Hardentools is designed to harden your machine's overall security by disabling multiple Windows, Office, and Acrobat Reader features, including ActiveX, autorun, autoplay, and macros.
Hardentools is a straightforward application intended for users that want to increase Windows security in the most straightforward way possible. Hardentools can disable several system tools with a single click, which are generally of no real use to the casual user but can potentially leave a PC vulnerable to malware attacks.
These features, commonly thought for enterprise customers, are generally useless to regular users and can pose a danger as attackers commonly abuse them to execute malicious code on a victim's computer. This tool intends to simply reduce the attack surface by disabling the low-hanging fruit. Hardentools are designed for individuals at risk who might want an extra security level at the price of some usability. It is not intended for corporate environments.
Bear in mind, after running Hardentools; you won't be able, for example, to do complex calculations with Microsoft Office Excel or use the Command-line terminal. Still, those are the only considerable "downsides" of having a slightly safer Windows environment. Before deciding to use it, make sure you read this document thoroughly and understand that, yes, something might break. If you experience malfunctions due to the modifications implemented by this tool, please do let us know.
WARNING: This tool disables several features in Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, and Windows, which may cause malfunctions to specific applications. Use this at your own risk.
Generic Windows Features
Disabling AutoRun and AutoPlay. Disables AutoRun / AutoPlay for all devices. For example, this should prevent applications from automatically executing when you plug a USB stick into your computer.
Disables powershell.exe, powershell_ise.exe, and cmd.exe execution via Windows Explorer. You will not be able to use the terminal, and it should prevent the use of PowerShell by malicious code trying to infect the system.
Sets User Account Control (UAC) to always ask for permission (even on configuration changes only) and to use "secure desktop."
Disable file extensions mainly used for malicious purposes. Disables the ".hta", ".js", ".JSE", ".WSH",."WSF", ".scf", ".scr", ".vbs", ".vbe" and ".pif" file extensions for the current user (and for system-wide defaults, which is only relevant for newly created users).
Shows file extensions and hidden files in explorer.
Disable Macros. Microsoft Office users sometimes use macros for scripting and automating certain activities, especially calculations with Microsoft Excel. However, macros are currently a security plague, and they are widely used as a vehicle for compromise. With Hardentools, macros are disabled, and the "Enable this Content" notification is disabled, too, to prevent users from being tricked.
Disable OLE object execution. Microsoft Office applications can embed so-called "OLE objects" and execute them, at times also automatically (for example, through PowerPoint animations). Windows executables, such as spyware, can also be embedded and executed as objects. We repeatedly observed this security disaster, particularly in attacks against activists in repressed regions. Hardentools entirely disables this functionality.
Disabling ActiveX. Disables ActiveX Controls for all Office applications.
Disable DDE. Disables DDE for Word and Excel
Disable execution of objects embedded in PDF documents. Acrobat Reader also allows the execution of embedded objects by opening them. This would normally raise a security alert, but given that legitimate uses are rare and limited, Hardentools disables this.
Switch on the Protected Mode (enabled by default in current versions)
Switch on Protected View for all files from untrusted sources
Switch on Enhanced Security (enabled by default in current versions)