Remove Ads from the Lock Screen on Surface

Tip Of The Week: How To Remove Ads From The Lock screen

Did you notice the lock screen picture on your Surface change after a reset?

Or, did you, perhaps, just start seeing new advertisements?

If so, you’re not alone. One of the updates in February added a “feature” to Windows 10 that allows Microsoft to push pictures and even ads to your Surface which get displayed on the lock screen.

Frankly, privacy issues aside, this behavior really annoys me. Think about it, I paid full price for this device and it wasn’t cheap but now Microsoft is pushing advertisements to my device without even asking for permission, really?

Yes, I know there is legalese that can be twisted into a saying that I agreed to seeing ads somewhere in that giant EULA for Windows 10. Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if I agreed to be Bill Gate’s towel boy in one of the hundred of EULA’s I’ve signed over the years but it’s the principal of the thing that annoys me.

If it was a deal more like Amazon’s Kindle Paper White, where you can get $$$ off the purchase price in exchange for agreeing to see the ads, I might be a little more accepting. However, since I didn’t get a choice, I want to remove the ads from the lock screen.

Remove Ads from the Lock Screen: The Steps

So, if you’re like me and don’t like that Microsoft, not only removed your favorite lock screen picture, but also started pushing random ads, follow these steps to get rid of them:

  • Bring up All Settings then navigate to the Personalization screen then select the Lock Screen tab.

  • On the right side, change the Background pull down from Windows spotlight (this is where the ads come from) to either Picture or Slideshow. Pick one option or the other, depending on your personal preference.
  • Next, set the Get fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen option to Off.

Now when your Surface’s screen is locked (like right after a restart), you will no longer see random pictures and advertisements, instead, you can set it to your favorite picture again. Oh, and you will no longer get those annoying screen popups with tips – unless of course you want them, in which case, skip the last step from the list above.

This little tip should help you become less bitter (as I am), regarding Microsoft adding this “feature” to Windows 10 to benefit themselves. Hey, I don’t have a problem with ads, everyone needs to make a living, it’s more an issue with the double-charging model. First for the device and then the ads.

Didn’t I tell you I was a pessimist?

Tim

Application Sandboxing on your Surface

If you’re security conscious, you’ve probably installed good Surface. You may have even tightened up your firewall settings and installed a VPN in order to be as safe online as you can be.

However, there’s still something you can do to make your system even more secure (especially when web browsing) and it’s pretty easy to implement.

It’s called application sandboxing.

Application Sandboxing on your Surface: What is Application Sandboxing?

At the most basic level, application sandboxing is a technology that creates a “virtual space” in which you can run programs. This, in effect, isolates programs in the sandbox from the rest of your computer and prevents those sandboxed applications from making any permanent changes to your computer.

For example, if you run Chrome in a sandbox, and if you accidentally click on one of those popups that installs some dodgy toolbar (or something worse), all you have to do is close down the sandboxed browser, empty the sandbox, and restart Chrome to wipe out any nefarious changes. Cool, huh?

Application Sandboxing on your Surface: What Are My Sandbox Options?

Like everything else nowadays, there’s a multitude of options you could try. However, to keep it simple, I’m going to present to you just two… Sandboxie and Shade Sandbox.

Sandboxie

Sandboxie is, arguably, the best known and most popular application sandboxing solution. It is pretty feature-rich but that might make it a little confusing for less technical people. However, it is very flexible and, if you learn how to use it properly, very powerful.

Pros

  • Free
  • You can simply right-click on an application or desktop icon to start the application in sandboxed mode
  • You can create multiple sandboxes
  • You can create desktop icons to automatically run applications in the sandbox. When you install Sandboxie, it automatically places a “sandboxed” icon for your default web browser on your desktop.
  • Outlines sandboxed apps with a yellow box, so you can easily tell they are sandboxed.
  • Works well with most applications.

Cons

  • Can be a bit intimidating for less technical users.
  • Does not work with tiles (Win 8.x) or the Win 10 Start Menu. Just desktop icons and application in File Explorer.

Bottom line: If you want to have a lot of control over your sandboxed apps and you’re willing to spend a little time sorting through and learning options, Sandboxie is for you.[divider]

Cybergenic Shade Sandbox

Shade Sandbox doesn’t offer the options that Sandboxie does but, if you want a sandboxing application that’s simple to run and you want to use it (mainly) for your web browser, this is it.

You don’t need to choose whether or not to run an application in the sandbox, the Shade Sandbox automatically runs applications the sandbox once configured. In fact, by default, it will find web browsers you have installed on your Surface (except for Edge) and automatically add them to the sandbox.

Unfortunately, this can be problematic, if you don’t want to run the app in a sandbox, because you’ll need to open the Shade Sandbox options and remove it. If you want to run it in the sandbox again, you’ll need to re-add it to the Shade Sendbox.

Pros

  • Free
  • Very simple to use
  • Outlines sandboxed apps with a violet box, so you can easily tell they are sandboxed.

Cons

  • “All or nothing”. If an app is configured to be sandboxed, you can’t run it normally.
  • Shows a popup (and plays an associated sound) for just about everything it does. It gets annoying quickly.
  • It is designed mainly for web browsers; so, it might not work as well for other applications.
  • Does not work with tiles (Win 8.x) or the Win 10 Start Menu. Just desktop icons and application in File Explorer.

Bottom line: This is a very easy to use sandboxing utility but it might not be as flexible as you would like.

Both applications work fine on any Surface Pro or Surface 3 (sorry, they don’t work on Windows RT) and can help your Surface be even more secure quickly and easily.

Tim

Remove the Scan with Windows Defender Option

If you read my 2015 Free Anti-Virus Guide, you probably figured out that I’m not a huge fan of Windows Defender. Since I don’t use it, I figured out how to remove the Scan with Windows Defender option. This helped me de-clutter the context menu that appears when I right-click on a file.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy Microsoft is trying to include anti-virus in Windows but I wish they chose something that worked better when tested.

With the Fall Update for Windows 10, Microsoft added a “Scan with Windows Defender” option to context menus (the one you see when you right-click on a file). Since I’m not using Windows Defender, I decided I didn’t want to see that option every time I right-clicked on a file.

So, if you’re like me and use an anti-virus package other than Windows Defender, here’s how you can do the same:

Remove the Scan with Windows Defender Option: The Steps

First off, be aware that this procedure does not remove Windows Defender from your Surface. It merely removes the context menu option. I think this is a good thing because, in the unlikely event you need to, you can still start Windows Defender manually and scan files.

Caution: this requires editing the registry of your device, so be careful and don’t delete anything you need. If you’re not comfortable doing this – don’t! Although, this process can be reversed by re-creating the registry key, it is a bit of a pain and if you’re not at least a little tech savvy, you may have trouble with it.

  • Make sure you’re logged in with administrator rights.
  • Search for regedit and select regedit run command from the results.
  • Navigate to HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\ {09A47860-11B0-4DA5-AFA5-26D86198A780}.

  • Right click this key and select Delete.

  • Click Yes when prompted.

The change will happen immediately so you don’t have to reboot. If you right-click on a file, the “Scan with Windows Defender” menu option will no longer be present.

You might be wondering why you should even bother. It’s not like it’s freeing up space on the hard drive or anything, right? Well, this is a way to let you cleanup the context menu a bit by removing an option you’re not ever going to use (assuming you don’t want to use Windows Defender).

Tim

Weekly Surface News Roundup: 11 October, 2015

It’s that time of week again. Time for the Weekly Surface News Roundup.

Here’s my list of interesting news for Surface owners that is in addition to the Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book announcements earlier this week:

  • Vigilante Malware is a Good Thing?
  • Say ‘Bye’ to the Control Panel, Maybe…

I know it’s a little light but, because of the announcements on Tuesday, the news stream is still flooded with opinions. OK, with that out of the way, let’s get started…

[divider]

Weekly Surface News Roundup: Vigilante Malware is a Good Thing?

Malware, even the name implies it’s malicious. However a new malware that infects network routers may actually be doing some good. Linux.Wifatch has been making rounds for months and one of the first things it does when it infects your router is patch it to make sure it’s more secure from other viruses and malware. Once it’s done improving your network security, it tries to spread to other network routers it can find.

Symantec has been watching Linux.Wifatch for a while now and, so far, it hasn’t done anything malicious.

They are quick to point out, however, that it could suddenly become malicious at any moment. So, since you can get rid of Linux.Wifatch by simply restarting your network router, they advise you to do so, then make sure you apply the latest patches to it. If you don’t apply the patches, Linux.Wifatch may re-infect it.

Now, for the obvious question; why didn’t they call it “Anonymous.Batman?”

Related: Symantec

[divider]

Weekly Surface News Roundup: Say ‘Bye’ to the Control Panel, Maybe…

According to Mark Wilson at Betanews, Microsoft is thinking about getting rid of the iconic Control Panel that has been in every version of Windows since Windows 2.0 was released in 1987!! Instead, they would make the Settings app in Windows 10 more complete.

This story originated on Twitter when Gabe Azul was asked about the Settings app and Control Panel.

If you’re a die-hard fan of the Control Panel (and its familiarity) you don’t have to panic yet. There hasn’t been any schedule put forward by Microsoft as to when this might happen. The Windows Insiders (running beta versions of Windows) will see the change before it happens.

When we see it, we’ll let you know it’s coming.

Related: BetaNews

[divider]

I’m looking forward to getting back to normal news stories again next week…or may not, maybe there will be more of the SP4 and Surface Book stuff…who knows…

Tim

[tweet][digg][stumble][Google]

September Cumulative Update for Windows

Microsoft released the September Cumulative Update (KB3081455) yesterday. If you haven’t been prompted to install it yet, assuming you haven’t deferred updates, you will be soon.

This cumulative update addresses issues from multiple security bulletins and includes security fixes for Internet Explorer, Edge, and fixes for vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to remotely run code on your system.

Unlike some past cumulative updates, no new features were added by this update. It’s just security fixes.

Keep in mind that in order to install this particular cumulative update on a Windows 10 system, you will be required to already have KB3081448 installed. If you don’t, you’ll have to allow it to install first.

To see the complete list of what’s included, you can find it on Microsoft’s site here: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/security/ms15-sep.aspx

Tim

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on Surface Tablets

If you regret upgrading your Surface to Windows 10, then I’m about to give you another reason to regret it….. privacy concerns.

Turns out many people are unhappy with Windows 10 because of concerns about privacy. If you look in your settings, you’ll see a whole section with various privacy-related options:

By default, most of these settings are configured to share as much information (or access) as possible. While that’s awesome for functionality, it may mean that personal or sensitive data gets sent to Microsoft or shared with an unexpected application – that could land you in a lot of hot water.

For example, let’s say you work in a doctors office in the U.S. and have a Surface 3 with Windows 10. Let’s say you use Cortana to look for a particular patent’s history on your Surface.

Well, now you might have a problem…

You see, U.S. patient records are covered under HIPAA law and its rules are very restrictive. One of the big things you do not want to do with HIPAA data is share it with anyone without explicit permission from the patient.

Guess what? Cortana sends all of your search data to Microsoft to be analyzed and processed, so she can give you an answer (that’s why Cortana doesn’t work when you don’t have internet). Even though it’s been anonymized, you could end up liable for misusing HIPAA data (depending on certain factors).

Keep in mind, this is an extreme example and it is easy to mitigate with policy (“don’t use Cortana, for patient records”) but it highlights how a seemingly innocent thing can become a serious privacy problem.

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on Surface: What Can I Do About It?

In this section I had a choice. I could either write up this long and complicated checklist of privacy settings with pictures that would end up being huge and unwieldy or, I could tell you about Do Not Spy and be done in just a few minutes. As I write this it’s 5:54 AM on a Sunday morning and I haven’t had my coffee yet so…. Do Not Spy it is.

Besides I’m sure you would appreciate brevity out of me for once, right?

Do Not Spy is a simple program written by pXc-coding that simply puts all of the Windows privacy options (normally spread across multiple locations) into a single window. It is very simple to use and even offers an explanation of what each privacy setting does.

There are a few things to be aware of however…

  • When the program is started, it will ask if you want to make a restore point. DO IT!!! While the program works well, a few settings can’t be turned off by un-checking the box. For example, the Disable and Reset Cortana setting. Letting the program make a restore point will let you back out of your changes, if you need to later.
  • There are two download options (ad-supported and donation)
  • While the ad-supported version does not show ads in the main Window, it will try to include additional products during the installation process. Fortunately, all you have to do is uncheck the box:

  • For a donation (minimum $5 USD) you can get a version that is not ad-supported and does not try to install the additional software. I would recommend you do this if you can spare the $5 because it will help them improve their software offerings.
  • Your anti-virus software may see Do Not Spy as a threat (because it will try to access the registry and create a system restore point); so, you may have to add it to your “whitelist” before you can use it.

As far as what privacy settings you should use, it depends on what you use your Surface for and how much you trust Microsoft. For example, the Disable and Reset Cortana setting will prevent her from working – so if you like Cortana, you won’t want to check that box. Another setting disables OneDrive. Hence, turning it off would be a bad idea if you use OneDrive a lot.

Just take your time and read the description of each setting to make sure you want to change it.

Reminder: Don’t forget to let the program create a system restore point before adjusting the settings.

If using this program makes you uncomfortable, you can just go through the Windows 10 Privacy Settings section and turn off each setting you don’t like individually. In addition, you’ll probably also want to look at the Windows Update settings and Cortana and Search settings – there are several privacy-related items in each.

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on Surface: Am I Safe Now?

You’ve done all you can at this point but your privacy still may not be safe… Ars Technica used a proxy server to look at what Windows 10 sends on the network and their testing showed that even with certain features disabled and privacy settings activated, Windows 10 continues to send information to Microsoft.

The data seems to be sent from multiple sources including OneDrive, Cortana, and Bing. This even occurs when a local account is used! While much of the traffic is fairly harmless, some of it is a bit concerning. Here’s a couple of examples:

  • Even with OneDrive completely disabled and no Microsoft Account being used, Windows 10 appears to send information back to a server used by OneDrive. Why would it need to do that?
  • When Cortana and searching the Web from the Start menu is disabled, if you open Start and do a search your Surface will send a request to www.bing.com for a file called threshold.appcache which appears to contain some Cortana information (disabled, remember?). The request for this file contains a machine ID that persists across reboots which means that they might be able to see and correlate all search requests for that machine ID.

When asked about this traffic, Microsoft told them:

“As part of delivering Windows 10 as a service, updates may be delivered to provide ongoing new features to Bing search, such as new visual layouts, styles and search code. No query or search usage data is sent to Microsoft, in accordance with the customer’s chosen privacy settings. This also applies to searching offline for items such as apps, files and settings on the device.”

While that is consistent with what they saw (there was no query or search data transmitted), it is counter to a “reasonable person’s” expectations. If Web searching and Cortana are disabled, the inference that most people (including me) would make is that searching from the Start menu wouldn’t use the Internet at all. But it does.

I’ll leave the implications of the persistent machine ID that could be used to track all of your searches up to you.

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on Surface: Is That Legal?

If you’re starting to wonder how Microsoft can get away with this, it’s because the EULA (which I’ll bet you never read) is so broad it basically gives Microsoft the freedom to do whatever it wants. For example, this excerpt on privacy reads (the highlights are mine):

“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”

All of which means that Windows 10 has the right to install whatever it wants on your system without notice and to read and disclose all your personal information and files when it sees fit – even with files you place in private folders. Hmmm….this sounds like Google….

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns on Surface: Tim’s Conclusions

Does all this mean you should avoid or uninstall Windows 10?

I would say – probably not (unless you don’t like Windows 10 for other reasons as well) but you will want to tweak the default settings. I recommend you either use Do Not Spy or manually adjust your privacy settings to set the privacy options to something you’re more comfortable with because the defaults are pretty much wide open.

At this point, you might be asking yourself; “but Tim, what about the EULA language and mysterious traffic you pointed out?”

Frankly, I really doubt Microsoft has any sort of nefarious plan to invade your privacy with Windows 10. Most of the problems, or suspicious activity, I pointed out above really come down to two things…. lawyers and programming shortcuts.

You can bet that Microsoft’s legal department was tasked to make sure Microsoft was protected from lawsuits in just about any situation; so, they wrote the EULA with such broad rules the NSA would wet themselves like an excited puppy if they could get away with just half of what Microsoft can. It doesn’t mean they had plans to access your data all along, it just means they wanted to be protected from liability no matter what.

That’s bad, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t mean getting there was cheesy-spy-movie-type nefarious laughter coming from the boardroom when Windows 10 launched.

As for the mysterious traffic…. well, I’ll bet that’s due to programming shortcuts when Windows 10 was being written, so that the programming teams could meet the requirements while still making whatever deadlines imposed on them. Let’s face it, that’s the reality of the corporate world.

Tim



Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense on Surface Tablets

If you upgraded your Surface to Windows 10, you now have the functionality known as Wi-Fi Sense. Wi-Fi Sense is a feature that lets Windows 10 users share the login credentials (i.e. network name and password) for a Wi-Fi router with friends and contacts without letting them see the actual password. Better yet, when configured, it does all of this automatically.

In addition, it also lets you automatically connect to open Wi-Fi networks that have been discovered by other Windows 10 users.

In this post I will give details on Wi-Fi Sense:

  • How it works
  • Security risks
  • How to mitigate the risks
  • Built-in safeguards
  • How to turn off Wi-Fi Sense
  • How to share connections with friends
  • Public networks

Let’s take these one at a time.

Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense: How does it work?

The part about open networks is pretty straightforward: Microsoft has a database of open Wi-Fi networks (typically Wi-Fi routers that don’t require a password); that database is crowd-sourced from other Windows 10 users. If you come within range of one of those networks, your Windows device will connect to it automatically.

Wi-Fi Sense’s other feature (the ability to share access to Wi-Fi networks) is a bit more complex and may need some explanation. Basically, Wi-Fi Sense (which is turned on by default when you install Windows 10) will offer you the option of sharing the network information with your Facebook friends and Skype/Outlook.com contacts list every time you connect to a new router. In addition, you can also share access to previously saved Wi-Fi networks.

Once you share access to a network via Wi-Fi Sense, Windows encrypts the credentials and puts them up on a server over an encrypted connection. Next, Microsoft distributes those encrypted credentials to your contacts who have Windows 10 on their PCs, tablets, or smartphones. If any of those people come within range of the router for which you’ve shared access, Windows 10 will automatically connect them — without asking them for a password.

There’s a couple of catches: first, it’s very much a “tit-for-tat” type of functionality. You can’t receive a Wi-Fi Sense login from your contacts until you share access to at least one router yourself. Second, it’s an “all of nothing thing” You can’t just share the network credentials with a single contact. Despite those catches, it still sounds cool, right? No more trying to tell someone what the password to your home network is and having them mistype it three times before you finally do it for them.

Not so fast, there are some potential security risks with this feature you need to know about…

Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense: How is it a Security Risk?

First, keep in mind that Wi-Fi Sense is potentially a security problem. It doesn’t mean it is a security problem but that it could be. I’ll run through a couple of scenarios to outline how it could be a security problem for you:

  • It could allow someone onto a secure network (of a business place, for example), simply for being friends with one of the employees that has a Surface (or other Windows 10 machine) setup with Wi-Fi Sense on and sharing. You want to see your IT guy freak out? let him catch your 14-year old nephew (who should not have the Wi-Fi password) using the wireless network to download pirated movies because it automatically connected him.
  • It’s not inconceivable that someone (let’s say a neighbor) could could become one of your Facebook friends simply so they can get access to your network to do something illegal such as downloading pirated software or worse. Don’t think that happens? Well, take a look at this Wired article from a few years back: Wi-Fi Hacking Neighbor.

Microsoft says your contacts will only be able to share your network access (nothing else). And, that Wi-Fi Sense will block those users from accessing any other shared resources on your network – including computers, file shares or other devices. But given the number of ways that social networks and applications share and intertwine connections (and contacts), it’s not out of the question that someone could figure out how to “grab” your encrypted credentials (with your network password) and decrypt it.

Important Clarification: According to Microsoft’s Wi-Fi Sense FAQ – “The networks you share aren’t shared with your contacts’ contacts. If your contacts want to share one of your networks with their contacts, they’d need to know your actual password and type it in to share the network.” So you don’t have to worry about the password “spreading” to your friend’s friends.

Now, tell me you don’t see at least one or two potential security issues with the feature?

Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense: What Can I Do About The Risk?

First you need to know that there ARE some safeguards built into the Wi-Fi Sense that will keep you from accidentally sharing your network information and some will even prevent anyone from using Wi-Fi sense on your wireless networks.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • By default, your Surface won’t share any password-protected hotspots it is aware of. You have to go into your Wi-Fi Settings and tell it to share a particular hotspot but, once you do so, it will try to share it with your Outlook.com, Skype, and Facebook contacts.
  • To get the Facebook integration to work, you have to take the extra step of giving Facebook permission to access the information.
  • It is possible to add the text  “_nomap_optout” to the end of your wireless network’s SSID. This will tell Wi-Fi Sense to not share it regardless of what a user says to do.
  • If your wireless network is using 802.1x (PNAC), it will prevent the password from being shared.

If you feel the safeguards Microsoft put in place aren’t enough and you’re still concerned about security, you can completely turn off Wi-Fi Sense on your Surface by doing the following:

  • Swipe in from the right of the screen to bring up the Action Center.
  • Tap and hold (right-click) on the Wi-Fi Button then select Go To Settings.
  • Scroll down to find the Manage Wi-Fi Settings link, select it.
  • Configure the settings as follows:

If you configure your settings to look like the example above, Wi-Fi Sense is off and you don’t have to worry about accidentally sharing out network information to others from your Surface.

Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense: How Do I Share My Wi-Fi Connections With Friends?

Conversely, if you may fall into the “I understand why some people would care but I don’t” or the “awesome, you mean I’ll automatically get Wi-Fi at my friends’ houses” category, then you might want to know how to configure it to share some or all of your networks.

Here’s what you need to do that:

  • Swipe in from the right of the screen to bring up the Action Center.
  • Tap and hold (right-click) on the Wi-Fi Button then select Go To Settings.
  • Scroll down to find the Manage Wi-Fi Settings link, select it.
  • Verify your settings are as follows (these are actually the defaults):

  • Next, select the Wi-Fi Sense Needs Permission To Use Your Facebook Account and follow the directions.

After getting your settings configured, you will still need to individually share the Wi-Fi networks your Surface has stored. Here’s the steps for that process:

  • Go back to the Settings screen, scroll down to the Manage Know Networks section and select one of the networks you want to share with your friends.
  • You’ll be given an option to Share and an option to Forget. Select the Share option (yes, I really named my Wi-Fi that).

  • Next, you’ll be prompted to manually enter the network password. Enter it then selectShare.

  • Repeat as desired to share all of the networks you want to share.

That’s it, now your friends will be able to connect to that network(s) without the need to enter (or even know) the password(s). Despite the security implications, I have to admit, it’s a pretty handy capability.

Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense: Public Networks?

A word of caution on public networks; if you connect to a public network through Wi-Fi sense, you should still use the practices outlined in the article Public Wi-Fi Security Risks, 4 Things You Can Do To Protect Yourself. All public Wi-Fi security risks mentioned in that article still apply.

Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense: Conclusion

Wi-Fi Sense is a pretty cool, and handy, feature you get with Windows 10 but you really need to understand the security risks and ramifications. The information above should not only give you a good idea about the security aspects of the feature but also help you set it up to meet your needs.

If you still have questions about Windows 10 Wi-Fi Sense on your Surface, check out the Microsoft FAQ on Wi-Fi Sense for more information. Also, KrebsOnSecurity article offers good insight into the security ramifications from a IT security engineer’s point of view. Just be aware that, like most security engineers, he might come off as a bit paranoid.

Tim

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Virus Prevention – Best Practices To Avoid Infection on your Surface

Virus Prevention on your Surface 3 or Surface Pro 3

Recently, we wrote about what to do if your Surface is infected with malware, but really, the best way to deal with computer viruses is to prevent them altogether.

Now, the good news is that if you follow a few safe computing practices on a regular basis, chances are that you will never have to worry about your Surface tablet being infected.

Prevention is always the best policy and it starts with just a little bit of knowledge and this article will provide you with what you need to know.

First of all, in previous articles we had written, we talked about the Surface 2/RT line as being pretty much immune to viruses and they still are.

However, now that Microsoft has just about abandoned Windows RT, the new Surface 3 tablets, as well as the Surface Pro 3 tablets, come with full blown version of Windows 8.1.

This means that you can install anything you like on them (which is good) but it also means that they are more prone to malicious virus infection (which is bad). So, as on any other PC, you need to protect yourself and your device from computer viruses and other malware.

In my humble opinion, the best way to do so is through virus and malware prevention. You can prevent most infections by understanding how they happen and by following a few simple practices. Here is a short list of the most common ways to get a virus or malware on your computer, in computer parlance, they are often called “vectors”:

  • Unknown attachments (email, txt, IM)
  • Web browsing
  • Installed programs
  • Torrents
  • USB drives
  • Out-of-date or missing anti-virus and anti-malware software
  • Out-of-date programs or missing Windows updates

So, without going into too much detail, here is a list of seven best practices you should follow to help you keep your Surface from ever getting a virus or malware infectioned:

  • NEVER open attachments from people you don’t know
  • NEVER click on unexpected popups. This is especially true of popups claiming you won a prize or that your computer is infected and you need to pay to have it cleaned
  • NEVER browse on “dubious” websites. You’ll know it when you see one
  • ALWAYS be wary of programs you download from the internet. This is especially true of torrented files. Before you install anything downloaded from the internet, use your anti-virus to scan it
  • If in doubt, ALWAYS check to make sure it is not a scam/virus by doing a simple google search. You’ll be surprised how much information is out there on just about every scam
  • ALWAYS keep your system and software up to date
  • ALWAYS have a good anti-virus package installed, see our post on free anti-virus software
  • ALWAYS have a good anti-malware package installed, see our post on anti-malware protection

I know I covered this in the second bullet but, it bears repeating… NEVER, EVER (I DON’T CARE IF YOUR GRANDMOTHER VOUCHES FOR IT) GIVE YOUR CREDIT CARD OR BANK ACCOUNT INFO TO A RANDOM POPUP!!!

Tim’s dad recently fell victim to one of those scams. He got a popup saying his computer was infected and for $50 “a company in Florida” will be happy to clean it for him.

He only called Tim after he had already given them his credit card info. Tim was not happy and his dad ended up needing to change all of his passwords, have his credit card deactivated/replaced, and his computer wiped and reloaded.

It was a harsh lesson for his dad, so I hope everyone can learn from it.

Anyway, the best practice list isn’t long and there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t be familiar with it. If you follow those simple steps, your Surface will be much safer and you will save yourself a lot of headaches – guaranteed!

Coming soon… best practices for public Wi-Fi networks.