Category Archives: security

join the EFF summer security reboot and get some cool dice

DSC01217The Electronic Frontier Foundation is on the fore-front when it comes to defending our digital rights. Even as a European I think they are doing important work even though they are mostly US centric. This because whatever happens in the US ripples over the pond and affects Europe and the rest of the world anyway. That means that next to larger fast-food portions increased digital surveillance is on its way to the EU as well.
Next to protecting our digital rights they are the author of a number of awesome security plugins and tools like the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger browser plugins and a driving force behind the Let’s Encrypt free web site certificate tool set.

Next to a lot of security tools and tips (see the site & newsletter) they now have a Summer Security Reboot fund drive where you can get a cool geeky secure-password generating dice set for a mere $20 membership until the 20th of July.

So if you like what they are doing for a secure and free internet in the future, go check them out and get yourself some cool dice in the process.

If you feel more like donating to a EU centric counterpart of EFF, you can check out EDRI.org instead (no dice there though).

Photo by Violet Blue, cc-licensed.

disabling Dell software without uninstalling

Yes, a cat. Cause it's the internet after all.

You know how it goes. You get this new and shiny computer from big computer company X and with it you don’t only get your OEM licensed Windows OS but also some “super handy” tools X happened to install just for you.

Dell is no different so mine come with Dell Data Vault, Dell SupportAssist and Dell Update Service. All of this is (of course) for your own benefit to update your machine to the latest drivers and blah blah blah, even though anything crucial is sent through Windows update anyway.

The downside is that these things are constantly running and using up your precious CPU and memory, while you’ll probably never need them. Ever. Oh, and they also come with some security vulnerabilities apparently, which is always a good reason to kick their butt.

I don’t know what Dell Data Vault even does and don’t care to either (its backup software probably). To make things worse it even causes my system to lag sometimes which I notice as my audio glitches up when that happens. I don’t always listen to breakcore you know, so I do noticed that sometimes.

I also noticed that uninstalling Dell Data Service is pointless as (I think) the Dell UpdateService will just reinstall it. Which sucks.

So I see two options.

  1. Uninstalling all Dell related software. This is kinda drastic and you might want that stuff if you need support after all.
  2. Disable the software and prevent it from starting up altogether.

So how do you stop those services from starting up automatically? Here’s how:

  1. On you desktop, press WindowsKey-R, this brings up the Run prompt.
  2. Type services.msc and hit enter. This brings up the list of services installed on your machine.
  3. Look for the Dell ones in the list.
  4. Open them, one by one, and in the General tab select the startup type “Disabled”.
  5. Hit “OK” to save.

How to disable a service from auto-starting.Note that in the screenshot I’m disabling a completely innocent service per demonstration as I don’t have a Dell machine handy with an English version of Windows on it.

From now on those pesky services won’t be wasting your resources anymore, until the day you might need them again. All you have to do then is go back into the services console and switch the startup type back to Automatic and save.
Then right-click the services in the list and choose “Start”, or simply reboot the machine.

But we’re not quite there yet. There’s still the case of PCDoctor and the SupportAssist client. Those sneaky startups are hidden in the scheduled tasks. You can disable them using the Task Scheduler like this:

  1. Press WinKey-R and type Taskschd.msc, press enter.
  2. In the list of scheduled tasks in the root node you’ll see a “Dell SupportAssistAgent AutoUpdate” or something similar.
  3. Right click the task and choose “Disable”.
  4. Repeat for any other Dell tasks in there.

They don’t all have “Dell” in their name, but if you check the Action tab below the path to the executable will give them away (like in the screenshot). In my case I had some additional PCD (PC Doctor) tasks and one SystemToolsDailyTest task to disable.

Another good tool to disable scheduled tasks if from the CCleaner tools menu, or by using the SysInternals Autoruns tool.The name of the task doesn't tell, but the path to the executable does indicate it's a piece of Dell software.

This worked for me, but as is mostly the case with things you find on the internet… use this info wisely and at your own risk. ;)

Photo by Massimo Regonati, cc-licensed.

reset the net

On´n´Off - Going into standby mode

It’s on!

If you want to kick some NSA buttocks and claim your privacy then get yourself this reset the net pack and install some super-duper encryption for your PC, Mac and phone(s).

There ain’t that much on there really, but if you scroll down to the Other Resources section there’s links there like the Prism Break one I mentioned before, which contain tons of (more techy) tools and software for all your stealthy encryption needs.

Photo by Sven Seiler, cc-licensed.