Cyber criminals 'lining up' as Windows 7 support to end
One in four Irish companies are scheduled to have IT security support withdrawn by Microsoft in the coming months, unless they buy new PCs or pay extra fees.
The technology giant will stop protecting Windows 7 from viruses and malware from January 14, except for those who pay a new premium for extended security support.
Two years ago, Ireland faced a ransomware epidemic partially due to out-of-date Windows software on PCs.
The malware, including Wannacry, shut down HSE services and caused a number of small businesses to pay criminals hundreds or thousands of euro in cash to unlock their PCs. In three months’ time, hundreds of thousands of Irish PCs face potentially similar vulnerabilities when their operating systems lose security support.
“Cyber criminals are very much lining up to take advantage of this,” said Conor Flynn, one of the country’s most senior IT security specialists.
“There’s no question that we’ll see an impact from this.”
"It will lead to attacks, whether ransomware or other types of exploits on computers because they will be vulnerable," said Mr Flynn, managing director of ISAS.
Microsoft has warned that only those who pay a new premium for security 'extended support' will be safe from the expected malware attacks.
This new premium annual fee looks set to between €50 and €100 per PC per year for a maximum of three years.
Even though the deadline is just weeks away, Microsoft has not yet disclosed how much extended support will cost for small businesses.
"We don't have an answer on that yet," said Shirley Finnerty, the business group lead for Windows and devices at Microsoft Ireland.
Pricing is expected to be revealed in December. Reports earlier in the year suggested it was briefing enterprise customers on the likely costs.
For Windows 7 Pro, the cost was reportedly almost €50 per device for the first 12 months, double that for the next 12 months, and then double again (almost €200) for the remaining 12 months.
So an organisation with 1,000 PCs stuck using Windows 7 Pro could face an upfront security fee of €50,000 in 2020, rising to €200,000 in 2022 if they do not sort out upgrades in time.
Comparisons are being drawn to the chaotic end-of-support problems that occurred when Windows XP was cut off from security support five years ago when a wave of viruses and malware caused havoc.