Category: Privacy

More info on Microsoft’s push to track Windows 7 and 8 users

Surely you’ve already read that Windows 10 includes some pretty disappointing user tracking baked into it.  Microsoft is also pushing this tracking down to its Windows 7 and 8 operating systems.

Aside:  I get the Win 10 thing.  It’s free.  Do what you want with your free operating system.  But quietly inserting anti-privacy shit into operating systems that people have already paid for?  Ludicrous.  Offensive.  Ridiculous.  It’s prompted me to finally get off my ass and move all the machines I can off of Windows and onto Linux, for good.

Anyway, yeah, MS is pushing this stuff into your operating system without really giving you any indication.  The current list of updates that should trouble you are as follows:

You can remove these updates via command line thusly:

wusa /uninstall /KB:2952664 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:2990214 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3021917 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3022345 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3035583 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3044374 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3068708 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3075249 /norestart /quiet
wusa /uninstall /KB:3080149 /norestart /quiet

In fact, you can save the above to a .bat file and run it.  This takes them off, but unfortunately doesn’t prevent them from presenting themselves for install in the future.  To fix that you’ll have to head to Windows Update, let it scan what you’re missing, and then go through that list hunting for each of these.  When you come across one, right click it and choose to hide it.

This is the list for now… I sincerely doubt this is where it will end, however.  Have you tried Linux lately?

Microsoft slips it to you on Windows 7 and 8

Microsoft is slipping into Windows 7 and 8 the same data mining and privacy violating tracking that has made news for being a part of Windows 10.  I’m in the midst of absorbing it all, but for now further info, including updates to block, can be found here.

Also, instructions on how to opt-out of their CEIP (Customer Experience Improvement Program) which if you’ve installed Office you’ve surely inadvertently joined, can be found here.

This is getting to be a bit much.

Tracking Protection in Firefox – let it help you

By turning on tracking protection in Firefox you’ll not only get some help in blocking sites known to track their visitors, but you’ll reduce your page load time.  Win win!

  1. In the URL/Location bar in Firefox, enter about:config and hit enter.
  2. You’ll get a friendly warning that you’re poking around under the hood.  Promise to be careful to continue.
  3. Search for privacy.trackingprotection.enabled and set it to True.

That’s it!

Google Authenticator Application Passwords

I use Google Authenticator extensively, as I’m a big fan of multi-factor authentication.  In fact, I wish I could use it everywhere I’m required to input a password.

But when using it with your Google account it can get in the way of applications requiring access.  A thick mail client, for instance.  An app that publishes to YouTube.  An addon that syncs contacts.

They’ve solved this problem by allowing the creation of app specific passwords.  Works great.  But, as per usual with Google, finding the information you need can be problematic.  So, log into your Google account and head here:

On Privacy

Online privacy’s been a thing for me for years now.  Not because I’m doing anything “wrong,” but simply because I feel it’s my right – and your right – not to be snooped on.

I don’t pretend to be an expert at this (or at anything, for that matter), but here are a few things I use and recommend to try to keep prying eyes away:

Use Firefox.  I used to be a Chrome fan, but Google’s a big part of the problem.  No organization is perfect, but Mozilla – thus far – seems much more interested in our individual well being than that of any other browser offering.  And the very first step in locking down Firefox is to navigate to Tools > Options > Privacy and choose “Tell sites that I do not want to be tracked.”  

Next, a slew of Firefox add-ons:

  1. HTTPS Everywhere – An EFF offering (and are you a member of EFF? You should be.) that forces a secure connection to your surfing destination whenever possible.
  2. DoNotTrackMe – a tracking blocker.
  3. disconnect – another tracking blocker, this one specifically tailored towards social media.
  4. Ghostery – a configurable tracker/cookie blocker.
  5. AdBlock Plus – perhaps not so much so for privacy, but for sanity.  Surfing the web without ABP freaks me out.
  6. DuckDuckGo – Make DuckDuckGo your search engine of choice.  Simply go to the site, and then click the icon next to the search field (to the right of the URL field in Firefox) and add it.

Other security/privacy conscious items I use include:

  • TrueCrypt – I use TC for create encrypted containers to store all my sensitive data, personal and client related.  It adds a much needed layer of comfort to using sync services such as Dropbox or Windows Live.  Granted, it makes it a pain in the ass to sync (the whole container must be resynced rather than just the changed files within it), but with a decent connection and some common sense container sizing it’s worth it.  I also use TC whole disk encryption on all my family’s laptops.  If someone swipes your ‘top, at least they’re not getting your data!
  • VPN – Securitykiss is but one of many VPN services.  I can’t speak to their effectiveness specifically – I include them only as an example.  A Google search will pull up a wealth of free and paid VPN options, along with plenty of reviews.  VPN is essentially a tunnel between your computer and a remote gateway, through which your online requests are routed.  The theory is that your traffic is effectively anonymized by way of emanating from a shared point of entry to the ‘net (the gateway), meaning it’s undifferentiated from the traffic of everyone else utilizing the gateway.  The tunnel between you and the gateway is also secured via encryption.  Ultimately the effectiveness of VPN relies on the provider, as they have the ability to log your activity in their tunnel.  In other words, do your research and choose wisely.

There are lots of other privacy options out there, like TOR, but the few things I’ve listed above are the simplest ways to start securing your privacy.