How IT can keep remote workers’ Windows 7 PCs safe

Employees connecting to corporate networks via old Windows 7 devices puts businesses at high risk. Here’s how to mitigate the threat.

In the time of COVID-19, with so many people working from home, it’s inevitable that many will be using Windows 7 devices. And that’s a big security problem for IT. As of January 2020, Windows 7 is no longer supported by Microsoft. That means no security patches — particularly dangerous at a time when many people are connecting to enterprise networks from their Windows 7 PCs.

It adds up to one of the biggest security risks many companies have seen for some time. Unpatched systems can be more easily hacked than ones that regularly receive security patches. Hackers go after low-hanging fruit — and right now Windows 7 is the lowest fruit there is. As the FBI stated in an August 2020 warning to businesses:

"Continuing to use Windows 7 within an enterprise may provide cyber criminals access into computer systems. As time passes, Windows 7 becomes more vulnerable to exploitation due to lack of security updates and new vulnerabilities discovered."

So if you have remote workers using Windows 7, you should assume that your business is being targeted. Keep in mind that when a hacker gets access to a remote worker’s Windows 7 system, it’s not just that worker who’s vulnerable. So is your entire corporate network, and by extension everyone in your company.

And it’s not just today that you’ll have this problem. This pandemic may last years. Other pandemics may hit. Because of global warming, there will be more frequent storms, more powerful storms, and higher sea levels, disrupting infrastructure in many locations. Remote work, either from home or from satellite offices, has become the new normal. Many companies, including tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Slack, have already announced that they’ll allow remote work permanently for some or most of their workforce.

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