Do you ever get promised a threat so big for so long—only for it to all end anticlimactically? Well, winter is coming for Windows 7, and we can assure you that the threat that has been promised is very real (unlike the last season of a certain television show).

On January 14, 2020—whether your business is prepared for it or not, Microsoft will pull support from Windows 7, leaving any computer running it at risk. Just like the end of support for Windows XP five years back, companies are dragging their feet.

This time around, however, Microsoft won’t be as friendly as they were then support for XP ended. The company has been warning users for years, and is unlikely to make an exception like they did when they backtracked to patch an XP Internet Explorer exploit in 2014.

Patch Tuesday, Exploit Wednesday, and the Dangers of Going Unsupported

For the past sixteen years, Microsoft users have come to know the term “patch Tuesday.” The second (and sometimes fourth) Tuesday of every month at 1:00 PM Eastern Time, updates and patches to Windows show up in the Download Center.

Knowing this, if you’re familiar with Patch Tuesday, you’re probably also familiar with Exploit Wednesday—the day after the patch when cybercriminals can analyze the patch to find out what has changed. With information about the changes, they can in turn use this information to exploit computers that haven’t been updated.

For the millions of companies and users still working with Windows 7, the second Tuesday of January 2020 will mark a day where it’s not just Exploit Wednesday. Though hackers won’t have a patch to analyze for old vulnerabilities, they will have another thing—time.

Time to figure out exactly how to strike.

Means, Motive, Opportunity, and an Audience of Nearly Half of SMBs and Enterprises

Crime exists at the intersection of means, motive, and opportunity. For hackers, another concept is important: An audience.

A Cat and Mouse Game of Exploits and Patches

Take a second to think like a cybercriminal. You spent days or weeks researching a vulnerability, building an exploit, testing it, and refining it. However, if you want to make money, you’re going to need an audience. Do you ever wonder why there are historically fewer Mac viruses than viruses for Windows? Two reasons. First, an extremely limited developer network. Second, an OS market share topping out at less than 15% of all computers.

Exploits, malware, and viruses often have an extremely limited shelf life. A virus is released and affects its audience. OS developers patch their product to prevent it from working. This usually happens in less than a month—often in less than a week or two.

For Windows 7, security patches are currently available. However, when this all ends in January, the patches end, and its only a matter of time before cybercriminals find an opening. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “that’s fine, most other companies have upgraded, probably not too much of an audience for hackers.” Wrong again.

A Major Risk for Nearly Half of All Enterprises

According to Kaspersky, the percentage of consumers, businesses, and enterprises using unsupported or nearly expired operating systems like Windows 7 is incredible:

Percentage of Customers, VSBs, SMBs, and Enterprises Using Software Past its Prime 

 Consumers Very Small Business SMB+Enterprise 
Windows XP (End of Life April 8, 2014) 2%1%0%
Windows 8 (replaced by 8.1,
End of Life January 2016) 
Windows 7 (End of Life January 14, 2020) 38%38%47%

Even more astounding is that 0.3% of consumers and 0.2% of very small businesses use the despised, buggy, and unsupported Windows Vista.

Windows 10: The Right OS (But Not Just because It’s Your Only Option)

There’s a running theme that Windows releases alternate between loved and loathed.

  • Windows 2000: Considered one of the best Windows editions ever.
  • Windows ME: Possibly the worst OS of all time.
  • Windows XP: It took a while and was called “Fisher-Price” initially, but as you can see, still loved.
  • Windows Vista: Awful.
  • Windows 7: Loved.
  • Windows 8/8.1: What happened to the Start Menu?

For those using Windows 10, the product had slow adoption. Possibly jaded by the Windows 8 reception, possibly due to the fact that the software came out immediately after Windows 8, or possibly due to certain products dragging their feet on development for Windows 10 (SOLIDWORKS spent the better part of 2015 and 2016 telling users not to upgrade).

Pair this with Microsoft touting Windows 10 as “the best Windows ever” and the statement was met with healthy skepticism. However, if you look at it, it really is an ideal Windows product. Not only does it fit into the ‘good’ release on the release schedule, it delivers a wide variety of advantages for the enterprise that we discussed in our blog here.

Upgrade Your Business to Windows 10 with MIBAR

Winter is coming for Windows 7, and the threat for companies continuing to use the product is very, very real. If you need patches need for the visible future, need a product that delivers a familiar interface and a wide variety of other benefits, and have to protect your organization, you can’t let your organization continue using Windows 7. At MIBAR, we can help you make the upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, offering a variety of upgrade packages tailored to your business. Get worry free Windows 7 upgrades and support from the experts at MIBAR. Click here to learn more.

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