      I can see no good coming from these Geek Squad types looking for incriminating evidence.

      • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <fairwaterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @01:25PM (#53648737) Homepage

        My instructor, a retired police officer, knew that being in possession of child porn regardless of the source is going to be problematic.

        Yup. There was a case a few years back where a person found a bag full of unmarked CD's... took 'em home, stuck 'em in his computer, and found child porn. He turned them into the local PD, who eventually found and arrested the perp.
         
        For being a good citizen, the finder was rewarded by being convicted for possessing child porn and sent to prison.

  • "they work at Best Buy" was a sufficient clue...

    Seriously. How competent can they be?

  • by bferrell ( 253291 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @01:14AM (#53646237) Homepage Journal

    Because four times last year, I repaired systems they said were unrepairable and had attempted to sell a replacement system.

    They used to be tech, now they are systems salesmen

  • More like "Why you shouldn't trust the FBI"

  • by taustin ( 171655 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @02:00AM (#53646337) Homepage Journal

    The Geek Squad techs were, according to the article, "active informants" for the FBI, which is to say, they agreed to be beforehand. That means they are agents of the government, which means they are under the same restrictions as the cops. So if you think it's OK for Geek Squad to search your computer without a warrant, you believe it's OK for the cops to do the same thing, because it is the same thing.

    Aside from that, the FBI did additional searches without warrants, like to get warrants, and apparently continues to hide evidence. They claimed the informants told them they (the informants, that is) had "accidentally" run the carving software that was, in no way, involved in repairing the computer, and found the image. So either the informants (at least one, and likely all three) lied to the FBI under penalty of perjury, or the FBI agent getting the warrant perjured himself to the judge. Or both.

    There isn't an FBI agent involved in this case that doesn't belong in prison for corruption. Same for the prosecutor, at this point, because it is long since possible for him to not be aware of the FBI's corruption.

    Best Buy is the least guilty of anything, and apparently, according to the update at the bottom, actually have policies prohibiting their employees from accepting any kind of reward for reporting this stuff. Whether or not they'll fire the employees named (there are three) for doing so remains to be seen. They are correct, though, that once they become aware of child porn on a computer, they're required to report it.

    • So either the informants (at least one, and likely all three) lied to the FBI under penalty of perjury, or the FBI agent getting the warrant perjured himself to the judge. Or both.

      While it's clear that the Geek Squad agents are obviously acting as paid officials of the FBI in this case, they did not, even if they lied, commit perjury in any form. Just a claim from an anonymous tip can be enough to get someone's house searched and it'll stick in court. Even if the anonymous tip was found to be inaccurate. The police love tips that allow them to search the property of people whom they're interested in. The warrant has to be specific, but they can pick up any evidence of other crime

  • If I'm into child porn then I should be regularly having my computer serviced by Geek Squad.
    When I get busted I can now blame that they planted it to receive a reward?

  • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Wednesday January 11, 2017 @03:21AM (#53646517)

    You can analyse validity of warrants and question the admissibility of evidence all you want, but that overlooks a fact: Most prosecutions don't go to trial. They end in plea bargains. Sure, that particular evidence might be unusable - but the fact that the FBI knows about it may well be enough to get the suspect to confess anyway. The particular example in the article did lawyer up and fight it, but how many times has a similar story happened that didn't become interesting and public enough to get noticed?

"Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit, Kill the Wabbit!" -- Looney Tunes, "What's Opera Doc?" (1957, Chuck Jones)

Working...