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Windows 10 Security Tips - How to Protect your Personal Data
Windows 10 brought with it an unprecedented ramp up in OS updates and with that, unforeseen privacy issues found by a large number of people upgrading to the Windows 10 environment. Below is a breakdown of some of the most popular privacy issues and how you can change those Windows settings to protect your personal data.
Privacy Concerns Found by Users
Concern 1: Windows 10 automatically assigns an advertising ID to each user on a device tied to the email address on file. Using that ID, the company can tailor ads for web-browsing and using certain applications.
Concern 2: Much of users' personal data is synced with Microsoft's servers. Some of this information, like your Wi-Fi password, can then be encrypted and shared with your contacts, using a feature called Wi-Fi sense. Although, some have argued that this isn't a security risk, because the user must choose to share the network.
Concern 3: Microsoft's personal assistant, Cortana, must collect data as well to provide the kind of service it does, but it is likely not better or worse than its Apple and Google contemporaries.
"We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services."The problem is that many users want personalized services, but it's difficult to draw the line at what data should be collected.
How to Protect Yourself
Here are some steps you can take to opt-on or disable some of the problematic features.
NOTE: If you haven't yet installed Windows 10 but you plan on doing so, make sure you that you do a custom install so you'll be able to pick and choose what is enabled at the onset. If you installed Windows 10 using Express settings, you can still disable some of the default privacy settings.
From the start button, click "Settings" and then click "Privacy" and click the "General" tab on the left sidebar. Under that tab you'll see a few sliders where you can toggle certain features on or off.
The top toggle button is the most important as it disables the advertising ID for each user. But, if you want to cover your bases, you should go ahead disable the rest of the options as well.
After turning off the options under the general tab, you can jump down to the next tab down, "Location," and turn off location data for all apps or specific ones. That's not necessarily new to WIndows 10, but it's something that many security-conscious folks like to do.
Next, you'll want to head down to the tab labeled "Speech, inking, and typing." Here you can disable Cortana from gathering information about you by clicking the "Stop getting to know me" button towards the middle of the screen.
Keep in mind, clicking this will also disable Cortana and dictation.
Moving on, click the "Other devices" tab at the bottom of the list. Under this tab you'll be able to turn off the "Sync with devices" feature. In the example given by Microsoft, this could be used for connecting with beacons, which are typically used for advertising purposes.
If you want to kill this feature, slide the first button to the off position. If you want, you can also turn off syncing for trusted devices as well.
Now, back out to the general settings and click "Network and internet." In that window click "Manage Wi-Fi settings" toward the middle of the screen.
Here you'll be able to customize your setting for the Wi-Fi Sense feature. If you want to keep everything private, click all the sliders until the read "off" and uncheck the boxes on the page. If not, you can select which features to turn off individually.
One of the final security checks you can do is to opt out of the personalized ads while browsing in Microsoft Edge. Click the following link or paste it into your browser: https://choice.microsoft.com/en-gb/opt-out
Click the Xs next to the options to turn off "Personalised ads in this browser" and "Personalised ads wherever I use my Microsoft account."
This isn't a comprehensive security checklist, but hopefully it helps you take care of some of the potential privacy issues in Windows 10.