In Cybersecurity, IT Management, Microsoft
Windows 10 Security

There have been reports circulating regarding the privacy settings within Windows 10. While there are a few settings within the operating system that deserve a second look, it tends to boil down to how much information you’re willing to share versus how much you’re looking to leverage the new features. Let’s take a look at some of the most important security settings within Microsoft 10 that you may want to consider adjusting.

1) Information you send to other apps

Navigating to the Windows 10 Start menu (don’t we all just love that the conventional Start menu is back?) and head to Settings in the left hand menu. This area contains most of the settings you’ll want to consider adjusting.

The first setting, “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps”, just feels a little strange. According to Microsoft, your “advertising ID” is not linked to your name, email, or other personal information, but let’s face facts, Google, Amazon, and Yahoo! are already tracking each of us. Still, I would recommend turning this feature off, as the non-personalized ads are annoying enough, I don’t need Cleveland Browns fan ads.

2) Information you download

Now the second setting, “Turn on SmartScreen Filter to check web content (URLs) that Windows Store apps use,” is not entirely bad. The Windows SmartScreen Filter is basically an anti-malware service from Microsoft. Essentially, if a file you’re are about to download has been downloaded by many others, it’s generally considered safe and Microsoft will allow you to download it without any warnings. But if the file or app hasn’t been download often, Microsoft will send you a warning. The SmartScreen helps weed out the bad websites and apps to protect you. I would recommend leaving this on, however, advanced users may want to disable.

3) Information you send to Microsoft

Here is where Windows 10 starts to get a little…creepy. Microsoft does not have a keylogger running in Windows 10, but it does like to “keep track” of what you type in order to “better learn about you.”

The “Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future” setting in no way sounds essential for my computer usage, I recommend unchecking it. I’d also recommend disabling the “Let websites provide locally relevant content by accessing my language list” setting. Being an English speaker, I don’t think this is essential.

Carrying on with the ‘Microsoft, please don’t stalk me, I only like you as a friend’ trend, let’s switch gears to the Speech, inking, & typing category of Privacy. Here, you will find a little blurb about how Windows and Cortana just “want to get to know you better.” Some will argue that the “Getting to know me” feature is violating HIPAA privacy requirements. I don’t personally believe it is violating any security and privacy doctrines, but for medical, SOC 2 certified, ISO27001 certified, or health insurance companies it makes sense to choose the “Stop getting to know me” to decline this feature. Keep in mind, disabling this will prevent Windows built-in dictation as well as Cortana’s voice activated assistant.

4) Information you send to advertisers

Now let’s jump back to the General tab, as we’re not completely done yet. Here you will see a link to “Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info,” selecting this will open your web browser to a page. I highly recommend changing Personalized ads in this browser to “OFF” as well as verify the Personalized ads wherever I use my Microsoft account setting is “OFF.” Please keep in mind, these settings are browser-specific, meaning, if you use Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome, you’ll want to copy and paste the link into all of your browsers and verify they are all set to “OFF.”

5) Information you share with other people

Wi-Fi sense is another creepy aspect to Windows 10. This basically shares out your wireless network information to your “digital friends,” allowing them to gain access to your networks securely. It passes this information in the background over encrypted connections, so the users will never actually need your Wi-Fi password to connect. This also means that they cannot share your Wi-Fi information to anyone else. In that sense, it can be argued that it’s actually more secure than sharing your Wi-Fi password. Personally, I don’t want my laptop connecting to Wi-Fi networks without my approval, and I don’t want my, Skype, and Facebook friends just able to connect to my Wi-Fi without my permission.

To adjust this setting, back out of the Privacy menu and go to Network & Internet from the main Settings panel. It should direct you to the Wi-Fi tab. Now select Manage Wi-Fi settings on the right. Here, you can customize how it connects or allows connections via your Wi-Fi. For compliance concerns, I highly recommend unchecking both “Connect to suggested open hotspots” and “Connect to networks shared by my contacts” to disable.

6) Information you backup to Microsoft’s cloud servers

Finally, Microsoft wants you to back up your local files to their cloud servers. Windows 10 comes with OneDrive preinstalled. You may have noticed the pop-ups in the bottom right corner bugging you to configure it so they can store your documents elsewhere. If you have not configured it, there is nothing to worry about. However, if the pop-ups are annoying, you can stop the app from starting up altogether. Down in the bottom right taskbar, select the Up Arrow icon and find the little grey cloud icon. Right clicking on the icon allows for Settings to be selected. From the menu that pop up, select the Settings tab and uncheck the Start OneDrive automatically when I sign in to Windows. This will stop the application from starting on your next boot up.

These are the primary focuses of concern over privacy in Windows 10 since its release. Feel free to go radical with the other settings in the Privacy sections, some of which allow apps access to your camera, calendar, contacts, etc. Again, it just depends on how much information you are willing to share verses your desire to take advantage of some of the more useful and innovative features in Windows 10.

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