FBI Issues Notice to Upgrade from Windows 7

Have you upgraded yet? If not, you’re at risk.

Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020. The day after, on January 15, 2020, Microsoft stopped offering any kind of support for the operating system – meaning there are no security patches, bug fixes or assistance of any kind if problems arise. If you’re still running the unsupported operating system, chances are, you’ve received a few alerts telling you it’s out of support. This is the unfortunate reality of technology. It all comes with a lifecycle and even the best-operating systems expire eventually.

FBI sees an increase in cyberattacks on unsupported operating systems… 

The FBI Cyber Division has issued a private industry notification advising all organizations to stop using the unsupported operating system. They’ve seen a major increase in cyberattacks targeting unsupported operating systems, such as Windows 7, as there’s a high risk for security vulnerabilities that can be exploited. “As time passes, Windows 7 becomes more vulnerable to exploitation due to lack of security updates and new vulnerabilities discovered,” warned the FBI.

Despite the risks associated with running an unsupported operating system, approximately 20% of ALL Windows devices are still running Windows 7. An open-source report highlighted that 71% of Windows devices used in the healthcare industry were still using Windows 7 and other unsupported operating systems. This is scary news.

Consider this… When Windows XP lost support back in 2014, the healthcare industry saw a HUGE increase in compromised or exposed health records the following year. This is a common trend – one we need to learn from.

What are the risks of running Windows 7 now? 

Windows 7 is no longer secure to run. Why? Microsoft is not supporting it, which means there’s nothing to keep you safe from your systems being exploited. If you accidentally click on a malicious attachment or reply to a phishing email, there’s no way to get out of the bad situation you’ll end up in. Basically, even third-party software companies will stop supporting the operating system. This means:

  • No access to the latest features, updates or security fixes as no resources will be put toward improving the operating system.
  • Lack of compatibility with important software as many applications fail to configure properly with unsupported operating systems.
  • Inability to prove due diligence in terms of compliance in the event of a data breach because the majority of regulations require the use of supported equipment.
  • Slow performance, and in turn, lagging or outages resulting from a lack of bug fixes and security updates to keep your system performing properly.

The FBI expressed…

“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.”

What does the FBI recommend? 

The FBI offered some very valuable recommendations in their alert – all of which we strongly agree with. Here’s a few of their recommendations:

  1. Upgrade your operating system and make sure you apply patches right away.
  2. Install anti-virus software, spam filters, and firewalls that are kept up-to-date.
  3. Audit your network configurations on a regular basis.
  4. Isolate any computer systems that cannot be updated.
  5. Check for systems using RDP and close any unused RDP ports.
  6. Implement two-factor authentication as widely as possible.

Keep in mind, any unsupported operating system will become incredibly frustrating over time. All of the issues will pile up, and eventually, you’ll need to upgrade to make your environment work properly. Get ahead of the process and upgrade now – before it’s too late. Here’s what to do right now:

  1. Contact us or your technology partner immediately to take inventory of all systems running the unsupported operating system.
  2. Create a plan that outlines your upgrade path and budget for the entire process so you’re financially ready.
  3. Start the migration process toward Windows 10 (we can handle this for you) and re-install any necessary settings and software.
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