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Windows 10 security changes

Windows 10 has been out since 29/07/15 and over 300 million devices are now running the new operating system. More and more people are taking advantage of the free upgrade offer which ends on 29th July 2016 but some still have reservations. A major bugbear with Windows 10 is the tricks Microsoft have used to try and force users to upgrade. Auto updates, a feature that is supposed to keep your current system up to date and free of bugs was one, with the pure number of complaints forcing Microsoft to change the way that particular method was delivered. Another big issue with Windows 10 is that it can invade on your privacy when you use your computer. If you have installed Windows 10 with express settings (something most of us do for speed) then by default it will automatically record every key stroke you make and your location. If that isn’t bad enough it will then send this information home (back to Microsoft) for the company to use as it likes. Whether you are already running Windows 10 or just looking for more information; here is a list of settings that you will want to change to improve your privacy.

Just a quick warning - please be careful before you upgrade to Windows 10. Some computers do not have the hardware to support this new operating system. I tested a standalone computer running Windows 8.1, it automatically upgraded to Windows 10 without my permission and after the lengthy upgrade session I was left with a brick. When turning on the computer all it would display was flashing colors, the whole PC was broken without a way to recover the system. Luckily for me it was just a test, but if you have one computer that stores all of your data I recommend not upgrading until you have a complete backup. To turn off the auto update notifications as well as the auto update please follow this guide from the Microsoft website

Location Settings

The location settings in Windows 10 allow your computer to detect where in the world you are. This setting is used so Windows can give you personalized information for apps like the weather and pinpointing your location in maps. Although this is a nice feature to have, do you really want Microsoft knowing where you are at all times? When installing Windows 10 you can chose to customize your settings and in the customizer you have the option to turn location services off. On the installation screen it tells you that location services will “Send Microsoft and trusted partners some location data to improve itself”, this is already suspicious, just because Microsoft believe their partners are to be trusted, it does not tell you who specifically it is sending the information to.

I can see from reading the policy agreement that it only uses your location information with apps that you have given permission to do so. Although it might sound helpful, I don’t like how it is on by default.

To manage your location settings and allow certain Apps or Windows 10 to access your location click the start button and then go to settings. On the settings page click the location tab on the left hand side and click the change button, you can turn your location services on or off. Alternatively you can leave it on and then manage which apps can have access to your location.

Cortana

Cortana is not a bad feature in Windows 10, in my opinion it is probably one of its best. Cortana acts like a virtual assistant which can help by, amongst a lot of other things, reminding you when you have certain tasks to complete, what you have in your calendar and can use your location (subject to you allowing it as above) to locate nearby services that you are searching for. What the more suspect side of me doesn’t like about Cortana is that for it to work correctly it needs to gather information about you. Microsoft list the different types of information Cortana will collect on their website

Device location

  • Appointments in your calendar
  • The apps you have installed and use
  • Data from you emails and text messages
  • Who you call
  • Your contacts and who you have interacted with this device and other Microsoft services.
  • Your music
  • Alarm settings
  • Whether the lock screen is on
  • What you look at and purchase in the appstore
  • Your search history
  • “and More”

I do like Cortana and think that it makes for a good personal assistant but the amount of information that it needs is a little worrying. I am also concerned that Microsoft has ended this list with “and more”, it feels like Cortana wants to know about every little thing I do on my computer. Even though it does go on to explain what it does with some of this information it does not say what it will do with all of it.

To turn off Cortana simply press start and make a search, in the search box there will now appear a settings icon, click this for further options.

Before you upgrade!

A major consideration before you upgrade to Windows 10 is program compatibility. Before upgrading you need to check that you’re important software is compatible, if not then you might have to purchase new software that will be compatible for windows 10, which means this free upgrade is no longer free. As I said earlier I had tried upgrading a computer that had hardware incompatible to upgrade to windows 10 and tried upgrading it, the result was the computer flashing with different colours when the monitor was turned on making the machine unusable. I had no documents on the computer that we needed but if this happened on a live computer that a user was working on this would cause major disruption for your company. To check if your software is compatible with windows 10 you would need to contact the developers for your software. You can check if your hardware is compatible with Windows 10 on the Microsoft website.

If you have already upgraded and do not like the new upgrade or there are some software compatibility issues, you can go back to your previous operating systems. This is only available to do a month after you upgrade to windows 10 so make sure you know when you upgraded if you are thinking of going back. Also if you do choose to reverse this upgrade then everything you install after the upgrade will be removed. To reverse this upgrade search for ‘settings’ in the start menu and open the settings page. Next click on the ‘update & security’ tab, from here move to the ‘Recovery’ tab and under ‘Go back to Windows (your previous OS)’ click the get started button.

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