The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is urging people to no longer use computers with Windows 7 installed for banking or email.

A spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of GCHQ, encouraged consumers to upgrade their Windows 7 devices. As quoted in a report by Telegraph:

We would urge those using the software after the deadline to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible, to move sensitive data to a supported device and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts. They should also consider accessing email from a different device.

NCSC’s warning went public just days prior to January 14, 2020, the date after which Microsoft will no longer provide security updates or support for PCs running Windows 7. This means that consumers won’t be able to patch their Windows 7 devices against known vulnerabilities identified by Microsoft, including those which threat actors are actively exploiting in the wild. Subsequently, malicious individuals could leverage those same vulnerabilities to compromise users computers and steal their sensitive personal and financial data.

The threats described above don’t apply to just a handful of users. As reported by Computerworld, it’s estimated that 29.7% of all Windows PCs will still be running Windows 7 on January 31, 2020—two weeks after the operating system’s official retirement. That means approximately 450 million people will be running machines with unsupported OS software.

Per Microsoft and NCSC, the best thing for consumers to do is to update their devices to Windows 10. They can do this by purchasing a new device or by trying to still obtain a free Windows 10 upgrade for their current device.

Simultaneously, organizations need to carefully consider the risks of extending the life of a system that’s reached its end of life. If they decide to move forward with that option, they will reed to protect those systems iusing security configuration management (SCM) and file integrity monitoring (FIM) capabilities, among other tools. Learn how Tripwire Enterprise can help.

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