Data and securityCyber SecurityMajority of local authorities still running Windows 7, as end of life two-year countdown begins

Majority of local authorities still running Windows 7, as end of life two-year countdown begins

Over 128,000 council machines at risk to security vulnerabilities if migrations are not carried out by January 2020

Despite 97% of local authorities being aware of Windows 7’s end of life in January 2020, nearly a fifth (17%) are yet to plan a migration away from the operating system, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has found.

The research, which includes responses from 317 councils, highlighted that despite the issues encountered by those using legacy operating systems such as Windows XP, not enough is being done to adequately prepare for life beyond Windows 7.

Microsoft will cease to support Windows 7 after 14 January 2020 and this leaves councils across the country looking to replace the popular operating system. The natural progression away from Windows 7 is to Windows 10, but the migration between the two operating systems can be time-consuming and difficult for IT teams.

The FOIA found that only 1% of councils have completed a migration to Windows 10 and of those asked, 40% cited the biggest issue when migrating to a new operating system is the inability to move apps. Apps written 10-15 years ago were typically written for a specific operating system that they will be running on and are not always compatible with new operating systems. This is a common problem that sees councils and private companies using unsupported technology such as Windows XP.

 

Now’s the time

The FOIA also found that despite some councils being unprepared for the EOL date, 35% of IT teams claimed that previous migrations have taken between 1-2 years, meaning that preparations need to begin immediately so that the migration can be completed in time. Another 40% claimed to have carried out previous migrations in under a year.

However, even these authorities are at risk during the transition period from malware like Wannacry, or suffering significant performance degradation when they apply patches for the Spectre exploit to safeguard Windows 7 running on older hardware.

“The perils of running applications on Windows XP and 7 were highlighted by the widespread impact of the WannaCry ransomware attacks in 2017,” said Mat Clothier, CEO, CTO and Founder at Cloudhouse.

“Security patches are not produced for legacy systems, such as XP, and Windows 7 will join the list of legacy operating systems at the start of 2020. Of course, upgrading to Windows 10 is the solution for improved security and performance, but with virtually all councils using bespoke apps created for Windows 7, they would need to partake in costly re-writes to make this apps compatible with Windows 10.

“However, with the use of compatibility containers, councils and private sector organisations alike are able quickly and reliably run apps on newer versions of Windows, without re-writing the applications.”

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