Windows

Top 5 Risks When You Stay with Windows 7 this 2020

Top 5 Risks When You Stay with Windows 7 this 2020 1920 1280 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

Windows 7 End of Life

Microsoft will no longer be supporting Windows 7 after a ten-year stint—as announced last December 16, 2019.

The purpose of this direction is for the tech giant to pour its ample resources into more lucrative, newer technologies. Essentially, Microsoft has squeezed as much juice as it can out of Windows 7. It doesn’t make sense for them to continue providing technical assistance and software updates that protect PCs using the outdated program.

The Impact on Your Businesses

First and foremost, Windows 7 is still being used on 39% of all PCs.

And a year from now in January 2021, Windows 7 will be used on 18.7% of all PCs, which accounts for around 281 million machines.

What does that mean, exactly? That even at under 20% of total usage on PCs, there are still over 280 million systems with Windows 7 in place. At such a vast number, it’s fair to guess that small to medium businesses make up enough of those totals. Especially since many owners might wish to sidestep the costly nature of upgrades.

Though, with the removal of all support for the system, keeping Windows 7 installed will end up being more costly than merely paying for the upgrade to Windows 10.

So, as a business owner or stakeholder who may still be using Windows 7, you’re likely interested in knowing what might happen after neglecting to upgrade.

Let’s examine some of the most significant risks involved in continuing to use Windows 7 on your PC and how it can affect your workplace:

The Top 5 Risks of Staying with Windows 7

Risk # 1.      No More Technical Support

Last year, Microsoft patched 29 Windows 7 vulnerabilities in April alone.

Of those vulnerabilities, 6 were rated critical with the other 23 being deemed important.

Think about it, that’s one month alone—and the only reason those changes were made was due to an extended support phase focused on fixing flaws. Those snafus on Windows 7, since it’s an older system, have continually surged over the years. Now, without support, these issues will be seemingly never-ending.   

Risk # 2.      Heightened Cybersecurity Risk

Studies from 2018 about cybersecurity in small-and-medium-sized businesses reported that 67% of survey respondents experienced some form of cyber-attack. On top of that, another 58% went through a data breach with employee or customer information.

These stats prove that businesses are already susceptible to these attacks. With Windows 7 now lacking the infrastructure to deal with these issues, if you don’t upgrade, the consequences could be disastrous.

Risk # 3.      Additional Costs

On a per-system basis, it’ll be possible to receive extended security support. However, there’s an additional fee paid to Microsoft per computer to obtain the appropriate security updates. Furthermore, the dollar amount owed to Microsoft will double every year and caps out at a maximum of three years.

The price begins at $50 per machine—meaning by 3 years it’ll be $150 per device. If you have around 10 machines, that can prove quite costly.

Risk # 4.      Falling Behind the Competition

As Windows 7 becomes more obsolete, more businesses will be using Windows 10. 

As technologies keep improving, functionality enhances. If you’re on an outdated system, the slower it’ll run, and it’ll be less equipped to handle the state-of-the-art tools that’ll keep you ahead of your competitors.

Risk # 5. Frustrating Your Team

When your employees end up with inferior technology, their morale tends to suffer. For many staff members, it can be a bad look when you fail to equip them with systems, programs, and software that isn’t – at the very least – up to date.

If you don’t update to Windows 10 soon, your team might get the idea that you aren’t invested fully in their success. From there, frustration brews, work tends to be negatively impacted, and you’ll have an office full of employees at their wit’s end.

The Very Real Problem of Malware in the Workplace

As technology keeps reaching new heights, so does its propensity to be malicious and dangerous. Businesses far and wide must be eternally vigilant in the face of these threats that can damage both their reputation and bottom line.

For instance, recently, Landry’s, Inc., an American, privately owned, multi-brand dining, hospitality, entertainment, and gaming corporation, identified malware on its payment processing system.

The malware was designed to access payment card data from cards used in person. Interestingly, the card data wasn’t readable due to the end-to-end encryption technology used at points-of-sale. So, the malware was prevented from accessing payment card data.

Although this hasn’t occurred on a Windows 7, these attacks come from everywhere when sensitive information or money is involved. As proven by Landry’s, with state-of-the-art systems in place, these cyber breaches situations can be nipped in the bud.

So how do you mitigate these risks?

The short answer is to move to Windows 10 to receive the full support from Microsoft. This can be done by upgrading your operating system on your existing PC’s, assuming your hardware is capable of handling the demands of a modern operating system. If you PC is more than 3 or 4 years old, it is probably more cost effective to simply replace the PC.

Why it is Important to Secure Your Remote Desktop Server

Why it is Important to Secure Your Remote Desktop Server 1280 720 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

With a rise in employees working from home in recent years, there has also been an influx of cyber attacks on the very system that makes that possible.

Perhaps you’ve used Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) for work or have had to resort to it when dealing with customer support. If either is the case, the first time you ever used it might have been something of a worry. Allowing a stranger full control of your computer via a desktop interface? Sure, that doesn’t sound sketchy at all.

However, it actually isn’t sketchy. Microsoft designed RDP to facilitate secure data transfer from one computer to another. In both theory and practice, RDP has shown itself to be one of the most integral technological inventions of the last couple of decades. This is most notably the case within the healthcare industry, whose existence relies on patient confidentiality.

Although where hackers are concerned, the turn of phrase, “This is why we can’t have nice things” also comes to mind. The FBI reported recently that, since 2016, RDP attacks have been becoming more and more frequent. These brute force attacks aim to collect data such as names, dates of birth, insurance numbers, which the hackers then sell on to the dark market.

But with more and more companies understandably turning to RDP to cover their workloads, this is a threat that has to be dealt with before it’s too late. That said, the solutions to securing our remote desktop servers, are also in our hands.

The Many Uses of RDP

There are plenty of reasons why companies and individuals resort to RDP. For one, the ability to connect to and control one computer from another means that not every worker should have to go into the office. In the same vein, business travelers can stand to use it for that very same reason.

If you’re traveling for work or want to work while on vacation and work for a company, you’ll need access to your files. Particularly so if those files are confidential. This is where RDP really stands out. Not only can you access your work computer from anywhere in the world, but you can do so from home, too.

Administrators also benefit heavily from RDP. Many large-scale technology companies use it to aid their customers with any problems they might be facing. Additionally, if you’re out of the office for one reason or another and the software or hardware fails, you can fix it from your own computer.

RDP is a helpful and convenient tool for businesses the world-over.

So then where do the hackers come into it?

How Attackers Compromise RDP

Ransomware such as CrySIS, CryptON, and SamSam among others have been utilized and spread through RDP. Most of these attackers use what is known as the brute force method.

The problem with brute force is that attackers don’t necessarily have to be professional at what they do. On the contrary, brute force attacks are literally just trial-and-error.

Brute-force is also, however, time and resource consuming. Its success relies on patience, perseverance, and volume rather than some magic algorithm. What this means for us is that we can take measures such as complex passwords to protect against them.

Securing Your Remote Desktop Server Against Brute Force

Brute force attacks usually begin with the attacker scanning a list of IP and TCP port ranges to find a port that’s open. This is the time-consuming part. Once the attacker has gained access, however they’ve done it, they can start to unleash malware chaos on your server.

That said, brute force attacks really do depend on the measures you have or haven’t taken in securing your desktop. By rectifying your mistakes, you can successfully keep attackers out.

Solutions

Whitelist Your IP Address

Whitelisting an IP is a simple way of preventing RDS attacks. However, it’s also simple enough that it won’t block every attacker who is trying to get in, such as the case with roaming users. Whitelisting your IP address restricts outsiders from gaining access. In order to do this, you need to set up inbound rules on your firewall, and/or your RDP server.  For example:

  1. Connect to your RDP server
  2. Open Windows Firewall with Advanced Security
  3. Click Inbound Rules
  4. Find and right-click the RDP Rule
  5. Go to Properties > Scope

Inside of the Scope tab is where you’ll create your IP restrictions.

  1. Under Remote IP address, check These IP addresses
  2. Click Add…
  3. Type your IP address in the top field
  4. Hit OK

Note: If you want to add an IP range instead, click This IP address range and input said range.

Deploy an RD Gateway

Remote Desktop Gateway servers give RDP users a more secure and encrypted connection. Having an RDG lets you share your network connection with other programs, enabling an ISP connection that steers off unwanted outsiders.

To do this, you first need to go to your service manager within your RDP.

  1. Go to Server Manager > Remote Desktop Services > Overview
  2. Under Deployment Overview, click on the green RD Gateway icon to install it
  3. Choose the server on which you want to install the role
  4. Enter your external FQDN (fully qualified domain name) in the SSL certificate name box
  5. Hit Next >

Once your RD Gateway is installed, you can configure certificates and properties. In properties, you can set up rules such as maximum simultaneous connections and further SSL bridging. This should leave your RDP network to your RDP team.

Multi-Factor Authentication

It’s likely you’ve heard of two-factor authentication already, even if you’re not a software professional. Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon are all quickly adhering to this forward-thinking way of ensuring the security of their users.

Multi-factor authentication can also be used in conjunction with the two methods above, tripling down on your high-security RDP forcefield for better protection. In short, MFA allows you to login to your RDP and then authenticate that login by other means such as SMS, automated phone call, email or an app on your phone.

Once authenticated by your second device, you and only you can partake in that session.

Use a VPN

Installing a VPN helps administrators to limit unauthenticated users. With software like FortiClient.  SSL and IPSec VPNs are used to provide a secure and reliable solution to attempted RDP attacks without the user needing to know the nitty-gritty on security and protection.

Once your remote desktop server is secure, you can continue to work from home or from the beach, if you want to.

It’s always better and cheaper to protect yourself and your company in advance.  To learn more about IT Security, please contact us.

Windows 7 to Windows 10 migration

When should your business move away from Windows 7 and why?

When should your business move away from Windows 7 and why? 1000 662 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

If your business is still running Windows 7, you have probably already had a conversation or two about upgrading to Windows 10. While most of the advantages of Windows 10 are pretty obvious, there may be some serious repercussions to not upgrading that you should also consider. At this point, it’s more than just a “nice to have” – it’s a necessity that you can’t afford to pass over.

Still and all, almost half of the computers in the world that run on a Windows operating system are running Windows 7. Windows 10, however, continues to gain ground in this space, as its value and feature set is seen more and more as necessary to modern workflows.

So, in answer to the question of “when” – the answer is definitely “now”, or at the very least, “soon”.

Windows 7 instability issues

Microsoft warns that Windows 7 is insecure, and can even be dangerous to use. Since it does not operate as Windows 10 does (self-updating SaaS), updates must be done manually and regularly. If you’ve been on this operating system for a while, you likely have a workflow that includes this action, but what you may not know is that pretty soon, Microsoft will cease to push out security patches and updates for Windows 7 altogether.

Ultimately, if you decide to wait, you are just delaying the inevitable and may be putting your company and its data at risk. In fact, Microsoft themselves continue to urge Windows 7 users to begin their migration as soon as possible, because the patches being issued may not be enough to keep it secure.

Cost of operation will continue to rise

You could continue to use Windows 7 if you are paying extra for a Microsoft Custom Support Agreement, but the cost of remediation, if you are indeed affected by a malicious attack may be astronomical.

By comparison, Windows 10 is fully prepared to combat these attacks and will continue to offer robust protection even as these threats become more sophisticated. Some of the ways Windows 7 will impact your bottom line include increased IT hours spent combatting malware attacks and an increased volume of support requests.

Why have your IT team chasing their tails when they could be working on something far more productive? It’s much more than dollars and cents – it’s good common sense, period.

No new features coming down the pike Windows 7 comes to an end in January 2020. Until then, updates will be limited to integral security patches, but there will be no new features added starting now. This means no tablet support, and none of the flexibility and connectivity we have begun to take for granted.

Additionally, there won’t be any new hardware driver updates, as most modern drivers are being written specifically for Windows 10 OS. This goes for all the latest software as well, so if you’re hoping to add new versions of other apps, very soon you may not be able to.

Windows 7 does not support the newer Intel, Qualcomm, or AMD chips, either; though this was likely a calculated move by Microsoft to push users towards Windows 10, there’s no use fighting it, because it just is what it is.

In 2017, Windows 10 is well-established Microsoft is urging Windows 7 users to start making the move now. With only three years left in its lifecycle, the gap is closing quickly. Having been around for a couple of years already, Windows 10 is well past its beta stage, which means that there are no surprises lurking around the corner once you do make the change.

Additional benefits include:

  • Advanced threat detection and protection
  • Post-breach machine learning
  • Windows Hello, which allows for password-free fingerprint, facial, or iris scan sign in
  • Automatic updates mean you are always protected and the newest features are at your
    fingertips
  • Apps can be purchased and deployed across the entire enterprise through Windows
  • Store for Business
  • Touch control via Windows Ink
  • Cortana personal digital assistant
  • Microsoft Edge browser

And with the upcoming Creator’s Edition update, 3D and AR functions will be added, along with many more features that could well prove to be indispensable to a creative enterprise.

Greenlight-ITC: your Microsoft gurus in Sydney and Melbourne

If you are still running Windows 7 and would like to start the process of upgrading to Windows 10, call Greenlight-ITC today. Our technicians are Microsoft certified, and ready to help you start planning your migration.

Windows 10 update

New Features Coming to Windows 10 Creators Edition

New Features Coming to Windows 10 Creators Edition 715 477 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne

If your business is on the Windows 10 Creators platform, you’re in for a treat this spring, as Microsoft rolls out some of the most exciting updates in quite some time. Anybody who works in a creative media environment will be thrilled, but there are some obvious productivity enhancements that any business will find attractive.

Most of the changes revolve around how you’ll interact with Windows, although there are some nice developer and security enhancements that you’re going to want to jump on as well.

Fluent Design: light, transparency, colour, and control

The look of your Windows desktop is going to become more fluid and three-dimensional. You’ll be able to change your Point of View (POV), and your cursor will be illuminated, as will your menus and other screen objects. You’ll also be able to use your pen to draw, notate, scroll and write directly on the screen. Additionally, Windows 10’s new colour filters will allow people who are colour blind to adjust their screens to see contrasting shades. All very esoteric, but seeing it in action is probably a better way to explain it.

Windows People

Windows will prioritize the people who you communicate with the most, allowing you to share and send files to your close contacts with just one click. You can also pin people to the taskbar for easy access, which allows you to collaborate and share from whatever application you are working in.

Find My Pen

A useful feature for the eternally busy but absent-minded; especially if you are prone to leaving your expensive digital pen in restaurants, taxis or boardrooms.

Clipboard Cloud Sync

Save your clipboard items for access on all of your devices. Clipboard Sync stores your clipboard items in the cloud, so you can seamlessly move from device to device. In addition to making life easier for you, it also serves the purpose of saving disk space and improving system performance.

Microsoft Graph and Timeline

Microsoft Graph further helps you facilitate device-to- device roaming, allowing you to return to any point on your timeline and resume what you were working on, say, last week. It’s also searchable – which brings us to the next point.

Pick Up Where You Left Off

And speaking of working on multiple devices, Cortana’s pick-up- where-you- left-off feature allows you to resume working on a project or document on any device. When you switch devices, Cortana will ask you whether you want to resume a task. This feature connects directly with your timeline as well, so whatever you do will show up on the timeline.

Application Throttling

Very helpful to save battery power on your devices or laptop, or to free up CPUs for media-rich applications. Windows will recognize apps like music players and other foreground tasks, and will not throttle them. Settings can be configured for individual apps as well in the System>Settings>Battery file menu.

OneDrive Files On-Demand

No need to sync your local device to OneDrive anymore: all OneDrive files will be visible and available for download with just one click.

Incoming call notifications

If you use an Android smartphone or another device that is connected to your Windows 10 system, you will get a notification on your desktop (or whatever device you are using) if you are receiving a call. This also gives you the option of texting them back or declining the call if you so choose.

More features to look forward to

There are so many new features in the Windows 10 Creator’s fall update to look forward to, it’s hard to list them all. Other improvements include end-to- end security features, and better Linux support. Developer mode will no longer be required in order to run Bash on Ubuntu, as you’ll be able to download it from the Windows Store, along with iTunes, Spotify, SAP Mobile and Autodesk. There is also enhanced support for 3D, VR and combined-reality.

Stay Up-to- Date with New Windows 10 Creator Features

If your company is running a Windows 10 Creators environment, or if you are thinking of migrating your company’s systems to this OS, let Greenlight-ITC help you get the most out of your investment. Call today to set up a consultation, and find out what’s possible.