Tip of the Week: Adjust Windows 10’s Privacy Settings to Keep Your Information Secure

b2ap3_thumbnail_windows_10_privacy_400.jpgIt would be prudent to begin by saying that Windows 10 is far and away the most refined version of Windows ever created. In a lot of ways, it’s like using a souped-up version of Windows 7, with a sprinkling of Windows 8/8.1 metro on top. Beneath the surface, however, is a vast information-collecting infrastructure that has many users left worried about their privacy. There are even conspiracy theories suggesting that Windows 10 is a vessel used by the NSA in order to collect all the information on every user.

Anyone that is familiar with the fallout of Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing campaign knows that government agencies don’t need Microsoft’s software engineers to syphon as much information as they want, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some potential privacy issues with the new OS. In fact, it could be said that the default settings of Windows 10 violate user privacy. Here are some of the ways they do so.

Advertising ID
The first privacy issue users are having with Windows 10 is that each user is automatically assigned an ID based on the email address they use to sign in. By capturing information using this ID, Windows 10 will tailor the advertisements that users see when surfing the web or uses certain applications.

In order to get the most comprehensive user experience available, the Cortana application collects data; and not just essential data, but seemingly everything. In attempting to make the best personal assistant application on the market, Microsoft has made it a point to capture every piece of information they can. This presents privacy issues for some, but they’re likely no more intrusive than Cortana’s competitors: Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now.

Windows Modern Apps
Windows Modern or Universal Apps are also at the center of the perceived controversy. Each of these apps collects your location, which is no different than their Windows 8.1 versions. The situation that is presenting problems for users’ privacy is the advanced reporting these apps do to the central Microsoft servers. For example, when using the very useful OneNote app, the content of the notes are synced with the Microsoft servers.

Many users will not mind receiving better services in return for computing information, but many users are up in arms on Windows 10 policy of deliberately sharing all captured information with their “partners”; a series of third-party vendors that can use this information to improve their sales and marketing tactics. For the purposes of user privacy, however, there are actions that can be taken to limit the ability for Windows 10 to report user computing performance.

First, you need to access the privacy menu, which can be found in the start menu. Simply open the start menu, then click on Settings and select Privacy from the pop-up.

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One thing that can be said for Windows 10 is that there are a lot of options. Each one of the privacy settings above represents the ability for Windows 10 to work for the user, albeit by the user sacrificing their privacy. The first suggestion we have, if you are one of the many users that feel as if Microsoft doesn’t need to know every movement you make on your home PC, is to disable the targeted advertising ID.

privacy ib 2From this screen users can also turn off SmartScreen Filter if you are worried about the Windows Store syphoning links to Store items. Many users will choose to leave this option on, but will want to turn the other two off. “Send Microsoft info about how I write..” is basically a keylogger, and its practical application is to provide information for Cortana and language settings that give regional information to Microsoft.

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From there, clicking on Location will take you to a list of applications that use your location. Services like weather, traffic, news, and Cortana utilize your current location to provide you the best representation of relevant information for your situation. If you are using a desktop computer, there is little value one way or the other, but on mobile, turning off applications that don’t need your location won’t hurt the perception of privacy.

It is best to leave your Camera and Microphone options toggled on if you want to use Skype or another video communications application.

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The next tab is the Speech, inking & typing tab. These options are used primarily with Cortana. If you choose not to utilize Cortana, you can consider telling Windows 10 to stop getting to know you. The problem with this is many Windows Store-based apps require your account info, making it impossible for you to turn off this option.

Privacy is a major consideration for most users on the Internet, especially in lieu of many companies’ strategy of selling off user information. These are only a couple of options that you can consider to keep your personal information personal. At Amaxx we understand why privacy and security are important for users. Our certified technicians can present you with options and best practices that will allow you to remain private and secure while online. Call us today at 614.486.3481
for more information.

Tip of the Week: Sharing Files Between 2 PCs is as Easy as Dragging and Dropping

b2ap3_thumbnail_person_network_400.jpgWhat’s the best way to share files between your different personal devices and computers? It turns out that you can share files over your home’s network, and you don’t have to be an IT technician to do it.

To be sure, there are many different ways to share files between your different devices. You can send an email from one device to another. You can upload the file to a cloud data storage service. You can even use an external data storage device like a USB thumb drive. While all of these methods will do the trick, some are more inconvenient than others (like using a thumb drive), while others (like the first two examples) require an Internet connection and reliance on a third party.

Instead, you might be surprised to learn that you can just as easily (if not more easily) move files over your home network to your different devices by dragging and dropping what you need to a shared folder. This functions similarly to how your computer network at the office is set up with its server units and multiple workstations. However, you don’t need a home server unit to share files across your different devices at home. Instead, if you’ve got two computers connected via your home’s Internet router, then you’re all set to easily share files between the two machines.

Share Files Using My Network Places
To do this, open My Network Places, locate a file associated with the computer that you want to share files with (designated by the PC’s assigned name), and then drag and drop your content into the shared file. To access the shared content with the computer that you just shared it with, locate My Network Places on your other computer and open the file that corresponds with the actions you just took.

Or Create a Windows Homegroup
If for some reason you’re unable to share the files you need between your two computers using My Network Places, then you can set up a Windows Homegroup. To do this, type “homegroup” in the Windows search box and then hit Enter. From here, Windows will let you know if there are any homegroups on your network. If it can’t find one, click Create a homegroup.

Next, select what kind of content and devices that you want to share in this homegroup and then select Next.

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Windows will now generate a password that you will want to use for other computers to access the newly created homegroup. Be sure to record and share this in a secure manner if you’re adding multiple users to the homegroup.

Lastly, using the other computer on your home network, search for “homegroup” in the Windows search bar. This should bring up a dialogue box letting you know that a new homegroup has been added to your network. It will display the name of the computer you’ve originally used to create the homegroup. Now, just click Next > Enter the password > click Next again > and you’ll have both of your computers set up on the homegroup for easy file sharing.

If you need professional assistance with any of your computer networking needs, give Amaxx a call at 614.486.3481

Tip of the Week: 10 Handy Windows 10 Keyboard Shortcuts

b2ap3_thumbnail_shortcuts_for_windows_10_400.jpgWith the launch of Windows 10, many users are upgrading and loving every second of it. As always, a new operating system comes with a learning curve, including getting to know the new features and keyboard shortcuts. To get the most out of Windows 10, you can try these ten great hotkey combinations to get through your workday with blazing speed.

[WinKey + S] Activates Cortana
[WinKey + C] Activates Cortana with Speech
Microsoft’s Cortana feature, which was once exclusive to Windows Phone users, is now built into Windows 10 by default. She acts as a personal voice assistant, much like Apple’s Siri. You can use these shortcuts to make more effective use of Cortana.

[WinKey + Ctrl + D] Creates a New Virtual Desktop
[WinKey + Ctrl + F4] Close Virtual Desktop
[WinKey + Ctrl + Left or Right] Switch Between Virtual Desktops
One of the neat new features Windows 10 offers is virtual desktops, which will most likely be used by enterprises to enhance productivity. You can easily use the above keystrokes to navigate through your current virtual desktops, plus open and close them on your local desktop.

[WinKey + Shift + Left or Right] Move Apps from One Monitor to Another
Workers generally use two monitors to get the most done, but if you’re working with several different applications, it can be a bother to continually resize the windows and move them about. To make this process much easier, use the above keystroke while you have a window selected.

[WinKey + K] Activates Connect Feature to Stream to Wireless Displays and Audio Devices
This keystroke is pretty self explanatory, and it will be used often by those who regularly access Connect.

[WinKey + R] Run a Command
Regardless of how many new features there are in Windows 10, the basics still apply. You’ll want to access the Run Command function. This keystroke makes it much easier to do so.

[WinKey + I] Opens Windows 10 Settings
As one of the most customizable operating systems Microsoft has created, Windows 10 offers plenty of great ways you can put the “personal” back in your PC. Use this keystroke to make navigating to your settings easier.

[WinKey + G] Activates the New Xbox Game Bar to Let You Record Games or Take Screenshots
All you gamers out there are going to love this keystroke.

For more ways you can get the most out of Windows 10, keep an eye out for more productivity and technology tips from Amaxx.

Tip of the Week: How to Take Back Your Website From Comment Spammers

b2ap3_thumbnail_comment_spam_400.jpg“Wow. That was a great article! I make $500 a day working from home and you can too! Click the link below to learn how!” This is an example of comment spam. You may have seen it before. You may have even fallen for it. How does one deal with such an annoyance?

Comment spam is much more than an annoyance. If your company’s website or social media account is filled with comment spam, it gives potential customers the impression that you don’t care about upkeeping your website and it will discourage them from leaving valuable comments of their own.

There are several tools and settings that can help you decrease the amount of comment spam on your website, but none of these tools are perfect, and all of them require a commitment from a real person to oversee the comments and delete the spam. Here are four tools that will help in your battle against spam.

Disable Your Comments
This is a weapon that you have in your arsenal, but like the “nuclear option,” you don’t want to use it unless you absolutely have to. The reason you don’t want to disable your comments is because authentic comments are valuable–even the negative ones.

Comments give the impression that many people view your website as a resource that’s worth visiting. Search engines pick up on comment-generated web traffic and give your website a higher search ranking. Even the negative comments are good because they give you the opportunity to directly respond and set the record straight professionally and publicly. This will communicate to others that your business cares about a customer’s experience. The only reason why a business should disable comments is if they never do any maintenance on their website–ever.

Approve Comments Before Posting
This is a nice setting that makes sure a moderator is first laying their eyes on the comment before it’s posted. This is a sure-fire way to filter out spam–unless the spammer happens to be clever enough to fool you or the person tasked with moderating your website. If you are fooled by a comment spammer by letting one slip by, then take solace in the wisdom of former President George W. Bush, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.”

The downside about depending on a moderator to filter comments is that it can turn into a cumbersome task. If the content on your website is popular, it can generate a lot of comments that need to be approved. Also, a user knowing that their comment will have to be moderated before it’s posted may discourage them from commenting. Some people simply prefer to see their comments instantly display, like with instant messaging.

Use Recaptcha
Recaptcha is a helpful tool that makes sure actual people are posting. When a user leaves a comment, they will be shown a picture of some numbers (like from the side of a house). They will then be asked to enter the numbers into a form. This will filter out spam bots that automatically spam websites, as well as a percentage of human spammers that aren’t in the mood to fill out a few extra forms in order to post their spam. However, this tool isn’t 100 percent effective because a dedicated human comment spammer will fill in the required Recaptcha numbers.

Block Spammers’ IP Addresses
If you happen to come across a spammer, your website platform should allow you to block the user’s IP address from accessing your website. By looking at some spammer statistics from Imperva, you will see how blocking a comment spammer’s IP address will go a long way toward taking care of the problem:

80 percent of the comment spam originates from less than one-third of the spammers, and a mere 17 percent of comment spammers actually account for a majority of the comment spam traffic. Imperva also found that nearly 60 percent of comment spammers are active for long periods of time.

Vigilance is the Key
You can think of fighting spam like fighting a battle. The key to winning any battle is vigilance. You have to stay on top of your company’s website maintenances; letting a few spam comments slip through due to negligence can cost your business dearly by potentially turning away customers.

Spam has many forms and all of them are harmful. Spam shows up in the inboxes of your employees and drags down productivity, as well as causes wicked computer viruses. Staying on top of your Internet marketing means staying on top of spam. What are some of the most annoying spam comments that you’ve come across? Let us know in the comments… actually, don’t.