Windows 7: Unsafe at Any Speed?
Three years remain until the end of Windows 7’s life cycle. Starting in January 2020, even security patches will no longer be released; Windows 7 will steadily become more vulnerable to hackers and malware. But until then, those who choose to stick with the aging operating system are good, right? Read on for the scoop…
Is Windows 7 Secure?
Not according to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany. Even today, he says, Windows 7 "does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments.” He cites two recent zero-day exploits that Windows 10 was able to neutralize with its new, improved security features. Windows 7 remained wide open to the exploits until patches were released.
The cost of sticking with Windows 7 (first released in 2009) must include the cost of remediating security breaches that would not occur under Windows 10. That’s a fine cost/benefit analysis for enterprises, but does it really apply to home users?
Yes, but to a different degree. You home network may not be the conscious target of a sophisticated hacking team, like the servers of a large bank, but random malware buzzes around the Net like gnats over a pond. Your network experiences dozens of attacks every day. A successful malware or ransomware attack can take your household offline for days, and destroy the majority of your personal data.
But why can’t Microsoft make Windows 7 just as secure as Windows 10, or close to it? The security features that blocked zero-day exploits were added with Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Should the same features be added to older versions of Windows as long as they are still in extended support? Or is it unreasonable to expect Microsoft to expend resources on new features for nearly obsolete operating systems?
Greg Iddon, security specialist at Sophos, believes it’s impractical to harden Windows 7 to the same degree as Windows 10. The older operating system carries a lot of baggage, he says.
Leaving Well-Enough Alone?
"While it is almost certainly possible to port these security improvements over” to Windows 7, Iddon says, “the changes would likely risk breaking a number of legacy applications, and require a large amount of effort to port and maintain.”
Some of Windows 10’s new security features, like Credential Guard and Device Guard, are so deeply intertwined with the kernel of the operating system that they cannot be ported to Windows 7’s quite different kernel without major revisions. That kind of programming effort is better spent on the operating system of the future, rather than spread thinly over several versions. And of course Microsoft has little reason to provide any incentive for users to stick with older operating systems.
If Microsoft can promptly issue patches for security and reliability bugs, the company will meet its obligations to provide extended support through the early part of 2020. After that, diehard clingers will run a bigger risk every day, as the security gap between Windows 10 and 7 widens.
How long do you plan to cling to Windows 7? Are you taking any steps to get familiar with Windows 10 to prepare for the inevitable?
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 30 Jan 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Windows 7: Unsafe at Any Speed? (Posted: 30 Jan 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved