Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Allowing others to use your computer is risky, at best, but as this story shows, can lead to some serious and potentially expensive ramifications.
I have a computer in my place of business where I allowed many people to access and use my computer to send and receive emails, allowing some of them to apply for their own emails with Yahoo.
One day about nine months ago, I was visited by the two FBI Agents. When they came in my business one of them asked me if I was the owner; I replied yes, I owned the business. Then he asked if I had a computer, I said yes at the back of the building.
I know that what I am about to tell you, I had been wrong for letting others use my computer, however being new to computers, I had no idea of the dangers of that.
There's much more to this question ... or rather this story.
I'm presenting it as a cautionary tale.
The story continues:
My business is not too far from the high school, and I have a number of students that do business with me. When I was asked by a lot of them if they could use my computer to write friends emails, and play some games I replied, "well sure, go ahead."
Well the FBI Agents asked if they could look at my computer I said sure. I had no idea what they were looking for. They did get on my computer and found much to to my surprise a lot of some type of illegal porn, they called it child porn.
When they found that on my computer, they told me that they would have to pick up my computer and send it to forensics, for examination. They also said that my IP address was traced from a porn investigation from up north somewhere.
They mentioned that a person had been sending me child porn, and that I had been downloading it. I have NEVER done that!
They asked me if I were the only person using the computer I told them about the use of the computer by many others. Then they wanted me to give them names. I only remembered the first names of many of them, but some I did remember the full names which I gave them. Some of these people were adults and some just kids from the school.
It has now been about nine months since this all happened, and I have not heard from them. They still have my $1,700.00 computer, external hard drive, monitor, keyboard, speakers, and everything I had.
I did contact an attorney, he said that he didn't think I had anything to worry about, however he wanted $ 5,000.00 to sign me up as a client, Sir I don't have that kind of money.
Could you please help?
Unfortunately, I cannot.
I am not a lawyer, and I honestly believe that's exactly what you need. I have to admit that $5,000 seems pretty steep, so I'd certainly consider seeing if there aren't less expensive alternatives.
As I said, I wanted to present this story as a cautionary tale, a warning of sorts, for others who might allow themselves to fall into a similar situation.
The problem here is actually very simple: you simply cannot allow people you don't know and trust to use your computer.
I know that seems harsh, but as this story proves, it's the reality of the internet today.
Particularly in a business setting, you're opening up yourself to all kinds of problems when strangers use your computer.
I know it's tempting. Everything from "being nice" to perhaps allowing people to use your computer briefly to make you a PayPal payment seem like they'd be simple, harmless things.
And yet, they're not.
At one extreme you've allowed them access to your computer and everything on it, and as I've said before, if someone has physical access to your computer, they have access to anything and everything on your computer.
At the other extreme are stories like the one related here: you could be under suspicion or held liable for the actions of others while they used your machine.
You may not have anything to worry about, legally (though, again, I don't know as I'm no lawyer), but at a minimum, the cost and inconvenience could be extreme.
As internet cafe owners world-wide will tell you, if you must do it set up a dedicated machine for public use, and make sure that everyone is clear on the limits of liability when that machine is used.
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