Though the scheduled release date for the October update for Windows 10 has long since passed without a hint of when it may finally see the light of day, preview builds for the OS are still seeing new and interesting features to look forward to. Those with an eye for monitoring their PC’s security will find solace in new microphone security features and general users can look forward to a more streamlined experience overall.
PC security through proper alerts
Back in August, researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania discovered a method of observing what is shown on a PC monitor by picking up unintended signal data through microphones, including those built into laptops and PC monitors. It’s a fascinating method that seems like something out of a strange sci-fi concept book, yet the method by which machine learning can decipher useful information is fascinating.
Unfortunately, this also means there’s a new way for unauthorised users to peek at what any given end user is doing on an unsecured PC. Microsoft’s latest update for its Windows 10 Insider preview includes an icon on the taskbar that plainly states when programs are accessing the computer’s microphone that only displays while being used. Additionally, it allows users to see exactly which programs are accessing the microphone, allowing for a very quick way to check if someone is trying to listen in on things they shouldn’t be.
It’s not a problem that is yet widespread, but it is a solid step towards future-proofing machines at the OS level against certain forms of attack through something as simple as basic user awareness of a potential problem. Not all users interested in preview builds seem to have received the message, however, as a wave of complaints about warning screens has swept through the internet as of late. Those still using outdated preview builds of Windows 10 will find their previews undergoing a mandatory update by December 14th. Updating now can avoid daily warning screens and User Account Control messages.
Updates both big and small
In a move that is likely not entirely coincidental given the rash of complaints about outdated builds demanding to be updated, the preview build for Windows 10 has incorporated a taskbar icon that notifies users when their next reboot will include updating Windows. There’s nothing quite as jarring as trying to perform a quick reboot only to be suckered into a potentially lengthy update process, making it a feature that should receive universal praise.
It goes particularly well with how the last build simplified pausing updates. Moves towards this kind of user-friendliness are solid, but users may have mixed feelings about more Start menu redesigns, though this one seems to be mostly cosmetic in nature. The smallest update is less impactful though still helpful as it displays when a PC’s clock was last synced. No more wondering about why your desktop’s time is so far off the mark: Windows will simply tell you when you endured a sync hiccough.
Ideally, these moves will help push Windows 10’s adoption rate higher over time. Much like how the NBN rollout is replacing outdated infrastructure, Windows 10 is pushing to replace Windows 7, which still has an unsurprisingly large userbase that may still eclipse the newer OS despite being nearly a decade old. There’s always a wave of resistance to upgrading, though Windows 8.1 seems to have avoided much in the way of warm, fuzzy feelings. Only 4.59 percent of users still prefer it over Windows 7 and 10.
Overall, the preview build is showing some solid security mindfulness with additional quality of life upgrades that should make it more attractive for newcomers and long-term users alike. Here’s to hoping the October update doesn’t wind up looming until next October.