Privacy Blog

"Friends don’t let friends get spied on.' – Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation and longtime advocate of privacy in technology.

The Latest Dump of Alleged NSA Tools puts Millions of Windows Computers at Risk

Thanks to The Shadow Brokers, any hacker can now easily attack and take over millions of Windows computers on the Internet. Actually, the risk has existed for years although probably only the NSA knew about the majority of these weaknesses in the Windows operating system. However, with the latest release of all the previously confidential information by The Shadow Brokers, everyone now has access to the same hacking tools.

The systems affected include Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 along with Windows Server versions NT, 2000, 2003, 2008 and up to 2012.

Microsoft says the company already has patched the majority of the exploits released by The Shadow Brokers. However, most of those “patches” require an upgrade to Windows 10. If you are using Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8, that isn’t such a simple “fix.” If you are using aversion of Windows older than Windows 10, hackers all over the world the tools can easily break into your computer and into millions of other older Windows computers.

Some security experts are recommending that Windows users, even those running Windows 10, should power off their computers right now and disconnect them from the Internet. Permanently. “It’s not safe to run an internet facing Windows box right now,” said a hacker who used to work in the US Department of Defense.

The Shadow Brokers claim they are releasing the information as a “public service.” The group wants Microsoft to “clean up its act” by providing more secure products. It also wishes to warn the public about the major security problems in Windows.

Details may be found on dozens of web sites. To read more, start at:

What should you do? Probably the best solution is to switch to Linux, preferably one of the Linux versions that emphasizes security. The second-best solution might be to switch to a Chromebook while the third-best solution would be to switch to a Macintosh although even a Mac is not a perfect security solution. A Mac is more secure than Windows but still not as secure as Linux or a Chromebook.

NOTE: A Chromebook is a very secure solution. First, it is based on Linux. Second, the default in a Chromebook is to never store user data in the Chromebook itself. The intended design is to store all all the user’s data in the cloud, preferably in a highly secure, encrypted cloud service. Since there is no data stored in the Chromebook, the government and private hackers cannot access private information that isn’t there.

I haven’t seen any side-by-side comparisons. However, I suspect that a Chromebook is at least as secure as Linux and probably is even more secure than Linux or any of the other popular operating systems.

Obviously, total security also depends upon the file storage service in the cloud that is being used. Several of the super-high-security cloud file storage services will work with a Chromebook.

The weakest solution would be to upgrade to Windows 10 but that probably is only a temporary solution. The underlying security problems are baked into all versions of Windows. The only difference in Windows 10 is that SOME of the security problems have been resolved. We can assume there will be future reports of Windows 10 security problems.

Windows really needs a complete re-write by security conscious programmers. After all, if Linux and Apple and Google Chromebooks can provide more secure products, why can’t Microsoft?

Then again, perhaps we should simply turn off all our computers and walk away.

Categories: Online Privacy & Security, Software

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