What are the risks of running Windows 7 now that support is gone?

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What are the risks of running Windows 7 now that support is gone?

Vinyl records, Polaroid cameras, Atari 2600, the Commodore 64…at some point in time, these items sat at the pinnacle of technology. We were enchanted and devoted. But life goes on, all good things must come to an end – to make way for “better” things, advances and progress.

And so goes the reign of Windows 7. Chances are you adored Windows 7 when it was released 11 years ago to right the wrongs of Windows Vista. Even when the new bells and whistles of Windows 10 rolled out, many users stayed with Windows 7, unless they were forced into an upgrade. And still, as Windows 7 dominion and support have come to pass, many users don’t want to let go. A security consulting agency recently surveyed 60,000 organizations and discovered that 70 percent were still using the beloved operating system (OS).

However, Windows 7 isn’t like a good, ol’ vinyl record where one can inconsequentially indulge. To continue with Windows 7 is no longer a matter of loyalty or preference for user experience, it’s a matter of risk. Very real, very costly risk.

As of January 14, 2020, Microsoft ceased mainstream support for the bygone OS. For the businesses still running Windows 7 on hundreds of millions of computers, this means no more functionality updates, security patches, or bug fixes. Indeed, security patches are the crux of the OS’s defense against breaches and malware.

Cybercriminals relentlessly refine and modify their attack methods, so an OS must keep up with these constant and advancing threats. The devastating 2017 WannaCry attack that targeted a vulnerability in Microsoft OS computers stands as an expensive lesson in unpatched vulnerabilities – the hit infected 200,000 machines, 98 percent of those infected were running Windows 7.

Tallies were still coming in for 2019, but a Microsoft Vulnerabilities report revealed that 2018 saw 700 discovered vulnerabilities for Windows OS – 189 were critical and 154 were preventable. Without support and security patches, all Windows 7 systems sit defenseless amidst a ceaseless barrage of cyberattacks. Though it’s becoming a bit cliché to say, cyberattacks truly are no longer a question of if, but when – hackers reportedly strike every 39 seconds. And when a company’s network is infiltrated, the cost is around $3.92 million – enough to put many small organizations out of business.

Another sobering finding: One data breach causes an average of $1.42 million in lost business revenue associated with downtime. And just one breach prompts 3.9 percent of customers to churn.

But healthcare providers using Windows 7 bear an even greater burden. They are violating HIPAA mandates that state all devices must be protected against malware, and organizations must protect their ePHI. Part of this protection includes the identification and mitigation of network and computer system vulnerabilities.

That’s a lot of risk for an outdated OS that new devices and software also have ceased to support. Of course, for those companies that plan on holding out as long as they can, Microsoft will offer extended support – paid support. The current baseline for the extended support is $25 per device per year for a maximum of three years. However, this fee is expected to double in the second and third years, and January 2023 will be the final retirement for the operating system.

The expense to upgrade may be steep for some organizations, but the cost of losing at a game of cyberattack roulette is greater. And not just immediate financial loss, but also loss of loyal customers and the organization’s good reputation – things that insurance can’t replace.

Businesses still running Windows 7 must move immediately to either take precautions or upgrade before a hacker hits. Windows 7 end-of-life is a valuable opportunity for MSPs to expand their services and customer base. We offer a free e-book for MSPs to share with their clients: Windows 7 End of Life is Here – Know the Risks and Your Options. Arm yourself with compelling statistics that will help convey the risk of Windows 7 and present practical solutions to follow.

Click here to download the e-book.


References:

  1. Windows 7 End of Life: What Organizations Are Using the Now Outdated OS?, BITSIGHT, 2020
  2. Operating System Share by Version, NetMarketShare, 2020
  3. 110 Must-Know Cybersecurity Statistics, Varonis, 2020
  4. What is the Cost of a Data Breach, UpGuard, 2020