You might wonder why Microsoft gave away billions of dollars worth of Windows 10. In fact, up until Windows 8, they sold the operating system to generate significant revenues for the company…it was the company “cash cow”.
Now, suddenly, we all get a free operating system upgrade, right? Wrong! Nothing is free in this world. Even the free advice and free tools I give you cost me some time and money and energy. But I digress…
So, why a free operating system (OS) from the most commercial OS vendor in the world? Let’s start with all the built-in ‘consumer analytics’ – see I’m being nice. I’d like to call it not so friendly creepware or spyware but that wouldn’t be polite. Microsoft has figured out that if they spy on your computer behavior and internet searches, they can then sell YOU as THE PRODUCT – yes, you become the product (to advertisers and maybe even government agencies) for much more than you would have paid for the Windows upgrade. Some say you are worth about $2,000.00 USD per year to these folks, versus you paying Microsoft $199 and up for various versions of an operating system that shouldn’t be spying on you.
Of course, you can always get UBUNTU Linux or others for free and control the environment including reviewing the source code for any backdoors and removing them or any weaknesses or vulnerabilities you find. But that’s another story for another time.
I have found so many new spyware entry-points by Microsoft, I consider Windows 10, in itself, equal to Amazon Echo, the creepy hardware device you might be considering buying for the holidays that says “I don’t listen to you until you call my name” – yeah, right. It’s also going to make it hard to keep third parties out of your computer – especially cyber criminals, nation state cyber hackers and others. But, for now, let’s start with Microsoft, shall we?
You’ll need this really cool utility that’s actually a Windows registry tweak called “TakeOwn” to get permissions. It will add TakeOwn to the context menu or you could use takeown from the command line. Now, follow these simple insructions:
- Navigate to C:\Windows
- Create folder SystemApps.bak
- Use Takeown to gain ownership of c:\windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy
- (Gain ownership of anything else you want to move)
- Cut/Paste the folder(s) from SystemApps to SystemApps.bak
- When the “Permissions” pop-up appears, switch to Task Manager
- Kill SearchUI.exe process (Cortana)
- Quickly switch back to the popup and give permission to move the folder
The Microsoft ‘consumer analytics’ #creepware Cortana folder is now in SystemsApps.bak – and you can simply move it back if the need arises. If you’d like to dig deeper into the rest of the spyware built into Windows, try at your own risk, one of these great utilities, with thanks to The Windows Club for organizing this list…
1] Ultimate Windows Tweaker is a popular tweaking freeware released by us. Under its Security & Privacy section, you will see tweaks that let you disable Telemetry, Biometrics, Advertising ID, Bing search, Cortana, Windows Update sharing, Feedback requests, password Reveal button, Steps Recorder, Inventory Collector and Application Telemetry, etc.
2] Ashampoo AntiSpy lets you configure some privacy settings and also prevent Windows 10 from collecting and sending diagnostics as well as other data.
3] Spybot Anti-Beacon allows Windows 10 users to immunize their computers and changes settings so that Windows 10 phones home less.
4] Win10 Spy Disabler is a software that helps you to disable Windows services and programs which track your activities and collect data about your usage. Available here.
5] DoNotSpy10 offers several tweaks that allow you to track and access to your data. It looks pretty good – but it ships with a 3rd party offer. So be careful during its installation. It is available for download here.
6] O&O ShutUp10 tells Windows 10 to respect your privacy. This too is a portable tool that lets you configure privacy settings.
7] Destroy Windows Spying is an Open Source tool that lets you remove Windows 10 apps which leak data, remove telemetry, block IP addresses, disable Windows Defender & Windows Updates and more. Get it from here.
8] Disable Win Tracking offers some basic tweaks to disable tracking in Windows 10. It is available for download at GitHub.
9] Phrozensoft Windows Privacy Tweaker lets you easily change all your Privacy settings in Windows 10 to it maximum safety levels. It lets you disable some Registry settings, Scheduled tasks, Windows Services, etc. Use it and you have no more issues about your privacy or online safety. Get it here.
10] W10Privacy is a simple tool that lets you disable some Services, prevent app access and tighten your privacy settings. It is available for download here.
Now is the time to begin to reclaim your privacy. If you don’t know you are being spied upon all the time, you won’t understand when you are victimized or annoyed by advertisements and telemarketers, among many others. In the worst case, with Windows 10 having so many weak, spyware entry-points, you’ll probably lose your identity to cyber criminals. Take action today and harden your computer. Don’t forget to learn about strong encryption, run a newer firewall, better antivirus utility and change all your passwords so they become harder to hack. For example, if you use Password123, you’re toast. If you use something like (don’t use this one..it’s just an example): P355W0rd1!2$3 it’s nearly impossible to hack. Get secure. Get vigilant!
Reclaim your privacy today. You are not a product. Are you?
About the Author
Gary is the Publisher of Cyber Defense Magazine and is a globally recognized cybersecurity expert, inventor and founder of numerous cybersecurity companies. He is a frequent invited guest on national and international media commenting on mobile privacy, cyber security, cyber crime and cyber terrorism, also covered in both Forbes and Fortune Magazines. He has been extremely active in the infosec arena, he is an active member of Phi Beta Cyber Society (http://cybersecurityventures.com/phi-beta-cyber/), an organization dedicated to helping high school students become cyber security professionals and ethical hackers. Miliefsky is a Founding Member of the US Department of Homeland Security (http://www.DHS.gov), the National Information Security Group (http://www.NAISG.org) and the OVAL advisory board of MITRE responsible for the CVE Program (http://CVE.mitre.org). He also assisted the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), which operates within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in their development of The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace as well as the Center for the Study of Counter-Terrorism and Cyber Crime at Norwich University. Previously, Gary is a member of ISC2.org and is a CISSP®.