Windows 7 End of Life - How it Puts Your Business at Risk

With just one day left until Microsoft terminate support for Windows 7, millions of workstations, most in corporate environments, are still running the 10-year-old operating system, leaving them exposed to increased risk.

With the Windows 7 end of life day of January 14th 2020 almost upon us, the question is: how big of a security risk is it to businesses and what options are available?

What does end of life mean?

All products have a set life cycle and Microsoft’s Windows products are no exception. Microsoft made a commitment to support Windows 7 for 10 years following its release. When a new product is introduced, support is often discontinued so that the company can focus on new technologies. When the end of life day arrives, users will still be able to use Windows 7, but Microsoft will no longer offer support and they will stop issuing updates or patches of any kind.

It’s not just Windows 7 that is approaching end of life, the following Microsoft products are also approaching end of life in 2020:

Table showing Windows Operating System end of life dates. Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 end of life is 14th January 2020. oFFICE 2020 end of life is 13th October 2020

If you’re curious, you can find dates for other products on the Microsoft Lifecycle Policy page.

 

What are the implications for businesses that don’t upgrade to Windows 10?

The Windows 7 end of life is highly significant because it is a very popular and widely used version of the Windows operating system, with a recent report stating that 32.8% of computers running Windows are still using Windows 7. With the extended support phase set to end imminently, Windows 7 will officially become completely unsupported.

Security risks

There are serious security concerns if you continue to use Windows 7 past the end of life date. From tomorrow, Tuesday 14th January, any business or individual using the unsupported operating system will be exposed to increased risk from cyber threat and more susceptible to malware attacks.

A quote from Microsoft stating "You can continue to use Windows 7, but once support ends, your PC will become more vulnerable to security risks. Windows will operate, but you will stop receiving security and feature updates."

Microsoft will no longer support the software or issue security updates or fixes of any kind. These updates are designed to fix vulnerabilities that have been identified and are being used by hackers. With those updates gone, your system could become an easy target for the new computer viruses and malware being created.

In April 2019 alone, Microsoft patched 29 vulnerabilities in Windows 7, 6 of which were rated critical and the remaining 23 rated important. Attempts by hackers to find vulnerabilities in Windows 7 will increase after January 14th as they know any flaws found will never be fixed with a patch.

Microsoft will continue to investigate flaws in their newer operating systems and cyber criminals can work backwards from these disclosed vulnerabilities and the patch to figure out precisely where the flaw is and how to exploit it. There is a lot of shared components between the different versions of Windows so it is likely that the same flaw will also exist in Windows 7, which won’t have received the patch to fix it and will remain vulnerable. Microsoft themselves warned of this issue last year in order to avoid another high-profile ransomware attack like the WannaCry attack in 2017 which largely affected computers running Windows 7.

Compliance risks

As well as the security risks of continuing to run an unsupported operating system, there is also a good chance you will violate any compliance frameworks that apply to your business. For organisations required to be compliant with industry regulations, the minute that you have unsupported software in your network, your organisation automatically becomes non-compliant.

If you’re using an operating system that is no longer receiving security updates, you are not protecting personal data and will be found in breach of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which can involve large fines and legal fees.

Software issues

If you choose to continue using the Windows 7 operating system, it is likely your business software will not work as efficiently. Software is designed to be run on the latest operating system so if you do not upgrade to Windows 10, you may find that the software you use will run poorly or not at all.

What are the options available?

Although you will still be able to use both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 after the end of life day, the lack of support and security means it’s not a viable option.

“Windows 7 can still be installed and activated after support has ended. However, to avoid security risks and viruses, Microsoft recommends that you consider upgrading to Windows 10”  – Microsoft

It is strongly recommended that you move to Windows 10 as soon as possible to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available. Moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10 will increase your user experience whilst bringing an array of benefits and improvements including safety, usability and speed.

Contact your IT provider

If you have either Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008, you should contact your IT provider now and discuss your options for upgrading either operating system.

Businesses that put off their Windows 10 upgrade may encounter a delay, as although the software itself is delivered digitally, if you require new hardware and connected equipment you may find yourself at the end of a long queue.

It is important to work with your IT provider to set out a clear upgrade plan to ensure that your employees and business operations aren’t disrupted.

Consider new hardware

Whilst it may be physically possible to install Windows 10 on your old computers, Microsoft is warning that organisations may find their devices are unable to cope once the new operating system is downloaded.

For businesses looking to upgrade to Windows 10, it is advisable to consider replacing your hardware with new desktops or laptops which already include Windows 10. Updating dated hardware can also be an easy way to improve performance and productivity across the business.

 

For Windows 7 end of life guidance you can download our end of life information brochure or if you would like to discuss your upgrade options, contact us on 03000 411 115 or send us an email at sales@cantium.solutions.