In 1985, Microsoft finally shipped its first Windows 1.0. It also marked the beginning of PC revolution. Everything has started to change ever since. Today, 31 years later, the revolution is still rolling. Microsoft is still working to make Windows a better companion for everyone. The latest Windows 10 comes with a lot of amazing features. From Cortana to 3D Builder, Windows 10 is certainly the best Windows version ever. However, even the best isn’t flawless. Many believe Windows 10 is threatening their privacy. Perhaps, you too. Then, some experts tried to offer a solution. They tracked certain Windows 10 features that collect, learn, and send your data to Windows servers. They told us, if we turned these features off, we can rest easy.
For a moment, we feel relieved. We thought everything has been cleared then. We rest to finally realize that this solution never actually solves anything. Disabling these features never actually stop Windows 10 from stealing our privacy.
Even after you disabled the features, Windows 10 still transmits your data to their server.
Windows 10 ‘Loves’ Your Data
It is worse than your worst nightmare. The OS we used to trust is now stabbing our back. Ever since its first launch, Windows 10 has been eating so many user’s personal data. For something we’d been expecting with so much curiosity, this illegal thing should have never happened. Now, that we think of it, especially from a company like Microsoft.
We used to think that cyber criminals are the only bad person. We used to think no one else, until recently. Microsoft has claimed, whether they realize it or not, a legal piracy theft. Windows 10 is stealing our data, while we are using it. While you are enjoying your favorite game with immense graphic, your data is being sent to their server. They do it in silence. They use our trust to trick us. They told us that they can use this data to learn us better. They can use this data to provide targeted ads to us. They can use this data to help us kicking away unwanted ads. What they didn’t tell us is they can do many more things with our data. They can learn our preferences. They can learn places we went. They can even know your shopping histories.
Thinking about this is enough to make a headache. So, we searched for a way to stop this. For a moment, we found it. Disable the ‘spying’ features. That’s the ‘solution’ some ‘experts’ told us. Does it work? Well, it hardly does. Turning off these convicted features will only stop the stealing visually.
Suspicious Windows 10 Data Traffic
Curious enough, CheesusCrust installed a Windows 10 Enterprise virtual machine on his Linux Laptop. Next, he disabled all Windows 10 telemetry and tracking features. Once he disabled all of them, he took a DD-WRT router to monitor any traffic. The preparation was complete. He, then left his laptop overnight and came back 8 hours later to check the results.
SPOILER: This may be surprising.
His laptop was still in idle mode. Let’s remember that he already turned off all the telemetry and tracking features. Normally, this situation won’t allow any transmission. But, somehow it happened. The router recorded 5,500 transmissions connected to 93 IP address. Around 4,000 of them are connected to 51 Microsoft servers.
If 8 hours were enough to make 5,500 connections, what will happen if he left it for another 22 hours?
This is what happened. His Windows 10 continued to connect to other 113 non-private IP addresses. FYI, these IP addresses are well known for being hackers’ favorite.
The result? The connections were cut down to 2758 to 30 IP addresses. All happened within 30 hours.
So, does this solve everything? Well, I can’t tell. This tool may have cut down the number. However, as long as it still exists, the problem is still there. Not even a single connection should exist if you have turned off all the spying channels. That’s what privacy control means. We control our own privacy.
We learn a lot from this study. From nothing is free to privacy control. Here is another interesting thing. This study used Windows 10 Enterprise Edition. This version offers user the most granular control than other version. With lesser control, how many connections you think other versions make?
There is No Free Thing
It’s in our genes. The cheaper things go, the more likely we will purchase it. Microsoft uses this law of nature. They told us we can get Windows 10 for free. As long as we get original Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, no purchase needed. That’s why we love it, right? The truth is, we have been fooled from the beginning. Free thing doesn’t exist. Not in the past, present, or even the future. Don’t be misled by news or any company. If they give you something for free, there must be a price for it. A hidden price, most likely.
Windows 10 may have fooled us. We got cheated. They take our data without asking us. At least, there are some good things left here. Based on the connection logs, no personal data sent to Microsoft servers. Did the connections happen? Yes, they did. Did the connections involve with Microsoft servers? Yes, they did. But, as far as the study went, no personal data involved back there. Most likely the connections were checking for updates. Or perhaps, to adjust your date and time. Perhaps. The truth, we don’t know yet. Perhaps, Microsoft can be kind enough to tell us about this.
Maybe yes. Maybe no. See, if you are looking for a complete lockdown on your privacy, that’s impossible. However, if you are looking for a way that Microsoft won’t see that data, that’s possible. They may look similar, but completely different.