Windows 7: The dangers of sticking with outdated operating systems

Windows 7: The dangers of sticking with outdated operating systems

It’s been over a year since Windows 7 reached its end-of-life date on January 14, 2020 and yet many people still haven’t moved on. Experts predict that there are at least 100 million machines worldwide still running Windows 7. This is worrying given that obsolete operating systems no longer receive technical support and updates from Microsoft. 

Why are businesses refusing to upgrade?

One reason why several Australian businesses still use Windows 7 is because it still works. After all, end of life doesn’t necessarily mean the operating system ceases to exist — it just means software updates will no longer be provided. 

Many businesses are also reluctant to upgrade because they believe that it may derail their operations, especially those that use outdated third-party systems that are incompatible with modern operating systems. Other companies may lack the infrastructure, resources, and in-house expertise required to implement Windows 10 company-wide. Meanwhile, there are companies that are unaware of Windows 7’s end of life, so there’s no sense of urgency to upgrade. 

What are the risks of using Windows 7 today?

No matter the reason for sticking with Windows 7, it’s never worth the potential risks and missed opportunities. Here are four reasons why businesses should upgrade from Windows 7 as soon as possible:  

1. Greater exposure to cyberthreats

Without continued technical support and security updates, Windows 7 computers become increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks. That’s because as time passes, hackers will uncover new vulnerabilities in outdated systems and develop more sophisticated attacks. Microsoft developers proactively release patches for modern operating systems, but older products don’t get the same attention. This means a lot of Windows 7 computers will be exposed to newer vulnerabilities without fixes. 

In 2020, for example, experts discovered a Microsoft bug that allows hackers to manipulate file signatures so that malicious files appear trustworthy to the system. The Australian Cyber Security Centre also reported a fundamental flaw in Windows’ Remote Desktop Protocol. If left unpatched, this flaw would reportedly enable hackers to spread malware to other vulnerable devices connected to the same network.   

For businesses using Windows 7, such vulnerabilities are still very much a threat because Microsoft is no longer obligated to fix them. This makes these businesses an appealing target for cybercriminals. In contrast, actively supported operating systems like Windows 10 are promptly patched when a vulnerability is uncovered. 

2. Crippling data breach costs

A massive problem with relying on unpatched operating systems is that it can lead to costly data breaches. According to a 2020 report, the per-record cost of a security breach in Australia is $163. Although companies may be able to survive one compromised record, they won’t be as lucky when hackers swipe more data from a Windows 7 computer. In fact, a single data breach can end up costing businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

However, the cost of data loss is only the tip of the iceberg. Australian organisations are subject to the Privacy Act 1988, which requires them to protect personal information with the latest security measures. Since Windows 7 is outdated, businesses are liable to attract noncompliance penalties when they do suffer a data breach. Repeated and serious security incidents can even result in companies paying fines of up to $2.1 million

What’s more, a security breach can cause irreparable damage to a company’s reputation. Today’s clients are likely to take their business elsewhere when a company has failed to protect their data. Plus, prospective clients will be more reluctant to partner with a business that uses outdated operating systems. This significantly hinders a company’s profit-making potential.  

3. Incompatibility with modern software

Utilising Windows 7 means that the pool of program users can install and run will get smaller every year. In 2023, Microsoft plans to stop all support for Microsoft 365 Apps on Windows 7 devices. The reason for this is to encourage people to run their productivity software on fully supported operating systems like Windows 10. 

Similarly, other software developers may start releasing applications that are only compatible with modern operating systems. For instance, business intelligence software and creative applications may incorporate new features that older operating systems and devices simply can’t accommodate. 

4. Major productivity loss

Another drawback of Windows 7 is its slow performance. Unlike Windows 10 PCs, Windows 7 devices take longer to boot up and have noticeably sluggish application load times. It also lacks productivity-boosting features like intuitive search features, Microsoft Edge, and Cortana. 

How can companies mitigate these risks? 

If companies want to keep using Windows 7 and are only concerned about cybersecurity, they can opt for Microsoft’s extended support. This lasts until January 2023 and is limited to major security updates. The downside is extended support is charged per device and doubles every year. This is by no means a long-term solution, but it does give businesses time to transition to an actively supported system. 

The best way to mitigate risks is to upgrade to Windows 10. Beyond receiving regular updates from Microsoft, Windows 10 is leagues above its predecessors in terms of performance and security. It even features biometric logins, advanced anti-malware, encryption tools, and automatic OneDrive backups to safeguard sensitive data. 

Of course, there is a lot that goes into switching to Windows 10. Companies must first run operating system assessments to identify which devices pose a risk and need to be upgraded. Then, they have to install Windows 10 in both newly acquired and existing devices. This can be a tricky and time-consuming process for most companies, which is why Empower IT Solutions is here to help. As one of Australia’s leading managed IT services providers, we can ensure that companies transition smoothly to the latest technologies. Contact us today to get started!