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Microsoft Window 7

Cyber-security experts advise Windows 7 users to upgrade their OS.

Microsoft will stop promoting Windows 7 from Tuesday, so it can concentrate on "new technologies."  As a result, users of Windows 7 will no longer receive the essential security updates and patches that keep their machines safe.

According to statistics website StatCounter one in four Windows users runs Windows 7.

What does all of that mean?

It means Microsoft is ending the cat-and-mouse game with hackers seeking to exploit Windows 7 operating system software bugs.

If perpetrators find a flaw in Windows 7, Microsoft is not going to fix that.

Windows 7 computers are more likely to get infected with viruses and malware without continuous software and security updates, Microsoft wrote on its website.

"Running an unpatched computer ensures that the code vulnerabilities will never be fixed and as exploits for those bugs are established and common, the chances of being successfully attacked are growing very fast," said Rik Ferguson, Trend Micro's vice president of security research.

David Emm, a senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, has added that people need to move as soon as possible to a supported operating system.

What are those risks?

Hackers use malware to have computers invaded, damaged or disabled.

By knowing it, it can be used to steal personal and financial data, spy on other users, and keep businesses to ransom before payment is made.

The NHS has been struck by the WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017.

A government report in 2018 found that if NHS Trusts had upgraded their systems and implemented the necessary security updates the attack could have been stopped.

Hackers exploited weaknesses in unpatched versions of Windows 7 and the earlier Windows XP, which Microsoft had stopped supporting, to a lesser degree.

School software upgrade has led to' jammed' network urgent warning over' serious' Windows 7 bug Microsoft is hitting $1 trillion market valuation What are you supposed to do with your Windows 7 PC?

Computers running Windows 7 will still function after Tuesday but becoming less and less stable.

Microsoft is urging people to move to a new operating system, Windows 10, which it sells for £ 120.

"The best way for you to remain safe on Windows 10 is to go forward," it said. "And the best way to experience Windows 10 is on a new PC." Windows 10 can be installed on old PCs but Microsoft warns it might not run smoothly.

PCs must have a 1GHz processor, 16 GB of hard disk space and 1 GB of RAM memory to run Windows 10.

"It's not recommended to install Windows 10 on your older device though," Microsoft said.

That said, if you are using your PC offline, Windows 7 users won't need to update.

What is it that officials in the UK say?
UK authorities have warned Windows 7 users after Tuesday not to do internet banking or send them emails.

The warning was issued by the National Cyber Security Center, part of the GCHQ intelligence agency in Britain, and first reported by The Telegraph.

"We would urge those using the software to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible after the deadline, move sensitive data to a supported device and not use it for tasks such as accessing bank and other sensitive accounts," a NCSC spokesperson told BBC.

"They should consider accessing email from a different device, too." Some firms rely heavily on applications which work only with Windows 7.

If businesses want to continue receiving updates for Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterprise, Microsoft can pay for this.

The Windows 7 Extended Security Updates are available for companies of all sizes until 2023.

Charges range from $25 (£ 19) per device up to $200 per device, and each year rise. The costs for organizations with lots of computers will be mounting quickly.

For businesses, upgrading to a newer operating system isn't always easy, Mr Ferguson said.

"Business-critical applications may not be running on newer operating systems, or significant costs may be associated with upgrading those applications," he said.

Locations such as hospitals and factories may have equipment designed solely for running on Windows 7.

"Unless the warranty is voided, the user can not always upgrade," Mr Ferguson said.