How Staying on Windows 7 could lead to a World of ‘Pane’

Windows 7 End Of Life (EOL) is on the calendar for January 14, 2020. If you are still using this operating system and are not preparing for this event you need to keep reading.

  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]If someone told you that if you parked in a certain spot your car would be hit, would you still park there?
  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]What if there was a recall on the exact food that you just purchased? Would you still eat it?
  • [icon type=”angle-double-right” class=”fa fa-li accent”]There is a difference between risk and carelessness.

I cannot overestimate how important this event, and this date, is to your business. This is where I can add every cliché…you are playing with fire, this is a ticking time bomb, you are skating on thin ice…the bottom line is this: by not upgrading, and soon, you will have gone from being a potential victim, to being the target. It is as Ben Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

The good news is that on January 15, 2020 Windows 7 will still work when you turn on your computer. The bad news is that on January 15, 2020 Windows 7 will still work…but with no one protecting, patching, updating or monitoring viruses and threats. This fact leaves an open door (or Window) for hackers to seek out vulnerabilities and expose holes in the coding in order to gain access and use the operating system against you. And sadly for many users, this continued functionality leaves an excuse not to do anything about the risks.

Don’t get caught in a ‘jamb’

Here are some facts about the lifecycle of the Windows operating systems. EOL for Microsoft products is typically a two-step process. First, there is the end of mainstream support, which is followed by the end of extended support. This is a lengthy process, mapped out by Microsoft, in order to give your company time to budget and prepare. Using Windows 7 as the example, end of mainstream support was scheduled for January 13, 2015, giving you an additional 5 years to prepare for the upcoming end of extended support. Let us clarify what this means. When mainstream support ends, the software company will cease to create new features. Throughout this period, they will continue to provide patches and process warranty claims. These services stop with the end of extended support and you are officially on your own to deal with any issues that arise. To say this would be a daunting task would be an underestimation.

Patches are written to rectify a bug or to eliminate a security risk. These happen far more often than you would think. In the average month Microsoft is pushing 50-60 patches for operating systems. These can be for anything from a glitch or a bug to a major ransomware threat. This is why you need to be wary of the end of extended support. Without these patches, you are prone to infection and potential hijacking of your system. Hackers are aware of the open door that end of life means and are ready, willing, and able to take full advantage. According to NetMarketShare, as of February 1, 2019, 38.4% of desktops and laptops were still running Windows 7. This makes it second in market share only to Windows 10 (40.3%), and not by a large margin. December of 2018 marked the first time that Windows 10 was operating on more devices than Windows 7 but the progress is not fast enough. Even scarier is the fact that 16% of corporations confess that they still have XP or Vista machines on their network. The popularity of the expired operating systems is something that hackers prey on. This makes for a huge opportunity, they know it, and they have January 14, 2020 circled in red on their calendars, ready to pounce.

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Feeling the draft- What will hackers do?

Hackers seek out vulnerabilities in order to gain access to your network, files, or contacts. One of the most popular tactics is ransomware, wherein your files are encrypted, preventing you from access until a payment is made. Once the ransom is paid, in an ideal world, the files are unlocked or the encryption key is given. It is not uncommon though for the hacker to take the money and run. Even if the files are retrieved the underlying hack could still exist. There is nothing to say that the vulnerability does not continue to lay dormant on your network.

If you are saying to yourself, it is a year away, there is more to understand. Leaving, or migrating, from Windows 7 is not as easy as turning a switch. Testing must be done in your environment to make sure that the process happens smoothly. There is a need to ensure that software versions of all of your other business critical programs and applications will be compatible and migrate without fault or error. To rush the process can also cause data loss. This is why the clock is ticking.

‘Shutter’ the Thought of remaining on Windows 7

You need to prioritize IT and understand how it functions. You cannot have the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Although short term this may give the appearance of “saving,” the long term ramifications can be crippling. Even cash strapped companies need to prepare for the wave of ransomware and malware that hackers will create and spread, exploiting the vulnerabilities of newly unprotected operating systems. The reason is simple. The cost of preparation is far less than the cost of a cyberattack. A recent Radware study provides some eye popping statistics. For a small business, the estimated average cost of an attack sits at $450,000. This cost is only an estimate and the actual figure is likely to be much higher once indirect costs such as legal fees, marketing fees, and lost customers are considered. Migrating to Windows 10 is a blip on the radar in terms of the cost, time, or stress of a breach of your network. Recognize the seriousness of this event and put a plan in place with us for the protection of your business and your future.

Infoaxis has two goals. To investigate and to protect. There is a large threat looming. The time is now to make sure that you are secure. Heed these warnings regarding Windows 7 End of Life. Part of being Security First IT is letting you know when you are putting yourself in harm’s way. Let our Technology Secret Agents diffuse this situation for you.

For more information about how Infoaxis can help your company migrate, please contact us or call our Mahwah, NJ office at 201-236-3000.