Windows 7 USB Download Tool Lets You Install Windows from a Thumb Drive

If you’re trying to install Windows 7 on a netbook (or are having issues with your PC’s optical drive), the free USB Download Tool from Microsoft allows you to take a .ISO image and turn it into a bootable flash drive.

This was created not only for netbook users, but for anyone that opted to download Windows 7 from Microsoft in lieu of ordering an installation DVD. Windows 7 USB Download Tool can create a bootable flash drive (or DVD, if you prefer) from the downloaded .ISO file in quick fashion—just install it and follow the on-screen prompts. Note that if you opt to use a flash drive, it must be 4GB or larger to hold all the files.

The coolest part: Microsoft has open sourced this little app. Why, you ask? They got a bit of flak early on in the project for re-using open-source code and improperly documenting it (as well as making the program itself closed source), but true to their word that it was only a mistake, it’s been brought back and declared open source for all to use. So if you still haven’t gotten Windows 7 installed on that netbook of yours, head on over to CodePlex, Microsoft’s open-source repository, and download the tool now.


Family Guy Windows 7 Clips: Microsoft smartly did not run these

WOW – lame excuses for ads.  It’s no secret the Microsoft is constantly destroyed in the ad space. Apple always seems to one up them… in an attempt at hipness they teamed up with Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy to do a spot promoting Windows 7. To their credit they did NOT run these, to their discredit, they released them on YouTube.


EvilMaid versus Full Disk Encryption (TrueCrypt and PGP)

The Evil Maid Attack is an attack type against whole system disk encryption in a form of a small bootable USB stick image that allows to perform the attack in an easy “plug-and-play” way. The whole infection process takes about 1 minute, and it’s well suited to be used by hotel maids.

The Invisible Things blog goes into great detail on how most whole disk encryption is vulnerable in a relatively simple way. The scenario we consider is when somebody left an encrypted laptop e.g. in a hotel room. Let’s assume the laptop uses full disk encryption like e.g. this provided by TrueCrypt or PGP Whole Disk Encryption. Many people believe, including some well known security experts, that it is advisable to fully power down your laptop when you use full disk encryption in order to prevent attacks via FireWire/PCMCIA or ”Coldboot” attacks.  So, let’s assume we have a reasonably paranoid user, that uses a full disk encryption on his or her laptop, and also powers it down every time they leave it alone in a hotel room, or somewhere else.

Now, this is where our Evil Maid stick comes into play. All the attacker needs to do is to sneak into the user’s hotel room and boot the laptop from the Evil Maid USB Stick. After some 1-2 minutes, the target laptop’s gets infected with Evil Maid Sniffer that will record the disk encryption passphrase when the user enters it next time. As any smart user might have guessed already, this part is ideally suited to be performed by hotel maids, or people pretending to be them.

So, after our victim gets back to the hotel room and powers up his or her laptop, the passphrase will be recorded and e.g. stored somewhere on the disk, or maybe transmitted over the network (not implemented in current version).

Now we can safely steal/confiscate the user’s laptop, as we know how to decrypt it. End of story.

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Windows 7 for $30 – Microsoft confirms $30 price tag for students promotion

Like so many of the recent Windows 7 promotions, it’s a limited time offer with more than a few caveats. But, details aside, Microsoft is offering college students Windows 7 for $29.99, according to a new deal announced on September 17.

The site has the details:

“For a limited time, eligible college students can get the sweetest deal on Windows 7 – for only $29.99 USD. That’s less than most of your textbooks! Hurry — offer ends January 3, 2010 at 12:00 am CST”

A frequently asked questions document, linked from the promotional site, has more details. Students may purchase one copy of either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional. The FAQ advises:

“If your school requires Domain Join, then you might want to consider Windows 7 Professional, which will let you connect to your school network so you can take advantage of features like HomeGroup and Remote Media Streaming.”

The FAQ also is up-front about the challenges in upgrading to Windows 7 from Vista:

“To upgrade easily from Windows Vista, you should upgrade to the same version you currently have in Windows 7. For example, if you’re moving from Windows Vista Home Premium with 32-bit software, it would be easiest to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium with 32-bit software. Most of the other upgrades require a custom (clean) installation, which is a fairly complex installation process that needs several steps and can take quite a few hours.”

The guidelines for moving from XP to Windows 7, which are even more complicated, are there, too, in all their glory. Bottom line, according to the FAQ:

“Upgrading a PC with Windows XP to Windows 7 is an involved process. If you’re at all uncomfortable with it, please consider having the upgrade done by a local PC or electronics retailer.”

The promotional site points to Microsoft’s student site for a list of other discounts offered to the academic community.