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Laptop Repair Engineer Jailed After Sting Operation


Laptop Repair Engineer Jailed After Sting Operation

A laptop engineer who was caught snooping on the private contents of a computer he was meant to be repairing has been jailed for nine months.

The harsh penalty was dished out to Grzegorz Zachodni who was caught red handed by a Sky News sting operation into the underhand behaviour of laptop repair shops.

The laptop was taken by a Sky reporter to Laptop Repairs in Hammersmith with a simple memory error created to prevent the laptop from starting up. However, it was fitted with software that would activate the webcam, record the footage and log every keystroke.

Sure enough, while the simple memory problem was quickly discovered, the shop then phoned the reporter to say that the motherboard was faulty and that it would cost £100 to repair.

Zachodni the proceeded to rifle through the contents of the hard disk, discovering a planted folder called Private that contained images of the Sky reporter in a bikini. This was first shown to a colleague and the contents then copied over to a memory stick.

Also discovered was the details of a fake bank account, which Zachodni attempted to access several times, along with Facebook and eBay logins.

Having fallen for the sting hook, line, and sinker, Sky News then handed the evidence over to the police.

Zachondi pleaded guilty to fraud on 7 July at West London Magistrate’s Court and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

The police released a statement in which DC Chris Young said: "Hopefully this conviction will be a warning to the computer repair industry that the copying or use of customer’s private and personal information is not acceptable and the Metropolitan Police Economic and Specialist Crime Directorate will endeavour to prosecute any person found to have committed offences regarding these abuses."

Link: Sky News Video

A Scotland

August 9, 2010, 6:23 pm

It would be interesting to know how many places they tried this on before this happened. Presumably this was not the first attempt. It is appalling conduct on the part of the repairman. However it is also pretty appalling conduct by Sky to be secretly filming people in their workplace in the hope of catching one of them out and all for a profit. Presumably many honest computer repairmen have had close ups of their mugshots recorded in this way and who watches the watchers? It is pretty easy to imagine footage of innocent, nosepicking or ugly technicians circulating a sky newsroom for laughs.

Wouldn't it be great to put secret cameras on the people with the secret cameras... but where do you draw the line.


August 9, 2010, 6:46 pm

@AScotland - Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


(isn't eh 'net a wonderful thing?)

Nick G

August 9, 2010, 7:18 pm

Totally disagree with "A Scotland". The owner can do whatever they want with their laptop. If the guy just swapped out the faulty ram and booted it up just for a few seconds to test it, he wouldn't have had any issues and invasions of his privacy would have been negligable. He dropped himself in it the moment he started snooping around and deserves no sympathy. He simply got a taste of his own medicine!


August 9, 2010, 7:51 pm

Of course he did. It's like being surprised that the babysitter snooped through your closets. Of course they did. If you give a computer to a repair shop and it's not password protected (minimum) and you didn't take out the hard disk (optimum) then what do you expect?

Also, isn't this legally dubious?

It's a bit like offering a kid Dope on the street and if he takes it you tell him he's been caught on video and will go to jail.

I'm not trying to defend the repair guy, but this story rubs me the wrong way.


August 9, 2010, 7:52 pm

Just to point out that Gary Glitter was initially caught out in 1998 when he took his PC to be repaired at PC World. Obviously he got what was coming to him, but at no point did anyone ask why the PC World employees were poking around his PC in the first place. That's something which should worry every PC World service customer.

Clearly this guy deserves everything the law could throw at him. Attempting to log into a bank account is tantamount to stealing a credit card and trying to draw cash.

@A Scotland: According to their report, Sky went to a handful of shops around London, but only one diagnosed the problem correctly and honestly and didn't rifle through the contents of the hard drive to some degree.

Here's the report as it aired a year ago:



August 9, 2010, 7:58 pm

I imagine this is one of those things that happens in MOST computer repair shop. It's like the security room in a hotel. Is it really believable that just because the staff aren't supposed to snoop on people, they don't?

If you don't want to fall foul of this, then simply try to fix the computer yourself, or if it's possible, copy your personal content off the laptop first. It's still possible for people to snoop using software that can find data that hasn't been deleted securely, but I guess it might be too much trouble for those people being paid to repair a computer within a given timeframe.


August 9, 2010, 8:40 pm

@Tim: take out the hard disk (optimum) then what do you expect?

Not be able to repair the laptop, it could have been a Software/OS problem. :)

But if people do store stuff on computers that is personal, simple solution use Truecrypt.


August 9, 2010, 8:41 pm

I noticed in most of the comments that nothing was said regarding the fact that the repair shop charged for a new motherboard when it was a memory issue. Some repair shops once the system gets running will ghost the drive before they start doing any repairs incase the drive is bad. I would like to see all repair shops checked out with some sort of background check and they should have some sort of basic certification process or required to have certifications before they are allowed to work on equipment. In most areas all you need is a business license to repair computers/printers. I know that this may sound like big brother but when you are dealing with privacy issues and possible fraudulent repairs, something has to be done.


August 9, 2010, 9:25 pm

Date checked: 09-August-2010

Grzegorz Zachodni - Benny I hope you spelt the name right and wasn' a case of random key pressing!

Given @Chris' reminder of the Gary Glitter case and this case, does this mean Gary can sue his pc repairer for damages?

Was the material put on the sting computers genuine? If not, then just showing that the repairer(s) were dishonest/untrustworthy/bad character(s) is not a crime?! What of Journalist who embellish their stories?


August 9, 2010, 11:09 pm

Any engineer who uses the customer's OS to snoop is an amateur anyway.

*IF* (emphasis) I were to snoop, I would pull the HDD and use my own machine to read it.

On a related note, I have to admit that a LOT of engineers I've met seem to think this is one of the 'perks of the job' and most have had folders full of images and videos - it's pretty widespread, and ingrained in the culture.

A Scotland

August 10, 2010, 4:14 pm

@Nick Gilbert - I would be surprised if you believe that an owner can literally do whatever they want with their laptop. An invasion of privacy is an invasion of privacy regardless of the resulting damage. How could Sky have known for sure what they would have seen through their secret lens. People could have been changing. They could have picked up other people's confidential information. Many people would not trust the police with the right to spy and you would have to be pretty naive to trust journalists (TR excepted).

It is not a case of sympathy for the engineer. It is a case of hypocrisy and the potential for abuse.


August 10, 2010, 9:11 pm

@Nick Gilbert: I totally agree with A Scotland. It has nothing to do with having sympathy for this engineer - it does however involve sympathy for those honest engineers who did not try to cheat or defraud customers or look at their personal data. Those people did nothing wrong, but were still filmed without their knowledge or consent, and how do we know that video was treated responsibly by Sky?

Accepting Sky's actions as entirely benevolent, simply because they caught some people breaking the law (ignoring the fact that they spied on others who didn't) is only a few steps away from the idiotic "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" mentality that is helping to devalue the entire concept of privacy.


August 10, 2010, 10:59 pm

I also find the nature of the Sky News investigation to be questionable, but then many once-respectable news bodies seem to be veering towards 'News of the World' standards. Sky News' latest take on paedophile entrapment, which even featured a reporter chasing his quarry through a crowded high street, was particularly cringe-worthy.

@Ryan: I have a sideline in fixing home and business PCs which I've been running for over 10 years, and I can honestly say I've never copied any data off customers' hard drives (except when ghosting a drive), nor have I ever purposefully viewed their private data. I'm sure there are a number of morally dubious operators around, but I wouldn't say criminal activity is 'ingrained in the culture'.

Phil McDonald

August 10, 2010, 11:28 pm

i work in an laptop repair shop in birmingham, laptoprepairweb.co.uk, and a couple of points,

1. there was no reason to lie about the reason for repair, although we dont, its not unreasonable for most laptop repair companies to charge an inspection and min fee of £75 without telling lies. (we dont mind)

2. its not a bad idea to run round a computer a little when you have it to make sure that its comfortable while doing so, and nothing crashes, but the information should be treated the same way as a leagle beagle or a priest, you cannot pass it on.

garry glitter thing was awfull but no matter what pc world should not pass on anything they see, even if you loose sleep over it, its one of those responsibilities you have when you work with peoples personal information.

but if he tried to access her bank accounts and ebay and steal of the lady then fling him in jail

its the only way he will learn. most people are fair and upfront in the repair trade, people dont mind paying decent charges so why 10-15% of shops out there are not fair i do not know.

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