Are you considering downloading Windows 10 for your college PC?
While Windows 10 has several beneficial features, there are key privacy and security issues to consider before making the upgrade. These include:
Microsoft has faced backlash over a new Windows 10 feature, Wi-Fi Sense. When enabled, Wi-Fi sense shares an encrypted version of the user’s Wi-Fi password with their Facebook, Outlook or Skype contacts, granting those contacts (restricted) access to a shared Wi-Fi connection.
It’s important to note that only Internet access is granted rather than access to resources on that Wi-Fi network.
While this feature is convenient for many, there are security concerns surrounding whether hackers could use it as a staging point to break into the Wi-Fi network to get access to other devices on that network. Other less serious but still significant concerns relate to the fact that all contacts from the chosen Facebook/Skype/Outlook groups, rather than select contacts, will be granted access.
Windows Hello biometric authentication
Windows 10 incorporates a new biometric authentication feature, Windows Hello, that some have predicted will lead to the “death of passwords.”
Biometric authentication is certainly a more advanced security feature than passwords, but it isn’t entirely foolproof. A widely circulated video demonstrates how a hacking group bypassed iPhone 5S fingerprint recognition. Although it’s not a quick and easy hack, it shows that relying on fingerprint recognition is not without problems.
One of the broad concerns around biometric authentication is that if a password is stolen, it can be changed. Currently, this seems an unlikely scenario, but if your biometric tokens are stolen and successfully compromised, it’s going to be pretty hard to change your iris, face and fingerprint.
Cortana and privacy awareness
Cortana is the Windows counterpart to Siri. It is an incredibly useful feature but, in order to work, it logs a lot of data – your device location, contacts, speech, apps you use, calendar data, your handwriting, and so on, storing this data to Microsoft’s servers.
Microsoft has done its best to put users at ease by promising all Cortana data is encrypted and stored on computer systems with limited access in controlled facilities.
However, despite any level of encryption, this is still a significant amount of information Cortana collects from users. If users are concerned about their privacy, Windows 10 has the option to either limit Cortana’s features or turn it off completely.
Advertising ID tracking
With Windows 10, each user is given his or her own advertising ID, which allows Microsoft and its partners to target advertisements toward specific users based on their preferences and other criteria.
Microsoft claims the advertising ID is not linked with individuals’ name, email address or other personal information, but many users are still wary to have targeted ads following them around online due to privacy concerns. If so, there’s an easy “off” switch to prevent these personalized ads.
While users are being asked to trade privacy for features, Microsoft has provided opt out mechanisms that allow for some control over the data being shared.
As with any online activity, software or operating system, be wary of the information you share online, and beware of key red flags that your personal information has been compromised, such as suspicious charges or accounts opened in your name.
Finally, whether or not you choose to make the switch to Windows 10, put preventative security measures in place to stay protected to the best of your ability, including an advanced anti-virus and layered security solution.
A serial entrepreneur with a thorough knowledge of technology and online marketing, Daniel is focused on building Lavasoft‘s next generation of Ad-Aware products and making the brand the go to resource for people want to use the web safely and protect their data. His vision is to provide a portfolio of free security products that are easy-to-use, easy on your hardware and run fast.