A lot of IT administrators probably wake up each morning, look at the calendar, and sigh. That’s because there’s only three months and change left before January 14, 2020 – the day that Windows 7 is officially end-of-life.
Windows 7 has been one of Microsoft’s most popular operating systems, but surveys suggest that implementations have been gradually decreasing. In other words, people are starting to meet the deadline with the sense of urgency that it deserves. The only question is whether the industry will move fast enough to match the deadline in time.
What is the State of Windows 7 Desistance?
The last time we checked up on Windows 7, 43% of companies were still running the operating system. This was back in early 2019, however. Have companies been making good progress?
The answer is yes… but it may not be enough. Surveys indicate that the total Windows 7 market share has fallen from 43% in August 2018 to around 28% in September 2019. Progress has been steady but slow, in other words.
Unfortunately, it looks like the overall rate of Windows 7 upgrades is not going to be enough eliminate the operating system prior to the deadline. Windows 7 lost around 1.5% of its install base in August 2019 and 2.2% in September. In order to fully reach the 2020 deadline, the rate of desistance would have to jump to over 9% per month.
Instead, assuming that the rate of upgrades jumps to around 3% per month, we’re looking at around 21% of endpoints still using Windows 7 at the time that security updates cease.
"Surveys indicate that the total Windows 7 market share has fallen from 43% in August 2018 to around 28% in September 2019."
What Happens Next?
Believe it or not, 21% of Windows 7 computers running past end of life is not the worst outcome imaginable. About 27% of Windows XP users were still running the operating system as it reached EOL in 2014 – a fact that caused endless problems as attackers churned out malware for the newly vulnerable operating system.
With so many more users choosing to upgrade rather than let their machines go end of life, attackers have a smaller attacker to choose from. Of course, 21% of all computers still represents an unimaginably large number of machines, but Microsoft is taking other steps to pare down the risk of security incidents in the months and years to come.
Microsoft has now unlocked its Extended Security Updates program.
Previously, this program was available only for large organizations who purchased Windows 7 licenses in bulk, but ESUs are now available for small business users as well. Extended Security Updates are not free. Windows 7 Enterprise users will pay $25 per device for the first year of ESU, rising to $100 per device for the third and final year that the program will be available. Costs for Windows 7 Pro will rise to $200 per device.
These costs aren’t cheap, but they’re manageable, especially if you’re a small business running a relatively small number of computers. Additionally, no matter how much you end up paying for Extended Support Updates, it’s likely to be cheaper than the cost of recovering from a cyberattack.
"...27% of Windows XP users were still running the operating system as it reached EOL in 2014..."
Malware Authors are Waiting for the EOL Date
If you can’t update your Windows 7 implementation before the deadline – and you can’t or won’t pay for the ESU program – then your prospects look bleak. Right now, a ransomware virus based on the WannaCry malware strain is infecting unpatched Windows 7 computers at a rate of 4,700 per day. According to a new report from Webroot, malware specifically targeted towards Windows 7 has grown by 75% since the beginning of the year. In other words, the sharks are circling.
KiZAN has several paths forward if you still haven’t made the shift to Windows 10. If one of your mission-critical applications isn’t compatible with Windows 10, our application modernization service can help you get up to speed in a hurry. If you’re worried about the cost of a hardware refresh in addition to a software refresh, learn how we can get you set up with inexpensive thin clients.
The consequences for missing the 2020 end of life deadline for Windows 7 are likely to be severe, with attackers looking to take advantage of obsolete systems on day one. Learn how we can help you head these efforts off at the pass – before it’s too late.
"KiZAN has several paths forward if you still haven’t made the shift to Windows 10"
KiZAN can help you prevent application decay, reduce your total cost of ownership, and ensure your critical legacy applications function on-premises or in the cloud.