Windows 11 security vulnerabilities

Since its release in late 2021, Windows 11 has received unsettling levels of criticism from security experts surrounding some of the vulnerabilities identified in the operating system. Despite Microsoft’s promotion of Zero Trust — a method of reinforcing security by always asking users to verify their identity for any login or administrative activity — the company has also been successively releasing patch after patch to remedy known issues in Windows 11.

The list of issues, while gradually depleting, is still lengthy and complex. This has led to considerable concern for users finding the information somewhat indecipherable. Here we will explain some of the greatest challenges and provide some useful tips on how to best protect your device and information.

Windows 11 security vulnerabilities

Reset doesn’t reset

Unfortunately, Windows 10 and 11 have both been reported to not do a comprehensive job of clearing your data on reset, despite stating that everything has been removed. This means you could still have some personal information lurking in subfolders on the machine. If you are selling or giving away a computer you’ll want to wipe it of all your information before doing so. You would usually do this by using the Reset PC > Remove Everything function in Settings. Until Microsoft releases a patch to solve this you’ll need to sign out of OneDrive and unlink OneDrive from the device before going through the process of resetting your PC.

If you’ve already reset your PC, follow these steps to ensure everything has been removed:

  1. Make a new account, log in and open the Settings app.
  2. Click ‘Storage’ then ‘Storage Sense’.
  3. Run Storage Sense and remove the Windows.old folder.

Not all machines are created equal

Windows 11 requires a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) 2.0 chip in the computer on which it’s installed to run all the built-in security functions effectively. If you’ve installed Windows 11 on an older computer — which is still possible with some bypass workarounds, according to Microsoft — you may not be fully protected. Any machine running Windows 11 without a TPM 2.0 chip is not going to receive security updates; considering the vast number of holes Microsoft has needed to plug with security patches, this could be putting your computer and data at significant risk.

It’s therefore recommended that if you do want to run Windows 11 on a machine sans-TPM 2.0 that you invest in a combination of additional security software packages — such as Total Defense’s Premium Internet Security and Anti-Virus. By pairing up various softwares in this way, you’ll create digital safety nets: Should any nefarious programs slip through the internet security defenses, regular anti-virus scans will pick them up. This strategy is generally applied automatically with the security included in Windows 11, but with the absence of the TPM 2.0 causing a shortfall in its effectiveness, it will unfortunately fall to the user to ensure alternative solutions are in place.

Update manually

Any seasoned user of Windows is going to be familiar with the small but noticeable change in the shut down and restart prompt options when turning off their PC: When updates are ready to install Shut down or Restart becomes Install updates and shut down or Install updates and restart. This doesn’t seem to always work correctly in Windows 11, though. Sometimes the prompt doesn’t appear, meaning that some updates might be queued or available but aren’t automatically initiated, as you might be used to.

To check for updates is quite straightforward:

  • Open Settings.
  • Go to Windows Update.
  • Click Check for Updates.

Remain vigilant

While none of these solutions present an absolute fix to the continuing issues with Windows 11, they will at least allow you to reinforce security on your computer while waiting for Microsoft to release patches to remedy each of the long list of problems identified. In the meantime — and as always when it comes to protecting yourself online — stay sharp, and keep yourself well educated on potential threats so you can be better prepared to spot them and shield yourself from harm.

For more information about online security, check out our Total Defense Security Blog or contact us to speak with an expert.