Tired of being the family IT guy? Jumpshot promises relief on a USB stick

Tired of being the family IT guy? Jumpshot promises relief on a USB stick

Summary: Veteran security pros looking for Kickstarter funding to take the pain out of fixing computer problems.



Hands up if you are your family's IT guy and you are constantly grumbling your way through malware/crapware removals and start-up tweaks to bring a Windows machine back to life.  You're not alone.

pedram_aminiPedram Amini

Pedram Amini and Dave Endler, veteran security professionals who previously worked together at iDefense and TippingPoint, are promising relief with Jumpshot, a start-up selling USB sticks with forensics software capable of resuscitating slugging computers with just a few mouse clicks.

The idea is to plug a USB stick into an ailing Windows machine and let the software run in the background to diagnose problems ranging from malware infections, crapware that hog system resources or Wi-Fi connectivity problems.

Once these problems are found, the software makes all the decisions for the end user, fixing the problems before sending a visual report on the health of the machine (see screenshot above).

"We adopted the 'grandma test' with the interface," Amini said in an interview. "You launch the app and we take care of the rest.  Jumpshot will do everything the family IT guy will do, make all the decisions for grandma and handle all the fixes silently in the background."

jumpshot_processAmini said the USB sticks -- available in 8GB and 32GB -- is fitted with a single file executable that requires no installation.  Once the USB is inserted in a Windows machine (old or new), Jumpshot writes a one-time modification to the windows bootloader to reboot into Jumpshot automatically.  

Jumpshot actually runs in a custom Linux environment that automatically takes Windows offline (Amini calls this "sedation") and launches a browser can at least surf the web during the forensic/clean-up process.  Jumpshot then connects to the cloud and downloads the engine code.

The engine then loads and automatically mounts and attaches itself to every hard drive on the PC that contains an installation of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8, Amini explained.

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Amini said the goal is to provide an easy-as-pie interface to the end user while the Jumpshot engine is making all the sane decisions for the end user.  "The goal is to provide the same report the family IT guy would give to his grand-father. It's a high-level conversation that remove the techy-language from the process." 

"Once the app is loaded, you see a log-in screen.  You register for an account, log in and Jumpshot takes care of everything else.  We're doing the forensics off a sleeping image instead of finding from the runtime side of things."

Amini said Jumpshot is configured to do things like removing start-up items to make a PC run faster, find and disinfect malware, uninstall OEM "crapware" and all the little tweaks needed to fix a problematic computer.  "We'll disable JavaScript in Adobe PDF because that's a security concern.  We'll go do all that in the background to get the machine back to a usable state."

Amini is careful to note that Jumpshot isn't a replacement for anti-malware software. "We're not preventing the cancer but we can go in and do the surgery to remove the cancer once it's there.  If you start seeing those 'scareware' pop-ups or your Internet is really slow or you have the DNSChanger malware and you can't use your computer, that's where we think Jumpshot will be perfect."

In the future, Amini says the company is looking to add features to monitor and manage privacy settings on social networks and even patch security vulnerabilities for third-party applications on Windows (PDF, Java, Flash, etc.)

Amini and Endler is using Kickstarter to raise funds (mostly to manufacture the USB sticks) and in just two days, supporters helped raise the $25,000 target.

Topics: Security, Linux, Malware, Wi-Fi, Windows, Social Enterprise

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  • Might be good.

    Most computer problems that I have worked on were exactly that.
    Stupid crap the user puts all over. From a silly mouse cursor to a silly screen saver to all sorts of crap. The task bar is completely filled with crap.
    Delete it all do a few other things and it runs, then a month later they call back. I refuse to do it twice for anyone.
    No, I do not make a living repairing personal computers.
    • you nailed it

      "No, I do not make a living repairing personal computers."

      It's *I don't have a word to expres this* frustrating to hear the answers if you ask even your closest friends what they think you do for a living.

      "Fixing computers, seriously? You think I studied 5 years to learn how to re-install Windows?"
      • Maybe if I send them a research paper...

        I'm a grad student, lucky enough to be working on a research paper that has a shot at publication. Maybe if I send a preprint to everyone who might ask me for help, they'll get an idea of the level of what I'm studying (whether they can decipher it or not).
  • Why?

    So that totally ignorant people can pretend around that they are IT specialists and make more damage?
    So basically this app hijacks your PC at the lowest level? Isn't this called mallware?
    What happens when it breaks? I think this is scary. Like hawing a kid with a gun. And it looks like a bad copy of Soluto.
    Sbb Kbb
    • Not malware

      No, it doesn't hijack your computer and it's not malware. IMO, malware is something that you don't intentionally install and it doesn't do anything good for your computer. This is an automated program, sure, and I do have questions about it taking a forensic image from your computer and whether it ships that back to their servers. But no, malware is something you don't intend to install and that doesn't do anything of value for you. I have questions about this, myself, but that's not one of them.
      • It would take quite a while to transfer a forensic image of your hard drive

        even over a cable or DSL connection. It would also be pretty easy to get caught doing so with little reward for the risk they would take. The article stated that they are using forensic tools on a sleeping image but this does not require making an image or transferring the image to their servers. This is not saying that they couldn't transfer smaller, more specific types of data which would make more sense... but that would still be a risky undertaking if they were to get caught.

        The tools are Linux and therefor open source. unless they are using some proprietary softawre on linux which is quite possible. The open source tools however are open to peer review and any data sent to and from their servers from proprietary software could be analyzed to determine what is being sent to their servers. If they have encrypted the data I think it would make privacy advocates wary of such a product.

        Anyone who seems overly paranoid about this particular product should really question all of the closed source software running on their systems and should really stay off the Internet as well. Every program they load could be sending data back to a server somewhere as long as they are connected to the Internet. Many programs not only could be, but actually are.
    • Of course you think this is scary.

      You are about as ignorant about computers and malware as a person could be.
  • IT

    Yup Really,
    Nice Thanks for sharing.
  • They might have a problem with Windows 8

    Because new Windows 8 computers will use UEFI secure boot, Jumpshot may not be able to gain access to the Windows stuff or even boot. Just like all those complaints that Windows 8 machines will not be able to dual-boot with Linux.

    Just a thought before you go and support the project -- which, apart from the potential Windows 8 issue, actually sounds like a great idea.
    • Same with Mac

      The new UEFI doesn't let you boot to another OS anymore. We had the problem trying to run Linux from a USB stick on new machines, then it started on older machines after the UEFI update.
      • Until the lawsuits occur over UEFI

        Then we'll see a repeat of United States vs. Microsoft all over again.

        Big fat monopolies never learn.
        • Actually....

          ...if it's hardware that Microsoft is selling that they created (the Surface Tablets for example) and it comes with Windows 8 pre-installed, and the buyer is made aware at purchase time that no other operating system (Linux for example) can be installed on that hardware then there cannot be a successful lawsuit.

          Now if Microsoft were to try and force Dell/HP/Toshiba/whomever else to only install Windows *and* not allow them to modify the UEFI to allow installation of other OS certificates or face penalties, then there could and would be a successful lawsuit.

          Of course, I'm quite sure that there are many fanatical Linux folks out there that would buy a Surface tablet just to part of a lawsuit against Microsoft because they can't install their beloved OS on the hardware.
          • Actually...

            "Now if Microsoft were to try and force Dell/HP/Toshiba/whomever else to only install Windows *and* not allow them to modify the UEFI to allow installation of other OS certificates or face penalties, then there could and would be a successful lawsuit."

            Which was my point.

            "Of course, I'm quite sure that there are many fanatical Linux folks out there that would buy a Surface tablet just to part of a lawsuit against Microsoft because they can't install their beloved OS on the hardware."

            Absolutely 100% hands down correct. That's why I plan to buy one each for my dog and cat.

  • That's a nice idea .. but it'll never take off

    Why? Simple. Because the average Jane & Joe are far too apathetic, lazy and ignorant to even do a simple fix.

    The mere fact this runs as a parallel process and requires a login and even some 'trivial steps' to get going, is a couple steps too many for the apathetic and disinterested masses.

    I notice they mention a "grandma test" ... well that's fine, but they overlook the simple fact that most lay-people (...yes, grandma's included) complain at even the slightest suggestion they need to do a 'couple of things' in order to get a fix going.

    Human nature is the real problem .. and that means that the lowest common denominator wins: ignorance is bliss and the best laid plans of mice and men almost always end up as futile attempts to help the helpless.

    Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light-bulb?

    A: "It's gotta want to change."

    • Plain and simple...

      Take the time to do a couple extra simple steps when you have a problem, or live with the problem (and potentially without a functioning computer and/or Internet access). Otherwise, you have to wait for me to find time to show up and fix it for you.

      And take a wild guess about how motivated I am to carve out time of my busy schedule to come over and fix your computer when you won't take the slightest initiative to fix things yourself (especially if a simplified tool like this presents itself), or better yet, avoid it in the first place by educating yourself on how to avoid creating problems.
      • I think it's a great idea.

        I would rather have most of my friends use one of those than go crashing through the computer and changing everything trying to make it work. Then they bring it to me and say can you fix this? Most of the time it takes five minutes to fix the problem and hours to undo everything they did. No I'm not an expert.
        Rick Sos
      • you just reworded

        my points and added your take.

        You're preaching to the converted: i've been building, repairing and maintaining computer systems for years - it's my living. I don't need a reminder of how dumb / ignorant / apathetic some folk can be.

        For your information, it's never "plain" ... and it certainly is never "simple" unless you've got the requisite background and knowledge to be able troubleshoot a host of problems and be able to diagnose the correct cause (a la family I.T guy). Yours just happens to be the typical response of an 'I.T. Guy' that smuggly believes things will be fine and that things are, quote "plain and simple". In all my time helping the non-I.T folks i know, i've yet to meet one that actually gets the importance of preventative / mitigation measures. To that end, we I.T guys become proverbial 'ambulances at the bottom of cliffs'.

        You want simple? The only thing "plain and simple" in relation to computers that have been turned into snail's pace, adware infested bot's and/or launch pads for viruses and other malware, are the hapless masses that get them into that state.

        My original assertion stands.

        (n.b. Good luck with your clients.)
        • the simplest

          If I want simple I just tell them to backup everything they have on their computer before they come to me, then I just format the whole thing and start over again (except of course if the cause is really really obvious). This method is not guaranteed to be the fastest but overall the simplest (IMO).

          I understand that it is not always an option if you do this for a living (costumers expect a better service than that). But if "friends" asks for your free help ("it should only take 5 minutes") then they don't have to complain if one or two apps/documents are missing afterwards.
          If they wanted a professional solution to their problem, they could take it up to computer doctors like you. If they refuse to spend money on a problem that takes up a lot of time to fix, they shouldn't expect miracles. Only the sun is free.

          (this sounds very selfish but most of you here will probably get my frustration)
          • Backup Best Practice

            I really hope you scan the data you're backing up for nasties and the like.
            roger andre
  • tired of being family it guy

    Tired of being the family IT guy, plus family's friends, that's why I switched to all Macs when I retired! I became acutely aware of the fact that Windows was "job security" for IT people everywhere, Linux was for "geeks" and hobbyists, but Macs "just worked"! I was one of those people wh o always thought you couldn't do anything, or run any software on a Mac. But I was spending half my time searching for a better registry editor, the latest anti-virus software, ways to speed up my pc, etc.. Sort of like owning a '50's-60's British sports car! You could easily spend more time working on them than driving them!
    Now, I can't imagine life without "Finder", or having to actually download something to view a simple .pdf, or for that matter, buy a pc (with a bunch of trial ware), no bilt in bluetooth, poor resolution, old fashioned mouse, lousy graphics, and thinking I'm getting a good deal!
    All I had to do was apply a little "tough love", and convince family and friends that they could buy a used Mac 4-5 years old and it would be a better value, be technologically superior than a new pc.
    But now days, most of them don't really need a desk top or a laptop to just surf the web or read their e-mail. An iOs device or other tablet, is just fine for that. Used to hear: "but I need MS Office", not so much anymore. Works is so good, it will do what 99% of them need, and for a lot less, and its easier too. But moreover, why not google docs?
    So I say, ween family off Windows, it's for their own good! And friends, don't let friends, run Windows, either!