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You Really Need to Upgrade from Windows 7

The FBI has urged users of Windows 7 to upgrade immediately to avoid growing cybersecurity risks associated with unsupported legacy software.

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If you or your company is still using Windows 7, it’s time to make a change. Your network security will depend on it. Microsoft ended its support back in January 2020. In a post on its support page, Microsoft said the updates “that help protect your PC are no longer available for the product.”

The FBI this week weighed in on the issue by publishing a private industry notification urging users of Windows 7 to upgrade to the most recent supported version. You can see the PIN here. The FBI warns that it has observed cyber criminals targeting legacy software that has reached end-of-life status.

What Is Legacy Software?

Legacy software refers to old or outdated software that nonetheless still holds value for communities or companies that continue to use it. This can refer to operating systems such as Windows 7 or other software programs that a company or individual has spent money and time mastering.

Here’s a case in point. A writer and editor I know swears by two DOS-based programs that he’s used for about 30 years. The word processor WordPerfect 5.1 and its companion database program DataPerfect have long since become obsolete. But this writer and editor has spent a fortune maintaining an old Windows box that will allow him to keep using his beloved software.

When public or private organizations resist updating from legacy systems, the dangers are much more significant. The cost of updating from legacy software can be expensive and time-consuming, as the FBI’s notification points out. It might require investment in new computer systems. But the possible threats to an organization far outweigh the expense or hassle of upgrading.

Some Sobering Statistics

Failing to upgrade legacy software leaves your organization open to attack. Cyber criminals know that legacy software is no longer being updated. As software ages, new vulnerabilities are discovered and exploited. In software that was still supported, these would otherwise be addressed in regular security updates.

To highlight the gravity of the situation, the FBI cited specific examples of how outdated systems have fallen victim to attack in recent years. It noted that in May 2019, some 71 percent of Windows devices used in healthcare organizations ran operating systems that reached end-of-life status in January 2020. It further pointed out that after Windows XP support ended in 2014, attacks on the healthcare sector increased.

The FBI notification also cited continued exploitation in legacy Windows operating systems of the Remote Desktop Protocol. One in particular, the Bluekeep vulnerability, has been exploited since its discovery in May 2019. Two years before, about 98 percent of all systems infected with the WannaCry virus were running Windows 7. “With few customers able to maintain a patched Windows 7 system after its end of life, cyber criminals will continue to view Windows 7 as a soft target,” the FBI said.

It Pays to Upgrade

It’s clear from the FBI notification that vulnerabilities successfully exploited in the past remain a danger to those who have not abandoned legacy software systems. It’s also clear that the devastation wrought by EternalBlue and other exploits was quickly overlooked. A survey conducted about a year after WannaCry ran rampant and cited by Security Boulevard found that only 47% of companies patched known vulnerabilities right away.

For healthcare providers and other sectors that handle and store highly regulated data, the risk of a data breach from a vulnerability in legacy software systems is high. So is the cost. Apart from repairing computer networks, the breach of regulated data can carry heavy fines, not to mention the loss of institutional reputation and customer trust.

Software is not the only legacy issue an organization has to confront. Outdated or inefficient hardware storage media can make accessing vital information more expensive and time-consuming than it needs to be. For more than a decade, Secure Data Recovery Services has helped costumes handle, protect, and restore their data in a safer and more efficient way.

Our data recovery engineers have custom-built solutions for data migration, restoration, and conversion regardless of what kind of media storage you’re using. Whatever data storage or data loss scenario you face, Secure Data Recovery Services has the solution.

Give us a call at 1-800-388-1266. We’re here 24/7 for all your data recovery, migration, and conversion needs.

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