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The Risks and Implications of Windows 7 Cyberattacks

18 February, 2020

As IT professionals, it saddens us to witness the staggering number of computers worldwide still running on the outdated Windows 7 operating system. With estimates suggesting that up to 32% of all computers continue to use this unsupported platform, it is essential to address the risks associated with this situation.

Currently, the most prevalent cyberattacks targeting small and medium businesses include phishing, malware, denial of service attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and ransomware. Man-in-the-middle attacks involve hackers inserting themselves as intermediaries in business transactions to steal sensitive data. SQL breaches occur when malicious code is installed on a SQL server, allowing the unauthorized extraction of data. Ransomware attacks, holding businesses, corporations, and even cities hostage, have become a notorious threat.

Although Windows 7 may still be fresh in our memories, major vulnerabilities and attacks are already emerging. As the operating system becomes obsolete and information spreads among hackers on the Dark Web, the overall security of your data diminishes.

Consider the Costs

A data breach goes beyond the chaos it causes within your office. Once your system is compromised, you must find a way to retrieve your information, whether for operational purposes or due to the presence of sensitive data. According to the 2018 IBM Cost of a Data Breach report, the average cost per record in a data breach amounts to $148. For companies with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of records, the financial impact can be staggering.

Furthermore, stolen records expose you to potential liabilities. If your customers’ personal or financial information becomes public, you may face lawsuits. For those in the medical field, a data breach can result in HIPAA violations, subjecting you to fines of up to $25,000 per breached file. Protecting your company’s data is not only a financial imperative but also a vital step in safeguarding your reputation and maintaining trust.

The Problem and the Solution

Hackers employ various strategies to gain unauthorized access to your system. While techniques such as downloading viruses or phishing schemes have become less effective due to increased user awareness, hackers persist in finding alternative entry points. In some cases, hackers exploit intentional system design flaws, while in others, they uncover unintended backdoors in the operating system. Once one hacker gains access, this information often gets shared or sold to others.

Typically, when vulnerabilities are identified, software companies like Microsoft develop patches to address these issues. These patches update the specific components of the operating system affected by the vulnerabilities. It is crucial to promptly download and install these patches as soon as they become available.

The End of Life Problem

When a company like Microsoft announces that a software product has reached its End of Life, it means that the company will no longer provide support, including security patches and updates. Consequently, the operating system gradually becomes obsolete, leaving it susceptible to breaches.

Recently, security researchers from Guardicore Labs revealed that hackers have already breached a medium-sized medical technology company’s system by exploiting WAV files. This incident underscores the growing number of attack vectors hackers can exploit against Windows 7 users.

The Obvious Solution

We cannot stress enough the importance of upgrading to Windows 10 to mitigate these risks. However, upgrading alone is not sufficient. Ensuring the ongoing security of your systems requires a commitment to regular updates. When prompted for a new update, take the time to ensure that every machine in your network is updated promptly. Neglecting updates on even a single system can jeopardize your entire network.

We understand that managing updates, particularly for servers, can be time-consuming and overwhelming. That is why we are here to help. If you require assistance in keeping your systems up to date and secure, please reach out to us. Our team is ready to support you in maintaining the integrity of your network.

18 February, 2020