Microsoft recently released its newest operating system, Windows 10. Microsoft says “It is the best Windows ever” and “it’s playful” and “curious”. Of course, they say that every operating system they release is better than the ones that have come before. In the tech world, the general rule of thumb is that every other release of Windows is worth having. XP was really good, Vista was not. Windows 7 was really good, Windows 8 was not. Following this pattern, we expect Windows 10 to be really good.
However, several concerns should be noted before rushing to upgrade your computers or buying new computers with Windows 10 on them. Most, but not all, of these concerns have to do with privacy.
General Privacy Settings
Similar to a mobile device, Windows 10 can use location data to “improve” your search results and make advertising more “relevant”. Windows 10 has a voice recognition system in it, called Cortana, which is similar to Siri and performs the same functions you may be used to on a phone. Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer’s replacement, has several settings that bear reviewing. All in all, nothing in these settings is particularly out of line with today’s security standards and they are on par with the privacy issues you might encounter on a smart phone. And, much like a smart phone, you can “opt-out” of these settings. Meaning, if you don’t want them, you simply manually turn them off.
Windows 10 has a (insert sarcasm) nifty feature for Wi-Fi password sharing. If you give someone the password to your Wi-Fi it is then transmitted back to Microsoft to be shared with their Facebook, Skype and Outlook.com friends/contacts. Now, the guest may have turned this feature off, but the point here is that the guest is in control of this, not the person whose Wi-Fi it is. So people claim that this is not a big deal, and you shouldn’t worry about it. However, let us explore the following scenario:
Someone comes to your office on legitimate business. They ask for your wireless password to get online while they are there, and you give it to them, because you don’t have a guest wireless network. They do their business and go home. They happen to be friends on Facebook with a former employee that has a grudge, or any malevolent entity. The Facebook friend now has access to your networks!
Microsoft has made various assurances about how they will keep your passwords safe. However, to people who are either curious, or have bad intent, getting around any safeguards presents an interesting challenge, with a very large reward. We fully expect someone to create a hack, in short order, that circumvents Microsoft’s protections.
The Wi-Fi password sharing is on the computer of the person accessing the Wi-Fi. Microsoft says that if you append your Wi-Fi name with “_optout” it won’t share your password, but why should someone have to change their Wi-Fi settings to prevent this? Frankly, this feature is appalling from a security standpoint and we would not be surprised to find that it is disabled rather quickly.
The real solution here is to make sure that you never give out your Wi-Fi password to anyone. Every business, and now every household, should have a guest network that is separate from their internal network, and the guest password is the only Wi-Fi password they share. Fortunately, most firewalls these days come with the ability to set up a guest network easily.
The last major problem in Windows 10 is not necessarily a security concern, as it is a control issue with the updates to the new operating system. With Windows 10 Home and Pro, everyone will get ALL updates automatically. The idea is that this will help keep everyone’s system up-to-date. The problem is that there is no way to opt out or adjust the settings, like there are in earlier versions of Windows. For Pro you can delay the updates a little, but for Home they download and install right away. This is actually going to generate problems for people as updates are pushed which cause their computers to crash. An instance of this problem has already happened:
An update was pushed to computers that caused problems with certain hardware configurations. On some computers the update tried to install, failed, and then (sarcasm) helpfully rebooted the computer and uninstalled itself. Since you can’t tell Windows 10 to NOT try to install that update it continued to try to install, fail, reboot, and uninstall, over and over and over again. Microsoft released an emergency patch to allow a user to tell Windows to skip this particular update.
Unfortunately, in the attempt to be helpful, Microsoft really messed up this one. This is a great feature to have turned on by default for people, but there needs to be a way for someone to be able to change it or opt out, or even just opt out of a specific update. Without this you can expect updates being pushed to your computer, without your consent, and randomly breaking applications or even your entire computer. It *is* going to happen-it already has.
Wow, Now I’m Not Sure I Want Windows 10, Ever!
While the above problems are something to consider, we honestly expect them to be resolved quickly as pressure mounts. We fully expect Windows 10 to be a great operating system that will be a good idea to upgrade to, but … wait a little while. As with just about anything new you really want to wait until the bugs and kinks are worked out on other guinea pigs before you adopt the system.