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Why the Hell Is Windows 10 Sharing My Wifi Passwords?

Illustration for article titled Why the Hell Is Windows 10 Sharing My Wifi Passwords?

Look, Microsoft. Just because I am Facebook friends with someone, doesn’t mean I want to share my wifi passwords with them.

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Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens by default in Windows 10. Anyone who I’m Outlook.com contacts with (spammers), Skype friends with (webcam strippers), or Facebook friends with (high school buddies turned webcam strippers) can connect to wifi networks that I have the password for.

It’s part of a system called Wi-Fi Sense, which has been lurking in Windows Phone for a while now. It sends wifi passwords (encrypted; they never see the plaintext password) to your contacts, who can therefore connect to any wifi network that you have the password to. It’s turned on by default, and I had to dig around in a few levels of settings to disable it.

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(There’s also a checkbox when you first connect to a wifi network, giving you the option not to share the network. But since Windows 10 helpfully keeps your saved passwords when you upgrade, all the networks you’ve previously connected to are shared by default. My bad — Win10 shares your saved Wi-Fi passwords with other devices signed into your Microsoft account by default, but not through Wi-Fi Sense.)

I’m not really complaining about the existence of the feature in the first place — I can see how it could be helpful, if you’re a non-data-plan-having tween hopping between various wifi-enabled basements. It’s the fact that Wi-Fi Sense is enabled by default, and most people will never know that it’s there.

It’s also a huge security fuckup waiting to happen. Users might not see the password, but it’s stored on the machine somewhere, and you can bet that an intrepid hacker will get at it.

To disable Wi-Fi sense, head into Wi-Fi—>Network settings—>Manage Wi-Fi settings, and uncheck basically all the boxes you can see.

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This post is part of a week-long experiment with Windows 10 ahead of the official launch on July 29. What do you want to know about Windows 10? Drop us a line.


Contact the author at chris@gizmodo.com.

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DISCUSSION

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Bryant Beers

Ok, to clear a little bit of this so it’s not a complete freak out. This WiFi Sense has been known about for a while now and has been in various tech preview builds. Plus Windows Phone. Second thing is that WiFi networks are not shared by default. I just checked this on my Surface Pro 3. The WiFi Sense service is indeed enabled by default, but you must specifically pick which of your saved networks get shared.

Non of your saved WiFi networks are shared automatically without your knowledge. When you connect to a new network, there will be a check box you can select to share the network after connecting. It is not checked by default. The Outlook, Skype, and Facebook friends are checked by default, but that only means that they are enabled for sharing. You still have to pick which networks are shared first.

Also WiFi Sense needs you to grant it permission your Facebook first before any sharing takes place.

I hope this clears some of this up a bit. The article made it seem like this is a huge deal to freak out about when it’s really not.