According to NetMarketShare’s January 2018 data, 42.39% of users are still using Windows 7, even though on January 13, 2015 Microsoft discontinued mainstream support for Windows 7. This meant that they no longer provided non-critical security updates, design changes or complimentary support for the operating system to end users.
Now the discontinuation of extended support also draws near. On January 14 2020, Microsoft will discontinue extended support for Windows 7, which means they will no longer provide updates, bug fixes or paid support for businesses using the operating system. This date announcement is important as it gives businesses that are still running Windows 7 the opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (Windows 10 is the recommended upgrade as it is Microsoft’s latest OS and is still within the 5 year mainstream support period).
Why should I upgrade?
There are several risks in not upgrading your OS once the extended support ends.
Malware, which is software that is specifically designed to disrupt, damage, or gain authorized access to a computer system, is particularly pernicious. When Microsoft discontinues extended support, systems running Windows 7 will become significantly vulnerable to un-patched security risks within the OS and applications it runs. This means that upgrading will become essential to remain protected against the massive amount of malware samples that hit the web each day, not to mention the billions of malware samples that already exist.
Ransomware, a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid, is another significant concern – particularly following 2017’s WannaCry attack and the various ransomware attacks that followed.
The WannaCry ransomware attack was a May 2017 worldwide cyberattack by the WannaCry ransomware cryptoworm, which targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in Bitcoin. It propagated through EternalBlue, an exploit in older Windows systems. While Microsoft had released patches previously to close the exploit, much of WannaCry’s spread was from organizations that had not applied these, or were using older Windows systems that were past their end-of-life.
Thankfully the attack was stopped within a few days of its discovery due to emergency patches released by Microsoft, and the discovery of a kill switch that prevented infected computers from spreading WannaCry further. However, the attack was estimated to have affected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries, including businesses, universities, hospitals, banks and police with total damages ranging from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.
While it is important to note that upgrading your OS to the latest versions and keeping patches up-to-date does not make you invulnerable, it is always best to maximise your defences as unpatched systems are vulnerable.
If you’d like to find out how we can help your business, or if you require any further information, assistance with your IT needs or you simply don’t know where to start – please feel free to call us on (07) 3120 0640 or email us at [email protected]