German government: Windows 10 telemetry almost impossible to disable for average user

Windows 10 sends extensive system and usage information to Microsoft and it's hard for users to prevent it from doing so, according to a report from a German government body that appeared today. The report was released as part of a study of Windows 10 telemetry carried out by the German Federal Office for Information Security.

The German Federal Office for Information Security works on a security analysis of Windows 10, in which critical safety components of the operating system are investigated. Goal is to determine  security risks of using Windows 10 and to provide recommendations on how to safely use the operating system.

The security analysis consists of several parts and in the first part the organization analyses how Windows 10 collects and sends telemetry data to Microsoft. This part has now been made public. The 63-page report provides an overview of components used by Windows 10 to collect data, and also how this data is processed. It also describes methods used to send the data Microsoft, as well as possible methods to monitor telemetry activities.

According to the analysis, Windows 10 telemetry by default has extensive capabilities to access system and usage information and to send it to Microsoft. While users can set different kinds of levels of how much telemetry data is collected, there is no setting to entirely disable collection of telemetry.

“Although users can set different telemetry levels, the telemetry service dynamically allocates existing telemetry sources to these levels on the fly. The service loads configuration data several times per hour,” the German Federal Office for Information Security writes.

Preventing the collection and transmission of telemetry data from Windows 10 to Microsoft is technically possible, but difficult for the average user to implement, according to the German Federal Office.  In a separate document (PDF), the Federal Office explains how to prevent Windows 10 from sending data to Microsoft. However, this is clearly written for advanced users as it includes changing registry keys, setting up firewall rules and using proxies and DNS changes.

The government organization also notes that besides the operating system itself, also other Microsoft products on Windows 10 collect and sent telemetry to the software giant. This also happens when users have used the Windows 10 setting to allow the operating system to collect and sent as less telemetry data as possible.

Besides these results, the German Federal Office for Information Security will also publish technical analysises on other Windows 10 components. These will include components such as Trusted Platform Module (TPM), VBS / DeviceGuard, Windows Powershell, the “Application Compatibility Infrastructure”, driver management and PatchGuard.

When all results are in, the German Federal Office for Information Security will provide recommendations on better securing Windows 10.

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