Windows 10 Security and Privacy Issues
Windows 10 is the latest generation of the Microsoft desktop operating system software. Computer support companies, such as Analytics, will be supporting it for the long term. It combines some of the better aspects of both Windows 7 and 8 for performance user interface, as well as, conceivably, one or two aspects that many users would rather not exist. However, Windows 10 also includes some new “features” that many users find to be objectionable if not highly intimidating. These Windows 10 features have several security and privacy issues in addition to being intimidating.
The first of these features is a feature Microsoft calls “WiFi Sense”. This feature allows your Windows 10 computer, with wireless capability, or phone, to share the wireless password for your wireless networks with other people you know. It will automatically share them with all of your friends on Facebook, contacts in Outlook, or your friends on Skype. This means that anyone who is on your Facebook friends list (including that one person you still hate from High School) can take their own Windows 10 laptop within range of your home or office and automatically be connected to your wireless network. No questions asked.
This feature is only half-enabled by default. What this means in practical terms is, the ability to set up this feature is enabled, but whenever you setup access on your laptop to a wireless network you are given a prompt to share this wireless network with your friends. If you say “yes” then anyone you know in the previously mentioned services is automatically given access to your WiFi. Supposedly, this service only allows your friends to access the internet through your WiFi, nothing else.
However, most computer security support experts are very concerned that it even allows them on your wireless network to begin with. Once someone has access to a network it becomes a lot easier to start hacking at it and worm their way in to places they shouldn’t be. Even if this is not the case, it’s a potentially serious drain on the internet bandwidth available for legitimate business purposes. Anyone who works at a given corporate office can have a friend stop by and “borrow” their internet to start downloading all those movies they had been eager to get their hands on causing this to hinder the use of that internet connection for necessary business needs.
To disable this feature you want to go to Settings -> Network & Internet -> Wi-Fi -> Manage Wi-Fi Settings -OR- click “Start” and type in “WiFi” and select “Manage Wifi Settings”. In here you want to turn off the top two options, which disables Wi-Fi Sense (see Wi-Fi Sense Image).
Another “Feature” of Windows 10 that many users and on-site computer solution companies like Analytics will find objectionable, is one that utilizes your internet bandwidth to send Windows Updates to other Windows computers. Microsoft has done this to save money on their own bandwidth usage by pushing the cost onto you and your computer. This is especially bad if you use an internet connection that is metered, meaning you have to pay for every bit of data you transmit or receive; or if you’re a user that has a set limit of bandwidth you can use in a given month.
If neither of the two instances mentioned above apply to you, having this feature enabled consumes resources on your computer alone in order to process these updated transmissions and also eats up bandwidth that you could be using to stream Netflix more smoothly. In regards to a business, having all 100 computers in your office sending Windows Updates to other computers in the world can suddenly make your internet speed inexplicably slower than it usually is when you’re trying to get actual work done.
This “feature” is enabled by default and can be turned off by going to Settings -> Updates & Security -> Windows Update -> Advanced Options. Select the “Choose how updates are delivered” option (see Advanced Options image).
At the bottom of the screen that comes up you’ll see by default your computer is set to “Get and send updates to PCs on my local network, and PCs on the Internet”. You want to set it to “PCs on my local network” (see Choose How Updates Are Delivered image).
You are unable to set up your computer to not send updates to anyone else, but you can at least set it up so it only sends to other computers on your local network. This is still, perhaps, better than turning it off completely since it does help to reduce bandwidth usage in your home or your office by setting it to this option.
One final “feature” of Windows 10 worth mentioning may or may not be as drastically upsetting as the first two mentioned in this blog, but many will still find it to be objectionable.
By default, Windows 10 will gather various kinds of information about you and transmit it to Microsoft. In some cases, it will sync the information between your devices and in other cases, it will sell your information to advertisers. In either case it can be a serious privacy concern to you as the customer. By another default, Windows 10 will gather the following types of information:
1) Anything you type (supposedly to improve text completion suggestions for touch screen devices).
2) Anything you write on your touch screen (also supposedly to improve text completion).
3) Your browsing history and website passwords (supposedly to sync between devices and market to advertisers).
4) Letting Windows 10 Applications use your personal Microsoft Advertising ID (it will personalize ads for you based on all the information Microsoft collects about you).
5) Your physical location (convenience with not having to always type in your zip code on websites and also to tailor ads to you).
6) Logs your voice (to process what you say to Cortana, Windows 10’s version of Siri).
7) Your contacts (to supposedly only reference them when you speak to Cortana).
8) Your calendar items (to let Cortana update them for you).
There is most likely additional information Windows will gather that was not mentioned above.
No matter how you slice it, everything done by the user basically allows Microsoft to catalog and store your entire life (so to speak). Many of these do have some convenient features to them that some users may find beneficial, but as for the rest of us, we would prefer Microsoft, or any other operating system, not have that level of detail about our lives at their fingertips.
To disable these features, we’ll start by going to Settings -> Privacy.
Here (see Privacy Settings image) I recommend turning off everything except the SmartScreen filter, which does offer some useful browsing security features in Microsoft Edge (what used to be called Internet Explorer).
In the left hand browsing menu, you next want to go to “Location”. I recommend turning it off completely unless you have a need or desire to use this handy tool offered by these location services.
In the left hand browsing menu, under “Camera” and “Microphone”, you can select which programs have permission to access the camera or microphone on your system. Disable any that don’t make sense to you.
In the left hand browsing menu, under “Speech, inking & typing”, select the “Stop getting to know me”.
You can explore the other options in the left hand browsing menu to ensure the settings are what you prefer. The settings that were just reviewed are the most important ones to look at.
Next, we’ll go to Settings -> Accounts. On the left side you’ll see an option for “Sync your settings”. This allows your system settings to be synced between Windows 10 computers and also backed up to Microsoft servers. If you like the convenience of having the same settings on all your computers, leave this setting turned on; otherwise I’d suggest turning it off to ensure your privacy.
All of this can seem like a lot of work to ensure your security in utilizing the newest Microsoft Operating System and it is certainly more to keep in mind than there was for Windows 7. It is unfortunate that these have to be security and privacy concerns, but at least with Windows 10 security you can still go in to disable the settings rather than being forced to accept them without any recourse. Many experts will point out that Apple Mac Operating Systems, iOS devices, and Android devices routinely do these sorts of intrusions into your privacy already, while Windows is at least offering the chance to disable them.
Windows 10 is an expanded and virtuous Operating System and many will argue it is an improvement over Windows 8. With these setting changes kept in mind, you can ensure this newest version of Windows will work optimally for you and not have any hidden ’traps’ that will cause unexpected trouble in your home or workplace.