Smartphone repair employee fired after soliciting photos from cu - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Smartphone repair employee fired after soliciting photos from customer's phone

The female customer had cracked the screen on her iPhone. The female customer had cracked the screen on her iPhone.
She dropped it off at IFixAndRepair (IFAR) inside Wolfchase Galleria, 2760 N. Germantown Parkway. She dropped it off at IFixAndRepair (IFAR) inside Wolfchase Galleria, 2760 N. Germantown Parkway.

(WMC-TV) - A Memphis smartphone repair store has fired an employee after The Action News 5 Investigators revealed he lifted private photos from a customer's phone, then solicited her with them.

"It was pretty alarming," said the customer, who requested anonymity.

The female customer had cracked the screen on her iPhone. She dropped it off at IFixAndRepair (IFAR) inside Wolfchase Galleria, 2760 N. Germantown Parkway.

It repaired her phone. But before she even left the mall's parking lot, she got a surprise.

Text messages from an unknown number started popping up on her phone. Inside the thread, private and personal pictures she kept on her phone for her husband's eyes only -- photos she'd send to him while on long business trips.

Someone had texted the pictures back to her with snarky messages like "I like what I see" and "I would love to see more."

The Action News 5 Investigators traced the number through which the snarky texts and the customer's private photos were sent to an IFAR employee identified only as 'Lee.'

"Yeah, I sent the photos," he acknowledged under hidden camera. He also acknowledged it was a violation of the customer's privacy.

"I was very immature, you know what I'm saying, and I admit, you know, but I know I made a mistake by the situation," he said.

"I really can't understand why this guy would feel like it would be OK to treat just any random woman and to talk to me and treat me like I'm some sort of piece of trash," said the customer.

She admitted she gave 'Lee' her phone's pass code as a condition of the repair service. He said that's how he accessed the phone's camera roll and photo album.

"The thing is that sometimes we have to have their pass codes and stuff to test the phones and stuff like that," 'Lee' said.

Hackers call that "console-access."

"And in security, if someone actually gets console-access, game over," said James Ruffer III, a certified ethical hacker hired by companies to hack their systems and test for security weaknesses.

He explained all devices have what's called 'exploits,' or loopholes in the software, that even amateur hackers can access. In some cases, the 'exploits' are necessary in order for professionals to repair or to trouble-shoot software problems. 

Ruffer said a repair service shouldn't require a customer's pass code for a screen repair unless the repair damaged the phone's ability to initiate its software.

He said before a consumer leaves a smart phone with a repair service, the consumer should back up the phone -- but not just any back-up.

"Do a secure back-up," he said. "There's an option in ITunes that actually encrypts, or does a secure back-up. (Please see Andy's Consumer Pay-Off section with this story)

"Do a complete back-up, and then erase your phone -- actually get it back to the default before you hand it to them. When they give it back to you, plug it back into your machine, do a restore from your back-up, and then you're back to the stage you were before you handed them your machine."

Ruffer also recommended removing any personal/private photos before having a smartphone serviced. In fact, he said consumers should never store those types of photos on their phones.

"Don't put pictures in your phone that you wouldn't drop in the offering plate at church," he said.

"The thought never crossed my mind that somebody that I'm paying for a service would go through my personal information," said the customer.

'Lee' confirmed IFAR fired him Nov. 13. Neither his area manager nor IFAR's corporate office in Florida would comment for this story.

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.  

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