The FBI Urges You to Upgrade From Windows 7 As Cyberattacks Rise
We all know there’s nothing more frustrating than end-of-life/end-of-support dates. Except, of course, the problems that come with failing to follow them and upgrade before it’s too late:
- Slow computers (the rotating hourglass or spinning rainbow ball)
- Pop-up notifications reminding you to upgrade
- Virus infections due to a lack of protection
The thing is, as frustrating as upgrading your systems can be, it’s not as bad as dealing with outdated technology. Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. On January 15, 2020, Microsoft ceased any kind of support – from security patches to bug fixes to assist with problems.
What Does The End-Of-Support Mean?
Basically, you will no longer receive any kind of support. Chances are, if you’re still running the unsupported operating system, you’ve started receiving alerts telling you it’s out of support. This is unfortunately the way technology works – every system has a lifecycle and eventually, they all expire at some point or another.
The FBI explained:
“With fewer customers able to maintain a patched Windows 7 system after its end of life, cybercriminals will continue to view Windows 7 as a soft target.”
Their alert offered more guidance on the next steps…
“Defending against cybercriminals requires a multilayered approach, including validation of current software employed on the computer network and validation of access controls and network configurations.”
Why Do Cybercriminals Target Unsupported Operating Systems?
It’s a known fact that cybercriminals tend to target unsupported operating systems. Why? Because when there are no bug fixes or security patches available, vulnerabilities are much easier to exploit. The FBI Cyber Division has issued a private industry notification advising all organizations to stop using the unsupported operating system. They’ve mentioned that they’ve seen a major increase in cyberattacks targeting unsupported operating systems.
“As time passes, Windows 7 becomes more vulnerable to exploitation due to lack of security updates and new vulnerabilities discovered,” warned the FBI.
Yet roughly 20% of ALL Windows devices are still running Windows 7. If your systems are included in that statistic, you need to start planning your upgrade as soon as possible.
Don’t forget… In 2014, Windows XP reached its end-of-support date, and shortly after, the healthcare industry experienced a HUGE increase in compromised or exposed health records the following year.
What Are The Risks If You Don’t Upgrade?
If you don’t upgrade, there is nothing to keep you safe from cybercriminals exploiting your systems, and in turn, wreaking havoc by:
- Installing malicious software on the system
- Stealing sensitive data, such as:
- Customer information
- Financial information
- Proprietary information
- Holding systems, data, and applications hostage
- Selling sensitive data on the black market, which can then be used to:
- Commit identity theft
- Drain bank accounts
- And much more
Aside from the major threat of cybercrime, there are other issues that come along with failing to upgrade:
- Lack of compatibility with software as many third-party applications will stop supporting the operating system.
- Slow, lagging performance that results from a lack of bug fixes and security updates designed to keep systems running properly.
- Inability to prove due diligence in the event of a data breach because many industry-specific regulations require you to use supported equipment.
What Are Your Next Steps?
Windows 7 users must take the appropriate steps to upgrade as soon as possible. The FBI offered some recommendations and we agree with what they’re suggested:
- Upgrade your operating system, then apply patches immediately afterward
- Install firewalls, anti-virus software, and other cybersecurity solutions
- Perform a network audit to review all configurations and settings frequently
- Isolate any systems that cannot, for any reason, be upgraded right away
- Implement two-factor authentication as much as possible
What If You Don’t Have The Time Or Expertise To Handle The Upgrade?
Get in touch with BC Networks right away. We’ve helped many organizations upgrade from Windows 7 to a supported operating system that still meets their requirements.