Tag Archives: Windows Admin

Bitlocker is a Sleeping Cryptolocker Virus

This is a sincere warning for anyone purchasing a laptop with Windows 10, Bitlocker, and/or the Trusted Platform Module (TPM). As of yet I’m not sure which part of this is the culprit, but there is something severely defective with this hardware/software combination on some laptops, which will turn a dormant/disabled Bitlocker security feature into an active/enabled Cryptolocker virus.

A Cryptolocker virus is something that encrypts all the files on your hard drive without your permission. Once encrypted, the files are basically impossible to recover.

I seriously can’t believe this happened!

I purchased three Dell Latitude 7480 laptops, both with the same specs. All three laptops were prepared by me and then sent to users in the field, like always.

Two of those laptops remain fine (I’m crossing my fingers still), but one of them decided to go into Bitlocker Recovery mode on startup for some reason, even though we never enabled this feature or received a Bitlocker Recovery key from Dell.

There is absolutely no way around it. Bitlocker without a recovery key, stuck at the Bitlocker Recovery screen, is essentially a Cryptolocker virus. It’s the same EXACT thing.

Keep in mind that I absolutely despise drive encryption for our company laptops because we have nothing that important to encrypt and it only causes issues like this. I never enabled or configured Bitlocker on any of these laptops.

In fact, every time I purchase laptops from Dell – and I’ve purchased at least 200 so far – I specifically choose no Dell Data Protection (DDPE), no Trusted Platform Module (TPM), no Bitlocker, and no full drive encryption. We don’t want or need those features, they are a burden to us.

Needless to say, the user was surprised to see one morning when he turned on his brand new Dell Latitude 7480, a Bitlocker Recovery screen was prompting for some kind of key which he did not have. This user contacted me for the key, which I did not have either. I can only assume this is some kind of defect in Windows or with the Dell laptop where Bitlocker turned itself on.

So I had the user return his new laptop and pick up his old one.

I contacted Dell a total of three times. The first time they gave me a bunch of options to disable in BIOS, per this article:

http://www.dell.com/support/article/us/en/19/sln304584/bitlocker-asks-for-a-recovery-key-every-boot-on-usb-c—thunderbolt-systems-when-docked-or-undocked?lang=en

None of that advice helped. At this point I needed to recover some of the users work from the drive. Turns out Microsoft OneDrive hadn’t synced his work for a week, so the copies in the cloud were too old. Not knowing much about Bitlocker (I never use it), I decided to pick up an M.2 hard drive adapter and stick the drive into another computer so I could try recovering the data. No dice, a Bitlocker screen popped up asking for that same key.

Stepping out of the official support lanes for a moment, I decided to do some research. It turns out other people are experiencing this problem too, and the “answers/solutions” are a bit unnerving:

BitLocker locked me out on Surface Pro 3; I’ve never set up BitLocker and key is not stored anywhere

Bitlocker Enabled Without Warning, No Recovery Key!

Bitlocker – becoming an irritation

Soooo…the answer is Bitlocker can’t possibly do this? But I should nuke the drive and start over?

On the final call with Dell, they acknowledged that their engineers are looking into a potential issue where automatic updates might be triggering Bitlocker somehow. The only thing they could do is tell me to contact Microsoft and get back to them with an update so they could follow through with replacing the hard drive if necessary.

I have a feeling that a Windows Update changed something on the system like a driver, or the Dell Update Client automatically installed something like a BIOS or TPM update, which triggered Bitlocker to somehow turn on unattended and encrypt the drive.

You have been warned.

Installing and Using Windows XP In The Year 2017

Windows XP is no longer supported by Microsoft. Installing it will usually result in a less than satisfying experience, until some fixes are applied manually. This article will explain why and how to do that.

It’s 2017 For Crying Out Loud, Are You A Madman?

Yeah, yeah. Windows XP has it’s flaws. Microsoft doesn’t support it. Everyone says move to Windows 7/10. Security concerns and marketing scare tactics aside, there’s a whole lot of computers and laptops out there with Windows XP still, and here are a few reasons for maintaining such a machine:

  • The computer is a hand-me-down for a family member or kid. Nothing expensive to worry about if it gets damaged. You did pay for this thing, remember? You did purchase software and games for it back in the day, remember? Might as well squeeze out that extra ounce.
  • The computer cannot be upgraded to a newer version of Windows due to hardware requirements. You did pay for this thing, remember? Just because Microsoft doesn’t support it doesn’t mean you need to trash it. The computer still computes.
  • A service technician needs to interface with an old machine (like an office copier or PBX phone system), using an older cable interface such as 9-pin serial, or older software program such as MS-DOS. Sometimes Windows XP is the only solution here.
  • The computer is part of a legacy system or network environment that cannot be replaced without incurring overhead, downtime or fees. Chain restaurants like Subway may still use Windows XP for taking orders. These are typically disk imaged to make fast deployment and repair possible, working as a turnkey restaurant solution.
  • You want to run a virtual machine (VM) with a licensed copy of Windows for whatever reason.
  • You’re a cheapskate and thought it was a good idea to buy a computer w/ original media on eBay or at a pawn shop for $50. I won’t say that was a good idea, but you may still be in luck.
  • The computer is kept around for preference, nostalgia or cyberpunk/cypherpunk reasons. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

For these reasons it is a good idea to always save your Windows XP disc and serial number. These are things you paid money for, and there is no way to recover them if lost. Another important thing to save is the driver disc, because as these computers get old it becomes more difficult to find the drivers online.

Now let’s walk through the steps necessary to get this antique operating system up and running.

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There is Something Terribly Wrong With Windows 7 and svchost.exe / wuauserv

I recently purchased six (6) Dell Latitude E7000 series laptops with Windows 7, which are very nice by the way, but they all came fresh from the Dellcrosoft factory with one glaring showstopper. Straight out of the box, you lose about a quarter to half of the performance, operating time and battery life that you paid for as soon as you power them on.

Why’s that you say?

It’s because a core Windows 7 process called svchost.exe eats 25% of the CPU constantly:

You might think “this is a temporary issue, it’ll pass on it’s own”. No it won’t. We’re talking all day, everyday; this thing just keeps going and going. If you check that process with a tool like Process Explorer to see what internal service is chowing down on system resources, 9.5 times out of 10 it is the wuauserv service which is Windows Update.

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Getting Started With Node.js in Windows 7

nodejsSeveral years ago I built a very high performance event-based asynchronous TCP server using .NET sockets. Looking back on this project I realize it was literally Node.js in disguise (minus the js part), so I decided to revisit and release it as open source on Github. Node.js probably did not exist when I was building proof of concept chat apps using this server as the framework, and there might have been a good portion of fanfare to be had if I released the code sooner. I wasn’t too big about open source back then, and it’s not the first time I’ve unknowingly had “big tech” collecting dust in my project bin. Boohoo, am I right? With a renewed interest in this project, I decided to do some benchmarks and see how well the .NET server compares to Apache or Node.js.

In this article I will show how to get started with Node.js in Windows 7. In a follow up article I will include the benchmark results and tips on how to set that up. Continue reading

Don’t Fear the July 9th Internet Doomsday, Take Action Now!

On July 9th, 2012 the FBI will shut down a group of servers operated by a cyber crime ring who they’ve recently dismantled. These rogue criminals have jointly infected over 500,000 computer systems in the United States alone with variants of the “TDSS Alureon” malware. This malware redirects your computer’s internet traffic to servers that are run by those criminals, where they tailor your web browsing experience by injecting their own (risky and sometimes dangerous) search results, advertisements, products and services, hoping you’ll give them your money in one way or another.

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Blackberry Outage Is Affecting Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) Users

Over the past three days, millions of Blackberry users have been unable to send/receive email and surf the web. Now it’s a global problem with every major news channel and radio station touting the severity.

RIM has posted an official response which is being updated regularly, summing up the problem to an oversight with their email backup system.

Businesses who host their own Blackberry services using Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) usually get by unscathed, since global outages like this rarely affect the synchronization infrastructure between a Blackberry employee and the company’s BES server.

However, today I can confirm that our BES system is being affected by this outage.

ComputerWorldUK also reports that BES users are being hit by the outage.

UPDATE: Service has been restored!!! Some time in the afternoon yesterday (~3:00 PM PST), all of the emails which had been held up on our BES system finally synced up with our handhelds.

Using ROBOCOPY to Avoid Downtime During File Migration

downtimeSometimes I need to migrate a large amount of shared files on a network from one drive or system to another for better organization, more space, security concerns, or whatever the reason might be. However, a migration like this can interrupt network users who need access to those files. In this post I’ll show you a better method for file migration, which is now a staple in my IT arsenal, as it has proven useful many times.

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How to Install Blackberry Enterprise Server on Windows XP Pro in a SBS 2003 Environment

Contrary to what RIM and other people might have you believe, it is very possible to install and run Blackberry Enterprise Server (including BES Express) on a Windows XP Professional computer. To further complicate the problem, these same folks will also tell you that there is no way to install the Exchange System Manager using the Small Business Server 2003 CD’s.

Of course, all of this is simply not true, and the setup is smooth as long as you know what to do. RIM won’t provide technical support for this configuration, but we don’t really care, now do we?

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