Windows 10: so great that Microsoft skipped Windows 9 to get right to it!
It appears, though, that in the rush to get it out there, Microsoft may have overlooked a few privacy issues (or maybe they did it on purpose?…)
Windows 10 is built to be very integrative with Microsoft’s online servers. The default way of making user accounts on a Windows 10 computer involves linking your online Microsoft account to the computer itself. Also by default, Windows 10 may share a fair amount of information from the computer with Microsoft’s servers.
This can come across as very sinister, of course. There are advantages to this highly interconnected style of computing, however, and it’s likely a sign of things to come in the world of computing.
In the meantime, these new features pose certain risks to protected health information — the sensitive information that our clients entrust us with — that we need to take steps to mitigate.
At PCT, we have identified 4 measures that we recommend clinicians take when they start using Windows 10. There may be more that need to be taken, but these are the ones we’ve identified for now.
As part of the launch of our expanded Person-Centered Tech Support (also called “Office Hours”) service, we’ve made walk-through videos that show you how to make the changes mentioned in the list below. These free walk-through videos will be available to the public until October 1st. After that, they will only be accessible to Person-Centered Tech Support subscribers.
4 Settings You Should Change If You Use Windows 10 In Your Practice
Click here to jump straight to our free walkthrough videos. They will be freely available to the public until October 1st.
1) Turn off “Wi-Fi Sense” (jump to the video)
Wi-Fi Sense is a feature of Windows 10 that allows you to easily share your various Wi-Fi networks with people on your contact list. It’s handy because you don’t have to give them the password to your Wi-Fi. You simply add them to your computer’s Wi-Fi Sense list and it Just Works.
The list of people that you can share your Wi-Fi networks with through Wi-Fi Sense is very extensive. It can go so far as anyone who is your Facebook friend. Experts have determined that there are various ways for bad guys to exploit Wi-Fi Sense and get access to places they really shouldn’t be.
So, we recommend you turn it off.
2) Use a Local Account (jump to the video)
We’re accustomed to our own computer profiles being contained to our computers. We don’t necessarily expect our basic computer account information to be kept on Internet servers and synchronized at all times.
Windows 10, however, does default to setting your computer’s Administrator account as a “cloud” account, and synchronizes it with Microsoft’s computers. There are a lot of conveniences to this, but account information can include things like calendars and other info that may be protected health information.
Unless you have your own plan for making sure that none of your PHI gets sent to Microsoft due to this feature, we recommend you simply skip the issue and create a “local” account (i.e. an account that is not connected to the cloud) for Windows 10.
3) Turn off oversharing for crash feedback (jump to the video)
Pretty much every type of computer software, including Windows and Mac, has a feature for responding to situations where something on the computer crashes. The process is to send diagnostic information back to the company so they can learn about what is causing crashes in their software. This is generally very benign, and the computer usually asks if you’re okay with this before doing it.
Windows 10 has taken it to a new level, however. By default, it not only sends these reports automatically, but it also sends as much data from the crashed app as it can. It appears this will happen regardless of which app crashed and what kind of data it is handling, including if it is handling protected health information.
We recommend changing the crash feedback settings to only send “basic” application information.
4) Turn off sharing your profile information with apps (jump to the video)
By default, Windows 10 allows apps on your computer to access certain information from your personal profile. For most purposes, this is a good thing and can make your experience better. However, apps may take this information online and potentially use it in unexpected ways. Using the average person’s profile info in “unexpected ways” is not always a bad thing and is often benign. For us clinicians, however, it’s not the kind of surprise we get excited about.
This is probably the least risky of the Windows 10 features we are taking a stance on. The profile information that Windows 10 shares on your behalf may not contain PHI at all. This feature may bring up digital ethics issues, however, especially in social media realms.
Because you don’t always know what apps are going to do with your profile info, a conservative approach would dictate simply deactivating this feature.
Should I Upgrade To Windows 10?
At the moment, the upgrade to Windows 10 is free for the vast majority of people who use it.
A rule of thumb in tech, however, is to wait until a new technology has had some time to iron out the bugs and find the ups and downs that need to be addressed. Unless you have your own special needs, there aren’t many pressing reasons why you shouldn’t wait on the Windows 10 upgrade.
In the meantime, we offer this help page for those who need to upgrade soon.