Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Windows 7 users now in danger of huge hack attacks – you need to upgrade TODAY

MICROSOFT killed off Windows 7 today, ending support for one of the world's most popular operating systems.

As many as a third of PCs around the globe run on the software, which will no longer receive crucial security updates from Microsoft.

That leaves millions of unsuspecting users – including those at huge organisations like the NHS – exposed to a legion of hackers and cyber criminals.

Why is Microsoft killing off Windows 7?

Microsoft introduced Windows 7 in 2009, but ended mainstream support for the system in 2015.

That's because it was making way for Windows 10 – also launched in 2015 – which is still the tech titan's flagship operating system today.

Windows 7 has only received crucial security updates for the past four years. These updates officially ended on January 14, 2020.

Hundreds of millions of people will be affected as more than a third of PCs use Windows 7, according to NetMarketShare.

What does this mean?

Microsoft is bailing out of its cat-and-mouse game with hackers.

That means if cyber criminals find a way to break into Windows 7, Microsoft will no longer fix it.

Windows 7 users can still use their computers after Tuesday, but those who do will be at "greater risk for viruses and malware", according to Microsoft.

Rik Ferguson, vice-president of security research at Trend Micro, told the BBC: "Running an unpatched machine means that the flaws in the code will never be fixed.

"As exploits for those flaws become known and widespread, your chances of being successfully attacked grow very rapidly."

What are the risks?

Hackers can exploit weaknesses in operating systems to steal your personal and financial details or spy on you.

In May 2017, the NHS was crippled by the WannaCry ransomware attack.

Hackers broke into computer systems across the country, blocking doctors and nurses from accessing patient files unless a random was handed over in Bitcoin.

A government report in 2018 concluded that the attack could have been averted if workers had updated their computers.

Many were using PCs loaded with Windows 7 and, to a lesser extent, its predecessor, Windows XP, when the attacks occurred. XP  had long stopped receiving Microsoft updates.

Tips to protect yourself

Here's what you need to do…

  • So far there are no reports that a vulnerability has been found and exploited
  • However, it's important to protect yourself just in case
  • It's recommended that you keep automatic browser updates turned on
  • These should help to protect you from malware-loaded web pages
  • Always be wary of website links and attachements sent to you in emails
  • If something looks suspicious, don't click on it, even if it looks like it's from a trusted source

What should I do with my Windows 7 PC?

Security experts are urging Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10.

The newer operating system will set you back £120. Microsoft is still crafting regular security updates for it.

The company said 10 works best on a new PC, and may not run smoothly on your old computer.

"Going forward, the best way for you to stay secure is on Windows 10," it said. "And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC."

To run Windows 10, your PC must have a 1GHz processor, 16GB of hard drive space, and 1GB of RAM memory.

"While it is possible to install Windows 10 on your older device, it is not recommended," Microsoft said.

What about businesses?

Some businesses that are part of the Windows Enterprise scheme will still get Windows 7 security updates – but at an eye-watering cost.

Those who don't wish to pay will need to upgrade to Windows 10.

"As previously announced, Windows 7 extended support is ending January 14, 2020," Microsoft said.

"We will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023.

"The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year."

In other news, iPhones have been ‘silently hacked for years’ giving crooks access to photos, texts and live locations, according to Google.

Leaked Google sketches have revealed a secret ‘spy watch’ with a camera hidden under screen.

And, here's all the Gmail tricks you should know about.

Have you noticed any problems with Windows 7? Let us know in the comments…

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