Microsoft Spyware Now Being Installed On Win 7

Monday, August 24, 2015 

If you’re the sort of person who isn’t entirely happy about the idea of Microsoft claiming the right to copy your personal files, photos, emails, chat logs, diary entries, medical records, etc over to their own servers to sell to whoever they want for whatever they can get for your personal data – into markets that already exist for insurance companies to deny you insurance based on algorithmic analysis of your habits or your friends habits or for financial institutions to set your interest rates based on similar criterion, or perhaps even for law enforcement to investigate you without a warrant, then OBVIOUSLY you would never, ever install Windows 10 under any circumstances.

Well, Microsoft seems to have fully jumped on the Google/Facebook gravy train and is now completely invested in stealing your data and selling it to the highest bidder (Apple has been exfiltrating your data for a long time, but so far for internal use).  I’ve become more suspect of Microsoft’s updates since they made the Windows 10 advertisement an important (not optional) update (important for what? their bottom line, obviously).  Turns out that the latest updates to Windows 7 are pushing Microsoft’s new business model of stealing your data for profit to Windows 7 and 8.

Staying safe is going to require ever more vigilance.  It may be possible to block windows components from reaching out to microsoft’s servers at the personal firewall level and certainly it can be done at the corporate firewall level (and should be), but blocking Microsoft is a somewhat complex issue.  You can’t run Windows safely without installing security patches because the underlying OS is so completely insecure that new, critical, exploitable flaws are discovered every single week.  If you don’t constantly patch these security failures, you will be hacked by people other than microsoft.  If you install the wrong microsoft patch, you will be hacked by microsoft.  Debian anyone? Also, software developers developing enterprise software, please, please, please stop developing for that horrible, insecure, performance hobbling abomination of a tarted-up single-user OS “Server” and focus on a secure, stable server OS like FreeBSD.  Please.  I hate, hate having to fork over $1k to microsoft for each box to run their horrible OS just so I can run your software.  Why do you support that extortion? Do you despise your customers that much? Stop.

If you care about corporate governance and data security or HIPAA compliance, you are probably violating some critical requirements by installing windows 10 or these new updates to your existing Win7/8 base if you do not block data exfiltration to Microsoft’s servers.  This is spyware.  These updates are stealing your data and sending it to Microsoft.  If your business is subject to data privacy laws, these updates put you in violation of those laws.  Microsoft is doing something that is extremely significant and extremely evil and completely wrong.  Take action or you may very well be facing personal or corporate consequences.  srsly.

I am a strong believer in data privacy and extremely suspect of what I consider highly disingenuous business practices like Google’s but I recognize that there are reasonable people out there who think Google isn’t evil.  However, this windows 10 issue, now being pushed to windows 7, goes well beyond Google taking advantage of people’s historical assumptions about the security of email to offer them a free look-alike honey trap to gather their data.  Windows 10 and these Win 7 updates are intrusive, not merely misleading.  Do not update.  Srsly.  Do not update.  Block the spyware “hotfixes.”

Stop Gap Fixes

In researching these updates, I came across this article on techworm that has a nice summary of the Malware updates Microsoft is pushing out (with some additional amendments I found):

With a whiff of irony, this google search “telemetry site:” shows these patches and many more…

Do not automatically install Microsoft updates.  You must turn that feature off or you will keep getting additional spyware installed.  Go to windows update and verify your settings.  I have mine set so windows downloads the updates (so the updates are waiting locally), but I don’t let windows install them automatically.  That gives me a chance to review the updates and look for spyware.


When you get updates, you now have to check each one of them to find out if it is spyware or not.  The list above is current as far as I know, but clicking on the “more information” link to the right of the updates list will get you microsoft’s marketing speak obfuscation of the true purpose.  Any update that “adds telemetry points” or something like that is spyware.  Uncheck the install and hide the update.  Note that some of these were moved from “optional” to “important.”  Microsoft is absolutely intent on stealing your data and is taking some pretty underhanded steps to make it difficult for you to avoid it.



If updates get past you or it turns out later that a seemingly important or innocuous update was spyware (the fun part is that you now have to be vigilant and look all this stuff up), then you can uninstall them from the “installed updates” control panel.


Work to be done

I’ll start looking into firewall settings to block communication to microsoft’s servers.  This is a standard anti-malware technique and should work here, except that microsoft has so many servers it is more challenging to block them than your typical malware botnet.

We need something like a variant of Peer Guardian to block microsoft’s servers using the standard P2P crowd-sourcing model to keep the list up to date. I’m not aware of anything like this yet, but I’m looking.  Microsoft has become more of an enemy to privacy than the RIAA ever was.

UPDATE:  this superuser answer includes a list of telemetry endpoints to block at your firewall or router.  Alternatively you can edit your hosts file and add these entries from DSL reports.

Larger Significance

This shift in business focus by Microsoft from providing a product people are willing to pay for to stealing data from people to sell on the commercial market has some significant lessons for the entire software model.

It isn’t just that Microsoft is now adopting Google’s business model of giving away “free” goodies as traps to collect product (you) to sell to the highest bidder, but that the model of corporate trust that underpins most of the security assumptions the internet is built on is manifestly false and unsustainable.  If any hacker tried to create these spyware updates, locked-down computers that only install signed code would refuse to install them.  Ignoring for the moment that the signed code model is idiotically flawed as signing keys are stolen all the time, this microsoft spyware is properly signed with legitimate keys.  It will be installed on locked down computers without complaint and will not show up in commercial anti-virus software.  But it is spyware.  It contains keyloggers and extremely productive data exfiltration code that is currently copying wholesale data dumps from unfortunate victims to Microsoft’s servers in such volume that their data caps are being hit.

If a non-commercial third party (e.g. “hacker”) did this, they’d be prosecuted.  It makes no difference to you that your data is being stolen by Microsoft rather than by some clever teenager in a former eastern block country: your data is being stolen.  But the model that has been promoted, a model of centralized corporate trust to validate the “security” of your system has been utterly and irrevocably shattered.  This isn’t an accident, isn’t something that better data management might have prevented, this is an intentional ex post facto rewrite of the usual, customary, and regular assumptions we have about the privacy of our computer systems and one that significantly impacts the security of almost everyone in the world: military, medical, legal, fiduciary, as well as personal.

And even if you trust Microsoft (for whatever bizarre, irrational reason), Microsoft is creating a whole series of security holes in their already crappy and insecure operating system that will be exploited by third parties.  By adding keyloggers and data exfiltration tools to the core OS, they’re making it even easier for non-corporate hackers to jump on the data theft gravy train. Everyone profits but you. You lose.

Posted at 04:19:18 UTC

Category: Privacytechnology

Disk Checks for Large Arrays

Friday, August 21, 2015 

If you have a large array of disks attached to your server, which is obviously going to be running FreeBSD or OpenBSD if you care about security, stability, and scalability; there are some tricks for dealing with large numbers of disks (like having 227 4TB disks attached to a single host).

Using Bash (yes there are security issues, but it is powerful)

# for i in `seq 0 227`; do smartctl -t short /dev/da$i; sleep 15; done 1Thanks Jared

executes a short smart test on all disks. Smartctl seems to max out at 32 concurrent tests, so sleep 15 ensures the 3 minute tests are finishing before new ones are executed. If you’re in a hurry, sleep 5 should do the trick and ensure all of them execute.

to get results try something like:

# for i in `seq 0 227`; do echo "/dev/da$i"; smartctl -a /dev/da$i; sleep .5; done

Bulk Fixes

Problem with the disks – need to clear existing formatting?

unmount each disk

# for i in `seq 0 227`; do umount -f /dev/da$i; done

unlock (if needed)

# sysctl kern.geom.debugflags=0x10

Overwrite the start of each disk

# for i in `seq 0 227`; do dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/da$i bs=1k count=100; done

Overwrite the end of each disk

# for i in `seq 0 227`; do dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/da$i bs=1m oseek=`diskinfo da$i | awk '{print int($3 / (1024*1024)) - 4;}'`; done

Recreate GPT (for ZFS)

# for i in `seq 0 227`; do gpart create -s gpt /dev/da$i; sleep .5; done

Destroy multipaths

# for i in `seq 1 114`; do gmultipath destroy disk$i; done

Disable multipath completely

# for i in `seq 1 114`; do gmultipath destroy disk$i; done
# gmultipath unload
# mv /boot/kernel-debug/geom_multipath.ko /boot/kernel-debug/geom_multipath.ko.bad
# mv /boot/kernel/geom_multipath.ko /boot/kernel/geom_multipath.ko.bad

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Thanks Jared
Posted at 12:52:56 UTC

Category: FreeBSDHowTotechnology

Better Cabling May Fix The Internet

Sunday, February 8, 2015 

Do you find that the internet seems harsh? Do you find Facebook unclear and that it lacks dynamic contrast? Is there less detail than there should be? Do you notice a loss of energy from the Internet?

It might all come down to the network cables themselves.

AudioQuest Diamond Ethernet Cable

Well designed cables like these have perfect-surface extreme-purity silver conductors minimizing distortion caused by grain boundaries in inferior OFHC, OCC, or 8N conductors for better clarity and reduced harshness. Explanations and arguments will be both more clearly constructed and less confrontational.

Noise and other distractions are reduced by a 3-layer noise dissipation system, not just shielding your data but preventing modulation of your ground plane by noisy RFI.  Even more problematically for those doing research on the web, the untested orientation of standard network cables results in inferior data quality.

Standard network cables either don’t enforce orientation of the pairs at all (Cat 5e and below) or merely segregate pairs with a flexible spacer (Cat 6 and above). These cables use solid polyethylene insulation to ensure critical geometry is preserved to minimize phase errors. Phase errors can easily result in Doppler shifts manifest in either an unnaturally shrill tone or affected bass (sometimes manifest as “mansplaining”).

Most remarkably, the dielectric bias system puts a 72V bias on the insulation and thus organizes the molecules of the insulation to minimize energy loss which creates a surprisingly black background, more essential than ever in the wake of Ferguson.

Only $10,521 for a 12m cable. Now that the internet has become our primary source of information, understanding, and personal communication this is a tiny price to pay for clear, undistorted data.

Posted at 19:24:18 UTC

Category: oddtechnology

Speaker Build

Friday, November 28, 2014 

In December of 2002 (really, 2002, 12 years ago), I decided that the crappy former Sony self-amplified speakers with blown amplifiers that I had wired into my stereo as surround speakers really didn’t sound very good as they were, by then, 7 years old and the holes in the plastic housing where the adjustment knobs once protruded were covered by aging gaffers tape.

At least it was stylish black tape.

I saw on ebay a set of “Boston Acoustics” woofers and tweeters back in the time when ebay prices could be surprisingly good.  Boston Acoustics was a well-respected company at the time making fairly decent speakers.  36 woofers and 24 tweeters for $131 including shipping.  About 100 lbs of drivers.  And thus began the execution of a fun little project.


Design Phase: 2003-2011

I didn’t have enough data to design speaker enclosures around them, but about a year later (in 2003), I found this site, which had a process for calculating standard speaker properties with instruments I have (frequency generator, oscilloscope, etc.)  I used the weighted diaphragm method.

WOOFER: PN 304-1150001-00 22 JUL 2000
FS  = 58HZ
RE  = 3.04 OHMS
QMS = 1.629
QES = 0.26
QTS = 0.224
CMS = 0.001222
EBP = 177.8

TWEETER: PN 304-050001-00 16 OCT 2000
FS  = 269HZ
RE  = 3.29 OHMS
QMS = 5.66
QES = 1.838
QTS = 1.387
CMS = 0.0006
VAS = 0.0778 (LITERS)
EBP = 86.7


Awesome.  I could specify a cross over and begin designing a cabinet.  A few years went by…

In January of 2009 I found a good crossover at AllElectronics.  It was a half decent match and since it was designed for 8 ohm woofers, I could put two of my 4 ohm drivers in series and get to about the right impedance for better power handling (less risk of clipping at higher volumes and lower distortion as the driver travel is cut in half, split between the two).


Eventually I got around to calculating the enclosure parameters.  I’m not sure when I did that, but sometime between 2009 and 2011.  I found a site with a nice script for calculating a vented enclosure with dual woofers, just like I wanted and got the following parameters:


1" PVC PORT TUBE: OD = 2.68CM, ID = 2.1CM = 3.46 CM^2
PORT LENGTH = 10.48CM = 4.126"

WIDTH = 12.613 = 4.829"
HEIGHT = 20.408 = 7.82"
DEPTH = 7.795 = 3"

In 2011 I got around to designing the enclosure in CAD:

There was no way to fit the crossover inside the enclosure as the drivers have massive, magnetically shielded drivers, so they got mounted on the outside.  The speakers were designed for inside mounting (as opposed to flange mounting) so I opted to radius the opening to provide some horn-loading.

I also, over the course of the project, bought some necessary tools to be prepared for eventually doing the work: a nice Hitachi plunge router and a set of cheap router bits to form the radii and hole saws of the right size for the drivers and PVC port tubes.

Build Phase (2014)

This fall, Oct 9 2014, everything was ready and the time was right.  The drivers had aged just the appropriate 14 years since manufacture and were in the peak of their flavor.

I started by cutting down some PVC tubes to make the speaker ports and converting some PVC caps into the tweeter enclosure.  My first experiment with recycled shelf wood for the tweeter mounting plate failed: the walls got a bit thin and it was clear that decent plywood would make life easier.  I used the shelf wood for the rest of the speaker: it was salvaged from my building, which was built in the 1930s and is probably almost 100 years old.  The plywood came with the building as well, but was from the woodworker who owned it before me.

I got to use my router after so many years of contemplation to shape the faceplates, fabricated from some fairly nice A-grade plywood I had lying around.

Once I got the boxes glued up, I installed the wiring and soldered the drivers in.  The wood parts were glued together with waterproof glue while the tweeters and plastic parts were installed with two component clear epoxy.  The low frequency drivers had screw mounting holes, so I used those in case I have to replace them, you know, from cranking the tunage.

I lightly sanded the wood to preserve the salvage wood character (actually no power sander and after 12 years, I wasn’t going to sand my way to clean wood by hand) then treated them with some polyurethane I found left behind by the woodworker that owned the building before I did.  So that was at least 18 years old.  At least.

I supported the speakers over the edge of the table to align the drivers in the holes from below.

The finished assembly looked more or less like I predicted:


The speakers sound objectively quite nice, but I was curious about the frequency response.  To test them I used the pink noise generator in Audacity to generate 5.1 6 channel pink noise files which I copied over to the HTPC to play back through my amp.  This introduces the amp’s frequency response, which is unlikely to be particularly good, and room characteristics, which are certainly not anechoic.

Then I recorded the results per speaker on a 24/96 Tascam DR-2d recorder, which also introduces some frequency response issues, and imported the audio files back into Audacity (and the original pink noise file), plotted the spectrum with 65536 poles, and exported the text files into excel for analysis.

Audacity’s pink noise looks like this:


It’s pretty good – a bit off plan below 10 Hz and the random noise gets a bit wider as the frequency increases, but it is pretty much what it should be.

First, I tested one of my vintage ADS L980 studio monitors.  I bought my L980s in high school in about 1984 and have used them ever since.  In college I blew a few drivers (you know, cranking tunage) but they were all replaced with OEM drivers at the Tweeter store (New England memories).  They haven’t been used very hard since, but the testing process uncovered damage to one of my tweeters, which I fixed before proceeding.

ADS L980 Spectrum

The ADS L980 has very solid response in the low frequency end with a nicely manufactured 12″ woofer and good high end with their fancy woven tweeter.  A 3 way speaker, there are inevitably some complexities to the frequency response.

I also tested my Klipsch KSC-C1 Center Channel speaker (purchased in 2002 on ebay for $44.10) to see what that looked like:

It isn’t too bad, but clearly weaker in the low frequency, despite moderate sized dual woofers and with a bit of a spike in the high frequency that maybe is designed in for TV and is perhaps just an artifact of the horn loaded tweeter. It is a two way design and so has a fairly smooth frequency response in the mid-range, which is good for the voice program that a center speaker mostly carries.

And how about those new ones?

New Speaker Spectrum

Well… not great, a little more variability than one would hope, and (of course) weak below about 100Hz.  I’m a little surprised the tweeters aren’t a little stronger over about 15kHz, though while that might have stood out to me in 1984, it doesn’t now.  Overall the response is quite good for relatively inexpensive drivers, the low frequency response, in particular, is far better than I expected given the small drivers.  The high frequency is a bit spiky, but quite acceptable sounding.

And they sound far, far better than the poor hacked apart Sony speakers they replaced.

Raw Data

The drawings I fabricated from and the raw data from my tests are in the files linked below:

Speaker Design Files (pdf)

Pink Noise Tests (xlsx)

Posted at 21:05:03 UTC

Category: AudioFabricationHowTophototechnology

Visiting the Burj Khalifa

Saturday, February 2, 2013 

Dubai is an interesting contrast to Iraq. The first time I went through DXB from BSR it was more than a little culture shock. Getting out of the airport only amplifies the experience.

Dubai DSC03683.jpg

Jared and I had dinner at the Mall of Dubai and before eating had a little walk around the fountains – the largest dancing fountains in the world at the foot of the tallest man-made structure in the world.

Dubai DSC03693.jpg

Dubai is an good place to spot cars. Obviously the gold accented rolls is more pose-worthy than the $450k GTO. Then again they were probably posing with the license plate number which I think was 1, and therefore cost as much as 20 Ferrari GTOs.

Dubai DSC03695.jpg
The fire fountains:
[quicktime width=”560″ height=”331″][/quicktime]

Dubai DSC03692.jpg

Posted at 17:58:15 UTC

Category: mapphotoplacestravelvideo

Lucca Comics and Games 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 

Lucca Comics and Games is a bit like Comic-con except in a medieval walled city, which goes well with a lot of the costumes.

World of Warcraft?

Posted at 09:12:49 UTC

Category: Eventsplacestravel

FB vs. G+

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 

An interesting artifact of the FB vs. G+ debate is the justification by a lot of tech-savvy people in moving to G+ from FB because they believe Google to be less evil.  It is an odd comparison to make, both companies are in essentially the same business: putting out honey pots of desirable web properties, attracting users, harvesting them, and selling their data.

Distinguishing between grades of evil in companies that harvest and sell user data seems a little arbitrary.  I’d think it would make more sense to use each resource for what it does well rather than arbitrarily announce that you’re one or the other.

However, if one is making the choice as to what service to call home on the basis of least “evil” and assuming that metric is derived in some way from the degree to which the company in question harvests your data and sells it, then it is somewhat illuminating to look at real numbers.  One can assume that the more deeply one probes each user captured by the honey pot, the more data extracted, the more aggressively sold, the more money one makes. The company that makes the most money per user is probing the deepest and selling the hardest.

From Technology Review May/June 2011, annual revenue per monthly unique US visitor:

Facebook: $ 12.10
Google:     $163.60

Google squeezes out and sells more than 13.5x the data per user. Google wins. But Facebook is gathering $12.10 worth of user data, why should Google allow Facebook to have it? If Google wins that last morsel of data to take to market and takes out Facebook, Google can increase their gross revenue by 7%.

I’ve also heard people argue that Zuckerberg seems more personally avaricious, mean, or evil than Google’s founders, comparing Google’s marketing spin to “The Social Network”

Zuckerberg’s only newsworthy purchase was a $7m house in Palo Alto. Google co-founders were in the news over a lawsuit between them over whether their 767 “party plane” (Eric Schmidt) could house Brin’s California king bed. This is in addition to their 757 and two Gulfstream Vs they talked NASA into letting them park at Moffet under the pretense that the planes would be retrofit with instruments for NASA. When they couldn’t do that (FAA regs, who knew?), they bought a Dornier Alpha, but still get to park their jumbo jets and gulfstreams inside NASA hangers for some reason. Suck on that, Ellison!

Posted at 01:25:13 UTC

Category: technologyvanity sites

Frankfurt Finally Gets Civilized

Saturday, July 2, 2011 

For a decade a I filled out complaint forms every week at United Red Carpet Clubs explaining that they were being short-sighted charging for internet service, a service they could provision for a few hundred dollars a month and would have drawn customers to them. They finally got around to fixing their stupid contract about the time airports started giving away wifi for free in the concourse, making the lounge the tier 2 place to be for a business traveler.

Finally, Frankfurt has realized the same thing. Oddly, Munich has been giving away access cards for years now, but Frankfurt was always a dead zone for an international traveler. today I was very pleased to see this slightly oddly worded greeting.

Lufthansa makes you a gift.JPG
Posted at 02:50:36 UTC

Category: -


Monday, June 13, 2011 

Or effective comarketing.

The ice cream is $5/gallon and the Diabetes is FREE!
Posted at 15:53:41 UTC

Category: funnyGeopostphoto

Opting Out for Privacy

Friday, December 3, 2010 

There’s a great story at the wall street journal describing some of the techniques that are being used to track people on line that I found informative (as are the other articles listed in the series in the box below).  EFF is doing some good work on this; your browser configuration probably uniquely identifies you and thus every site you’ve ever visited (via data exchanges).  Unique information about you is worth about $0.00_1.  Collecting a few hundred million 1/10ths of a cent starts to add up and may end up raising your insurance premiums.

One of the more entertaining/disturbing tricks is to use “click jacking” to remotely enable a person’s webcam or microphone.  Is your computer or network running slowly? Maybe it is the video you’re inadvertently streaming back (and maybe you just have way too many tabs open…)

A few things you can do to improve your privacy include:

  • Opt out of Rapleaf. Rapleaf collects user information about you and ties it to your email address.  You have to opt out with each email address individually, which almost certainly confirms to them that all your email addresses belong to the same person.  You might want to use unique Tor sessions for each opt out if you don’t want them to get more information than they already have via the process.
  • Opt out at NAI. This is a one stop shop for the basic cookie tracking companies that are attempting to be semi-compliant with privacy requests.  If you enable javascript for the site (which would be disabled by default if you’re using scriptblocker) then you can opt out of all of them at once.  Presumably you have to return and opt out again every time a new company comes along.
  • Use Tor for anything sensitive.  If you care about privacy, learn about Tor.  It does slow browsing so you have to be very committed to use it for everything.  But the browser plug in makes it pretty easy to turn it on for easy browsing.
  • Don’t use IE for anything personal or important.
  • Run SpyBot Search and Destory regularly.  Spybot helps block BHOs and toolbars that seem to proliferate automagically and helps remove tracking cookies.  You’ll be amazed at how many are installed on your system.  I have used or not used TeaTimer.  I’m less excited about having a lot of background tools, even helpful ones than I used to be.  Spybot currently starts out looking for 1,359,854 different known spywares.  Yikes.
  • Check what people know about you:  Google will tell you, so will Yahoo.  Spooky.
  • Use firefox.  If for no other reason than the following plugins (personally, it is my favorite, but I know people who favor chrome or even rockmelt, but talk about tracking!)  Just don’t use IE.
  • Use the private browsing mode in your browser (CTRL-SHIFT-P in FireFox).  It’d be nice if you could enable non-private browsing on a whitelist basis for sites you either trust or have to trust.  We’ll get there eventually…
  • TACO should help block flash cookies.
  • Install noscript to block scripts by default.  You can add all your favorite sites as you go so things work.  It is a pain in the ass for a while, but security requires vigilance.
  • Install adblock plus.  It helps keep the cookies away.    It also reduces ad annoyance.  You can enable ads for your favorite sites so they can pay their colo fees.
  • Add HTTPS Everywhere from EFF. The more your connections to sites are encrypted, the less your ISP (and others) can see about what you’re doing while you’re there.  Your ISP still knows every site you visit, and probably sells that information, but if your sessions are encrypted they don’t see the actual text you type.  It also makes it harder for script kiddies to grab your passwords at the cafe.
Posted at 02:44:43 UTC

Category: politicstechnology