The clock struck midnight for Windows 7 in January, and four months after its official ‘End of Life’ deadline passed, far too many businesses are at increased risk of getting hacked.
In April, a reported 34 percent of Windows users were still working with the system. Although that figure appears to be waning, programs that pass ‘end of life’ dates no longer receive the critical patches and cybersecurity updates necessary to maintain enterprise-level protection.
“We still have a number of clients who have a few Windows 7 computers out there. Since COVID-19, the replacement of those devices ground down to a halt,” Troy Drever of Pure IT reportedly said. “Interestingly, we have not experienced any security issues with the remaining Windows 7 computers that we support. I’m sure the day will come where that no longer will be the case.”
One prime example that highlights the danger of working with outdated programs stems from the massive WannaCry ransomware attacks. More than 200,000 systems were negatively impacted worldwide in 2017. The WannaCry malicious software leveraged an unpatched operating system (OS) vulnerability. If you are a Windows 7 user, the risk of a clever hacker identifying a kink in the system’s armor increase every day.
Why Are Businesses Risking Windows 7?
It’s not uncommon for companies to view technology investments such as Windows 7 like other products. The notion that getting the maximum usage out of any purchased item seems frugal and commonsensical. It’s a lot like running a car into the ground before buying a new model. But experts in the IT sector urge business leaders to consider software and hardware solutions through a different lens.
“Part of the answer is to understand that all technology has optimal life cycles. A PC, for example, performs best in its first four years of use, and as time passes, it begins to slow down as its hardware and operating system become old,” Ian Hansen of Philantech3 reportedly said. “We’ve seen business owners and their teams caught in the frustration of continuing to use aging and outdated technology in order to save on costs.”
Expecting to get a return on investment similar to an automobile or another product tends to be like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Managed IT solutions are only actionable within their own unique life cycle. When organizations try to save pennies by extending use past end of life dates, the strategy can backfire. Hansen points out that such decision-making often results in the “exact opposite” happening. The IT expert says organizations end up spending even money” due to:
The overall productivity and efficiency loss throughout the workforce
- Unexpected repair and/or troubleshooting costs for lagging or failing systems
- Higher expenses related to maintenance and ongoing support
- Greater vulnerabilities resulting in data disclosure/legal liabilities
The continued use of Windows 7 may expose your organization, employees, and customers to a data breach, much like the WannaCry crisis. Industry professionals have already identified vulnerable areas that could result in a hack devastating your digital assets and reputation.
Windows 7 Cybersecurity Risks
To say that users liked Windows 7 would be something of an understatement. And that might explain why so many ponied up for extended use service. But Windows 7 is officially dead and the risks of continued use now outweigh any perceived benefits. These are vulnerabilities that could prove disastrous.
- Windows 7 now susceptible to hacker penetrations
- Expired programs more likely to spread malware
- End of life typically results in failure to meet compliance regulations
- Antivirus software may no longer protect your device
Cybercriminals will relentlessly search for vulnerabilities in business systems of all sizes. Those who insist on using Windows 7 are likely to be seen by digital thieves as the low-hanging fruit. That being said, a third-party managed IT services professional can cost-effectively help you migrate to a viable OS that delivers the determined cybersecurity to deter hackers.
An IT professional with experience in Windows platforms can upgrade your business network in a fashion that enhances compatibility, reduces downtime, and increases productivity. The benefits of moving on from Windows 7 clearly outweigh the risks of squeaking out a few more pennies.
Interesting related article: “What is cybersecurity?“