Windows computers are the No 1 target for cyber criminals because it’s also the biggest target as the world’s dominant operating system. But Windows 10 still has some powerful options to keep your personal information safe.
Best practice for Windows users is pairing good privacy settings with good online security.
Online security expert NortonLifeLock Senior Director, Mark Gorrie has put together some tips to reduce the amount of information you share online and to optimise your PC to minimise any loss of data or personally identifiable information.
Here are NortonLifeLock’s Mark Gorrie’s tips:
- Visit the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard
Head to https://account.microsoft.com/privacy/ and log into your Microsoft account. From there you’ll have access to a range of privacy features we’ll talk about in the upcoming steps.
However, these aren’t a complete range of privacy features and you’ll also need to directly check your system settings on your PC for additional ones – more on that later.
Importantly, these dashboard settings are tied to any Windows device you log into. They are a great start to enhancing your privacy with Microsoft.
From the dashboard, you can delete things like your browsing and location history, stop ad tracking, delete Cortana data, voice activity, media activity, LinkedIn activity, and more. If you want to maximise privacy on Windows, this is an easy-to-navigate and fantastic starting point.
- Go to your privacy settings on your PC
- Click the “Windows” button on the lower left-hand corner of your PC
- Choose “Settings”
- Click the “Privacy” icon
Once here you’ll have access to the features in the steps that come next.
- Review your settings
Review your settings under “General”, “Speech”, “Inking and typing”, “Diagnostics and feedback”, and “Activity history” within “Windows permission” and turn off permissions to maximise your privacy
Advertising settings are tied to your Microsoft Advertising ID, which allows advertisers to recognise your unique ID and target you with ads. These should be switched off from the “General” tab. Turning off all the settings within this section will limit a significant amount of data you may be sharing with advertisers and applications.
- Click on the “General” tab under “Privacy”
- Toggle the option under “Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to you based on your app activity” to “Off”
- Click your way through the other tabs, including “Speech” “Inking and typing”, “Diagnostic and feedback”, and “Activity history” to limit the private information you are sharing. A place of particular note is “Diagnostics and feedback”. Here, you should only share “Required diagnostic data” and eliminate any other sharing activities
- Review your settings under “App permission” and only allow apps to access features when necessary
The “App permissions” section sits directly beneath the “Windows permissions” section.
It may take a little time but clicking though every tab here will help you turn off the data tap that is running out of your machine. Let’s cover a few key areas:
- Turn off “Location” tracking unless you have a specific need for your device’s location to be tracked.
- “Camera” and “Microphone” permissions should be allocated on an application basis. Do you need Zoom or Teams for work? If you do, allow them access to your camera and microphone, but be wary of other apps that seek permission or already have it. There’s no reason a kid’s painting application needs access to your laptop’s camera. Check camera and microphone applications permissions carefully! Turn off “Voice activation” if you don’t use your voice to activate applications.
- Turn off Cortana
- Cortana is Window’s voice assistant, not unlike Apple’s Siri. When on, she collects various bits of information such as calendar
- entries, location, online history and other personal information. Turning her off is easy.
- Go to “Voice Activation”
- Go to “Cortana” and simply switch it off
- Remove access to your contacts
Not every app needs access to your contacts. It is a rich source of information and allows others to piece together your social
web of connections.
You may remove access to all applications with a click after you enter the “Contacts” tab in the “Privacy” Settings. However, you might want to consider letting some applications, like email or messaging, retain access.
- Go to “Contacts”
- If you have chosen to allow apps to access your contacts, you can still toggle it on or off for specific apps
Consider which applications need access and move the sliders accordingly.
- Remember the basics of online security
- Password-protect your device and apps by using strong unique passwords and use a password manager like Norton Password Manager to create and store complex codes.
- Make sure your computer software, including your browser, is up-to-date as patches are often released to address particular security threats.
- Use security software and a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your data. A VPN, like the one in Norton 360 Premium, creates a more secure tunnel for your data. Using a VPN helps protect the data as it travels between your machine and its destination – and keeps your data out of the eyes of tracking software or malicious actors. VPNs are especially important if you connect to free public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi networks may be convenient to use, but hackers may be able to view your online activity while you’re browsing on these unsecured networks.
- Make sure to scan your computer regularly for viruses, spyware, adware, and other malware. An antivirus product such as Norton 360 Premium offers protection for multiple devices, including PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets. New threats can appear daily, so ensure you keep it updated.
- And lastly, do not open suspicious attachments or click on unusual links in emails – these often lead to malicious websites.
Windows 10 offers some granular ways of limiting the data you share with the applications you have on your device. Take the time to visit your Microsoft Privacy Dashboard and your “Settings” and “Privacy” tabs to get personal with your options, so others don’t get personal with your data.