by Greg Miller,President, CMIT Solutions of Orange County
It seems like just yesterday that we were saying goodbye to Windows XP. But already we are preparing to bid adieu to Windows 7. In case you have not heard, Windows 7 reaches end of life in January 2020 – yes, that’s only a few short months away. January 2020 also marks end of life for Windows Server 2008.
End of life doesn’t mean Windows 7 will stop working. But it does mean that you don’t want it working for you. The reason for this is simple. Once Windows 7 reaches end of life, Microsoft will stop creating security patches for it. This is a serious situation. Bad guys work hard every day to find ways to exploit Windows 7 (and all other operating systems). Once they find a vulnerability, they devise ways to use those vulnerabilities to compromise your computer(s), and typically they are motivated by making money. Since Microsoft will no longer create security patches to close those vulnerabilities, hackers will be able to exploit the vulnerabilities over and over.
You may be thinking that you aren’t really a target. Why would anyone want to attack my computer? The answer to this is money. If a bad guy can compromise your computer, there are countless way to make money from it. They can harvest information such as names, addresses, and email addresses from your contact lists. Those are worth real money on the dark web. They can infect your PC with Ransomware and demand money to get you data back. They can use keystroke loggers to steal your ID and password to your banking web sites, your health care web sites, your social media accounts. They can use your PC to host kiddie porn (Eeek!). They can use your PC to host other malware. They can use your PC to attack other PCs. It’s really an endless list. Cyber security guru Brian Krebs has published a chart with over 30 ways to make money from a compromised PC.
What’s important to note is that once your PC is compromised, you probably will not know. If the bad guys can make money off of your PC, why would they let you know? They want to hide their presence and keep making money.
So, what to do? For most of us there are only two options. Upgrade your PC to Windows 10, or replace the PC altogether. Conventional wisdom in the IT industry is that upgrading an existing PC to Windows 10 is cost effective only if the PC is less than 3 years old. That’s because the cost of a Windows 10 license, plus the cost of installing Windows 10, and getting all software and data back exceeds the value of the PC. That money is better invested in a new PC.
So for businesses, it’s time to take stock of the PCs in your office, and start making plans to retire Windows 7. The risks to your business of continuing to run an operating system that can be easily compromised is too great a threat to your business not to.