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Emblazoned with the familiar Best Buy and Geek Squad logos, one side contained a “new computer setup” form, where you can select antivirus software, Geek Squad tech support, data transfer services, Microsoft Office, and so forth. Best Buy's official spokespeople tell Ars that they collect the passwords so Geek Squad technicians can set up the user's preferred password for logging into their new PC. Given the placement of the password field underneath the e-mail address field, it certainly looks like Best Buy is asking for the password to a Yahoo Mail, Gmail, or similar account. PC sellers helping customers set computers up isn’t unusual—but asking them to write their passwords down in plain text on a sheet of paper to be handed to the store employee is obviously questionable from a security standpoint. Also worrisome is the fact that Best Buy is handing these sheets to any old PC buyer, even individuals like my brother who had no intention of paying Best Buy extra cash to set up his computer. We've asked both Apple and Microsoft how their retail stores handle passwords during PC setup, but haven't heard back yet. In response to our inquiry, Best Buy told us that the forms in question are "stored at a Best Buy store as protected customer information and destroyed after three years." We asked Best Buy if Geek Squad members are required to instruct PC buyers to change their passwords after their PCs are set up.
Even if Best Buy employees are conscientious enough to tell PC buyers not to fill in the password field, it's a practice that should be abandoned entirely.
Jon is Ars Technica's senior IT reporter, covering the FCC and broadband, telecommunications, wireless technology, and more.
This past Friday I came in contact with a surprisingly bad password policy in action as I shopped with my brother for his new computer in Scottsdale, Arizona.
The other side had more of the same—along with a request for my brother’s e-mail and password, right below the fields for name, address, and phone number.


The Best Buy employee quickly said, “you can just ignore that.” Intrigued, I asked the employee if I could have a clean copy of the sheet and he graciously complied. In other words, this field is where users put in a desired password for their new (Administrator-level) account. More important, however, is the simple fact that asking users for their preferred password to set up their user account on the machine is bad security practice. UPDATE: Microsoft tells us that “As a general procedure we ask the customer to remove the password on their machine or change it temporarily so that the store is never in possession of a customer’s real password. These sheets should not be placed in front of customers during the PC purchase process, and those who opt for Geek Squad setup should not be asked to determine a preferred password for setup and to write it down. 15 for returning students Materials Fee $100.00 non-refundable Jan.
Anyone reading this form would interpret it as a request for your e-mail address and e-mail password. It’s good, because the sheet my brother filled in—without his password, of course—was taken by the Best Buy employee. Windows lets third parties set up a PC with a temporary password and provides a self-explanatory option titled "User must change password at next log on." This was a missed opportunity for Best Buy to help users become more responsible for their security.
Best Buy can and should do more here to inform users of proper security practices, and that begins with not telling a complete stranger what you want your desktop computer password to be, or worse yet, writing it down for them. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement, and Privacy Policy, and Ars Technica Addendum.


15 for returning students Last month's tuition $298.00 non-refundable Jan. You can see a scanned copy at the top of this post (click the image to get a larger view). Even though we were told to ignore it, my curiosity was piqued. Best Buy also tells us that our inquiry has triggered a review of the form and that a revision is forthcoming. Instead, the big box retailer misses the mark and does nothing to boost the security consciousness of its customers.
Yet they still gave him this form, and we absolutely contend that it appears to request e-mail passwords. It isn’t hard to imagine the less tech-savvy user filling in the e-mail and password fields without much thought.
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Conde Nast. We don't know exactly how the forms will be changed, but we're glad Best Buy is working to fix the problem. A  Thank you to all the racers, participants, sponsors and volunteers that have made this a fun event.



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