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Trying to Ease a Paranoid Stepfather about Cybersecurity,

Dracomaster9

20 months ago

So my stepfather is super into stuff like InfoWars and stuff, he's an uber paranoid guy with technology in particular. He wants my whole family to install a software on our devices to "protect us". I have much less stock in his concerns, but i do sympathize. His end goal is to have all of us on some remote network separate from everyone else, and he freaks out over the fact i have Google assistant on my phone.

In an attempt to console him, i've told him i have administrator rights over my devices, which means i've disabled network reports to manufacturers, which is true, but he still doesnt think i'm secure. Is there some sort of way i can convince him we aren't being targeted by the government just because we're conservative? He seems to think the gov't is profiling us and stuff, it's complete bullcrap. If there is a way i can make him at least assume i'm not being wire tapped or something, let me know so i can spare myself a headache.

Comments

  • 20 months ago
  • 5 points

He watches info wars, there is no saving him. I'm a hardcore conservative as well, but I certainly don't listen to the insanity that is Alex Jones.

  • 20 months ago
  • 4 points

I appreciate your step fathers paranoia. While I don't assume that the "powers at be" are "out to get me" like many Alex Jones Fans, I have a healthy appreciation for wanting to prevent unnecessary data collection and tracking. Not because I think it will be used "against" me somehow, not that I have anything to hide, rather, I simply feel that I have a right to privacy. I am frustrated by modern operating systems on phones and computers that default to tracking and profiling us and requiring online accounts for everything. It doesn't feel right. I grew up on an internet where, for all intents and purposes, we were all anonymous. Now, we're practically broadcasting our identity and our interests to the world with every click. The modern OS defaults to violating privacy, rather than protecting it. I don't appreciate that. The modern operating system defaults to treating my desktop as an advertising platform. I do not appreciate it. When paying customers complain on MS's forums about these legitimate concerns, they are constantly redirected and belittled.

So why be so paranoid? What's the big deal? If I have nothing to hide?

The issue is not about having something to hide, the issue is losing the option to hide when or if our relationship with the power at be takes an unfortunate turn.

I operate on the premise that government is a necessary evil. I believe many of the people who get into politics have great intentions and are good hearted people, but the machine that is politics destroys most of that and churns out garbage and grows like a virus. I also operate on the premise that when a company grows to the size of a microsoft, google, apple, amazon, etc, they are basically extensions of government.

So, what can be done?

Lock it down or don't use it or accept the lack of privacy. Up to you.

As it would turn out, very nearly every privacy invading function/feature of windows and modern browsers and search engines, can be disabled if you're willing to take the time to find the settings and disable them. For windows, an enterprise edition gets things off to a better start (clean desktop, not an advertising platform, but impractically expensive). Windows Pro with the group policy editor gives the administrator lots of power. The trick is, you have to wield it.

Enter the group policy editor>

Computer configuration>Administrative Templates>Windows Components

Here alone you'll find DOZENs of settings that can take back some privacy, like disabling telemetry data, user experience data, disable consumer experiences, disable inventory collection, block apps that leverage cloud based runtime libraries, prevent apps from having access to your calendar, calls, camera, contacts, email, location, messaging, microphone, motion, tpm, etc etc, disable cloud based app data, disable unsolicited network traffic, Block all consumer microsoft account user authentication, disable and prevent usage of onedrive, disable remote desktop services, disable remote management/shell, disable app/password/personalize/setting/connection synchronization, disable desktop sharing... There's probably dozens more here alone.

There are numerous other settings scattered in the administrative templates that can lock out more possible connections and disable more "services" that would seek to make the experience "cloud" based.

Under Computer Configuration>Windows Settings>Security Settings>Local Policies

Here you'll find dozens more opportunities to shut down privacy concerns and "holes" to the outside world. You can disable all but local log on and restrict local log-on to specified users or groups. You can completely block the use of Microsoft "cloud" accounts as local login authentication, you can disable and rename the built-in guest and administrator accounts, you can configure an interactive login banner to alert users of the system that it could still have privacy violations, you can shut down all sorts of network access and enable numerous network security policies..

The list goes on and on. This can be very tedious. Strict firewall configuration, disabling all unnecessary services, uninstall unnecessary windows features and apps, use the power-shell to remove pointless core apps. Move into User configuration policy and you can adjust windows store access policies, disable all that cloud served bullcrap like spotlight and welcome experience and experience tailored data transmission and application data sync etc etc...


There was a time, when all that garbage that has to be disabled in an OS to actually make it semi-private, wasn't even there. I never had to worry about Mac OS 7 calling home and telling Apple what I did that day.


So... what about "virtual shield?"

How about Tunnel Bear? Same idea, but promoted by someone you may relate to... Linus Tech Tip Youtube guy ;) Point being, your fathers desire to route your internet usage through a VPN isn't some fringe extreme political nut viewpoint, people with all sorts of political views have this on their radar for different reasons. I don't care if you're a democrat, republican, independent, middle of the road, super fringe, whatever, your rights are important, and privacy is one of those rights.

I would not fault anyone for paying to route their traffic through an encrypted VPN, but I would remind anyone who chooses to do this, that technically speaking, all that does is transfer the information that your ISP would know, to the VPN service instead, and effectively "block" the ability for the places you connect to, to "collect" useful information about your whereabouts, etc. This would just be one piece of a much larger puzzle to ideal privacy/security. If you're logging into your home computers with MS accounts and have Windows configured default, a VPN isn't going to change the data you're sending to microsoft, it's only going to change where that data goes before it is sent to microsoft.


Paranoid yet?

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

I understand all of this, and i suggested tunnel bear to him. While i sympathize and agree with his concerns (but not to the same degree) but what frustrates me is that he doesnt take suggestions from me because "I'm already in the palm of their hands" when the opposite is true. I use the platform. but i've found ways to make sure I'm using it, not it using me. But nonetheless, the issue i am presenting, is how do i convey my competence with this subject to my stepfather, or at least deceive him to believe there is no issue with the way we operate on the level we operate. None of us in my family are using the internet in a way which is playing into the hands of the government. Thank you for dedicating your time to my forum post, and i appreciate you taking the time to respond!

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

But nonetheless, the issue i am presenting, is how do i convey my competence with this subject to my stepfather

Problem is, any true competence on the matter will result in having to admit, that if you're using internet based systems or services from a personal device, through personal connections, we give up a piece of privacy, and begin broadcasting to the world our activities. If you don't think the government is recording activity....

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utah_Data_Center

Well... yes, they are processing and recording an enormous amount of activity on the internet. I can not claim to know to what degree they are snooping, but I think it is reasonable to assume they are collecting user activity and public forum activity, and dark web activity that does not "belong" to the original users, as part of an attempt to get ahead of national security concerns that may originate on the Internet. I have no reason to believe they are looking at everyone's "private" email (is it really private if it is mostly free email accounts provided by google/yahoo/Microsoft?), but there's no law to stop them from gathering and analyzing all sort of activity on the web, like this very post.

We have to be at an understanding that we are willing to compromise on privacy and security when we use these systems. We can go to great lengths to reduce the amount of data collected about our activity, but the only absolute solution to "taking back" that privacy, is to unplug, at an enormous compromise of convenience and entertainment and communication and information. If you want to convey competence on the matter, you have to understand the compromises...

Here's the problem... You may not be in a position to make the decision about what compromises are to be made. Unless it's YOUR internet connection, or YOUR cell phone plan.

None of us in my family are using the internet in a way which is playing into the hands of the government.

One could argue, that any internet usage, is "playing into the hands" of the governments internet system use monitoring. It's the easiest way for them to develop profiles for likely threats.

On the other hand, one could argue, that by using the internet in all the ways we normally do with no evil plots or agendas, we're actually just making it harder for the government to process all of the activity out there, as we're adding more to the pool to be processed.

  • 20 months ago
  • 3 points

Install the tor browser for him and tell him that will make him secure... lol

I mean, it will... To an extent... But in all honesty, if he really believes info wars, he needs far more help than assurances from family about network security... There's alot more there psychologically that is a root issue. If you can't get him to see reality and fiction are different, then you'll just keep playing this game with him with no end...

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Is vpn a good argument?

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

He wants to pay for a service called "Virtual Shield" and have everyone install it, but i'm not going to, and i dont think that virtual shield is a vpn anyway, but i've brought it up and he thinks its a waste of money even though he spends 200$ on a water filter.

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

"Virtual Shield" sounds like a more suspicious program than the ones he's trying to avoid...

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Tell him that most people just use malwarebytes and have even more sensitive data...

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

There are two ways to deal with this.

  1. Tell him to his face that these are risks associated with being a modern person on the internet, and that he van deal with it or go offline completely.

  2. Explain to him this info is for ads and mapping services, and that this stuff is to make your life better. Also point out how companies like Apple and Google are resisting giving info away.

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

and that this stuff is to make your life better.

No, it's to make sales to you more likely.

Still nothing nefarious about it, though.

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

i think this is the best solution i can do for now, he might try to counter the argument but i dont think he'll succeed.

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

You could elaborate that nobody in the world cares about what you, him, or I do on our devices other than companies that want to increase their odds of making a sale to us by viewing our history. There's nothing nefarious about it other than that. Putting anymore thought into beyond this is a waste of time, and a surefire way to cause anxiety when it's unnecessary. Be anxious about real things, like high blood pressure.

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Exactly, that's the issue i have with him, like, what is Big Brother going to gain by seeing Jaztwocents and LinusTechTips on my search history?

  • 20 months ago
  • 3 points

what is Big Brother going to gain by seeing Jaztwocents and LinusTechTips on my search history?

They are developing a plot to overthrow your cerebellum and make you a Russian sleeper agent, of course.

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

precisely, comrade.

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

Ayy! Fellow comrade! Join me for the daily Soviet Anthem!

Ahem! Soyuz nerushemy respublik svobodnyhk....

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

I appreciate your ability to be pragmatic about this.

So.. if our devices are just advertising platforms, why do we have to pay for them? Shouldn't Microsoft be paying me to deliver adds and suggested applications and games to my desktop?

I think we as consumers, need to start calling a spade a spade, and stop placating to convenience once and awhile. We're being taken advantage of on a lot of this stuff.

  • 20 months ago
  • 2 points

So.. if our devices are just advertising platforms, why do we have to pay for them? Shouldn't Microsoft be paying me to deliver adds and suggested applications and games to my desktop?

While you bring up a decent point we should consider another possibility. If Microsoft is already charging "X" amount for their OS and making "Y" amount of revenue from their ads, wouldn't the total "actual" cost of the OS be "X+Y"? If this is the case, and we demand they stop doing this, would they be willing to just earn revenue "X"? Or, would they increase the cost of "X" to equal "X+Y"?

It's dirty, sure. But, I would rather someone else pay "Y" considering I'm not buying whats on their ads anyway, lol.

We're being taken advantage of on a lot of this stuff.

Sadly, a side effect of Capitalism (which is great, but has its flaws).

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Your point about the X+Y is absolutely legitimate and valid. Even more so when we consider that the vast majority of windows 10 licences are actually "Free" upgrade from win7, or were distributed "bulk" as OEM licences with laptops, portables, and compact desktops.

The "evil plot" to get everyone migrated to windows 10 for "Free" then turn on the advertising was a genius move.

My issue, is that as a PC "builder" I've paid full price for windows 10 on many computers, both personal and at work, and have to deal with this garbage AFTER paying a sum that used to buy a clean OS.

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

I've paid full price for windows 10 on many computers, both personal and at work, and have to deal with this garbage AFTER paying a sum that used to buy a clean OS.

This makes me wonder if they should offer an "ad-free" version for a bit more. It would provide an extra revenue source (apart from ads) and appeal to those that find this really distasteful. It does seem like it would pertain to more of the layman, though. Since someone with enough knowledge can disable these features for free.

I don't know. Just a random thought, lol. :)

  • 20 months ago
  • 1 point

Unfortunately, some of the "content" is delivered with updates, so can't be totally disabled unless we stop updating.

That being said, I feel like they already have all the different versions they need, they just need to start actually making them what they claim to be.

Windows "Home" should indeed be a free to use for home computing, gaming etc OS, that has content/ad delivery.

I don't think it is reasonable to sell an operating system named "professional" that includes "candy crush saga" and "mixed reality portal" and "Xbox" all pre-loaded, and then have MS representatives on support forums trying to call these games legitimate core applications of windows 10.

That's like selling a drill, calling it the professional model, but delivering it to the customer in a Disney Movie Themed Lunch Pail instead of a rugged injection molded tool case.

I wonder if there isn't wiggle room for a lawsuit on the grounds of blatant false advertising. An operating system called "professional" that comes out of the box with a bunch of kids games as "provisioned" applications is not professional at all. In fact, it makes us all look like a bunch of incompetent consumers who have somehow allowed it to get this bad.

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