First, let us begin by paying our respects to a hard-working piece of software. The Windows 7 operating system first became available to consumers in October 2009. Since that time, the OS has supported millions of business and personal computers, offering Microsoft users an alternative to the less-popular and more-problematic Windows Vista.
But, every beginning must have an end. And, that end came to pass just recently. On January 14, 2020, Microsoft ended its standard support of Windows 7, opting instead to focus its service around the next generation OS – Windows 10.
What does that mean for users who still rely on Windows 7? Let’s find out.
Impact of Windows 7 End of Life
Microsoft has been notifying users of the Windows 7 expiration date for a while. But, that doesn’t mean everyone has taken notice. And, even if they have, not everyone has taken steps to upgrade their operating system in time.
That’s not completely surprising. For a business, an OS upgrade requires effort and planning to service every single workstation. There’s both an expense and a potentially significant time commitment. So, it’s completely understandable if some small or medium-size business owners have pushed the task down their priority list.
After all, it’s not like your computers will just suddenly stop working.
That said, delaying an upgrade can have significant consequences. Consider the fact that in the modern age cyber security threats are growing at an increasingly alarming rate. Even with the latest security tools, there’s no guarantee that you’ll escape someone’s attempt to penetrate your network and hijack your data.
Chances of repelling an attack are even lower when you’re using out-of-date or unsupported software. Cyber criminals are not dumb – they tend to go after the easiest targets. And, post-January 14, 2020, that includes users of the Windows 7 operating system.
If You’re Sticking with Windows 7…
Despite the warnings, some of you may decide the push your luck and continue on with Windows 7. The good news is, you’re not out there entirely on your own. You can still purchase extended support from Microsoft.
However, that support is going to cost you. And, that cost is going to more than double the following year. Microsoft is consciously implementing an aggressive cost structure for Windows 7 extended support in order to motivate customers to ditch the old system and upgrade. Eventually, though, that support is going to end, too.
So, while you’re mulling your upgrade options, here are few suggestions for keeping your business network protected:
Update to the latest Windows 7 service pack
If you’re going to run unsupported software, you might as well have the latest version with the latest security patches. That should keep you in relatively good shape for the very immediate future.
Encrypt your internet traffic
This requires purchasing a VPN (virtual private network) service. What is a VPN? Simply put, a VPN connects your network traffic to another secure server somewhere else in the world, and routes your traffic using that server’s internet connection. Here’s a good article that goes into more detail.
Delete unknown/unused software
You really should do this anyway. But, it’s even more important if you already have an existing weak link. Removing unknown or unused software limits the potential avenues of attack for intruders.
Activate two-factor authentication
Again, something to consider as a best practice. Two-factor authentication requires users to go through two stages of secure entry into a network, database or application. This doesn’t have to be two passwords. There are a number of authenticating factors. You can learn more about them here.
Most users create passwords they can easily remember. In many cases, these passwords are easier to crack for hackers using sophisticated password-cracking scripts. A password manager can help mitigate this problem. Not only will it track all of your login information, it will also generate passwords that are harder to crack.
Educate yourself and your employees about ransomware
Knowledge is key to success, right? The more educated you are about common cyber attack tactics, the more securely you can operate your business. But, you’re also only as strong as your weakest link. That means that your employees have to know as much about cyber security as you do.
Beacon Knows Operating Systems
Whether you’re considering an OS update, or you’re hanging on with Windows 7 for a little while longer, Beacon can help you keep your business infrastructure secure and operating at peak potential. For help assessing your network security, request an audit from our dependable team of IT professionals.