Security Researcher Calls Windows 11 AI 'Recall' Screenshotting Feature a Disaster [Updated]

Last month, Microsoft announced the upcoming launch of Copilot+ Windows PCs with integrated AI hardware and software. One feature that Microsoft touted was Recall, a tool that's designed to take regular snapshots of PC content to help users find anything they've seen or done on their machine.


As it turns out, Recall might be a security nightmare for Windows users. Security expert Kevin Beaumont recently said (via The Verge) that he was able to automate a program that provides plain text data of everything a user has viewed, despite Microsoft's claims that Recall information cannot be exfiltrated remotely.

Beaumont claims that Recall is "essentially an infostealer" that's included in Windows by default, and that it will "set cybersecurity back a decade by empowering cybercriminals." With Recall, hackers are able to scrape "everything you've ever looked at within seconds," and users should prepare for "AI powered super breaches."

Microsoft describes Recall as a feature that lets you "search across time to find the content you need." Powered by AI, Recall takes snapshots every five seconds when content on the screen is different from the prior snapshot and stores the snapshots in a timeline, with AI software using OCR to make the text in the snapshots searchable. Microsoft says that snapshots are locally stored and are analyzed on-device, which should make them secure, but the OCR data is stored in an SQLite database that could be accessed by hackers who infiltrate a PC using malware.

According to Beaumont, infostealer trojans are able to be "easily modified to support Recall" and data from the feature can be accessed remotely. Microsoft "tried to do a bunch of things" to improve security, but ultimately, "none of it actually works properly in the real world." The database that is theoretically accessible by malicious actors contains everything a user has seen such as text messages and passwords, every user interaction, and all websites visited (with the exception of Microsoft Edge in Private Mode).

Beaumont has not shared full technical details on how he automated exfiltration of the Recall database, and is holding until Recall is shipped because he wants to give Microsoft "time to do something." Beaumont recommends that Microsoft pull the feature for the time being.

Copilot+ PCs with Recall are set to launch on June 18. As of now, Recall is turned on by default, though users can optionally disable it.

Update: Given the response to Recall, Microsoft has decided to make it an opt-in feature rather than an opt-out feature. It will no longer be on by default, and there will be an option to opt in or opt out when setting up a Copilot+ PC. Windows Hello will also be required to turn on Recall for an extra layer of authentication. Windows Hello requires a face scan, fingerprint, or PIN to access a machine. Proof of presence will be required as well, so a screenshot timeline won't be accessible without authentication.

To address concerns about the accessibility of the database that Recall creates, Microsoft is adding additional layers of protection linked to authentication, and the search index database has been encrypted.

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Top Rated Comments

vertsix Avatar
3 weeks ago
I hate all this AI ****.

There, I said it.
Score: 93 Votes (Like | Disagree)
EightBitJoe Avatar
3 weeks ago
Hey, what could be the harm, right? It's Microsoft! I trust them.

Them. Them.

I. I. I trust. Trrrrrrrrr.

?SYNTAX ERROR IN LINE 39737

GENERAL FAILURE READING DRIVE C. ABORT, RETRY, FAIL?

Thank you for using BillGPT. Goodbye.
Score: 52 Votes (Like | Disagree)
StralyanPithecus Avatar
3 weeks ago

I hate all this AI ****.
Another tool developed to spy on users.
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Delivered Avatar
3 weeks ago

imagine if Apple did this
As someone who loves apple products and uses a lot of them, I am a harsh critic of apple because I want their stuff be great for me to keep using it. When Apple anounced the photo scanning locally on device the techsphere nearly brought the internet down on apple.

Microsoft does this and because they slapped AI/chatgpt/copiolot we all just What say “I hope they nail the security“ This is a flaw at the core. It takes pictures of the passwords as you enter them. That’s so lazy it’s unreal. Microsoft and google wasted no time throwing off the “we care about privacy” hats and double way down on ”feed us data for AI”.

Good luck “turning it off” Microsoft‘s privacy settings are AWFUL. I tried going through it I have no idea and the next update will probably just switch it back on, change a setting w/e. It’s ridiculous.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DHagan4755 Avatar
3 weeks ago

As of now, Recall is turned on by default, though users can optionally disable it.
Is it really off when it's disabled?
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JosephAW Avatar
3 weeks ago
It’s just a fancy key-logger. o_O
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)