‘Windows 7 is now the computing version of a zombie’

6 Feb 2020

Image: © 1000 Words Photos/Stock.adobe.com

Almost a quarter of Windows users are still using the operating system despite Microsoft ending support in January.

As 2020 dawned, Windows 7 reached its end-of-life date and Microsoft ceased its support for the 10-year-old operating system.

First released in 2009, Windows 7 accounted for more than one quarter of the Windows desktop market share as of December 2019, according to StatCounter. That figure has seen a 2pc drop since the end of support hit in January and led to a corresponding increase in adoption for Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system.

However, that still leaves 24.9pc of Windows devices running an operating system that’s no longer supported by the manufacturer. For protection, Windows 7 users are advised to ensure they have appropriate antivirus software as most major antivirus providers confirmed that they will continue support for Windows 7 for at least two more years. Additionally, some large enterprises and governments are eligible for extended security updates for Windows 7, although that comes at a cost.

For example, the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) said that it would be paying €1.1m to extend support for its 46,000 devices still running Windows 7, and the German government will foot a bill of €800,000  for 33,000 workstations. In the UK, the National Health Service has 463,784 Windows 7 devices, representing one-third of the organisation’s computers.

‘Much like interacting with a zombie, users that continue to use Windows 7 will be putting themselves and their colleagues at great risk of attack’

“Windows 7 has died a slow death, or at least it was supposed to, and yet it seems a massive 25pc of people are still using the operating system even though it’s now the computing version of a zombie,” said Sean Herbert, UK manager for IT company Baramundi.

“Much like interacting with a zombie, users that continue to use Windows 7 will be putting themselves and their colleagues at great risk of attack.”

Gaps in security

Herbert described the number of users still using Windows 7 as both “staggering” and “worrying”, raising particular concerns for devices in sectors working with sensitive data.

“From law firms with confidential client data to the financial services industry, many of these Windows-operated laptops contain troves of valuable, sensitive information that could be exploited.”

Herbert warned against underplaying the issue. “Without the security updates for patches and system upgrades that inevitably happen in any software’s lifecycle, laptops and devices will be left vulnerable with gaps in their security for criminals to take advantage,” he said.

“Clearly, businesses are already behind and putting themselves at risk, so everyone please stop interacting with zombies, and update your operating system.”

Planned obsolescence

Tech companies such as Microsoft have been criticised for the practice of ending support for their systems and planned obsolescence.

The Free Software Foundation is petitioning Microsoft to release the source code for Windows 7 so that tinkerers in the software community might study and ‘upcycle’ the software. The petition has received more than 13,000 signatures.

Individuals seeking to upgrade from a Windows 7 device to Windows 10 could incur a cost to do so, though technology reporter Adrian Weckler previously revealed how to download the OS for free direct from the Microsoft website.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.