Tag Archives: Web security

Windows 10 and Privacy Part 1: General Privacy Options

Let’s get one thing straight: operating systems like Windows have always had to walk a line with privacy: balancing on one side user safety and discretion, while, on the other, features that observe and learn from user behavior.  That being said, Windows 10 incorporates new features for tracking behavior that  a lot of people think are going a bit too far.  They’re not hidden though; in fact, they’re right there in  the install screen.

Windows 10 Customize Settings

So what is this tracking? It’s all about getting to know you. Windows 10 was designed to be a product of a multi-platform environment.  It’s on as many tablets, laptops and phones as it is on desktops.  This means being mobile-friendly, so it incorporates location services that can tell where you are.

It’s also about making things more convenient.  By logging the kinds of things you write, the sites you visit, and the voice commands you prompt to Cortana, the OS can better predict what you’ll want int he future, making searches faster and more accurate.

The truth is, all of this is stuff that some people really want.  At the same time, there’s another faction: those who are so cautious they won’t even open a browser without a pop-up and tracking blocker turned on. To these folks, the new predictive features in Windows 10 are nothing but bad news.

Most of us are somewhere in between the glass house and the tinfoil hat. Fortunately, whichever category you fit into, there are easy ways to monitor, manage and set your privacy preferences in Windows 10.

Getting to the Privacy Settings Window

Follow these steps to set your privacy preferences:

1. If you have a touchscreen, swipe left to bring up the Action Center. Tap All Settings.

2. For a desktop computer or laptop with a standard screen, click the Start button, then select Settings.

3. Tap or click Privacy.

4. You should see the General tab, which displays this list of invasive tracking options, all of which are set to “On” by default. To change the setting, tap or click the ones you want to change and slide the selector button to the left to turn them “Off.”

Windows 10 Privacy OptionsHere’s a breakdown of what each category is and does.

Your advertising ID

… is a tracking number lets advertisers target you inside Microsoft apps.  A refresher: targeted advertising is just advertising aimed at a specific audience, namely, you. So sharing the advertising ID sets up ads for products that advertisers think you will be likely to buy.

When you slide this to Off, the data associated with this number is not shared with advertisers.  It doesn’t mean ads won’t appear on Microsoft apps, they just won’t be targeted to you based on your behavior.

SmartScreen Filters

This item is designed to keep Windows Store apps from sending you to unsavory websites that might contain malware. We recommend leaving this setting on.

Typing and writing

This setting lets Windows actually track the way that you write and type, supposedly to improve handwriting recognition (writing) and autocomplete (typing). It collects information about your personal writing style and chops up the data so that it can’t be put back together and used to predict the sorts of things you’ll want to say.

If you find the idea of Microsoft tracking the way you input text a little creepy, slide this button to off.  If, on the other hand, an autocorrect that more quickly learns what you want to say appeals to you, leave it on.

Locally relevant content

This one applies only if you are using a language other than English. It makes your browser (namely Microsoft Edge) display localized custom search results.

If your first language isn’t English and you want the browser to find sites that better match your language preferences, leave this on.  Of course, depending on your other settings, it will also make advertising language-appropriate too.

Show me tips about Windows

Why not? Leave on to get tips about Windows delivered to your desktop.  Too annoying? Toggle it off.

Manage My Microsoft advertising and other personalization info

Located just above the Privacy Statement is a link to a Microsoft web page.  That page lets you turn on/off advertising that’s personalized according to your browsing and search histories

There’s also an option that’s lets you have it half-way.  You can turn off personalized (targeted) ads in the browser as a whole, but still allow them on those sites that recognize your Microsoft account.  These include Outlook.com, OneDrive and Microsoft Office Online; and it also includes MS affiliated sites too.

Believe it or not, some people like personalized ads – that is – they know ads are inevitable and figure you might as well see stuff that interests them.  You can always ignore them . . . right?

Turn off/on to manage whether your browsing history is shared with advertisers.

Manage Privacy with an Automated Tool

Privacy is a key component of managing a computer.  That’s why utilities like SlimCleaner Plus have incorporated push-button controls for managing privacy settings.  Open the program and look for the icon labeled “Privacy.”

SlimCleaner Plus Privacy 2When the Privacy Manager opens, you can not only control how Windows gathers data, but also manage features related to how  computer behavior is monitored and reported.  Just add or remove checks to the boxes beside each privacy control.


How to Protect yourself from Ransomware: 5 steps

It’s astonishing how far hackers will go to make a few dishonest bucks. One shady scheme that has recently become more prominent is malware that is called Ransomware.

So what Is Ransomware and How Does It Work?

As the name implies, ransomware is a virus or worm that locks you out of your computer or files until you pay money to some shady hacker for the code that will supposedly unlock it. Ransomware usually works in one of these ways. You get infected and …

•    It encrypts the files on your computer’s hard drive.
•    It locks your computer and requires that you enter a password to unlock it.
•    It prevents you from using your web browser.
•    It accuses you of doing some illegal activity and tells you that you need to pay a fine.

The model for a ransomware alert
The model for a ransomware alert

Pretty nasty, right? For a lot of people, they’d almost rather have a bug that damages their computer than threatens their data.  That’s because, in many ways, the landscape of user computing has changed.  Computers, while not cheap by any measure, are far less expensive than they used to be.  What matters to people then is the time and effort spend in making stuff: documents, projects, photos, video. As infuriating as it is, ransomware represents and evolution in an old scam. Leave the hardware out of it, it’s kidnapping for your data.

So, how does ransomware spread? Sadly, the means by which these viruses get around is the same as it’s always been, so it’s more important than every to start practicing better behaviors. Usually computers become infected when you do one of the following:

•    Open an unsolicited email attachment, even if you think you know the sender.
•    Click on a suspicious link in an email.
•    Downloading something from peer-to-peer networks. Continue reading

Top 5 Tips for Faster, Easier and Safer Shopping Online

So black Friday is over. You’ve fought the crowds; you’ve scoped the sales, and now you’re going online.  Whether you’re out to find a better deal or just getting prepped for cyber Monday, there are some important things you can do to make shopping safer and easier.

1. Remember the -s

https_iconShopping online? Whenever you go to a site that handles sensitive information – especially your credit card info – it should be protected by encryption.  To check, look in the url.  If the site is secure, it will have an -s after the http.

It’s not important that the whole website be secure, just the part the handles your account info, so look for the https:// when you’re in the checkout area.  If it’s not there, think twice about putting in any important information.

2. Don’t get lost in the site

magnifying_glass_iconSome websites are easier to navigate than others.  Finding the promotions isn’t hard; those will be the first thing you see.  But what about all of that side-information like shipping rates, and return policies?

Use the key combination CTRL+F in all of the major browsers.  This brings up a search box where you can look for specific words on the page.  Go to the homepage and look for words like “shipping” and “policy”

If that doesn’t lead you where you want to go, search instead for “sitemap“. The sitemap is a page on a website that’s designed to be a hub for the various links on a page.  Go here and repeat the searches. Continue reading

Need to Know: How to Protect Your Data Online

Sadly, data theft and identity theft are becoming more and more prevalent these days. When you visit a compromised website or unknowingly install malicious software, not only are you at risk for hacked social media sites, stolen files and folders, but you can also become a victim of identity theft and even compromised bank accounts. In order to protect yourself and your computer, there are several important steps you must take.

Preventing Data Loss

When common-sense meets inside knowledge: these are the most important steps to take to protect your computer from data loss.

Updates – If you don’t think they’re important, think again. Keep your version of Windows, your anti-virus software, your browser, Java, and other software programs and add-ons up to date. Microsoft, Mozilla, and other reputable software publishers hurry to release patches and fixes whenever they are made aware of new malware and viruses that take advantage of security vulnerabilities in their software, so make sure you are running the most current versions. It’s the easiest step you can take.

Update_Windows Update_Java

Continue reading

Need to Know: Manage Passwords

So it used to be that all you needed were, at most, a dozen passwords.  In the 2000’s, what you needed most was your password to an email account, maybe a bank, some professional organizations, and of course Facebook.

secure password

Now for as many brick-and-mortar businesses you visit, there’s a loyalty or rewards program you’re part of.  What was one online bank is now two, not to mention eBay, PayPal, and online brokerage firms.  What about your other social media?  What about your cloud storage centers?  Online radios, online video, Netflix, Hulu?

It’s now not only possibly but likely that the average computer users has upwards of 50 logins to various sites.  All of these require usernames and passwords, but how do you manage all of this?  Sadly, the methods of maintaining password logins are usually the wrong ones. Continue reading