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News Link • Surveillance

Do Personal Computers Come With NSA Surveillance Devices Built-In As Standard?

• TechDirt
.... But in the wake of Snowden's revelations about the astonishing range of technologies that the NSA has developed in order to infiltrate hardware systems -- things like radio transmitters built into USB leads -- the GCHQ's actions immediately raise a troubling thought: that most or all mainstream computers routinely contain various components that can be used to spy on us....

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Ed Price
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Who knows how many methods for tracking and secret info retrieval are stuck in all our computers. But the NSA isn't the only one. Microsoft - possibly in conjunction with the NSA - is another. Here is what I found when I bought my new computer a few months ago.

First, in computers of the past that I have owned, there has been a simple method for controlling the boot drive order, before you actually get the computer up and running. In other words, if you hold down, say, the F12 (or some other) key on the keyboard, while the computer is booting up, it gives you an option to boot from a floppy drive (if you have one), a USB port (if there is a flash drive inserted), a CD drive, or some other drive that might be in the computer. The reason for this is so that you can boot from an operating system (OS) that is different than the main one on the computer. There are reasons that I am not going to get into why you might want to do this.

In my new computer running Windows 8, it took me a long time to find the method to change or select the boot drive order. There is a special method for setting the Bios to allow you to change the boot drive order. While this might be a protection for an amateur - so that he/she won't mess the computer up - it also makes it a little difficult for anyone to boot from a different OS than the W8 that the computer came with.

Once I got past the Bios adjustment (found the answer online; won't stop crooks from getting into your computer), I started booting from a Linux OS that I downloaded and installed to a USB flash drive - not all computers can boot through flash. Things worked fine until after I had done some of the automatic updates - that Windows does through the Internet on a regular basis. After a few updates, the computer wouldn't let me start using the manual boot selection key WITHOUT FIRST DOING A PARTIAL BOOT INTO WINDOWS, then shutting down, and finally attempting the reboot again with the boot selection key.

I thought about this for awhile, and have really come to no conclusions. BUT, Windows could have a method for recording reboots in a different OS. What they would want this info for is unclear. But since they don't tell you what goes on with their system programs, how can anyone tell if what they have in mind is beneficial to anyone but them? They are probably using this to collect some kind of marketing info on the sly, recording OS changes, and even running programs inside the other OS without telling you about it.

The thing that seems to work for me to bypass this W8 boot "glitch" is, before I boot up using a different drive than the main one, or a different OS than my W8, I disconnect the power from the computer, and then attempt to boot the computer without the power source connected. I go so far as to hold the start button engaged for the 4 or 5 seconds that it would normally take to shut down a running computer.

What I have done by doing this is, I have removed much (if not all) of the reserve capacitance charge in the computer, that is directing the computer to start with the W8 OS, rather than going to the boot-order screen. Now, the computer goes directly to the boot-order selection screen, without attempting to boot up in W8 first.

Watch your computer. Watch the start-up and shutdown times. Watch what it does. Get to know if it is acting properly - at least similarly to the last few times you shut it down and started it up. Why? Because it is easy for hidden OS programs, and spy programs, to record a whole bunch of your info, and transmit it when you get onto the Internet the next time. And it can do this all automatically, without you even having a hint that it has happened.

I don't have any real reason to distrust Microsoft. but I don't have any reason to trust them more than necessary to simply operate my computer. And when you consider that they might be working with the NSA... well, you need to do your own homework, and make your own decisions about your own safety.

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