In this post im sharing my Guide for the best Windows 10 privacy/security practices based on my own personal experience. It may not be perfect, so feel free to add your input/suggestions.
------------------------------------ STEP 1:
------------------------------------ Its best to choose the right Windows 10 version.
(Windows 10N is not good enough, you need to use LTSC
). These versions are already debloated from a lot of rubbish so you're off to a good start, they also only receive Security updates, rather than 'feature' updates. You'll find this on torrent sites (the uploader "Gen2" is the best and trustworthy). *Note: for anyone concerned about missing media codecs etc, just download K-Lite Codecs / MPC. If you've just installed a fresh / clean / new Windows 10, Skip to step 2. If you're not coming from a fresh install;
Start off with 'repairing Windows 10', the unofficial way. I fully vouch for this software, it done a great job on one of my previous infected PC's. It can be downloaded from;
- Bleepingcomputer: https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/download/windows-repair-all-in-one/
- Tweaking.com: https://www.tweaking.com/content/page/windows_repair_all_in_one.html
The above tool is not some crappy gimmick tool as it appears, its the real deal. In my case, the standard DISM / SFC Repairs were not working, even after multiple fresh installs of windows , the "malware" survived , as i had persistent problems. This tool actually reverts everything forcefully back to the original/default - such as: file/owner permissions, registry permissions and default registry values, verifies digital signatures of all windows components, Reparse points etc.
Some 'malware' even extends to windows services. For example, if you type 'sevices.msc' in the search bar, you can launch the services panel. Here, you can see all the windows services. There is a column named 'log on as'. Some services are local services, and some are network services. Malicious actors can hijack system services and change the log on user - this tool can help with that too, and optionally, you can revert any affected services manually by changing the 'log on as' to NT AUTHORITY / Local service
(password blank). (NOTE: not all services are supposed to be local services, im just giving you an example). OFF TOPIC:
in reference to the above, please note: i didn't have a 'virus' > kaspersky could not detect anything, malwarebytes nothing, hitmanpro, tdskiller (kaspersky rootkit tool). I had an issue with a malicious actor which gained access to my network, and this tool really helped - i suspect on every new install the old 'settings' were restored somehow.
Along with this tool, i used GPARTED
to remove any HPA hidden partition in all hard drives using the terminal and some special commands. Changing my HDD's UUID's, resizing/moving partitions/sectors left/right to re-allign them and overwrite what was hidden/stored. Testdisk
also helped by alerting me to detected hidden partition (HPA) , and sector mismatches on all my drives. And ofcourse, in a scenario like this, nuking and replacing the router with a PFSENSE
. LETS GET BACK ON TRACK: I also recommend running TRON: https://www.reddit.com/TronScript/
(although it is better to simply start fresh with a clean install of LTSC / LTSB)
------------------------------------ STEP 2:
------------------------------------ Debloat (the most important step).
We need to further debloat Windows 10. This will effectively enhance your privacy, security - aswell as your PC performance. To do so, we're going to run multiple scripts; Scripts Location: https://github.com/supmaxi/Debloat-Windows-10
Please read the README before running the scripts. You need to enable execution of powershell scripts following the instructions FIRST. If you dont do this, the scripts will still run, but without the maximum permission required to do some of the jobs. This tool is my own fork of W4RH4WK's tool, and also includes Sycnex's tool, plus other modifications and enhancements/additions not just related to privacy, but also security. In my opinion it is really the best collection of scripts and the most effective. Totally safe to use and will not kill your search/start menu either! This is not like O&O shutup 10, which just toggles certain settings (and closed source), this is real debloating. [NOTES]:
You can also open each individual script using NotePad++
and modify if necessary. For example , if you dont want to remove the Windows App Store, you can comment out # the line. (however, i recommend to run all as default - you will really feel the difference after running all these scripts, especially if you have a weak laptop etc).
------------------------------------ STEP 3:
At this stage, if executed correctly, we have significantly removed &/or disabled a whole load of windows modules/services - and not only have we increased the privacy and security of the PC, but we've also increased its performance.
ie; we've fully removed cortana, onedrive, windows defender, windows app store, and disabled/removed spy services, telemetry, bloatware etc. These are all modules which are constantly working in the background on a typical PC.
We've also added security benefits, like disabling remote desktop related services, unsecure services/protocols which you probably dont even know exist (not to fear, these can be re-enabled at any time).
So lets move on to the next section - SECURITY: NO Antivirus software.
These days AV companies offer free software, why? Because their new business is collecting your data. The AV software is monitoring your every move 'realtime protection', and if you enable cloud protection, its also sending a significant amount of data to third parties for processing. Don't believe me?
Take this as an example: Kaspersky has EU editions of its products, to comply with the European Unions GDPR law (which is essentially basic privacy laws). They also have editions of software which are not allowed to be used in the European Union. HOW TO PROTECT YOUR PC WITHOUT AV SOFTWARE
The best way to protect your PC from viruses and malicious actors is to;
a: learn how to use the internet safely; ie; dont download random apps from shady websites, etc.
b: install 'UBlock ORIGIN' and 'HTTPS EVERYWHERE'
as 'extensions / plugins' for Chrome (if you use Chrome) or Firefox (if you use Firefox). Additionally, install the 'NoScript'
plugin into the browser you use for lesuire purposes (its best to keep one browser for work, and one for lesuire). The reason i don't add 'NoScript'
to my 'work browser' (which is Chrome), is because it can break some sites, or require you to add an exception to make that site work as intended > which takes you off track from focusing on work.
Each browser (especially FireFox) has additional measures you can take to enhance its privacy / security. But i wont get into those details here, you can find them in other threads. But you'll want to do things like disable WebRTC, disable the built in 'smart screen protection' etc.
A Firewall is a great way to block malicious actors, and also, to gain an understanding of what your PC and programs are actually doing behind the scenes. SIMPLEWALL: An amazing Open-Source Firewall
Please take some time to configure it, once you know how it works (quite simple actually) - its awesome. You can block internet access to specific system modules, apps, etc. You can also block IP Addresses, including its built in list of Telemetry IP addresses. You'll want to block a wide range of Windows modules such as anything to do with Hyper-V (virtual machines), remote desktop connections, remote registry , event viewer, remote shell, etc. This will ensure that those specific windows modules have no access to the internet to accept either incoming connections, or to make outgoing connections. You'll also want to create 'system wide' block rules blocking common filesharing and exploit ports system-wide (this is usually done on the router firewall, but it wont hurt to do them on both the OS and router side for an extra layer of protection - since most consumer routers have built-in backdoors and exploits). Proof of that is available online, heres NETGEAR's awful track record: https://www.cvedetails.com/vulnerability-list/vendor_id-834/Netgear.html 135-139 [netBIOS], 445 [SMB/Azure], 1900 [UPnP], 500 [ISAKMP], 5000 [UPnP], 5353 [MulticastDNS], 5355 [Multicast], 8001 [Backdoor Tunnel], 23 [Telnet], 1433-1434 [SQL SPybot], 3478 [STUN], 113 [Ident/Auth], etc. (there's a lot more, hence its better to take the 'block all' approach detailed below): If you are an advanced user,
you can start with a 'block all' approach (recommended), and work your way up (allowing things which you use). For example, You can only allow Chrome to talk on port 443 and port 80 , any other port is blocked, etc. You can block Microsoft office from the internet (a good idea as many remote attacks target MS Office documents), etc. (side note: i recommend using LibreOffice
SIMPLEWALL can log all blocked traffic - so youll get a real understanding of what your PC is doing. Use this instead of Microsoft's built in firewall. (We'll still configure the Windows Defender Advanced Firewall via Group Policy - will get to the later in the thread).
If this seems all too much for you - DONT STRESS. The default configuration of SIMPLEWALL is already effective and provides a great layer of security. You'll notice right away, with its default built in block settings (for example, when you launch chrome you may get a pop up that chrome is trying to use mDNS on port 1900, click 'block' and it will block chrome doing that forever).
d. MBRFilter by Cisco Talos;
Usually, you wouldn't see Cisco in any privacy based post. However, this tool is open source and available on github
official; https://talosintelligence.com/mbrfilter What does it do?
MBR Filter prevents rootkits, bootkits, and ransomware, such as Petya Ransomware, from overriding the operating system’s boot loader. Ransomware, like Petya, overwrite and encrypt the victim’s Master File Table (MTF) to coerce them into paying for an encryption key. How does it work?
It will prevent write access to your systems boot loader, rendering many of the most advanced malware useless/ineffective. How to install it?
It's a one time installer (not a software package) - the precompiled version comes in the form of a driver (1 click install). (its open source if you compile it yourself from the source code - its not open source if you download the easy 1 click pre-compiled installer). After installation, you wont find it in your 'program files', it works just like a script.
------------------------------------ STEP 4:
------------------------------------ Harden Windows 10 -
Control Panel > System and Security > Security and Maintenance > CHANGE USER ACCOUNT CONTROL SETTINGS (UAC): set this to the highest level.
This is very important to mitigate the very common method used by malicious actors (running code such as powershell scripts or remote shell without admin prompts).
- ENABLE ALL Windows Exploit Protection settings such as Arbitrary code guard (ACG). Set them to "ON by default"
. Advanced users can even go further by adding custom exploit protection settings for specific system modules (built in feature of newer editions of windows). You can block remote fonts, verifying stack integrity, and blocking DLL injections etc. (please note; if adding the extra/custom exploit protection settings, it will slow down the computer, so choose wisely based on your needs. This in itself is a no-frills 24/7 'anti virus').
- In the Windows Search Bar, type "Internet explorer".
Launch IE, and open its settings. You want to manually configure all zones, including local intranet zone, trusted sites zone , internet zone etc. SET THEM ALL TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL, including the LOCAL zone.
Many users are unaware that IE is a vital part of Windows and is still used in the background until this day. It cannot be fully uninstalled or removed from Windows due to this. Furthermore, many exploits are run through IE - so setting all zones to the highest level of security is a vital part of your PC's security. Many attacks happen through vulnerabilities on the local/lan side.
- In the Windows Search Bar, type "Turn Windows features on or off". UNCHECK EVERYTHING.
In my case, ive left 'Microsoft Print to PDF' enabled, as i do use that feature. Nothing else is required or used. This will uninstall/disable Internet Explorer 11, it will also remove/disable Windows unsecure SMB v1 filesharing protocol, powershell 2.0, Telnet, etc.
- GROUP POLICY :
Group policy needs a whole separate thread > there are many settings to adjust. This includes restricting guests, guest logins, microsoft users/azure groups/domain shares, Active Directory authentication etc. There are websites that post known vulnerabilities/exploits which are "patched" by changing some group policy settings. There are also some government websites which post recommended Group Policy settings, such as this one: https://www.cyber.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-03/hardening_win10_1709.pdf
So youll need to research those yourselves. Group Policy is an advanced tool vital for your PC's security. You need to picture Windows 10 as being in like a 'virtual environment'. What do i mean by this?
I mean, Windows 10 has a hierarchy system. For example, if you work in an office, and use an office PC - sure, you can set your own local firewall rules. But if the network administrator blocks www.example.com
from the 'head office / management' side, you cant do anything locally to unblock it (or vice versa). This is how group policy works. Group policy is the 'head office / management' of windows 10. Group policy > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Windows Defender Firewall With advanced Security.
This is the 'parent' defender, which can override the standard defender (that we removed in the scripts above). If you have already configured some rules in the 'standard' defender, then i recommend to check out the group policy defender now. You will see that none of your configuration exists. It is a common tactic of malicious actors to take over your machine. If you never configured the group policy defender, they can bypass all your 'standard' defender rules through group policies defender application. So this is a great step to learn how windows really works, and how to secure it properly.
You'll also want to configure other security related group policy settings.
For example, if you were using the standard Windows DEFENDER Firewall (even the 'Windows 10 advanced firewall' client-side), and your PC was compromised (taken over by a malicious actor) - they can override all your local firewall rules without any effort. But if you had group policy in place, and set your firewall rules from WITHIN group policy, then you will make it very difficult for the malicious actor to override your system settings and gain access.
It is very strange and stupid, how Windows 10 works like that. The 'client-side' Windows DEFENDER Firewall provides a false feeling of security, at best. Not forgetting that new rules pop up out of no where, allowing access to things you never gave permission too, all by itself. Even when you disable rules it automatically generated, you will find later that it adds new rules again to bypass your configuration). If you dont have group policy in place, the malicious actor will become your 'group policy manager'.
Remember that the firewall in GROUP POLICY has separate rules for the public network, domain network, and private network. You need to set all the rules in each category (they are all equally as important - do not think "oh, i dont use a domain network so ill just leave that"). The DOMAIN network is a common backdoor entry point (sometimes referred too as Active Directory/ MS AZURE).
To avoid confusion: I recommend to configure the windows firewall in GROUP POLICY, PLUS the simplewall firewall mentioned above - this will provide the maximum level of security from unauthorized access to your PC.
------------------------------------------ OTHER SECURITY RELATED NOTES:
*DO NOT* keep ISO 'live boot cd's' stored on your PC.
If you like to keep a collection of software, including ISO boot cd's, such as Hiren's BootCD (and all the other new ones similar) - please take this seriously.
If a malicious actor gained access to your system, they can take advantage of these tools you have readily available for them on your machine. Dont forget that you can launch/mount any of those ISO's as virtual disks and use the tools included against you.
Instead, keep them stored on an external HDD that isn't plugged in to your PC all the time.
------------------------------------ IP's/Domains to add to your firewall block list / feed (For blocking malware, known attackers, ads, trackers, etc). Blocklists from these sources WILL NOT break any sites, they will just protect you while browsing online:
These are best to be used with a PFSENSE Box (PFBlockerNG) or PiHole running 24/7.
Think of this like the 'UblockOrigin' extension - they work exactly the same way > exept its filtering your entire internet from the router side, for all your devices in real-time. (the best investment to make). You can filter not only ad domains, ips, trackers, but also known malicious ip's, attackers, honeypots, scanners/researchers etc.
3rd Party Blocklists (my personal favourites which i use and recommend):
Cisco Talos (Daily-Update API) http://talosintel.com/feeds/ip-filter.blf
Alienvault (Daily-Update API) https://reputation.alienvault.com/reputation.generic
matthewroberts.io (Daily-Update API) https://www.matthewroberts.io/api/threatlist/latest
ThreatIntel High Confidence (Daily-Update API) https://threatintel.stdominics.sa.edu.au/droplist_high_confidence.txt
ThreatIntel Low Confidence (Daily-Update API) https://threatintel.stdominics.sa.edu.au/droplist_low_confidence.txt
quidsup anti-track (Manually Updated by Author) https://gitlab.com/quidsup/notrack-blocklists/raw/mastenotrack-blocklist.txt
IPSUM (Daily-Update API) https://github.com/stamparm/ipsum/blob/masteipsum.txt?raw=true
Blackbook Malware Domains (Daily-Update API) https://raw.githubusercontent.com/stamparm/blackbook/masteblackbook.txt
Bad Packets https://github.com/tg12/bad_packets_blocklist/raw/mastebad_packets_list.txt
Microsoft Telemetry + Analytics + Azure IP Blocks (will not break anything): https://github.com/supmaxi/Bad-IP-s/raw/masteMicrosoft%20Telemetry%20%2B%20Analytics%20%2B%20Azure%20IP%20Blocks
Microsoft Telemetry Domains (will not break anything): https://github.com/supmaxi/Bad-IP-s/raw/masteMicrosoft%20Telemetry%20Domains
Microsoft Telemetry IPs (will not break anything): https://github.com/supmaxi/Bad-IP-s/raw/masteMicrosoft%20Telemetry%20IPs
other resources; https://github.com/supmaxi/Bad-IP-s
------------------------------------ OTHER RESOURCES
------------------------------------ Privacy Resources/Library: https://github.com/CHEF-KOCH/Online-Privacy-Test-Resource-List
-------------- #P2P Anti Piracy Block Lists - ONLY USE THESE WHEN/IF TORRENTING WITHOUT A VPN -
(These lists WILL BREAK normal sites and will make it impossible to browse the internet normally - super huge anti-track blocklist - good for torrenters only - prevent receiving a DMCA letter for piracy) - these lists are extreme, and will block entire ranges of suspect IP blocks and i believe are targeted towards law enforcement agencies, and copyright agencies. They are not use-able in the real world.
See here for info: https://gist.github.com/shmup/29566c5268569069c256
The P2P Lists contain a combination of all blocklists included on: https://www.iblocklist.com/lists
You dont want to add these lists to your PFSENSE (PFBlockerNG) or PiHole rigs. Because the lists you add in PFBlockerNG or PiHole are lists that you want to "set and forget" and ones to use 24/7 without breaking the internet.
Only use these lists with either PeerBlock
(if you dont want to change your torrent client) - or use with Transmission Torrent Client
(which supports adding lists within the client). They are both open-source. If you use a VPN while torrenting - you dont need to use these while torrenting and can completely skip this.
List 1 Download: https://john.bitsurge.net/public/biglist.p2p.gz
List 2 Download: https://github.com/NaunteBT_BlockLists/raw/mastebt_blocklists.gz
List 3 Download: https://github.com/sahsu/transmission-blocklist/releases/latest/download/blocklist.gz
*EDIT: I was contemplating on removing this P2P section
, because i personally dont use it - since it doesnt really make sense in this day and age (where we have many great VPN providers, including free options such as ProtonVPN
I personally use Qbittorrent
, and would use ProtonVPN
when torrenting, or, use any of the VPN's recommended by privacytools here
But i will leave this section up for reference material, incase anyone is interested, since i went through the trouble to collect the resources anyway.
----------------------------------- Open source Virus Scanner (if you ever needed to do an 'offline scan' or 'one time scan' for a sanity check): ClamAV
is an open source antivirus engine for detecting trojans, viruses, malware & other malicious threats. It was developed by Cisco and is the default AV used on many Linux based systems. Official site is here
if you wish to check it out.
On Windows, there are 2 ways to use this. The first method is quite complex , and requires you to manually download the virus database files. You run the scan via CMD and need to manually edit config files (its too much work for most of us).
The second method is very easy - this is an easy to use Windows app based on ClamAV > http://www.clamwin.com/
- its open source , and takes out all the hard work , and provides you with a simple GUI. I recommend this. TRON - for Malware / maintenance (if necessary)
Note that TRON installs Malwarebytes (Which i dont recommend) - however you can disable it from being installed in the script prior to running. Trusted source for KMS Win activation tools: https://github.com/CHEF-KOCH/KMS-activatoreleases
(although i dont recommend this - i recommend leaving Windows not activated - my scripts should remove the license checking from windows - and you can always use 'debotnet
' to remove the "activate windows" watermark permanently. WSUS Offline Updates:
Here you can cherry pick and manually download Windows 10 updates, including security updates, without using the windows built-in 'windows update'. https://download.wsusoffline.net/
------------------------------------ ROUTER SECURITY OPEN-Source
: For a free, no cost security upgrade, check if your router supports https://openwrt.org/
Many consumer routers are able to be flashed with this custom firmware which will enhance your security (although again, you need to configure it, which is a learning process). PiHole: https://pi-hole.net/ PFSENSE
(for advanced users, with an advanced level of protection): https://www.reddit.com/PFSENSE/ OPNSense
(alternative to PFSENSE): https://opnsense.org/
------------------------------------ Other OPEN-Source Resources
Create your own private self-hosted Dropbox/Cloud service https://nextcloud.com/ KeePass:
opensource password manager with encryption https://www.reddit.com/KeePass/ Bitwarden:
opensource password manager with encryption https://www.reddit.com/Bitwarden/ bleachbit:
opensource cleaner. With BleachBit you can free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and discard junk you didn't know was there. Beyond simply deleting files, BleachBit includes advanced features such as shredding files to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster. Better than free, BleachBit is open source. https://www.bleachbit.org/ Windows Hosts File: https://github.com/supmaxi/Bad-IP-s/raw/masteWindows%20Hosts%20File%20Block%20Telemetry%20Domains
An easy, copy paste or replace, your windows hosts file which is located here: C:\Windows\System32
This will block Microsoft telemetry through the hosts file Debloat Windows 10 Scripts: https://github.com/supmaxi/Debloat-Windows-10
Obviously already mentioned, but will leave it here as a resource also - arguably the best debloating tool you will ever use.
------------------------------------ Author Ending Notes
Guys, thanks for your appreciation, and i hope ive helped someone out.
I just want to mention that if you're not really comfortable without having a 'proper' antivirus - feel free to use a third party AV (i still dont recommend defender). If i personally had to choose a third party AV, it would probably be Kaspersky Internet Security - based on its actual performance, and not on any other factors (although i dont, i do exactly what i mentioned in this guide).
Do not use any free AV, as you know, nothing is free in this world - you are usually the product. All free AV including kaspersky uses cloud based protection. With the paid version of K internet security, you have the option to not enable the KSN (kaspersky cloud protection) - and you can buy a license cheap from ebay (genuine).
Just remember with whatever provider you choose, make sure you dont have the 'ssl inspection' / 'web protection' setting enabled - because the software will MiTM every website you visit, which is both a security issue and a privacy issue.
Also, make sure you're not protected via cloud - because literally, all of your files metadata (like barcodes) are known and all of your 'machine behaviour' analyzed and you can be profiled. Depending on who you are, where you are located, and what you do - this can be important to you. For example, journalists, researchers, or living in strict countries - suspicious or known hashes of targeted files/documents and so forth can be collected.
We dont even know what the AV is collecting without cloud based protection, and many (including kaspersky) that dont even comply with BASIC GDPR laws. You definitely shouldn't 'sign in' to 'my kaspersky' and link yourself to their portal. Here is a great example:
As soon as Kaspersky identified (automatically/systematically) the malware being related to the NSA - they immediately notified the NSA. Which proves my point. Maybe you're a security researcher that found some leaked malware on github, or simply a geek, data hoarder. The AV software may work against you - putting you on a watch list. You need to find the right balance between privacy and security - it's not the same for everyone, and you cant have the best of both worlds. To have better security, you need to sacrifice some privacy. To have better privacy, you need to sacrifice some security.
In my opinion, and based on my useage of my PC's, i think i've hit the sweet spot with this guide.
Make your own decision on what you think is best for you :)