Microsoft Reconsiders The Copilot Recall Feature In Light If Security Concerns

Microsoft Reconsiders The Copilot Recall Feature In Light If Security Concerns

When the feature was first unveiled on May 20, it drew harsh condemnation from both industry insiders and customers. Software engineer and Web3 critic Molly White referred to it as “spyware,” while Malwarebytes called it a “built-in keylogger.”

The worries were exacerbated by the revelation that Recall does not, according to Microsoft, filter private data from images it takes, including financial or password information. This might turn the user’s computer’s database of Recall photos into a veritable gold mine for hackers, with a ton of private information conveniently gathered in one location and accessible with ease thanks to the AI-powered search function.

Microsoft said that because all Recall data was saved locally and encrypted using BitLocker or Device Encryption, consumers’ privacy was safeguarded. On Copilot+ PCs, the feature would be activated by default; however, it could also be turned off and set to not record particular websites and applications.

But in the weeks since Recall’s release, a number of security experts have tested the accessible previews and shown how the Recall database can be accessed and used to steal private information in large quantities.

For instance, “TotalRecall,” a “very simple” proof-of-concept application created by Alex Hagenah, head of cyber controls at SIX Group and member of HackerOne’s technical advisory board, copies, searches, and extracts data from the Recall database file.

Furthermore, in a blog post about getting around access control lists, security researcher James Forshaw of Google Project Zero revealed that a user can access the Recall database without administrative privileges by using a token from the Windows AIXHost.exe process or by simply rewriting the discretionary access control list because the database is deemed to be user-owned.

Microsoft stated in a blog post on Friday that Recall will no longer be enabled by default and that users will need to opt-in in order to utilize the feature in response to “customer feedback.” Furthermore, in order to activate Recall, users will need to finish the Windows Hello biometric enrollment procedure, which reduces the possibility that a hacker might activate it on a user’s computer who has opted out.

The AI-powered search tool and the Recall timeline will only be accessible with proof of presence via Windows Hello, and the snapshots will only be unlocked after the user authenticates with Windows Hello Enhanced Sign-in Security, according to Microsoft.

“We want to reinforce what has previously been shared from David Weston, vice president of Enterprise and OS Security, about how Copilot+ PCs have been designed to be secure by default,” the blog post stated.

The change was well received by security researcher and former Microsoft senior threat intelligence analyst Kevin Beaumont, who has been a prominent opponent of Recall from its launch.

“Turns out speaking up works,” Beaumont wrote on X.

“There are obviously going to be devils in the details – potentially big ones – but there’s some good elements here. Microsoft needs to commit to not trying to sneak users to enable it in the future, and it needs turning off by default in Group Policy and Intune for enterprise orgs,” Beaumont added.