Windows 10 & Other Bad Ideas

Laptop-spyingThere are very few companies not engaging in some level of intrusive behavior. Samsung admitted that some of its smart TVs may inadvertently upload some of your conversations if you turn on the Voice Recognition feature. Vizio has a monitoring feature, turned on by default, that analyzes your viewing and internet habits and then sends that data to third party advertisers. Volkswagen has been playing fast and loose with emissions standards for years. The sheer volume of it forces me to focus on just a couple companies based only on recent events and in no way should it be seen as singling them out as worse than any other.

If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet, I highly advise you continue to wait. We see an average of five machines each week with failed upgrades that effectively render the computer useless. Although Microsoft has stated that you will have a 30 day trial period go back to Windows 7 or 8, a failed update would negate that ability. Even if you are successful with the upgrade, the latest service pack dubbed Threshold 2 deletes your restore partition which kills any rollback option.

Now let’s take a quick look at privacy issues with Microsoft’s Windows 10. Here is a bit of the language used in the almost 12,000 word service agreement: “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.” Pretty chilling.

As I said before, Microsoft isn’t alone in its invasive ways.

Two years ago, it came to light Lenovo had been banned from supplying equipment for the networks of the intelligence and defense services of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. According to the Australian Financial Review, the ban was introduced “after intensive laboratory testing of its equipment allegedly documented ‘back-door’ hardware and ‘firmware’ vulnerabilities in Lenovo chips.” This became effective around 2005, the same time IBM sold their PC business to the Chinese firm. Details remain classified, but that decision couldn’t have been made lightly.

Fast-forward to just last February and Lenovo was caught yet again pre-installing software, dubbed ‘SuperFish Malware’ that watches users’ computer usage. The information collected is sent to advertising partners who in turn force ads into browsers like Chrome and Firefox. There is no off switch, and you can’t opt out but you can, after a fair amount of digging, uninstall it.

In May, Lenovo was once again caught creating spy software they called “Lenovo Service Engine” (LSE) and hard coding it on many computers’ firmware. Using the firmware for installation makes it impossible for the average user to uninstall it. Just three months later, Michael Horowitz of Computer World identified a program called “Lenovo Customer Feedback Program 64” that was “phoning home” daily usage reports and sharing with a company called Omniture. Omniture is an online marketing and web analytics firm that uses that data to market products to you based on your interests and web usage.

I don’t believe in black helicopter theories but, does anyone else see more than a passing similarity between some of these companies’ actions and Cyberdyne System’s creation of Skynet?

Be sure to pick up the next edition of Pennsylvania Bridges for an article about Cord Cutters and ditching your cable bill.
Written by Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges