When we talk about security, sometimes a balance comes into play between preventing cyber attacks and the ease of using certain programs or devices. A simple example is having a computer or mobile without an access code, totally unprotected. It is faster to turn it on and use it. Now, is that safe? In this article we are going to talk about Plug and Play , how it can be a security problem and what we can do to disable it in Windows.
What is Plug and Play
Plug and Play is the feature that allows you to connect a device to a computer and make it work directly. For example connecting a mouse to a computer, a USB memory, plugging in a keyboard … This makes the task much easier, since we do not need to install drivers or configure anything. Basically it is to connect and we can use it without further ado.
This is what we comment on the scale in terms of security. On the one hand we have the possibility of connecting these devices and that they work quickly without having to configure anything, but on the other hand we can find certain security problems that may exist.
The term Plug and Play is present in a large number of computers and peripheral devices. It has become very normal. A few years ago it was not uncommon to have to install the drivers that came on a CD to make a new mouse that we bought work. Now you just have to connect it to the USB port and Windows quickly configures it and in a matter of seconds we can use it.
This technology has made it much easier to connect devices, exchange data and information. It avoids the need to carry out complicated configurations and download the drivers, since all this process is carried out automatically by the system as soon as the device is plugged in via USB.
Why it can be dangerous
But why can this be a danger? In this article we have seen cases of vulnerabilities that affect the software of certain devices. We have seen it in keyboards and mice, for example. By connecting them in Windows, you automatically install software that has security flaws and can be exploited by a potential attacker.
Therefore, through those devices that have been installed through Plug and Play without us doing anything, the operating system itself can put us at risk. It is true that these vulnerabilities usually receive patches, but they do not always happen and we can have obsolete devices .
That is why Plug and Play technology can sometimes be a major security problem. Some users may choose to find a way to prevent the system from installing the software for that mouse or keyboard that we are connecting and configuring them automatically. So we can install it manually and avoid complications.
How to disable Plug and Play and not install software
Can we configure Windows to disable Plug and Play ? The answer is yes. However, it must be borne in mind that this will prevent it from automatically configuring the devices that we connect. It is something that must be clear, because it could have negative consequences in the future. Of course, we can always reverse the situation.
In order to disable Plug and Play in Windows and not automatically install software from the devices we connect, we can use the System Registry Editor. To do this we have to go to Start, look for Registry Editor and run it.
Once inside we have to go to the path EquipoHKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionDevice Installer. There we have to create a new 32-bit DWORD value key. We have to give that key the name of DisableCoInstallers and value 1. It would be as we can see in the image below.
From that moment, once we have created this new key and it is enabled, Windows will not install any drivers when we connect any device via USB. For example, if we plug in a keyboard or mouse, it will not do anything directly.
In the event that by mistake we connect a device that has a vulnerability at the software level , as we have seen that it may occur on isolated occasions, we would not have that security problem as it is not configured automatically.
Logically, we must bear in mind that these devices will not work until we configure them manually . If we go back to the example of that mouse or keyboard that we plugged in, we would have to manually download its drivers and install them on the system. It is a slower process, but if we talk strictly about security it is better in that sense.
What if we want to go back to the previous state and have Windows automatically configure the Plug and Play devices ? The process is very simple and we will only have to follow the same steps that we have explained, but this time give a value of 0 to that key that we have created or directly delete it. The operating system would install the software as soon as we connect any device that is compatible.
Conclusions to disable or not Plug and Play in Windows
So is it really useful to disable Plug and Play in Windows? For home users in general, it is not something that really has an important utility. It will not contribute much even if we talk about security , but it will bring difficulties to make certain devices work normally.
Our advice is only to do this when we know that we are going to install a device that has a vulnerability at the software level and we do not want the system to install it. This is interesting to be ourselves, manually, who install the drivers that we know have been patched or that they will not pose any risk.
Therefore, although disabling Plug and Play in Windows to prevent it from installing device drivers is very easy to apply and disable, we must always bear in mind that these drivers will have to be installed manually. It is an added difficulty, although on the other side of the scale is the improvement of security to avoid certain risks associated with possible vulnerable software.