Operating system security

How to Use Windows 10 Action Center and Security & Maintenance App for Hardening

December 14, 2020 by Kurt Ellzey

When you hear someone mention “Action Center” in regards to security, you may picture a team of specialists running through a facility- trying to get to their stations quickly in an emergency. Once all of the personnel are at their proper locations, information would begin to file in to a central command center, providing up to the minute specifics about the status of various vital components.

While our topic today may not be anywhere near as dramatic as what we mentioned above, the Windows 10 Action Center does allow for a significant amount of status information to be viewed through a ‘Single Pane of Glass’ or a central point of reference. With that, we are going to touch on two different views of this information- the Windows 10 Action Center, and the Security & Maintenance app in the context of System Hardening.

Windows 10 Action Center

With such a bold name, one might think that getting to this view requires a pair of incredibly elaborate keys turned at the same time. In reality, this is a notification bar that you can access via an icon next to your system clock. This place will show you pending updates, alerts, and provide quick access to disable key settings such as your network in case of emergency with the flip of a switch. Depending on if you have pending messages to read, your Action Center icon will look like either a filled or empty comic speech bubble.

 

When you click on this button, you will see a number of notifications that are waiting on your attention.  These can include various programs, security and networking options for your inspection.

The exact functions available to you at the bottom of the screen will vary on the configuration of your Windows 10 system, such as a dedicated ‘Airplane Mode’ button on systems with Wi-Fi for example.

The easiest thing to liken Action Center’s notification really is the notification area in the average Smartphone- with similar functionality and form factors. Just like with Smartphone notifications as well, it can sometimes be far too much information, so we can tune it to be exactly what we need to be made aware of. To do this, first click on the Action Center button, then select ‘All Settings’. Alternatively, we can just click on the Start button and select ‘All Settings’ there as well.

  

 In order to get to the Notifications area, we will first want to click on the ‘System’ button, followed by ‘Notifications & Actions.’

 

 

Once we are in this area, we can see exactly what programs are capable of sending notifications, as well as where we are notified and if we want to dial back the messages from Microsoft as well. In the example shown above, we see that Adobe Reader is sending Update notifications pretty regularly right now. However if we have a very specific version of Adobe Reader that we must continue to run at, we may not necessarily need these notifications. Therefore, if we click on the Adobe Reader notification at the bottom, we can either turn it off entirely with the switch, or dial it in for particular settings.

Security & Maintenance App

Action Center is very much a mobile or modern style take on making the user aware of things that are going on and that require their attention. If we want something more concise and to the point however, we may want to take a step back and go to something more in the classic style such as the Security & Maintenance app on the Control Panel. To access this, we will want to go to Start and just type in ‘Security and Maintenance’.

 

This gives us a very quick and easy to read view showing us where some of the most important utilities on our systems stand. It also gives us quick access to various settings in the Windows Security Modern App for functions such as Windows Firewall and Virus Protection.

For example, if we wanted to see if we currently had any issues with Windows Firewall, such as if it was not active for a particular Network type, we could click on ‘View in Windows Security’ in order to open the app, and it will show the current status of Windows Firewall on Each Network type- Domain, Private and Public.

You may notice the ‘Turn on’ buttons for each of these profiles are white- signifying that they can be activated. On this particular system, there is an additional firewall in play which overrides the standard Windows Firewall. Because of this, no actions are needed even though Windows Firewall is not active at the present time.If we decide that this is either too much or too little information, we can click on the ‘Change Security and Maintenance settings’ at the top left corner of the screen to dial in exactly what we want to see.

Managing Windows Systems can be difficult at times, but monitoring tools can help users make heads or tails out of some possibly very esoteric notifications. We cannot be in front of every single system all the time, so if users see a message that could possibly mean trouble, they are more likely to contact us in case of a potential emergency. This can be a massive help in getting ahead of problems, along with having a more educated user base.

 

Sources

  1. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/find-action-center-in-windows-10-eda89d84-0676-1fad-36e9-e9aa0c5cc937 – Find Action Center in Windows 10
  2. https://www.techjunkie.com/open-action-center/ – How To Open Action Center In Windows 10 And What To Do When You’re There
  3. https://www.dummies.com/computers/operating-systems/windows-10/how-to-check-your-security-and-maintenance-status-in-windows-10/ – How to Check Your Security and Maintenance Status in Windows 10
Posted: December 14, 2020
Articles Author
Kurt Ellzey
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Kurt Ellzey has worked in IT for the past 12 years, with a specialization in Information Security. During that time, he has covered a broad swath of IT tasks from system administration to application development and beyond. He has contributed to a book published in 2013 entitled "Security 3.0" which is currently available on Amazon and other retailers.

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