Windows 7: Unsafe at Any Speed?

Category: Windows-7

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.

Windows 7 no longer secure?

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?

A big piece of the security puzzle is eternal vigilance on the part of the user. It remains important to think twice (or three times) before clicking or downloading, especially with links that arrive in your email. Use one of my recommended free antivirus tools, be aware of phishing attempts, and know how to defend against ransomware.

"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?

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This article was posted by on 30 Jan 2017

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Most recent comments on "Windows 7: Unsafe at Any Speed?"

(See all 49 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

James Reicker
30 Jan 2017

I upgraded to WIN 10 and adapted to it. But then an update came along and it would not accept input from my wireless keyboard or find my printer. After 2 frustrating days of trying to fix it, I reinstalled WIN 7 from my backup. I use some programs that date back to 1999 and earlier. I'm just not interested in learning a new app when I know these programs and they do what I want. I'm afraid that eventually under some new version of Windows, they will stop working. I'll stick with WIN 7.

Posted by:

30 Jan 2017

With any luck, I will never have to run Windows X. I am currently running 7 online with only the few MS updates that were originally installed in 2010, and IE 9.

Windows Updates have caused me more problems than any virus or rogue program I have downloaded off the internet.

Long live Seven(7)!

Posted by:

Walter T
30 Jan 2017

Fast forward to 2021: "Microsoft is pleased to announce our new and shiny Windows 12! It is the best OS ever, much better than Windows 10! All users are encouraged to upgrade to Windows 12as soon as possible, because Windows 10 is awful and has too many security problems that are impractical to fix." Deja vu, all over again...

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
30 Jan 2017

I have to agree with Mike's "whiners" comment, at least to some extent. I had issues trying to upgrade early and less issues trying to upgrading towards the end of the free offer. The worst issue was not being able to find my CD/DVD drive/writer, but they eventually worked it out. The bottom line is that Win 10 is so obviously superior in so many respects to any previous version of Windows (I go back to 3.1) that most of the comments are ignorance and/or paranoia. Not sure why some of the paranoid even follow a newsletter that is pretty specific to Win users. I have tried Linux many times over the years and while it is finally fairly easy to install on many newer systems, it still won't make my old Dell laptop into a functional unit and overall Windows is still more intuitive and easier to use.

Posted by:

Al S
30 Jan 2017

Updated to Windows10 on all but 2 Computers that the Video Drivers could not be upgraded, The Manufacturer of the drivers refuse to do so. MS has to run on W7. I have one Computer that I recently bought that has W10. I was able to configure all my W10 Computers to look and run like W7 or XP for that matter.

It takes time to get used to the Edge Browser, but you can use IE11 along with it, if you like seeing it crash time after time, just as it does on W7.

The Computer that works really great with Win10 is an old reconditioned HP returned from lease and ugrade3d to win7. I never figured a 12 yr old Computer that the Monitor sat on top of it would upgrade. When it was offered I upgraded and it is the fastest computer that I have it even has besides a DVD drive One of the older Floppy Drive built in and room for a 2nd DVD drive, no WiFi.

I am sure that MS will offer free upgrades when it comes close to the date W7 will no longer be supported. The rest who enjoy driving a Yugo well?

Posted by:

David Hickman
30 Jan 2017

Bob, I take it that you have now rescinded your previous advice to block the update to Windows 10 Anniversary Update?

Posted by:

30 Jan 2017

Seems to me there's a wonderful business opportunity for a third party: updating and supporting Windows 7. I wish I were techologically savvy enough to undertake this myself. I think I'd become rich.

Microsoft is abandoning us Windows 7 users even though it's proved stable and is platform to an arsenal of software. How great it would be to have a solid performer like Windows 7 with all the security fixes promised by Windows 10!

Posted by:

Kaarlo von Freymann
30 Jan 2017

Mike wrote:
"I suspect that these whiners about the newest OS are also driving a 1982 Ford, using a flip phone, complain they can't understand any of the current music lyrics, (VERY TRUE! Neither Nat King Cole nor Frank Sinatra did shout f-words) and use cash instead of electronic payments... “ BTW, how do you tip a door man electronically? The only thing I am not guilty of is driving a 1982 Ford because I prefer to be driven by a taxi driver and drive my 27 year old Mercedes Benz 300 SL convertible when i really feel like driving.
I used to be an ardent admirer of the United States of America. But that was before Microsoft and now Donald Trump started to use blatant lies in their marketing efforts. My daughter is marketing manager of an internet security company and with the protection she has put into my companies XP machines they have never had a problem, except of course those you often encounter after installing a Windows update. That may be due to the fact that our company PCs may be used and are only for work related internet browsing and e-mailing (we are drone manufacturers, so p**n sites and games are not work related sites) and that we do check mail from unknown senders. We do have some W 7 PCs. So far no-body has been able to explain to me what benefit paying for that updating brought us. We continuously do make back ups of everything. So far they have never had to be used.
Mike is right, meanwhile the world moves on and pays electronically even for a 0.50 $ chewing gum, never mind their monthly statements are 10 pages long. The world moves on and posts opinions anonymously. I have never received an application for a job that did not contain a list of referees The hard work has always been to check the referees' credentials. The same is true for recommendations to always “move up” to the latest OS.
Kaarlo von Freymann Finland

Posted by:

30 Jan 2017

I don't see anyone whining here. I'm here for the shared opinions and experiences of those who have navigated down these various OS roads. This information is interesting and valuable to me as I, too, plan to eventually go the Linux route.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

I have a W7P desktop and a W7P laptop (plus an XP laptop as a backup), both over 5 years old and both going strong. There's no need to get new machines now, but when the time comes, it'll be W10P on both, with the W7 laptop being my backup. I'm going to take my chances security-wise and hope for the best. I do read W10 articles and save them. I know I'll be using classic shell when on W10 machines.

Posted by:

Gary from SE wisconsin
31 Jan 2017

I have several older pcs and laptops with XP and 7. I use the XP machines as work horses and the machines with 7 as daily drivers. Have one with 8.1 that is seldom used (may put 7 on it). Tried different flavors of Linux including Zorin - they can look like windows but don't/can't work with a lot of common windows compatible software. I also have Ooma, a Tracfone, an over the air antenna and fill my own ink tanks. Got most of this frugality living in Germany many years back! I also use Pc matic for overall security. Ymmv

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

LOL ... I still use 7 and Vista. I may stop using them on line if I run into trouble but so far. No problems and small footprint on my old laptops. If it wasn't for the b.s. of not getting on line via my provider I would still be using 98. , where all my good simple programs like photoshop 5 and Pagemaker 4 worked just fine. There was never any good reason to stop using those programs other than $$$ for upgrades that gave bells and whistles that are totally unnecessary.

Posted by:

01 Feb 2017

Looks like i will be going to Linux very shortly. Have been using windows 7 for years,but i would
never consider windows 10 under any circumstance.

Posted by:

Old Man
01 Feb 2017

People complain because support for Win 7 will be ending. They seem to think MS should continue to provide updates until the last Win 7 machine breaks down.
However, let me ask this: How many of the commercial security programs are still issuing updates for products more than 3 releases old? If you bought McAfee in 2009, are you still getting updates?
Some people would complain about MS even if they gave their OS away for free --- Wait a minute, they are already doing that.

Posted by:

01 Feb 2017

I'll risk replying even though I get "spammed to death" just using my forum name and my good 'ole web email supplier does not know enough to use my 1000 rules, let alone, its own alleged "smart filters" when just reading the mime headers, is marked "spam". Why do they still forward this crud to junk mail folders? Oh well, a topic for another time.
Windows 10 is an OS I can't wait to get and yes, I hang on to old OS's as a lifeline, or at least I did. My wonderfully brilliant geek son and I built his Dad, my hubby, an amazing HP laptop for a gift and now I am kicking myself that I did not do it for me! Believe me, I'm in the process, just trying to cut a sweet deal with HP. Look, I hung on to Windows 98 that even though there was a better OS, I went to that total joke, "Windows ME", that I also used until all the air expired from its lifeboat status and I was adrift at sea. My worst ever? Well, of course, Vista. Anyhow, I am currently on Windows 7 which I too swore I would hang on to probably even longer than the "XP" fanatics. WRONG! Windows 10, in my book, is amazing. Even I, as a strong "nay-sayer", "Windows Basher" and negative thinker towards all-things-Microsoft Corporate, for decades, let alone when Windows 10 first arrived in beta, am now eating my words. I too thought it was another "dirty" trick being played by M$$, but I am actually happy to say, "WRONG"! Before you knock it, try it. It is a dream to use, easy, and for those with and without tech skills, this is the answer to all. Do I expect the nefarious hackers to welcome the challenge of trying to mess this OS up? Of course. However, Microsoft is really stepping up its game regarding protecting consumers as well as the OS itself. For once, I've come to "hail Ceaser" and, as I said, I will be doing the dance of joy once I get my very own, customized, Windows 10!
Thanks, Bob, for all you do and the "nay-sayers" to Windows 10, I was once you, but even though I'm still slogging through my Windows 7, this time, I can't wait to cut the lifeline and truly embark on the open ocean. Windows 10 will not meet the fate of the Titanic, or at least I can hope I won't be fading into the background with "My Heart will Go On" playing in the recesses of my mind!

Posted by:

05 Feb 2017

I work for a computer shop an I have noticed a serious problem with both Vista and Windows 7 systems.

When Windows has to be reinstalled and Windows checks for updates for the first time, starting earlier last year, the time for this initial search grew from an hour to several hours to days. After the first "Checking for updates" is complete, Windows Updates works as expected.

Until last month this effected EVERY clean install of Windows 7. Over the last month, some installs are working normally, but over half still take several days to find the updates.

Vista machines are alot worse. We have one laptop in the shop that has been checking for updates since December 27th, and is still checking! No clean installs of Vista has finished checking since last fall.

WSUS offline updates also do not complete, nor do many manual update installs. They reach one point and just keep processing without moving forward.

I have also observed this same issue for both operating systems on machines that have not updated in several months! Machines that have been updating continue to update normally!

Posted by:

05 Feb 2017

As far as Microsoft keeping Windows 7 up to date, when the sell an OS license, whether they sell it directly to the end user or to a PC manufacturer, they have an obligation to the end user to keep the product safe and updated until the End of Life date! Its not a matter of how much resources that it would take for them to do this, this is an issue of the consumer getting what they pay for. If an OS is valid for X number of years, Microsoft has an obligation to its users to keep it updated to security vulnerabilities for the life of the product!

Posted by:

06 Feb 2017

if me and my customers can live happily having windows7 WITHOUT UPDATES and WITHOUT ANY ANTIVIRUS, then I think something is cardinally wrong with your approach.
Honestly, I noticed something is wrong after I received so many complaints from the users which had their updates constantly working. Things aren't what they seem to be. We all use perfectly stable windows7 systems and there are absolutely no security or malicious issues whatsoever.

Posted by:

Richard Hofman
07 Feb 2017

I wish to have got the Windows 10 on my laptop made in 2006. But the graphic card driver doesn't want to work in there...
So, if the Microsoft did a fix of this problem then Windows 10 gonna be on my computer right now...

Posted by:

Skeeter Sanders
09 Feb 2017

If Microsoft is serious about wanting the vast majority of computer users to switch to Windows 10 (Surveys show that Windows 7 is still the dominant operating system), that is has to do one of two things.

Either the company makes Cortana an optional program that users can delete, or get rid of Cortana entirely.

Cortana is the primary reason Windows 10 has failed to gain universal acceptance -- especially among business users.

I can't stand Cortana and refuse to install Windows 10 on my laptop as long as Cortana remains a mandatory part of that system. I've even installed GWX on my laptop specifically to block installation of Windows 10 components whenever Microsoft send out Windows 7 updates.

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