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Security Privacy Windows Your Rights Online

ZDNet Writer Downplays Windows 10's Phoning-Home Habits 264

jones_supa writes: Gordon F. Kelly of Forbes whipped up a frenzy over Windows 10 when a Voat user found out in a little experiment that the operating system phones home thousands of times a day. ZDNet's Ed Bott has written a follow-up where he points out how the experiment should not be taken too dramatically. 602 connection attempts were to 192.168.1.255 using UDP port 137, which means local NetBIOS broadcasts. Another 630 were DNS requests. Next up was 1,619 dropped connection attempts to address 94.245.121.253, which is a Microsoft Teredo server. The list goes on with NTP, random HTTP requests, and various cloud hosts which probably are reached by UWP apps. He summarizes by saying that a lot of connections are not at all about telemetry. However, what kind of telemetry and data-mined information Windows specifically sends still remains largely a mystery; hopefully curious people will do analysis on the operating system and network traffic sent by it.
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ZDNet Writer Downplays Windows 10's Phoning-Home Habits

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  • What about (Score:5, Informative)

    by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:01PM (#51488249)

    Adding [forbes.com] to forbes links on the front page?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:02PM (#51488263)
    I am bothered by the explicit policy of tracking everything I do within my OS. That is the real issue. That is why I am leaving Windows forever.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Bye.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Yeah bye, snigger, snigger because an internet where you only communicate with yourself is not internet at all. So if you communicate with a windows 10 computer, well guess what both sides of the not so private chat are still up for grabs. All that data on your computer had to come from somewhere, so their idea, no matter what the fuck you do they are planning to track and record as much as they possibly can do why, because they are pervs http://www.urbandictionary.com... [urbandictionary.com] , that's why (plus of course insid

    • poison the data (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:23PM (#51488503)
      Some of use don't have the luxury of not using Windows, either because we need to run applications that are only on Windows or we work with or support others who cannot be forced off Windows. What we really need is a hardware firewall that blocks all access to Microsoft domain names and IP addresses. Or even better one that sends bad data to Microsoft. Maybe a nice little distributed computing project would be to know what data Microsoft is collecting and the write and distribute software that keeps feeding Microsoft bogus data to make their data collection less useful. If enough people ran such software, and I believe a lot of people would gladly do it no matter if the were Windows or Linux users, Microsoft might get the message and cut this out.
      • Re:poison the data (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:52PM (#51488821)

        ...What we really need is a hardware firewall that blocks all access to Microsoft domain names and IP addresses.

        I recall reading within the past week, (probably in connection with Office 365), that some functionality was simply broken when telemetry was disabled beyond what the OS itself allows users to disable. Perhaps that breakage only applies to Microsoft applications; but if it doesn't already apply to third party programs, and indeed to the OS proper, I'm sure Microsoft will fix that 'oversight' sooner-rather-than-later in a mandatory update.

        Or even better one that sends bad data to Microsoft. Maybe a nice little distributed computing project would be to know what data Microsoft is collecting and the write and distribute software that keeps feeding Microsoft bogus data to make their data collection less useful.

        I think with Windows 10 we're seeing the advent of a brand of distributed computing in which 'error checking' takes place between MS servers and your computer. MS gets to define what an 'error' is; if the data your computer sends back to the mothership isn't what MS is expecting, they will simply discard it. And they may disable part or all of your OS functionality as well. Coming up with an algorithm which can successfully fool Redmond while sending false information might be quite a programming exercise.

        ...Microsoft might get the message and cut this out.

        Not a chance. The only thing that will get Microsoft's attention is customers jumping ship in droves. And we all know that ain't gonna happen. Too many people don't understand where this is all going, and most of the rest simply don't care.

        • by JazzLad ( 935151 )

          ...What we really need is a hardware firewall that blocks all access to Microsoft domain names and IP addresses.

          I recall reading within the past week, (probably in connection with Office 365), that some functionality was simply broken when telemetry was disabled beyond what the OS itself allows users to disable.

          A hardware firewall would not be manipulated by the OS (or maybe I misunderstood your reply). I know I won't use 10 until I take the time to configure my router (something I am not looking forward to doing, but know I need to do eventually).

      • by DogDude ( 805747 )
        What we really need is a hardware firewall that blocks all access to Microsoft domain names and IP addresses

        Almost any router, personal or commercial, includes a firewall. You should look into using the one(s) you already own, if you're so afraid of Microsoft.
      • by ledow ( 319597 )

        Just VM it and stop pissing about.

        Then you can run your Windows-only app, have a built-in firewall in the hypervisor that can do whatever you need, you can use your original hardware, you can run other systems that are more privacy-respecting for your day-to-day activities, your licences almost certainly already cover such use, and everything from 8 Pro upwards allows you to use Hyper-V to do just this.

      • Re:poison the data (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @04:24PM (#51489521) Homepage Journal

        we work with or support others who cannot be forced off Windows

        If you help perpetuate such environments, you are being an Enabler in an abusive relationship. Stop doing that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Let's even assume these are benign and not conveying any big brother information at all (which I doubt). What are these things doing and why? Don't spin it, explain it.

      DNS - Well understood network fundamental (for most of us, anyway)
      NetBIOS - Well understood network fundamental (mostly)
      NTP - Well understood, totally optional

      Spurious HTTP accesses by "probably UWP apps"? That's probably not ok, more info required.
      Attempts to access a Microsoft Teredo server (and sometimes failing)? That sounds broken, turn

      • Attempts to access a Microsoft Teredo server (and sometimes failing)? That sounds broken, turn it off.

        They were failing because the person doing this test made it impossible for Windows 10 to reach it.

        • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @03:30PM (#51489175)

          Yeah, and when I read about this test for the first time this was my criticism exactly.

          If you have a machine that is phoning home, you are only going to generate more connections as the software re-queues and retries the failed connections.

          If you want to do a real analysis, you would allow all the connections and count/trace those.

          To block everything and then count/trace, you are being inaccurate at best and disingenuous at worst.

          • by nairnr ( 314138 )
            No only that, some requests are "Am I connected to the Internet" types which are all about determining the status of your machine rather than calling big brother to report something.

            The true measure would be to allow it and packet dump/trace it.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 )

              The true measure would be to allow it and packet dump/trace it.

              That might not give the results the ZDnet writer was told to get.

  • Sure, traffic is probably encrypted, but since your system is encrypting it, surely there's a way to discover the keys and find out exactly what data is being sent.

    I personally don't have either the time nor the kernel hacking skills to pull it off, but I'm sure somebody could.

    • Sure, traffic is probably encrypted, but since your system is encrypting it, surely there's a way to discover the keys and find out exactly what data is being sent.

      I personally don't have either the time nor the kernel hacking skills to pull it off, but I'm sure somebody could.

      Your system encrypts it with Microsoft's public key before it is send out. Microsoft accepts the information and decrypts it with their private key.

      If you could know what the OS was doing with the info before it is encrypted, you could find out what's being sent out; but (to my knowledge) that's impossible to know.

  • by LichtSpektren ( 4201985 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:03PM (#51488283)
    Apparently it's some apologism for Windows 10, but an unbelievably poor one. "Oh no, no no! Please don't panic because Windows phones home to over 100 different servers even when you turn the telemetry off. It's probably, eh... nobody's quite sure, but I'm sure everything will be okay!"
    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      "Panic"? Really? Why would one "panic", even if it were somehow true that MS decided to collect all of the information about everybody on the planet? That doesn't seem like a response of a mentally stable person.
      • Well, if I were some corporation with extremely valuable trade secrets, or some government with information that would endanger lives if leaked, and I just deployed Windows 10 and found out that it's a gigantic spying beacon for Microsoft, I would indeed panic.

        Remember, Microsoft and their shills have been crying that all of the telemetry can be turned off in Windows 10 Enterprise edition (the edition that said corporations & governments would be deploying), but that was proved completely false.
        • I'm pretty sure if you recorded to connections from your MAC or Linux desktop, and didn't filter out normal expected traffic, you'd be APPALLED at the tracking taking place. connections do not equal tracking.
          • I'm pretty sure if you recorded to connections from your MAC or Linux desktop, and didn't filter out normal expected traffic, you'd be APPALLED at the tracking taking place. connections do not equal tracking.

            Since my OS is open source, I can see exactly what information is being sent out. However, Microsoft does not disclose what information is being sent to 107 of the domains that Win10 contacts, [github.com] nor do they explain why all of those domains are contacted even when you manually configure Win10 not to.

          • The difference is that that's all stuff that I implicitly or explictly told it to do. And if I want it to stop doing those things, I can easily make it do so. Compare that to Windows, where you have to put a lot of work into eliminating its tracking, only for all your hard work to be undone come the next set of updates.
          • I'm pretty sure if you recorded to connections from your MAC or Linux desktop, and didn't filter out normal expected traffic, you'd be APPALLED at the tracking taking place. connections do not equal tracking.

            Install Wireshark. and see. I have it on all my machines OSX, Linux and PC. There are connections you would expect, like update checks, connection requests, and of course data submitted that you want submitted, but no keylogging has been seen as of yet.

            And do you deny what Microsoft says they do this? Why are they telling us they are collecting all the data that they say they are connecting, but really aren't collecting that data? Given what they have done with Skype, it is not unreasonable to assume that

      • "Panic"? Really? Why would one "panic", even if it were somehow true that MS decided to collect all of the information about everybody on the planet? That doesn't seem like a response of a mentally stable person.

        Never worked on COMSEC eh? If you knew windows 10 was doing this, and had your attitude, you'd probably end up working at the drivethru windows at Burger King.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:16PM (#51488425)

      Apparently it's some apologism for Windows 10, but an unbelievably poor one. "Oh no, no no! Please don't panic because Windows phones home to over 100 different servers even when you turn the telemetry off. It's probably, eh... nobody's quite sure, but I'm sure everything will be okay!"

      Is this another one of those quizzes where the answer is "People who did't read TFA"?

      Either you read the TFA and are totally mis-representing what was in it, or you didn't read TFA. Because in TFA it clearly identifies and describes the network traffic that was identified by the Voat user and points out 1) how innocuous it is, 2) how bad the methodology was, and 3) How Forbes sensationalized it.

      If you have counter points then make them.

      • Thank you. It's very tempting to circlejerk about this. People on Slashdot are supposed to have a few more critical thinking abilities. Doesn't always work out that way.

        There are still questions about Windows 10 data transfers, but misinformation and sloppy research as found in the original Forbes article, does not help in any way.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        I did this test properly last year. Didn't save results, so maybe I'll repeat it and post the results.

        Long story short, if you properly disable all the live stuff after install (live tiles, Windows Store apps, search bar, nothing tricky or requiring registry edits) the only traffic is Windows Update. Telemetry on application crash, but in Enterprise you can disable it.

        The crash telemetry is the only nasty bit, because of the potential for information leakage. I'll test Pro next time, see if it can be disabl

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:23PM (#51488499)
      So disagreeing with a conclusion is being an apologist?

      Does Win10 phone home? Yes.
      Does Win10 phone home at the rate that was originally reported? No.

      Is Win10's rate different from other OS rates?
    • by icebike ( 68054 )

      Apparently it's some apologism for Windows 10, but an unbelievably poor one.

      Look, anything from Ed Bott will always be along those lines. Ed Bott doesn't actually exist. His computer is has a direct link from Microsoft's PR department which submits all his stories. Oh, sure there is this guy who shows up at the office once in a while. But his salary is mysteriously paid via an obscure credit to ZDNet bank account, he's long ago forgotten his real name, he plays Microsoft Solitaire all day, then drives home to an empty house, watches MSNBC all evening and gets up and does it all

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:47PM (#51488767)

      The article claiming Windows 10 telemetry phoned home a ridiculous amount of times even when disabled was false. The user who conducted the experiment set telemetry to basic rather than turning it off. Furthermore, some of the apps that might make connections, what's known as the Windows out of the box experience, were not disabled. Furthermore, the router was configured to drop all outbound connections. As a result, the failed attempts to connect resulted in retrying or connecting to different mirrors over and over again. For some services like Windows Update this is completely reasonable behavior, otherwise they'd be vulnerable to a denial of service attack against the update server. The methodology exaggerated the amount of connections made by Windows while not even properly disabling telemetry. These are the facts. One reputable Slashdot user noted that when telemetry was disabled fully in the Enterprise version of Windows and all of the other apps were disabled, the only outbound connections were, in fact, Windows Update.

      Despite the facts, Slashdot users complain about any story that suggests that Windows 10 telemetry isn't as severe as it's made out to be and accuse the authors of being Microsoft shills. Furthermore, these Slashdot users get modded up, and the parent is at +4 insightful. It seems that facts are optional in these discussions, and that's a shame. Those who make such false claims about Linux distros such as Ubuntu are rightly accused of being trolls and modded accordingly. But doing that to Microsoft is insightful.

      Those of you who post such things and mod up such posts should be ashamed of yourselves. If privacy advocates want to be taken seriously, the discussions need to be based on facts instead of FUD. There are real issues with Windows telemetry namely that users are automatically opted in without being prompted, that Microsoft hasn't disclosed what data are sent to them, and that only the Enterprise versions of Windows 10 can fully disable the telemetry. These are real issues. But when there's so much FUD and misinformation, it damages the credibility of those who raise very legitimate objections. You should be ashamed of yourself for posting false information because it does a disservice to those with very real concerns about privacy.

  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:04PM (#51488305)
    This is supposed to be comforting?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 )

      Well, since the article is a reaction to "Windows is sending your more personal information back to MS *thousands* of times per day," I'd say yes. It's not so much about comfort as a realistic approach to evaluating what is sent.

      My computer phones home to Google thousands of times a day, too. Of course, it's getting my mail, my calendar, and other data, along with the telemetry it's collecting. But, you know, I should be absolutely petrified that Google is spying on me with all that data going back and fort

      • My computer phones home to Google thousands of times a day, too.

        Funny thing is if you take an Android phone to China it'll self drain it's battery in attempts to phone home to Google. That's kind of the default action when you can see a network but didn't manage to get through to a server. Retry.

        Thousands of connection attempts may drop down to a handful if the connections actually went through.
        But then there's another question of does windows bulk store telemetry information, does it attempt to send it out blind, or did the user by dropping connections to Microsoft IPs

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:07PM (#51488347)
    They gave away at least a few billion dollars' worth of revenue when they gave away Windows 10 for free. So the kind of telemetry they are collecting is at least worth a few billion dollars. Anyone who says different is lying. There is no free lunch.
    • by LichtSpektren ( 4201985 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @02:13PM (#51488409)

      They gave away at least a few billion dollars' worth of revenue when they gave away Windows 10 for free. So the kind of telemetry they are collecting is at least worth a few billion dollars. Anyone who says different is lying. There is no free lunch.

      I would like to augment your point by commenting that Microsoft isn't just *giving* Win10 away, they're *foisting* it as hard as it can, likely breaking quite a few laws in the process.

      So that means the profit they're expected to make off of people running Win10 must vastly exceed the cost of making Win10, AND the cost of fighting off all the lawsuits in the process of ramming Win10 onto peoples' computers. One could argue that perhaps they're expecting all that profit to come from people being exposed to the built-in advertisements and the Windows Store, or people so pleased with the OS that they run out and buy a Surface/Xbox/WinPhone, but does anybody really believe that?

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        They gave away at least a few billion dollars' worth of revenue when they gave away Windows 10 for free. So the kind of telemetry they are collecting is at least worth a few billion dollars. Anyone who says different is lying. There is no free lunch.

        I would like to augment your point by commenting that Microsoft isn't just *giving* Win10 away, they're *foisting* it as hard as it can, likely breaking quite a few laws in the process.

        In your dreams...

        So that means the profit they're expected to make off of people running Win10 must vastly exceed the cost of making Win10, AND the cost of fighting off all the lawsuits in the process of ramming Win10 onto peoples' computers. One could argue that perhaps they're expecting all that profit to come from people being exposed to the built-in advertisements and the Windows Store, or people so pleased with the OS that they run out and buy a Surface/Xbox/WinPhone, but does anybody really believe that?

        So you can't see any other advantage for Microsoft? By reducing their systems to one they cut down on overheads in development, bugfixing and support. It also improves the public image which took a beating when Windows 8 was released. And that is an important part of their whole business: if consumers begin to consider alternatives, not demanding Windows when they buy a new computer then MS would lose a lot of cash! The alternative for MS would probably be another free 8.x upgrade that took

      • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 @ g m a i l . com> on Thursday February 11, 2016 @03:28PM (#51489159) Journal

        Actually allow me to correct your correction as MSFT is giving away absolutely nothing as a full version (not the "super duper extra spyware" insider edition) of Windows 10 Requires a legal key from 7 or 8 which currently costs as of this writing between $100-$200 dollars and there are several reports of users trying to go back to Windows 7 after the 30 days to find THEIR KEYS ARE NOW INVALIDATED. I can attest to this being true as I've had to talk to more damned third world MSFT flunkies than I ever cared to thanks to this very issue.

        So the REAL cost of Windows 10 is currently between $100- $200 USD, that is the cost of the Windows 7 or 8 key you are giving up by taking this "free OS" and not going for the super duper extra spyware insider edition......sorry but that is the most fucking expensive "free OS" I've ever seen in my life and why we need to kill that "Oh its free you can't complain" bullshit because that is what it is, total bullshit!

    • It'd be nice to cut off support for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 just like XP.

      Your computer is broken? Uh. You're using Windows 8.1. Get Windows 10 bye.

      There will be no more updates to Windows 8.1. Go away. Get Windows 10. We're only writing these patches once.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Windows isn't the Microsoft cash cow. It's the framework that Microsoft needs to keep popular to let their cash cow graze. The competition to Windows come in three different pricing options: free (Linux and others), hidden initial cost and $30 each upgrade (OSX), or roughly five billion dollars (Oracle, Sun, whoever). Since none of them are fully compliant with Microsoft's actual money making process, Microsoft needs Windows to be common. This pushes the price they can demand for Windows toward $0.

      Other

    • Usage statistics for windows users is easily worth that much to the UI/UX and Application development people at Microsoft on it's own.

      Then you can add in all that information being rolled into Bing and the targeted advertising they can potentially do.

    • You are making an assumption that this is a tit-for-tat arrangement.

      Smart business moves are rarely this.

      To say that if they give up money here, they HAVE to make it up there is not necessarily true.

      We don't know exactly what MS's end game is, but this could just be a strategic move in a much larger game.

      The fact is, MS's major money makers right now are Azure (which is giving AWS a huge run for its money) and Office 365. They may be willing to take a loss in what was once a major money maker so that they c

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They are hoping to get income from the Windows Store, like every other modern OS. The income Google and Apple get from their stores is billions a year and growing.

  • "These aren't the droids you're looking for"

    Yes, they probably are

  • Once every day or so: "here are the Microsoft packages installed, are there any updates ?" That does not include: non Microsoft packages, hardware info (other than needed to choose packages), disk/net/cpu/... usage, local account/user info, package usage/popularity, lists of: file names, web sites visited, ...

    • I agree but the people who downloaded and installed windows 10 agreed to something very different. Linux Free and Microsoft Free are 2 very different things. Personally i don't feel bad for any person who choose to install win 10 they can/could have always uninstall it. IMO the only people who have a complaint are the business/persons who bought licances/ deals they paid for win 10. They should have the say on everything the OS collects and data mines. BTW do you know what Linux any distro collects?
  • They're one of the harder corporate shills. Microsoft or Apple, they know no bounds in selling out.

  • Where I work, and at most of the companies I have worked for, the vast majority of the software used, ran on Windows.

    Whether it was servers or workstations, Windows was the choice. This was because the software used could only be ran on Windows. I suspect there are many companies/government agencies/schools, etc that are in that same situation. Sure, there may be a *nix server here, an Apple product there, etc, but Microsoft definitely has the stranglehold.

    Since Microsoft is in this position, and t
    • FYI, in a corporate environment, if you are running Windows 10 Enterprise, you have more control (via GP) to disable telemetry.

      In anything other than Enterprise, setting the telemetry to "0 - don't send telemetry" is equivalent to setting it to "1 - Send limited telemetry".

      But even still, in a corporate environment, there are other ways to block this kind of thing. I am thinking ACL's on the firewall or layer 7 (application) rules in the firewall. But you could also maintain internal DNS that loops back cer

  • by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @03:21PM (#51489087)

    Even after the moronic voat user was shown to have completely screwed up the entire test slashdot is here referencing it yet again as fact? The new editors - just as shitty as the old ones.

    • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday February 11, 2016 @06:28PM (#51490639)

      Even after the moronic voat user was shown to have completely screwed up the entire test slashdot is here referencing it yet again as fact? The new editors - just as shitty as the old ones.

      a) timothy is not a new editor.
      b) this article is talking about how garbage the results are.
      c) old users still the same bitchy unappeasable old users.

  • DNS queries aren't "spying."

    Yes, actually they can be. I don't want Microsoft to know that I read deepdotweb anymore than I want the government to know that. Why is microsoft resolving names for Windows 10 users? And who are they sharing the logs with?

    This Windows 10 apologist has nothing to offer as an acceptable excuse for this behavior.

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