Best Buy Systemically Searching Geek Squad Precincts For Porn

Best Buy is scanning Geek Squad computers for signs of porn infestation, as part of their continuing witch hunt. According to reports from four different Geek Squad employees, an edict was issued from corporate requiring precincts to connect every computer in every precinct to Agent Johnny Utah.

Agent Johnny Utah is the code name for the Geek Squad’s remote troubleshooting software. Usually it’s used so that outsourced Bangalore workers can scan customer’s computers for spyware and viruses and such. In this case, Geek Squad agents at headquarters are using the remote system to scan the Geek Squad precinct’s computers for porn and mp3s taken from customer’s hard drives.

One tipster doubts the efficacy of the search:

…the search will no doubt reveal almost nothing company wide.. certain machines not plugged in, certain harddrives not plugged in during the search, etc… so they will come back with an all clean in a week, and the problem will continue.

Another recounts:

Every techpc in the company was hooked up, and had specialists from corporate office scan them for customer files and information. Our harddrives came up red-flagged and got sent to corporate, but they didn’t get the motherlode, because the pile of customer information/porn/unlicensed tools/windows XP ISOs/MP3s were on a seperate HD that somehow didn’t make it into the scan.

Tipsters also report that managers are not connecting their computers to Agent Johnny Utah without first giving Geek Squad agents time to erase any porn or mp3s.

Best Buy’s investigation is an encouraging step in the right direction, but uprooting the porn pilfering problem will require confronting more deeply seated issues. We asked one tipster what Geek Squad could do to permanently reform its culture. His response? “Stop hiring sales people and hire real techs that get paid tech wages.”

PREVIOUSLY: Best Buy Fires Geek Squad Supervisor Following Negative Newspaper Articles About Porn Pilfering
(Photo: rofflcopterr)

Comments

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  1. Blueskylaw says:

    Let me know when they find something. They WILL find something, right?

  2. Hawk07 says:

    BB has to know they’re putting them on flash drives. When you can get a 2 GB drive for under $20, maybe even cheaper with a BB employee discount, why would the techs keep it on work equipment?

  3. hustler says:

    That last comment is a little difficult to understand. This guy asserts that if a business pays competative wages to a skilled work-force, they may actually yeild a product consumers which inspires consumer satisfaction? Slow down Steven Hawking.

  4. ktoth04 says:

    Wait, so the corporate headquarters is going to scan the computers of a bunch of GEEKS, and expect to find something incriminating?

    Though it would be a good interview technique… hey, if you can sneak porn past ‘Agent Johnny Utah’ you really are a geek! Here, have a minimum wage job ;)

  5. muckpond says:

    wait… tech guys don’t like free porn? wha…?

  6. dbeahn says:

    Good thing Best Buy is doing this! Any porn that IS found will now be stolen by Agent Johnny Utah, AND backed up in India, too!

  7. Chaosium says:

    @hustler: Not only that, but he seems to think that decent salaries should come from a non-managerial retail position. When your “services” are a commodity good, you get paid appropriately. People want a human face and a brand name to their outsourced support, they don’t want a “quality” technician.

  8. spinachdip says:

    @muckpond: You’re missing the point.

    People who are satisfied with their jobs and like their employers are less likely to steal from or exploit their employees or customers. So it stands to reason that real tech guys would be more professional about handling customer data than sales drones.

  9. Pelagius says:

    Why use the term “witch hunt”? Isn’t Best Buy actually trying to enforce some standards on its employees? Would you prefer they turned a blind eye to this?

  10. rbb says:

    Be on the lookout for an upcoming announcement by BestBuy that it will be creating a new subsidiary to enter the growing online porn market. The new unit will be headquartered in Bangalore India…

  11. beyond says:

    I guess this is how corporate thinks. I remember back in my retail days when a corporate bigwig would come in to inspect a store, the district manager would get a week to a month of notice, and a few days before the store would put sign up extra shifts, clean up the store, hold meetings and go over policy.

    The guy had to know the store was putting on a show. It just didn’t make any sense to me.

  12. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    This is the biggest dog and pony show I’ve ever seen. BB is merely trying to make it look like they’re taking an active stance on this, all the while not having a lick of weight behind this initiative. There’s little enforcement, huge gaping cracks into which these porn-mongerers are crawling, and probably not an ounce of care at the top level of Best Buy, all because GS isn’t a huge cash cow for the company (I’m guessing).

    Way to go, Worst Buy — you’re really taking a stand here! *eye roll*

  13. BoredAgain says:

    I love how this blog bashes and bashes Geek Squad for allowing porn to be stolen, and then when they try to do a first step against it they’re still ineffectual idiots. The writers and commenters here remind me of the “fans” who continuously yell, “you stink!” at a professional sporting event, because obviously they’d do a much better job…

  14. ravuya says:

    Hooray, another mention of Geek Squad’s predilection for using pirated copies of various utilities to make money.

    Perhaps not as bothersome to the average person as Geek Squad types stealing your pr0n and credit card numbers, but certainly an issue that’s been brought up by SysInternals ([yro.slashdot.org]) among others.

  15. Huntergreene says:

    Agent Johnny Utah has quite a job ahead of him. We all know how difficult it actually is to find hidden porn of mass destruction!

  16. ravuya says:

    Actually, if the images in question were “homemade,” couldn’t a case be made that Best Buy is just making it worse by again violating the customers’ privacy, this time internationally?

    Seems kind of strange they’d run to Indian contractors, who they pay even less than the minimum wage employees they’ve demonstrated they now don’t trust.

  17. mopar_man says:

    @BoredAgain:

    You must be one of the very few that thinks this is going to work then.

    As others have said, with the disconnected drives and the use of USB drives, chances of this actually working are going to be slim to none.

  18. Peeved Guy says:

    @BoredAgain: I hear ya.

    witch hunt
    -noun
    an intensive effort to discover and expose disloyalty, subversion, dishonesty, or the like, usually based on slight, doubtful, or irrelevant evidence.

    [dictionary.reference.com]

    I have to admit that I was annoyed reading this. First, the Consumerist sets up their sting to catch some GS dork stealing porn. Fine, whatever. But now that GS and/or BB is trying to clean up their act, its a “witch hunt”? Maybe we should find a different term for what Best Buy is doing…?

  19. spinachdip says:

    @Peeved Guy: “Maybe we should find a different term for what Best Buy is doing…?”

    Lynndieenglandhunting?

  20. zentec says:

    @BoredAgain:

    The bashing isn’t just about stealing things off customer’s hard drives, that’s just the latest in a litany of abuses Geek Squad and Best Buy have levied on its so-called customers and corporate bad behavior.

    This is no different than taking your car to a shop and having the mechanics pilfer the change, steal some CDs from the backseat and then while the car is up on the hoist, bang on the clamps for the exhaust system until something breaks. Then, get the customer to consent to a $1600 repair for $75 in parts and $75 in labor for what was perfectly fine before the car showed-up in the shop. And by the way, the mechanics stole the hammer used to bludgeon the exhaust system from a Snap-On truck

    The abuses are systemic and have been happening for a long time. Geek Squad has been in a position of taking advantage of people for a long time and Best Buy is more than happy to sit there grabbing as much money as they can. Stealing customer information is just the icing on the cake and it demonstrates the contempt and arrogance. “This blog” demands more because Geek Squad customers deserve better than what amounts to an informal internal inquiry. This is a tepid effort at customer assurance that won’t stop the problem.

    If anything, “this blog” needs to come right out and say “just avoid Geek Squad, forever”.

  21. falonsade says:

    @Peeved Guy:
    i agree.

    i’m pretty tired of seeing these articles to begin with, but with techies from numerous national and individual companies fessing up to the same inexcusable behaviors, why is the focus *still* on best buy and geek squad only? it should be on the industry.

    it’s not best buy who’s on the witch hunt…

  22. nightshadowon says:

    @Huntergreene: I was waiting for someone to mention WMDs :)

    Any Geek worth his weight in gold (erm motherboard trace lines) knows how to hide his porn. My favorite method is c:> delete *.*

  23. falonsade says:

    @zentec:
    it’s already been established that the actions of some stupid, selfish individuals were wrong. no tech – geek squad or other – should ever wrongfully take information for anyone’s pc.

    at the very least, give best buy a little credit. there are some very good people working for that company…and at they’re making an effort.

    what is inaction vs. action to you?
    is nothing good enough for some consumerist snobs?

  24. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @nightshadowon:

    Yeah cause there is absolutely *no way* that you can see/restore deleted files on a Windows PC. :D

  25. Bay State Darren says:

    @nightshadowon: That’s not a very fairy comparision of fruitless searches. In this case the porno actually seems to exist! That puts it one up on the WMDs.

  26. Xkeeper says:

    @falonsade: Like most people have said, this isn’t an actual attempt to do anything but cover their own asses.

    When a bunch of people on a blog can figure out in 10 seconds or less how to hide the porn in 7 different ways (ranging from “disconnect the hard drive” to “use an external flashdrive”), it becomes very obvious that it’s nothing but a ploy to go around making yourselves look better.

    In short, it’s a load of bullshit and everyone’s calling them on it.

  27. startertan says:

    “His response: “Stop hiring sales people and hire real techs that get paid tech wages.””

    It’s puzzle time, rearrange the following:

    Hell
    Snowball
    Chance
    Not

  28. ravuya says:

    I really hope the Agent Johnny Utah stuff is also working over some kind of encryption (if not a VPN, at least Remote Desktop protocol encryption).

    Offering up customers’ computers to be remote controlled over the Internet seems a risky endeavour otherwise.

    It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised.

  29. Geekybiker says:

    Unless they physically show up at shops with no warning they arent going to find much. Even then its easy to pocket a flash drive.

  30. spinachdip says:

    @falonsade: “why is the focus *still* on best buy and geek squad only? it should be on the industry.”

    Because the porn-stealing story isn’t really about the porn-stealing. The unprofessional behavior is a symptom of deeper issues that go beyond simply swiping files off client computers.

    And Best Buy/Geek Squad is an especially distressing case because Best Buy bought a great brand that had built itself from ground up, and then proceeded to drive into the ground what made it a great brand in the first place. The latest dog and pony show is the continuation of said drive into the ground.

  31. Steel_Pelican says:

    BB/GS needs a team of “secret shoppers” who bring in rigged machines to record GS activity. Exactly like the Consumerist’s sting, except run by BB. If you never know whether or not you’re servicing a narc’s monitored computer, you’ll be less likely to go snooping around where you don’t belong.

    I’m sure Best Buy uses secret shoppers to test it’s retail staff in the store and on the phone. Put this kind of random, secret inspection to work on the Geek Squad, too.

  32. Steel_Pelican says:

    Or even an independent watchdog group, like Perverted Justice or those guys who report cigarette retailers for not checking ID.

    Then you could expand it industry-wide, and BB doesn’t need to worry about weird ramifications of having corporate-prepared porn “honeypots” on corporate equipment.

  33. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @startertan: BB can’t afford ‘real’ techs who make ‘real’ wages. Most of my tech buddies make well over 6 figures and run their own businesses. Why would one with such a lucrative knowledge base accept such a position with BB?

  34. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    I still find it funny that an entire industry is being raked over the coals over pornography. Screw all the music, personal photos, programs, passwords, and financial info these guys had access to… just don’t eff with my porn!

  35. Neritha says:

    It’s a witch hunt. Managers will get torched, Geek Squad will do press releases saying their concerned about customer privacy, underlying problem – not fixed.

    1.) By asking the Services Manager to execute the scans, you’ve basically undermined the process from the beginning. Services Managers are usually complicit in part of what goes on at Geek Squad, in that we use unlicenced products in order to do repairs that normally we shouldn’t be able to do. Also, if the scans come up red-flagged, the retribution starts with him/her. The Geek Squad manager and any agents involved will get fired, but the Services Manager takes the hit as well. It benefits him to have the scans come back clean.

    2. A great deal of services managers know nothing about computers. It wouldn’t be a big deal to hustle or confuse a services manager to buy time to get the TechPC clean.

    3. We’re not total blithering idiots. A geek squad agent knows how to to spoof files, encrypt archives, DoD format hard drives and we have access to product. I’m sure most precincts switched to external HDDs for storing long ago.

    4. So what? DCIs (Geek Squad Managers) get fired. Agents get fired and replaced. The situation isn’t any better – Agents are still treated like pondscum with revenue generating ability – so if I get fired, my replacement isn’t any happier, healthier or better equipped to not be apathetic in the face of inethicality. Until Geek Squad modifies its corporate model and puts its employees and consumers ahead of it’s profit-generating model, the situation does not get better. Best Buy is spinning a sledgehammer trying to turn a screw. They bought Geek Squad having no idea how to manage it, flailed wildly at incorporating it into Best Buy SOP (especially customer centricity), and continue to expect it to provide an insane amount of revenue. Technical Support doesn’t work that way. If Dell/HP/Toshiba/Sony could purge technical support forever, they’d do it immediately. It’s designed to support the user in their purchase, not to be a P&L based industry. Geek Squad thinks they’re creating a new paradigm, in making a mostly unprofitable business model profitable. What they are doing is running a perfectly good business into the ground. And when they’re done, they’ll just take down the logos and slap in a Subway or Pizza Hut or something.

  36. BoredAgain says:

    @zentec:

    Actually, your comparison is completley wrong and done just for dramatic effect. While I do not condone what these people are doing and hope they get fired / sued / whatever, it is nowhere near the comparison that you are making.

    Your entire comparison revolves around taking things that the customer then loses (money, hammers, other craziness), while in this case the client isn’t losing their data, it is just being copied by idiots.

    It’s more akin to a photo processing clerk making extra copies of risque photos that come in.

  37. Steel_Pelican says:

    I think “witch hunt” is appropriate in the context of the original post- BB is looking for someone, anyone to punish here, and they’re making a big public display of it. Likely, someone who isn’t totally responsible will be punished, while the larger system will remain unchanged.

    “Witch hunt,” at least in this context, is sort of like scapegoating- finding someone to blame, and making an example of them.

  38. agent2600 says:

    Technical Support doesn’t work that way. If Dell/HP/Toshiba/Sony could purge technical support forever, they’d do it immediately. It’s designed to support the user in their purchase, not to be a P&L based industry.

    CHACHING! THANK YOU THANK YOU FOR FINALLY SAYING IT! This is so true you have no idea! Tech support is not a money maker for any company, it is more of a consumerrelations so that companies can continue to keep customers (kind of like Customer Service). Independant Tech support guys make 3 digits a year for 1 reason, and thats the fact the are independantly owned so they have little to no overhead cost! (other then rent…and maybe software (ya like any independant tech pays for his software). Think about the amount of money best buy has to spend on branding the geeksquad, the amount of money they have to spend on paying for the software use, ect ect. The average GSI makes around 500-2000 a day, even with only 4 people working for the day thats still with wages alone only making best buy 150-1000 bucks a day or so…and for a corporation, thats nothing!! Now if an individual was making this much a day, thats good money, but for best buy (who has no idea still how the tech industry works) its worthless.

    In Summary


    Real Technicians make money

    No Tech Support is profitable


    when best buy realizes this, stops screwing over employes bam…maybe things will get better

    Want to solve the privacy problem? do what HP tech support does, don’t even let them work on the OS, start off hardware test, then before the OS even boots do a System Restore.

    Your harddrive will crash, if you have any IQ at all you will backup anything you can’t lose at least once a month

  39. startertan says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee:

    Of course BB can’t hire ‘real’ techs. Guys with CS or IT degrees and MS Certs. But at least hire guys who know something about computers and aren’t just salesman. For example, I worked at BB for a year in Home Theater. When I went in for my interview the manager asked where do you want to work? Digital Imaging? Home Theater? or Install Bay (for radios and such)? I said HT b/c I didn’t know sh!t about cameras (at the time) and had never even touched a radio. He’s says, “Are you sure you don’t want to work in the install bay?”. I said I have NO experience. He said, “That’s ok”.

  40. miborovsky says:

    … And then the Indian Agent Johnny Utah will steal the porn…

  41. Trick says:

    A friend was quoted at least $250 to re-install Windows XP at Best Buy. She knew I managed a large computer network but didn’t want to bother me. When I found out where she was thinking about taking the computer I told her I would re-build it.

    Two or three hours of my time is well worth knowing that yet another potential customer has been kept away from Best Buy.

    I know you are keeping count, Best Buy. That makes it now 23 people for a total of well over $7,000 that have not shopped Best Buy because of me!

  42. kingdom2000 says:

    As long as Geek Squad primary goal continues to be sales rather then customer service, all the management oversight in the world will not fix the problems.

  43. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @muckpond: Tech guys already know where to find free porn, so they don’t need to steal it from customers. :)

  44. Android8675 says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Always floors me when I think about this. Never once occured to me to steal someone’s porn, I have plenty of it at home. It’s too bad these systems at Geek Squad Precincts are communal, in some cases the precinct systems are the only ones with unrestricted internet, so you get EVERYONE using them without asking. Hopefully they won’t fire everyone, there’s a lot of good people out there.

  45. Android8675 says:

    @kingdom2000: But if you don’t sell the services you’ll have nothing to service. so what good would it be to have all tech people? Gotta have some people with tech knowledge and sales exp.

  46. baytech says:

    I want to point out something about what Trick said. A price of was quoted of $250 to reinstall Windows XP which took him 3 hours for a friend and this is someone who manages a large computer network. If you were to figure that out to hourly that would equate to $80 an hour.

    With overhead( benefits, real estate, cars and computer equipment)and factoring in that all agents aren’t working on computers 100% of the time (training, downtime,etc)is that price totally out of line?

    There are countless stories of highly skilled unemployeed techs here in California that are an example that it is a delicate balance of how a buisness is support a staff and generate appropriate incomes to support them. By the way a lot of these 100k a year techs have applied to Geek Squad.

    Can you blame Best Buy for trying to be competitive with Comp Usa, Circuit City, etc? Which all pay the same and charge about the same.

    Basically it is a consumer market and if they want to pay less than they have to understand the service is going to be what you pay for.

    Just keep in mind that like any large chain store (car dealerships, grocery stores, and yes electronics stores) it will be a different experience depending on how the individual store is run.

  47. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    India? They’ll store it over there so they don’t have to store it over here…

  48. snowferret says:

    Bestbuy should be careful they could have an invasion of privacy lawsuit on their hands if they aren’t.

  49. mrwizzo says:

    The bottom line is that while I personally can confirm that every Best Buy had their computers scanned, it really does not matter, here is why.

    Most clients don’t know what they want backed up, so they have the standard “Documents and Settings” folder backed up. I can tell you at our store we are so busy, I could careless what type of pr0n or other stuff you have or don’t have on your unit, I simply dont have time to look at it. (BTW I can get porn from a variety of other free sources when I get home if I was so inclined). I just dump the entire Docs and Settings folder which captures your email, pictures, music, videos, desktop, etc. This is normally offered to the client so they don’t come back 3 days later saying “you missed this and that.”

    So will Best Buy find porn and other personal data on their backup machines? Yepper, otherwise the Agents would not be doing their job. When a client askes for “all his pics, etc” to backed up, thats just what we do. So out of the 20+ data backups we do a month, I’m sure that someone has some pr0n on their machine.

    No doubt there are tards out there that will get their jollies by taking the time to look through it and “steal it”, I can tell you that with our workload, I dont have the time, and really don’t care.

    Got a question and want to know the “inside scoop”, ask away!

  50. Setnev says:

    The internal email “claimed” that every file deleted in the past 48-72 hours will be found. HA! That makes me laugh. On the MRI disc, an authorized tool called jv16 Powertools has a Disc Eraser that writes zeros to the empty space without touching the drive contents virtually destroying any record of the erased file. Too bad corporate didn’t think of that before they decided to do their investigation(Agents-1 Corporate-0). My precinct was audited but they didn’t know all of the data is stored on a Net Drive and an external drive(Agents-2 Corporate-0). Even though our precinct doesn’t keep data or look at data from the customers, their faux investigation will indefinitely fall through.

  51. Sys Admn says:

    Beyond – you wrote ” the district manager would get a week to a month of notice, and a few days before the store would put sign up extra shifts, clean up the store, hold meetings and go over policy.

    The guy had to know the store was putting on a show. It just didn’t make any sense to me. “

    As a green lieutenant, one of my additional duties was ‘security officer’ for a my AF unit. I had to conduct an annual inspection of all classified documents for mismarked or expired material. That inspection was announced months in advance. When I laughingly asked the CO, “Why do they do this? We will never find anything!” He pointed out that the ONLY time a safe got cleaned was the week before the inspection…

    It’s likely the reason for the visit wasn’t to find problems, but to get the manager to put some effort into preventing them.

  52. susm says:

    This is why i hate the biased reporting on this site. No matter what they do to try and correct the situation they are in the wrong. Yet the guys in the comments who admit they steal data, look through customer data etc. are in the clear? WTF

  53. RandomAgent says:

    It may be interesting to for some of you to know that Best Buy Cooperate has been sending inspectors to Precincts unannounced to search Precinct PCs. We had one such individual show up at our store. No one knew he was coming, not even the Services Manager or the Geek Squad Supervisor. We have also been given new rules for how data backups are performed.

  54. RandomAgent says:

    @nightshadowon: Any Geek worth his weight in gold (erm motherboard trace lines) knows how to hide his porn. My favorite method is c:> delete *.*

    Any Geek worth his weight in gold will know that “delete” is not a valid Windows command and that if it were, it would only delete the files in the C: root… “del” does not support recursion. :o)

  55. “We asked one tipster what Geek Squad could do to permanently reform its culture. His response? “Stop hiring sales people and hire real techs that get paid tech wages.”

    Brilliant!

    Also, whats to stop them from just grabbing a Western Digital My Book World II WDG2NC15000N (It’s a 1.5TB External Hard Drive featuring a USB 2.0 connection and a 10/100/1000 Ethernet Connection) and dumping all the stuff on there?

  56. cali_ricochet says:

    You folks who are commenting that computer techs wouldn’t steal porn, they’re too busy/know where to find it elsewhere are missing an important point. Speaking as a person who works on other people’s computers frequently, you’d be suprised how many people keep naked pictures of themselves & their significant others on their computers.

    I don’t care how how well paid you are or how professional you are, if you are a male and a very attractive woman asks for your help backing up the files on her computer and you see a directory called “naughty pictures,” you’re going to (at least) look at those pictures and the invasion of privacy has happened. It’s human nature. I don’t know how you can prevent this.