The last day of Windows 7 and the security risks

With the end of official support from Microsoft, Windows 7 could become the new target of hackers. How to defend yourself

The last hour has struck for Windows 7: the operating system launched in mid-2009 has officially retired on January 14, 2020. Microsoft will no longer support it and will not release updates and security patches for this OS.

Since today, then, a new prairie opens up for hackers to conquer because, according to the latest estimates, about a quarter of PCs worldwide still have Windows 7 installed. Many of these are computers in the offices of government agencies and small and medium-sized companies. Two areas where, unfortunately, updating hardware and software is hardly ever a priority in budgets. The result of all this is that millions of computers worldwide will no longer be protected from attacks that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities, i.e. operating system bugs that were not foreseen when the code was written and that, as long as OSs are supported by their manufacturers, are fixed as they are discovered.

How to protect PCs running Windows 7 after January 14, 2020

In recent days, cybersecurity company Veritas Technology has published a sort of minimum security guide for companies that still have Windows 7 installed on their computers. Veritas reminds that the first thing you should do to stay safe, despite having an outdated operating system, is to download and install at least the latest available updates. About 60 percent of computers that have been breached by a hacker or virus in the past could be protected: the security patch that plugged the flaw exploited by the malware or hacker was already available. It is also important to educate company employees, i.e. those who use computers on a daily basis: very often a hacker attack starts with a phishing email, with a link that someone has clicked on. Assessing the risks, therefore, is one of the best practices to put in place because, never as in this case, prevention is better than cure. Backing up data regularly, moreover, can alleviate the damage of a possible attack.

Windows 7: Microsoft's extended support

Finally, businesses can consider the option of upgrading to Windows 10 or, alternatively, purchasing extended support licenses for Windows 7. Professional and Enterprise versions of Windows 7 (unfortunately, not Home) are eligible for extended support, at a cost of $50 and $25 for the first year, which becomes $100 and $50 starting in the second year.