Windows 10 Update and CBRNE Detectors: Proceed with Caution

In case you may have been vacationing on a deserted island far away from technology, and didn’t hear the news, Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 as a free upgrade on Wednesday July 29th, for machines running Windows 7 or 8/8.1. Some of us back in the real world may have noticed our machines already performing updates in preparation for the release. Microsoft has been pushing out a lot of updates in order to get older machines ready, and testers are still evaluating Windows 10 even days before launch. The newest release of tester information, which has been confirmed by Microsoft, has the potential impact on the CBRNE community.

How will the forthcoming Windows 10 Upgrade affect the CBRNE community?

In Windows 10, Automatic Updates cannot be turned off. This has the potential to pose a severe issue. If Windows detects what it determines as incompatible software, the most likely victim being driver files, it will overwrite or delete them. Many third party hardware and software companies provide similar monitoring that will then go into action to repair their software.

Windows will again detect the newly updated software as incompatible and the cycle will repeat. This has the potential to result in an update loop, with Microsoft and third party software company software fighting the system for control.

Automatic updates allow Windows to periodically check itself to see if all its components are up to date and allows Microsoft to ‘push’ out software updates that address discovered flaws. This helps to maintain system stability and security by correcting discovered software holes that developers or hackers have discovered before they can be exploited, or exploited further than they may have already been. However, many users disable Automatic Updates or select a variation of the update process to be notified before installing anything as to prevent any conflict with proprietary software or special hardware they may use.

This is where we in the CBRNE community stand to be especially vulnerable. This lack of control over updates increases the likelihood of issues developing with computers running proprietary software and used to connect to, operate and calibrate CBRNE detection equipment.

Our Recommendations

Until the possible effects can be determined, we recommend upgrading only one computer—assuming you have several that can be used to operate or calibrate equipment—in order to maintain your current level of stability and operational readiness. This will provide operators and technicians with a test environment to see how the detection equipment reacts to Windows 10, and assist your individual IT departments with vital information on resulting issues, if any, that may manifest.

As for personal work computers, upgrades will be dictated by your individual IT departments, or up to the individual to update or not. Users have at least a full year to upgrade, with Internet rumor hinting at a potentially longer period.

It should be noted that after protest from the Windows 10 testing community, Microsoft released a tool, as an optional download, to hide or block unwanted updates for the Windows 10 Insider preview. This will most likely be removed at launch as Microsoft has stated its intention to remove the control of updates from end users.

Contributor | IT Support Specialist at KD Analytical

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