5 Ways You Can Better Protect Your Windows 10 Computer Thanks to the May 2019 Update

More than a billion adults have been the victims of cybercrime. Here are five security-related improvements rolled out through the Windows 10 May 2019 Update that can help you avoid becoming the next victim.

People fear cyberattacks more than physical attacks or robbery — and for good reason. More than 1 billion adults have been the victims of cybercrime, with 800 million of them occurring in 2018 alone.

Taking measures to protect your devices can help mitigate the risk and fear of becoming a victim. The more security measures you implement, the better protected you’ll be. Toward that end, Microsoft keeps adding new and improved security tools and functionality to Windows 10 through feature updates. Here are five security-related enhancements that Microsoft rolled out through the Windows 10 May 2019 Update (version 1903) that you might want to take advantage of to better protect your Windows 10 computer:

  1. New Password-Less Way to Create and Sign In to Microsoft Accounts

Microsoft believes that passwords are “inconvenient, insecure, and expensive” so it is on a quest to create “a world without passwords”. As part of this endeavor, Microsoft has been providing alternative authentication methods through Windows 10 feature updates and other venues. The Windows 10 May 2019 Update introduces a new way you can set up and log in to your Microsoft account that does not involve using a password.

This is how it works: When you first sign in to Microsoft on a new or reset computer, you provide the phone number that is associated with your Microsoft account. Microsoft will then send you a text message that contains a security code, which you enter in the sign-in screen. Once logged in, you finish setting up the account. Afterward, you need to select and set up an alternative authentication method. For example, you can use Windows Hello to set up biometric authentication (e.g., face or fingerprint recognition).

  1. Redesigned “Sign-in options” Page in the Settings App

Microsoft redesigned the “Sign-in options” page in the Settings app to make it easier for Windows 10 users to select and set up an alternative authentication method if desired. Once the May 2019 Update is installed, the “Sign-in options” page — which you can find in the “Accounts” section of the Settings app — clearly outlines the available authentication methods. For example, the indistinct “Windows Hello” option has been replaced with the three main authentication methods available using this solution: “Windows Hello Face”, “Windows Hello Fingerprint”, and “Windows Hello PIN”. Plus, the “Sign-in options” page now includes the “Security Key” option so that you can set up a physical security key (e.g., USB security key) directly from that page.

Besides making it easier to select and set up alternative authentication methods, Microsoft has redesigned some of the supporting processes. For instance, the process used to reset Windows Hello PINs has been streamlined. It is now more like the process used to reset passwords online.

  1. Enhancements in the Windows Security App

The Windows Security app lets you view and manage Windows 10’s built-in security tools, such as Windows Firewall and Windows Defender Antivirus. Two enhancements to Windows Security are being rolled out through the May 2019 Update:

  • “Tamper Protection”. This new feature is designed to protect against unauthorized changes to security settings in Windows 10. It alerts you if someone or something (e.g., an app) is trying to change an important security setting.
  • Redesigned “Protection History” page. This page shows the actions taken by the Windows Security app to protect your computer. It now includes information about attempts to access controlled folders but were blocked by either the “Controlled folder access” tool in the Windows Security app or an Attack Surface Reduction Rule. Microsoft also made the information about the threats detected by Windows Defender Antivirus more detailed and easier to understand.
  1. Windows Sandbox

You can save money by using free apps from the Internet. However, there is always the risk that the apps contain malware. The new Windows Sandbox provides you with a safe way to test potentially dangerous apps.

When you launch Windows Sandbox, it uses virtualization technology to create an isolated desktop environment, which is called a sandbox. You then install the untrusted app in the sandbox and run it. If the app contains malware, it won’t infect the computer. When you close Windows Sandbox, the app and all its files are permanently deleted. Windows Sandbox is available in Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise only.

  1. Better Control Over Who Can See and Hear You

Spyware is a threat to both individuals and businesses. Hackers use it to get sensitive data or images, which they sell on the dark web marketplace. One way cybercriminals spy on their victims is by using the computers’ microphones and cameras.

To help detect spyware, the May 2019 Update adds a new icon that appears when a computer’s microphone is being used. You can find out which app is using it by hovering your mouse over the icon. If more than one app is using the microphone, it will display the number of apps using it.

In addition, you can now specify whether websites can use your camera and microphone if you use Windows Defender Application Guard. When Application Guard is enabled, Windows 10 launches Microsoft Edge in an isolated virtualized environment so that malicious web pages won’t harm your computer. Application Guard is available in Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise only.

Windows 10 upgrade flickr photo by bossco shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Apple Is Recalling MacBook Pro Laptops Due to Possible Fire Hazard

The batteries in some 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops are overheating. Find out how to check whether your laptop is affected and learn about some other Apple devices being recalled.

Apple is recalling certain 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops due to a potential fire hazard. Apple has received 26 complaints about the laptops’ batteries overheating and causing minor burns, smoke inhalation, and minor damage to nearby personal property, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops were sold primarily between September 2015 and February 2017 through Apple’s website, Apple’s retail stores, and other electronics stores. Around 458,000 were sold in the United States and Canada.

How to Determine If Your Laptop Is Part of the Recall

Not all of the 15-inch MacBook Pro laptops sold are affected. To determine if your device is part of the recall, you need to check your device’s serial number. Follow these steps:

  1. On your laptop, select “About This Mac” from the Apple menu.
  2. On the “General” tab, check to see if the model is “MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015)”. If that is not the model listed, your laptop is not part of the recall. If that is your model, proceed to the next step.
  3. Write down your computer’s serial number, which will also be listed on the “Overview” tab.
  4. Go to the 15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Recall Program web page and enter your computer’s serial number in the box provided.

If your laptop is one of the models being recalled, you should stop using it. Apple will replace the battery for free in an Apple Repair Center. You can drop off your laptop at an Apple retail store or Apple-authorized service provider. Another option is to mail your laptop to the Apple Repair Center, but you first need to contact Apple Support to arrange it. Apple estimates that it will take one to two weeks to service your laptop.

Before you get your battery replaced, it is important to back up all the data on your laptop. If you need assistance performing the backup, give us a call.

Other Apple Devices Being Recalled

Other Apple devices are also being recalled for various reasons. Here are four other recalls issued in 2019:

  • The keyboards in certain MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro devices are not working correctly. Letters or characters might repeat unexpectedly or not appear at all. Plus, keys might feel “sticky” or respond in an inconsistent manner. For more information about this recall, see the Keyboard Service Program for MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro web page.
  • The display backlight in some 13-inch MacBook Pro laptops works incorrectly or stops working entirely. For more information, see the 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program web page.
  • In “very rare” rare cases, the Apple three-prong AC wall plug adapter is breaking and creating a risk of electrical shock if exposed metal parts are touched. The adapters are primarily used in the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Hong Kong. For more information, see the Apple Three-Prong AC Wall Plug Adapter Recall Program web page.
  • The main logic board in certain 13-inch 2018 MacBook Air devices are experiencing power issues. Although Apple has not yet listed this problem on its Exchange and Repair Extension Programs page as of July 1, 2019, an internal memo to repair staff members states that they should replace the main logic board in affected devices at no cost to customers.

MacBook Pro 13″ flickr photo by mkniebes shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)