Should We Stop Using Microsoft? See What Our Expert Thinks! — The Rest of the Story
Recently we posted an opinion piece entitled “Should We Stop Using Microsoft?” This post was from Mr. Paul Rosenberg, the founder of Cryptohippie. Mr. Rosenberg offered compelling reasons why we should consider dumping Microsoft products, and especially the newly released Windows 10 operating system.Just a few days ago more evidence was presented that should give all users of Windows pause to really think about their decision. Here is an article from one of our favorite security blog authors, Graham Cluley.
Microsoft tracks Windows 7 and 8 users, harvesting more data
Security researchers have discovered that four recent updates to the Windows 7 and 8 operating systems allow Microsoft to collect a variety of usage information.
Microsoft has already come under fire for Windows 10, whose telemetry feature by default collects usage information from basic error reporting to more enhanced data – including the frequency with which certain apps are used, the memory state of a device if and when a crash occurs, and memory snapshots.
Indeed, some users have been so concerned about privacy on Windows 10 that they have deliberately held off upgrading.
Now Martin Brinkmann of technology blog Ghacks.net has found that four “upgrade preparation” updates for Windows 7 and Windows 8 have activated data collection processes similar to those of Windows 10, probably in the belief that users on these systems will eventually migrate to the newer version of the OS.
The four updates are as follows:
- 3022345: Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry – This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to in-market devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet been upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights.
- 3068708: (Replaced update 3022345.) Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry – This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights.
- 3075249: Update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 – This update adds telemetry points to the User Account Control (UAC) feature to collect information on elevations that come from low integrity levels.
- 3080149: Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry – This package updates the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. This service provides benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights.
According to The Hacker News, the telemetry services created by these updates interact with the domains vortex-win.data.microsoft.com and settings-win.data.microsoft.com.
Originally, it was believed that these domains were hardcoded, meaning that the Hosts file was automatically bypassed. However, it has since been revealed that these new connections can be blocked via the use of software firewalls.
In order to remove these updates, the best advice is for users to choose not to install them in the first place!
If they have all ready been installed, users can refer to this guide here.
Clearly there are advantages to sharing information with your operating system. Regularly sharing crash reports and app usage can optimize a user’s desktop experience and make interacting with their device all the more personal and fluid.
However, if a user should want to opt-out of this type of arrangement, it shouldn’t take a registry change to do it.
Hopefully Microsoft and other tech giants will realize this fact as privacy continues to shape users’ expectations with regards to what their technology should and shouldn’t do.
So as a reader of QWealthReport.com what should you do now? If you are a user of Windows 7 or 8, please, at a minimum, follow Mr. Cluley’s advice to not install the applicable Windows updates. If those updates have already been installed, please delete them. The privacy of your personal information is under attack and you can take control of your machine.If understandably you would like to continue to use your Mac or Windows machine, then you should at least be following ‘best practices’ for the security of those machines. Our recently published report, The Complete Guide to Computer Security… for Mere Mortals, is the result of literally four years of research and testing. You will find the ‘best practices’ you need to harden your Mac or Windows machines to provide the appropriate layers of security and protection you need. (Nothing can prevent an invasion of privacy from the terms and conditions of Windows 10, even Windows 7 or 8… except not installing it!)
Mr. Rosenberg reviewed our report recently and had this to say, “You did a REALLY nice job on this.” To us that is high praise from such a respected expert in the field of computer security and privacy. We have more testimonials that are coming in from our report that are praising the information it contains.
Why not take a look at how you can protect yourself. Use The Complete Guide to Computer Security… for Mere Mortals to decide which layers of ‘best practices’ for computer security would be appropriate for you. Take control of your security and privacy. If you don’t, others will decide what they will do with your personal information.