Microsoft’s venerable Windows 7 operating system will go end of life in only a few short months on January 14th, 2020. At this point Microsoft will no longer provide support for the OS without costly service contracts and only for specific enterprise editions. This means updates to patch security flaws or fix any other critical issues discovered after end of support will no longer be released to most users of Windows 7. This places them at greater and greater risk of falling victim to criminal hackers with malware, ransomware, and data breaches becoming more of a threat as time goes on and security holes are no longer patched.
In addition to these risks, usage of unsupported software may bring about unwanted legal liabilities and regulatory actions. Businesses subject to HIPAA, PCI, and other forms of compliance related to medical, personal, and financial data using unsupported software automatically fall out of compliance, will fail security audits, and be subject to legal action and regulatory penalties, all of which can be quite costly.
Windows Server 2008 will also lose support and become vulnerable to the same threats as Windows 7 on this date. Systems running these operating systems should be removed from service if they are not needed, upgraded to a modern and supported version, or replaced altogether. For Apple users, MacOS Sierra will also go end of life on Oct 31, 2019. Any MacOS older than Sierra is already without support as are Windows OS versions older than Windows 7 (Vista, XP, 2000, ME, 98, 95, etc.).
Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 will continue to receive security updates until Jan 14, 2020. It is important that these updates be applied to these older operating systems as well as more modern versions since security flaws are usually the most common issues addressed by these updates. The next few months should be used to safely transition away from older operating systems before they lose support. Businesses and consumers alike should not wait until the last minute or until after support ends to make the transition.
Ransomware and other cyber attacks targeting small and medium sized businesses as well as governmental agencies are very profitable for cyber criminals with ransom amounts typically ranging from thousands to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. These attacks have been ramping up around the world and in the Rolla area during 2019. At least 37 businesses and governmental agencies were targeted by ransomware throughout the Rolla and Ft. Leonard Wood areas starting in late June and attacks have continued since this time. Many of the impacted businesses deal with financial and medical information on their clients as the list included chiropractors, dentists, and CPAs. Some of the impacted businesses had not adequately backed up important data and were forced to pay ransoms of thousands of dollars anonymously in the form of crpytocurrencies to regain access to their records.
News of a different cyber attack breaks on a weekly basis. Many of these attacks would never have occurred had the operators of impacted systems ensured they were updated and secure. These include the Equifax breach, WannaCry, and NotPetya. The cost of preventing such attacks is minor when compared to the cost of cleaning up the mess after the fact. Running a supported operating system and keeping it up to date is just one key component of staying safe in our increasingly digital world. Those who continue to operate on unsupported operating systems are inviting and welcoming disaster.
Those with questions may call Conor with A1 Tech at 573-458-9175.
Conor Watkins, owner of A1 Tech of Rolla, LLC, lives on a 48 acre farm near Rolla and raises goats. He and his girlfriend enjoy the outdoors so they are frequently hiking Missouri parks and forests, kayaking, participating in shooting sports, as well as enjoying local wineries. He is pictured here kayaking at the mouth of Cave Spring along the Current River in the Ozarks of Missouri.