Tweak UI, a free PowerToy from Microsoft for Windows XP, gives us easy control of a lot of XP configuration options that are either scattered throughout Windows XP’s standard user interface — or, even, not available in the standard Windows XP user interface.
One of the significant controls that Tweak UI can modify is Windows XP’s AutoRun and its settings. Tweak UI can control the autoplay of individual drives by drive letter (assigned by Windows XP) and by type (CD/DVD or removable drive).
Why is it important to control AutoPlay?
We always thought AutoPlay was convenient — and it is for purchased CD’s and DVD’s. However, do you really trust a burned DVD or CD to be auto-run? What if it came from someone else who might have an infected computer — and the AutoPlay will now infect you?
In today’s world of extremely cheap flash drives, or even more expensive ones, if you found a flash drive on the street or in a parking lot, what would you do with it? Say " oh, boy!" plug it in and see what’s on it? With AutoPlay turned on for removable drives (which it is by default in Windows XP), this becomes a malware producer’s social engineering tool.
What’s social engineering? It’s tricking the user into taking an insecure action by presenting them with a task they will want to do.
Isn’t a flash drive awfully expensive for social engineering? Against a home user, perhaps. Against a business where the bad guy thinks he can use it to get inside the network, it would be a cheap way to subvert the network’s security.
So, while I have not turned off AutoRun for my CDs and DVDs, I have turned off AutoRun for Removable Drives. This will include flash drives and external hard drives.
Although Tweak UI does not let me pick between flash drives and external hard drives, I’m happy to control AutoPlay for them, too. By turning off AutoPlay, I save the time that Windows would spend scanning every directory of the drive.
In the first image below, I’ve selected My Computer > Auto Play in the left panel of the Tweak UI window. At this stage, in the right panel, we see a button and instructions on how to control AutoPlay via the normal My Computer options.
In the image on the below right, you can see that I’ve clicked on the plus sign beside AutoPlay to open up its additional controls, and selected Types. We see the default, which is checkmarks allowing AutoPlay on CD and DVD drives and on removable drives.
In the image below, I’ve unchecked the box beside Enable Autoplay for removable drives. The next step is to click on the Apply button.
In the image on the below right, you can see checkmarks for each drive letter. For a drive, including a removable drive, to be AutoPlay-able, it has to be enabled by Type andenabled by drive letter. Since most computers have multiple accessible USB ports, disabling AutoPlay for "removable drives" is easier than unchecking a bunch of drive letters.
For the image below, I selected Handlers from the left panel of Tweak UI. This shows a few of the individual file types (notice the vertical scroll bar in the right-hand panel) for which you can change the program that will AutoPlay them.