If you’re still using Windows 7, your PC just became a big target for hackers and ransomware.
Windows 7 was a hugely popular operating system, so there are still millions of computers using it, especially in the business world. If you’re one of the 26.6% of Windows users still running Windows 7, here’s what its end of life means for you.
You’re significantly more vulnerable to cyber attacks
Using an outdated operating system absolutely increases your risk for viruses, malware, ransomware attacks, and hackers. Cybercriminals are constantly looking for holes and weaknesses in your computer’s defenses. Meanwhile, Microsoft regularly releases security updates that patch and eliminate those holes—but only for active operating systems.
Windows 7 is now a leaky bucket—hackers can continue to poke holes in it, and those holes aren’t getting fixed anymore. It’s only going to hold water (meaning your valuable business data) for so long before it leaks out.
These outdated and unsupported operating systems provide easy targets for cybercriminals. Back in 2017, hackers targeted unpatched Windows 7 systems and Windows XP systems that were beyond their end of life support. The result? The devastating WannaCry ransomware attack that’s estimated to have affected more than 200,000 computers across 150 countries.
You can still use Windows 7, but…
You’re on your own when it comes to protecting yourself and your business. While there’s nothing to stop you from continuing to use Windows 7 after support ends, you are putting your systems at risk.
Microsoft ended mainstream support for the OS back in 2015, giving users five years to migrate to a newer version of Windows. So this represents their final step in sunsetting Windows 7.
Technically, business users can still continue to buy Extended Security Updates (ESUs) from Microsoft and install them on their own. However, this approach will cost you, and prices will continue to rise the longer you hold out.
What to do if you still have Windows 7
Upgrade to Windows 10
Microsoft strongly recommends that you update your PCs to Windows 10. That way, you’ll get access to all the free updates and support to keep your system safe, as well as the new features that come with a modern operating system.
Moving to Windows 10 is a relatively simple process, as long as your existing computers can support it. Keep in mind that Windows 7 is more than 10 years old. If your computer hardware is even half that old, it may not be able to keep up with Windows 10 and end up running slow.
An IT support company can audit your network to see if you’re ready for Windows 10 and manage the transition for you.
Back up your data
Again, with a system susceptible to hackers, your business data is in danger, particularly if you don’t have it backed up. Attacks like ransomware rely on businesses being so desperate to get their files back that they’re willing to pay a ransom. A reliable backup solution can help you prevent a major data disaster.
It’s also a good idea to back up your files before upgrading your operating system to Windows 10. While you shouldn’t lose your data in the migration, you should never rely solely on your local machines for storing files. The best way to back up your work computer is with secure, reliable, and regular external backups.
Start being proactive about your network
Your computers and network are a critical piece of your business operations. You don’t want to compromise them by being blindsided by security risks, viruses, outdated software, hardware failures, or anything else.
Always keep your systems updated and protected with the latest software and security patches, and avoid using outdated versions of Windows, old web browsers (like Internet Explorer).
Avoid unpleasant IT surprises by hiring a managed IT services provider to help you maintain your network and keep it secure. They will proactively monitor your systems to identify and provide solutions before small issues become a problem.