A leading cyber-security expert is warning people and businesses to ensure they have updated their computers from Windows 7.
Microsoft is no longer updating security on the operating system, which means it is increasingly vulnerable to hackers.
Matt Horan, security director of C3IA Solutions – one of the first companies to be certified by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – said the risks grow each day.
GCHQ – the government’s secretive intelligence and communications HQ – has already advised people not to use Windows 7 for banking online.
Matt, from the cyber-security business headquartered in Poole, Dorset, said: “Windows 7 will no longer be routinely patched to improve its security – therefore anything running on it will be vulnerable to attack.
“It was rumoured that Microsoft would roll over and continue to support the system due to customer pressure, but they are not.
“From a security perspective we have to ask: why would anyone stay on an unsupported operating system when Windows 10 has much more security?
“Some will argue that they have critical systems running on Windows 7 and changing it is all too difficult.
“Our view is that if it is critical then it needs to migrate to Windows 10.
“Microsoft has stated that Windows 10 will be the last operating system change and any future changes will be tweaks to the Windows 10 base code.
“So Windows 10 will in time morph and change but will be the foundation for Microsoft’s future.
“We know that when Windows XP became unsupported in 2014 it was not long before hackers started taking advantage.
“This upgrade to Windows 10 is the most basic thing people and businesses can do to improve their cyber security.
“But Cyber Essentials and other official schemes are available and should also be utilised.”
It is estimated that there are more than 440 million people still using Windows 7 worldwide.
Windows 7 – first released in 2009 – has previously been the subject of a high-profile attack.
In 2017, most of the NHS computers infected by the WannaCry ransomware attack, were found to be using the operating system.
This caused almost 19,500 hospital appointments – including cancer referrals – to be cancelled.
An attack on a small business could be catastrophic.
According to research by ISP provider Beaming, the number of internet-borne attacks in 2019 was 152 percent higher than the 281,094 recorded in 2018.
It revealed that on average, cyber-criminals from around the world subjected UK businesses to 66 different attacks every hour during 2019.