More privacy and security in Windows

Windows has the greatest global reach of any operating system – so, of course, it is a prime target for cybercriminals. The popularity of Windows is enhanced by the many convenient functions that link the computer to the cloud. However, this connection can also put your privacy at risk. Find out how you can make your system less vulnerable.

Enable these useful Windows functions for more protection

  • Protecting your system from outside access starts with a strong password. 
  • Use the locking function (Windows button+L) whenever you leave your workstation. 
  • Windows 10 also lets you enable alternative login options. You will find them with the search term “Sign-in options” in Settings. This allows you, for example, to swipe a photo with your finger or a mouse (great for devices with Touch function), and to use a PIN.
  • The system is configured for automatic system updates. You should retain this setting. Enter the search term “Update/Recovery” to access Options in Settings. There, you can check to see whether automated updates have been enabled and what the update status of your system is. After downloading and installing updates, the system waits for a convenient time to reboot. This is intended to avoid interrupting your work. In the case of critical security updates – and your system will indicate them – it is best to download and install them immediately to protect the system. 
  • Keep your apps up to date, as well. The update mechanism for apps that you have purchased from the Windows Store will run separately from the system updates. Open the Windows Store and click the three dots for the menu. Check under Downloads and Updates whether your applications are up to date. You can also see there whether automatic updates are enabled.
  • Microsoft has integrated Defender, a robust virus scanner. Besides relying on so-called signatures that need to be kept up to date, it also has an integrated mechanism for automatically detecting suspicious data. Defender launches and runs automatically. If it does not, Windows regularly alerts the user. For maximum protection, it is a good idea to enable auto-detection. Current Windows versions now offer their own virus scanner, although off-the-shelf security products offer more comprehensive protection.  
  • It is also advisable to use the SmartScreen Filter, whose options you can find by entering those search terms in Windows Settings. This filter for the integrated browser analyzes websites and warns you before you open pages that have previously gained negative attention for distributing malware. 
  • Also, you should definitely enable the integrated firewall. If the firewall sends you an alert, take it seriously and check which program it is warning you about. Automatic updates, for one, occasionally trigger false alarms. In such cases, you can allow an exception – but, naturally, only if you are familiar with the software in question and you launched the update yourself.

Get more privacy

Many functions that make everyday life seem more pleasant only work if data is also transmitted via the cloud to central systems of the operating system manufacturers. Microsoft is no exception to this. But not every user likes the idea that the manufacturer of their system is permanently aware of one’s whereabouts. And voice recognition, too, only works if the microphone is switched on all the time. So, if you are worried that your private data could be intercepted by a third party or you generally want to keep this information to yourself, you should spend more time choosing your settings in Windows. 

In the latest versions of Windows 10, you will find the settings in Settings > Privacy. The system’s integrated search function takes you right to the specific page you want, for example if you enter “location” or “speech recognition”.

  • If you are not using Windows on a mobile device, you do not actually need the location function. For example, you can get the weather report for your region even if the function is switched off. To do this, you will need to enter the location manually.
  • If you do not plan to operate the computer by voice or to use the dictation function, disable voice control. 
  • Microsoft has bundled several functions into Diagnostics & Feedback. All these functions allow data about your use and your computer to be sent to Microsoft. If your privacy is particularly important to you, only enable the “Basic” diagnostic data and leave all other options disabled.
  • Microsoft assigns every Windows user an advertising ID that allows Windows Store activity, for example, to be logged. Information transmitted in this manner is also used to show targeted advertising. You can disable the use of your advertising ID in the General section of your privacy settings. Microsoft promises to reset the ID completely once you disable the option.

Further reading