Unpatched cracks in the foundation

I know some of you are still using Windows 7 and my recommendation is to upgrade as soon as possible. The expiration date for Microsoft’s Windows 7 is now in our rearview mirror.

It’s easy to become complacent, even wonder what the big deal was to move off of Windows 7, as your computer continued to tick when the sun rose on Jan. 15. Probably that’s how many of us felt with the “Y2K scare” when the sky didn’t fall, the missiles didn’t auto-launch, and the financial markets – for the most part – didn’t crash when the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2000.

A couple years ago I heard some squeaking in our basement that I eventually found to be caused by a lonely baby field mouse. I checked the foundation for cracks and to my relief, there were no discernible cracks. My conclusion was that the baby field mouse must have sneaked into the house and went down the stairs while I unloaded the groceries through the side door that remained ajar for a while.

That crack in the foundation is a good analogy as to why Microsoft sends their users monthly security updates for their various Windows operating systems that they still support. Although Microsoft issued a Windows 7 update shortly after its expiration date, it wasn’t a security update but an update to fix a cosmetic (display of wallpaper) functionality.

Meaning ... if Microsoft sticks to their guns, users will not see any more security updates for Windows 7. As new vulnerabilities, i.e. cracks, are discovered in Windows 7, Microsoft will not patch them up for you. Your risk goes up exponentially.

Although just having an unpatched vulnerability doesn’t mean your computer will be infected, it exponentially increases the risk. "Phishing,” i.e. emails with nefarious attachments, attempts are becoming visually sophisticated to make themselves look like a message sent from a legitimate sender to fool the recipient to take action. Remember, don’t open unsolicited messages to begin with. These nefarious attachments, if opened, will most probably look to see if the known cracks are unpatched. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 users will have the known cracks patched but Windows 7 users will just be out of luck, underlining the importance of having these monthly updates from Microsoft in the first place.

If you get bitten by a poisonous snake, there may be a known antidote for the venom. Antivirus software, for the most part, works the same conceptually. By continuously updating their “definitions,” the equivalent of antidotes, they can identify a known virus and stop it or clean an infected computer. Many third-party antivirus vendors may continue to update their software for the now expired Windows 7. But any new computer virus or malware strain not yet in their definitions, combined with the unpatched vulnerabilities, increases your risk of being victimized if you get phished or go to a nefarious website while using Windows 7.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with almost 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 12, Issue 4, Posted 10:08 AM, 02.18.2020