Microsoft has, historically, done some amazingly boneheaded things like clippy, Vista, Win 8, and Win 10. They have one really good product: Excel, otherwise everything they’ve done has succeeded only through illegal exploitation of an aggressively defended monopoly. OK, maybe the Xbox is competitive, but I’m not much of a gamer.
Sadly for the world, the model of selling users for profit to advertisers and spies has gained ground to the point where Microsoft was starting to look like the least evil major entity in closed-source computing. Poor microsoft. To lose the evil crown must be at least as humiliating as their waning revenue and abject failures in the mobile space (so strange… try to enter a space where they don’t have a monopoly to force users to accept their mediocre crap and they fail, who’da thunk it?)
“There is a difference between policy and practice. We don’t read customers mail. We don’t read customer documents. We don’t triangulate YouTube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing,”
Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications for Microsoft
Well, never fear: Windows 10 is here and they’re radically one-upping the data theft economy by p0wning not just the data you idiotically entrust to someone else’s server for free without ever considering why they’re giving you that useful service for “free” or what they, or whoever buys their ultimately failed business, might do with your data, but also the data you consider too sensitive for the Google or the Apple. Windows 10 exfiltrates all your data to Microsoft for their use and profit without your information. Don’t believe it? Read their Privacy Statement.
Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.
Well, people weren’t updating fast enough so Microsoft is now pushing that update on you involuntarily. Do you have a data cap that a 10G download might break and cost you money? So what! Your loss! Don’t have enough space on your drive for a 10G hidden folder of crapware foisted off on you without your permission? Tough crap, Microsoft don’t care.
To be clear, Windows 10 is spyware. If this was coming from a teenage hacker somewhere, they’d be facing jail time. It is absolutely, unequivocally malware that will create a liability for you if you use it. If you have any confidentiality requirement, you must not install windows 10. Ever. Not even on your home machine. Just don’t.
The only way to prevent this is really annoying and a little risky: disable automatic downloads. One of the problems with Microsoft’s operating systems is the unbelievably crappy spaghetti code that results in a constant flow of cracks, a week’s worth are patched every Tuesday. About 1 serious vulnerability every fortnight these days (note this is about the same as Ubuntu and about 1/4 the rate of OSX or iOS, why people think Apple products are “secure” is beyond me – live in that fantasy walled garden! But nice logo you paid a 50% premium for on your shiny device). Not patching increases the risk that some hacker somewhere will steal your datas, but patching guarantees that Microsoft will steal your datas. Keep your anti-virus up to date and live a little dangerously by keeping Microsoft out.
Here’s an interesting article: how-to-clean-the-windows-10-crapware-off-your-windows-7-or-81-pc
And a tool referenced in that article: GWX control panel (that can help remove the windows 10 infection if you got it).
And a list of patches I found that are related to Win10 malware that you can remove if you haven’t installed it yet (Windows 10 eliminates the ability to choose or selectively remove patches, once you’re in for the ride, you’re chained in: all or nothing.)
- Disable automatic updates and automatic downloads of updates.
- Review each update Microsoft offers. This is tedious, my win 7 install reports 384 updates, 5-10 a week, but other than security patches, you probably don’t really need them. Only install a patch if there’s a reason. Sorry, that sucks, but there’s always Linux Mint: free like beer AND free like speech.
- If you’re still on Win 7/8, uninstall the spyware Microsoft has probably already installed. If you’re on Windows 8, you probably want to upgrade to Windows 7 if at all possible.
- If you succumbed to the pressure and became a Microsoft Product by installing Windows 10, uninstall it.
- If uninstall doesn’t work, switch to Mint or reinstall 7.
Most importantly, if you develop software for servers or for end users, stop developing for Microsoft (and Apple too). Respect the privacy of your customers by not exposing them to exploitation by desperate operating system vendors. In many classes of applications, your customers buy their computers to run your software: they don’t care what operating system it requires – that should be transparent and painless. Microsoft is no longer an even remotely acceptable choice. Server applications should run under FreeBSD or OpenBSD and desktop applications should run under Linux. You can charge more and generate more profit because the total net cost for your customers will be lower. Split the difference and give them a more reliable, more secure, and lower cost environment and make more money doing so.
I’m using an Ubuntu VM for private browsing, and like many people, I’m stuck using a mainstream OS for much of my work (Win7) due to software availability constraints. But some software works much better in a linux environment and Ubuntu is as pretty as OSX, free, and installs easily on generic x86 hardware.
It is also pretty straightforward to install an isolated and secure browsing instance using VirtualBox. It takes about 20G of hard disk and will use up at least 512K (better 1G) of your system RAM. If you want to run this sort of config, your laptop should have more than enough disk space and RAM to support the extra load without bogging, but it is a very solid solution.
Installing Ubuntu is easy – even easier with an application like VirtualBox – just install virtualbox, download the latest ubuntu ISO, and install from there. If you’re on bare metal, the easiest thing to do is burn a CD and install off that.
Ubuntu desktop comes with Firefox in the tool bar. Customizing for private browsing is a bit more involved.
My first steps are to install:
- noscript to create your own whitelist of sites allowed to run scripts,
- better privacy to apply rules for deleting flash cookies,
- TACO to control tracking cookies,
- UserAgentSwitcher to make your ubuntu/firefox rig generic looking,
- Tor Button to browse without leaving a trail of your IP address.
NoScript is an easy win. It is a bit of a pain to set up at first, but soon you add exceptions for all your favorite sites and while that isn’t great security practice, it is essential for sane browsing. NoScript is particularly helpful when browsing the wacky parts of the net and not getting exotic browsing diseases: it is your default dental dam. Be careful of allowing domains you don’t recognize – Google them first and make sure you understand why they need to run a script on your computer and that it is safe. A lot of sites use partners for things like video feeds, so if some function seems broken, you probably need to allow that particular domain. On the other hand, most of the off-site scripts are tracking or stats and you really don’t need to play along with them.
BetterPrivacy is a new one for me. I am very impressed that it found approximately 1.3 zillion (OK 266) different company flash cookies AFTER I had installed TACO and noscript etc. You bastards. I’m sure I can enjoy hulu without making my play history shared-available to every flash site I might visit. Always Sunny in Philadelphia marks me as a miscreant. I flush the flash cookies on starting silently (preferences).
TACO is a bit intrusive, but it seems to work to selectively block tracking and advertising cookies. At least the pop up is comforting. For private browsing, I’d set it to reject all classes of tracking cookies (change the preferences from default).
User Agent Switcher is useful when you’re deviating from the mainstream. Running Ubuntu pretty much flags you as a trouble maker or at least a dissident. Firefox maybe a bit less so, but you are indicating to advertisers that you don’t respect the expertise of those people far smarter than you who pre-installed IE (or Safari) to make your life easier. Set your user agent to IE 8 because the nail that sticks up gets pounded down.
Torbutton needs Tor to work. Tor provides really good privacy, but is a bit involved. The Tor Button Plugin for firefox makes it seem easier than it really is: you install it and click “use tor” and it looks like it is working but the first site you visit you get an proxy error because Tor isn’t actually running (DOH!).
To get Tor to work, you will have to open a terminal and do some command line fu before it will actually let you browse. Tor is also easier to install on Ubuntu than on Windows (at least for me, but as my browser history indicates I’m a bit of a miscreant dissident, so your mileage may vary).
Starting with these fine instructions.
sudu gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
deb http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org lucid main
deb-src http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org lucid main
gpg --keyserver keys.gnupg.net --recv 886DDD89
gpg --export A3C4F0F979CAA22CDBA8F512EE8CBC9E886DDD89 | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tor tor-geoipdb
Install vidalia with the graphical ubuntu software center or with
sudo apt-get install vidalia
Tor expects Polipo. And vidalia makes launching and checking on Tor easier, so remove the startup scripts. (If Tor is running and you try to start it from vidalia, you get an uninformative error, vidalia has a “launch at startup” option, so let it run things.) Vidalia appears under the Applications->Network.
sudo update-rc.d -f tor remove
Polipo was installed with Tor, so configure it:
sudo gedit /etc/polipo/config
Clear the file (ctrl-a, delete)
paste in the contents of this file:
(if the link above fails, search for “polipo.conf” to find the latest version)
I added the binary for polipo in Vidalia’s control panel, but that may be redundant (it lives in /usr/bin/polipo).
I had to reboot to get everything started.
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