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Sep 03 2019

The Microsoft Sun Sets on Windows 7

While it’s easy to think of Windows 7 as a modern operating system, it was actually launched back in 2009. How long ago was that? 2009 was the year of the iPhone 3G, and the first Samsung Galaxy smart phone. Look at how much cell phone technology has changed in 10 years; can we say the same for Windows 7? After 10 years of support, Microsoft has announced that it will officially begin the Windows 7 end of life phase on January 14th 2020. This means that Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 7 and will no longer patch security holes in the Windows 7 operating system.

January 2020 will be here sooner than you know it. If not already underway, you should begin planning your migration strategy now. Starting the move away from Windows 7 with plenty of time in hand means it’s possible to think carefully about the entire IT ecosystem, and maybe do a much-needed general spring clean both on the hardware and software sides. But with only 3 months to go, it’s a vital time to make a fundamental shift.

The Business risk of being left behind

Windows 7 is still proving to be quite popular, despite its looming end date. It represents a significant number of desktops that are set to become vulnerable unless changes are made. Criminals will be ready to take advantage of desktops still running the Windows 7 Operating System and strike as soon as the end of support date arrives.

Exploitations such as WannaCry target outdated and unpatched operating systems. More than 98% of all WannaCry victims were using Windows 7 that did not have the latest patches installed. Windows 7 will become a large target for attackers after January, much the same as what happened with Windows XP.

Running an out of date operating system not only affects your business security, it can cause your business to fall out of government compliance. This includes provincial (PIPA), federal (PIPEDA) and international (GDPR) laws. Your data protection strategy should have these regulatory requirements built in. The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance laws from the European Union requires adequate safeguards for personal data. This regulation is designed to protect all EU citizens regardless of where your company is located. If you store, process or transmit personal data from any EU citizen, you will fall under GDPR regulations as well.

Upgrade or replace my Windows 7 systems

In general, systems manufactured after September 2015 or those that are a 6th generation processor should be compatible for an upgrade to Windows 10.  Anything manufactured before July 2015 that is a 5th generation processor should be replaced.

There is a grey area for systems manufactured between July and September 2015. The recommended course of action is to replace any systems manufactured before September 2015 and upgrade any that were manufactured after that date.

An upgrade can be attempted on any system.  However, if the upgraded hardware turns out to be problematic, the Windows 10 license would have automatically been registered to that computer’s unique CPU serial number. This means you will not be able to transfer or re-use it on a different system.

This is where it is important to understand and manage your upgrade strategies of what, how and when to upgrade.

What if I have systems that I can’t upgrade?

If you use your Windows 7 systems in a production capacity, you can potentially minimize the risk for these systems by locking them down. This can include restricting its’ Internet access, access to network resources, segregating them into their own network, or removing these systems from the network entirely.  Many compromises originate from staff clicking a link either through the web browser or E-mail.  Without direct Internet connectivity to the outside world, it makes it harder for these systems to be compromised.

If you have vendors and products that prevent you from upgrading, it is essential to initiate a conversation with them to create a strategy to deal with this. If your current vendor cannot offer the latest technology and security, it may be time to look at upgrading more than just Windows 7.

As long as you have Windows 7 systems on the network beyond January 14th, 2020 they will present a risk to your business.  Even with proper network security in place, over time Windows 7 will only increase as a liability to your security until all Windows 7 devices are moved out of your network.

Contact us with comments or concerns about this article or the information provided.

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