Is it Time to Upgrade Your Windows 7 Computer? (Yes.)

It has been a decade since Windows 7 was released to the public, just two years after Microsoft launched the ill-fated Windows Vista, an operating system that struggled to live up to the tech leader’s predecessors. Vista was slow, insecure, and often incompatible with consumers’ existing PCs, requiring the purchase of new systems—an expense few were willing to pay. Many users chose to stick with Windows XP—released in 2001—rather than deal with the unpredictable hassle of what could, in the public’s opinion, barely be considered an upgrade. After this flop, Microsoft scrambled to restore their reputation and develop a new OS, one which would finally live up to the hype the brand name evoked.

Prior to its launch on October 22nd, 2009, Windows 7 broke the record for highest-grossing preorders on Amazon, a record previously held by the last Harry Potter novel. Upon its release, Windows 7 received high praise from critics for its new and updated features, many of which were improvements upon Vista’s poorly executed ideas. Its speed, enhanced taskbar, and sleek, touchscreen-friendly interface gave users

It’s no wonder people are unwilling to part with the OS. Its successor, Windows 8, received so much criticism from the public upon its 2012 release that Microsoft developed Windows 8.1 within the year. This updated version addressed complaints and improved mechanics many desktop users found clunky, but hardcore Windows 7 users remained unconvinced. Even after the release of Windows 10 in 2015, it took nearly three years for its worldwide market share to surpass that of 7’s, and Windows 7 still holds nearly twenty-eight percent of the worldwide market share today.

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Table 1. Desktop Windows Version Market Share Worldwide from Mar 2018 to Oct 2019 via StatCounter

But if you’re one of those stubborn Windows 7 fans, you’ll want to reconsider your stance, and soon: Microsoft is officially ending support for the OS on January 14th, 2020.

What does this mean?

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 7 in 2015. This meant that no new features would be developed for the operating system. However, the January 2020 date refers to extended support; after January 14th, Windows 7 will no longer receive security updates, and customers who continue to use it will do so at their own risk.

“My computer works just fine,” you say. “I don’t like change. If I don’t have to upgrade, why should I?”

It’s true, you don’t have to upgrade. Come January, you will still technically be able to download, install, and use Windows 7 on your PC (although EPC cannot install Windows 7 on any machine, and newer machines may not be able to run the OS). However, there are many reasons you shouldn’t.

Your PC is already insecure.

Even as Microsoft continues to release security updates, major flaws already threaten your Windows 7 computer. In March, Google announced that two zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Google Chrome and Windows could potentially be exploited together, and that only Windows 7 seemed to be affected. Issues such as these will continue to arise with third-party programs, and developers will no longer prioritize fixing problems exclusive to an old OS.

Your programs will stop working.

Security flaws aren’t the only problem that will go unresolved as time goes on. Third-party programs will stop taking Windows 7 compatibility into account when developing updates and new versions. This means that while a program you use may continue to work, any newer versions or updates run the risk of failing.

Businesses can continue receiving support for their Windows 7 machines, but it will come at a cost.

If your company depends on a program that only runs on Windows 7, you can extend your support for up to three years—for a price. Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates will be available to businesses and other organizations through “qualified Cloud Solution Provider partners.” Prices are not publicly advertised, but companies will pay an increasing amount each year per device, leading to extremely high prices for some companies; the most cost-effective option for companies is an upgrade.

And if you’re a home user looking to extend your support, well…you can’t. Upgrading is the only option.

“So what do I do now?”

If you’ve finally been convinced to upgrade, you have a few options:

Upgrade your current machine to Windows 10

This is almost certainly the best option for Windows 7 users. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most up-to-date and secure OS and continues to receive regular security updates. Windows 10 is designed to make the upgrade easier by automatically transferring your files (though we still recommend backing up your files beforehand). Windows 10’s interface is friendly to both touchscreen and non-touchscreen users, meaning both types will find their PC habits relatively unchanged. For information on upgrading to Windows 10, read Microsoft’s official FAQ here.

Purchase a new PC.

Some older PCs may run slowly or not work at all with Windows 10. If you are currently running Windows 7 on older hardware, upgrading to Windows 10 may require a few additional steps, including the purchase of a new PC. Luckily, consumers have options, and a new computer doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. You could buy new from Microsoft or another major retailer such as Dell or HP; or you could buy a refurbished PC at reduced cost. EPC offers used, refurbished devices from all major brands, and every purchased PC comes with Windows 10 Pro.

Switch to Mac or Linux

If you can’t stand the thought of switching to Windows 10, it may be time to try something new. Apple’s macOS and Linux are the two most popular alternatives to Windows, with pros and cons for both. It’s important to research each OS’s features, cost, and the transition process from Windows before making a decision. Keep in mind that Apple hardware is typically much more expensive when buying new, but EPC offers refurbished Mac products in-store or online at a discount.

With so many options to choose from, the only bad choice is doing nothing. You may be reluctant to spend the money or give up the familiar for an upgrade, but the risk to your home or business of keeping Windows 7 is too great to ignore.

Okay, I’ve made the switch. My computer is secure now, right?

Maybe not. While upgrading your operating system is an important step, you also need to keep your software up to date. Using older versions of programs such as Microsoft Office can also pose a security risk. Microsoft Office 365 is the most up-to-date Office product available from Microsoft. Check to make sure each of your programs is running its most current version.

Your transition to a new system doesn’t have to be painful. For more information on how EPC can help you make the switch, visit our store at 3941 Harry S Truman Blvd, St. Charles, Missouri 63301 or call us at (636)443-1999.

References

Desktop Windows Version Market Share Worldwide. (2019, November 11). Retrieved from StatsCounter: https://gs.statcounter.com/windows-version-market-share/desktop/worldwide

Foley, M. J. (2019, October 1). Microsoft to make Windows 7 Extended Security Updates available to all business users. Retrieved from ZDNet: https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-to-make-windows-7-extended-security-updates-available-to-all-business-users/

Hoffman, C. (2019, October 9). How Windows 7’s “Extended Security Updates” Will Work. Retrieved from How-To Geek: https://www.howtogeek.com/443573/how-windows-7s-extended-security-updates-will-work/

Johnson, B. (2009, October 21). Windows 7 set to break retail records. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2009/oct/21/windows-7-launch

Lecigne, C. (2019, March 7). Disclosing vulnerabilities to protect users across platforms. Retrieved from Google Security Blog: https://security.googleblog.com/2019/03/disclosing-vulnerabilities-to-protect.html

McIntyre, D. A. (2009, May 14). The 10 Biggest Tech Failures of the Last Decade. Retrieved from Time: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1898610_1898625_1898627,00.html

Warren, T. (2013, June 26). Windows 8.1: A First Look at What Microsoft is Changing. Retrieved from The Verge: https://www.theverge.com/2013/6/26/4465888/windows-8-1-preview-video

The Risks of SSDs (and How to Keep Your Data Safe)

When exploring your options for data storage, you may find yourself tempted by the exciting new technology of flash memory, and it’s no wonder. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are the new craze, and as the technology develops and prices drop, more and more individuals and companies alike are turning their backs on traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and making the switch. But what makes SSDs so special? 

Unlike your typical HDD, an SSD contains no moving parts—no spinning platters, no read-and-write heads—and does not use magnetic storage. While an HDD is susceptible to external factors such as loud noises, pressure changes, movement, and magnets, SSDs are more resistant, making them an ideal choice for protecting valuable data from damage or loss. 

However, the advantages to SSDs can become challenges when it comes to data disposal. While methods such as wiping, degaussing, and shredding are effective on HDDs, an SSD requires special attention. If you or your business chooses SSDs for data storage, it is necessary to find an ITAD company that can guarantee their methods meet legal standards for data destruction. Not every company can, and that is where EPC comes in. 

EPC offers multiple erasure and destruction methods specifically designed with SSD destruction in mind. If you’re looking to reuse or sell your drives, our erasure software ensures all data is wiped from the drive and is truly unrecoverable. If you’re looking to destroy your drives, our SSD shredder is built to shred them to the legal minimum particle size standard, a feat not possible with typical industrial HDD shredders. 

Scared to ship your drives off-site? EPC can come to you. All data destruction services can be done at your own facility, meaning none of your data is left vulnerable during shipping or transfer. No matter what your needs are, you can rest easy knowing EPC will keep your data secure. 

Watch our SSD shredder in action below! 

Health Records Lost in Data Breach

New years bring new opportunities but also new problems. Yesterday, a very large company in our area announced that they were on the hunt for 6 hard drives that were now missing. That probably not that big of a concern for you – or is it? If you were one of the more than 950,000 people whose personal information was on those hard drives, it suddenly becomes one of the largest problems of all-time for you.

While you may not have millions of dollars to steal, what you DO have that is likely to be stolen is your identity, which will inevitably be used to initiate fraudulent credit cards, online accounts of all kinds and more activity that will have lasting impact on you. How about the business perspective?

Are You Ready for YOUR Company to Be in the Headlines? Get Protected with EPC, Inc.This breach (with more details coming out as the hours go by) will end up costing this company millions of dollars on it’s own. Implementing credit reporting for almost a million people alone is a nightmare. Now let’s talk about the health care record monitoring that will also need to be implemented to ensure data integrity.

The price skyrockets even more.

While your company may not be as large, or as public as the one in question here, the question to ask yourself is this:

What if it was YOUR company in the spotlight?

Is YOUR company exposed? What is your company’s “Data Destruction” policy? Do you even have one? It’s time to implement a trusted, NAID-certified ITAD/Data Destruction solution now, and that solution starts with EPC, Inc. With more than 30 years in business, and 9 locations in North America, we stand ready to protect your data, your reputation and your company’s future.

Download EPC’s “IT Security Risks – Overlooked Vulnerabilities & Best Practices” White Paper

You spend thousands of dollars and untold hours of time to protect the data in your company– well. Maybe you don’t.

Whether you provide attention to your company’s security or not, be sure to take just a few minutes to download our newest tool to help you understand the important parts of what “Overlooked Security Vulnerabilities” that will change the way you provide time and budget to your company.

Shutting Down or Moving? How to Choose the Right Asset Disposition and Remarketing Partner

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From Patrick Mann: ITAD SalesEPC, Inc.

Whether you’re a property manager, an IT or data center manager, a lessor, or a liquidation manager, when your company charges you with disposition of physical IT assets, there’s little room for error. Because of the unplanned and chaotic nature of the situations that call for IT asset disposition, you’re often up against a hard deadline and a shifting, disorganized environment.

When disposing of IT assets in these situations, your task is to mitigate the risk to your organization and get the job done quickly.

Common situations that call for quick disposition of IT assets include:

• Bankruptcy
• Consolidation
• Merger
• Data center merger
• Downsizing
• Closing a division or data center

Usually, when these situations occur, the property manager or IT manager doesn’t have much time to plan and manage the disposition. In these chaotic situations, often the best approach to asset disposition is to partner with an experienced asset disposition solution provider or equipment re-marketer with the expertise and facilities to handle the logistical challenge.

Here are three things to consider when evaluating a potential asset disposition partner:

• Expertise: Is the solution provider familiar with your equipment? A trained representative can appraise the equipment on site and tell you whether or not it’s worth removing. In some situations, understanding each party’s obligations and liability for data security and the equipment itself will determine the best disposition process. An expert in reverse logistics and asset disposition can help you sort through the different scenarios.

• Ability: It sounds the same as expertise, but it’s not. You can find people who know a lot about reselling equipment, but are they able to utilize company employees and bring in the labor to move the equipment out before your deadline? Do they have certified processes for handling and destroying data? When you’re working with a strict timetable—perhaps you’ve been allocated a certain number of days by a bankruptcy court or your company’s lease is expiring—you need a solution provider who knows the equipment and can move it out quickly and efficiently and ensure data security

• Logistics: Where is the equipment going? How is it getting there? Is it being packed and handled to prevent damage and maintain maximum resale value? Is the chain of custody clear and secure?

• Value: The financial value your organization is getting back through the asset disposition should be an important factor when deciding on a solution provider, but it should not be the only one. Consider all of your costs such as the use of internal resources, transportation to far away facilities, as well risks of data breach or environmental non-compliance. The costs could outweigh the value of the assets themselves. The right asset disposition partner will help you minimize all of the costs and the risks while maximizing the return.

When you’re under the clock because of a merger, bankruptcy, data center closing, or another similar scenario, you don’t want to make mistakes. Partnering with a responsible and experienced IT asset disposition provider can make the difference between a smooth, organized process, and a chaotic, disorganized one.

Interesting New Numbers on Data Breaches – The Numbers Will Stack Up Against YOUR Company

From Eric Levy: ITAD Sales, EPC, Inc.

EPC, Inc, now in it’s 30th year of business, continues to be a centerpiece of information in regard to Data Security. We have been offering companies of all sizes options that ensure compliance with specific industry standards to help protect companies reputation and information. A recent article from DataBreaches.Net shows just how important it is to be compliant.

“Nearly 1 in 4 data breach letter recipients became a victim of identity fraud, with breaches involving Social Security numbers to be the most damaging.”

This is a staggering number and cannot be overlooked. That means that if your company had an “average sized” Data Breach from a mishandled asset or drive of 554 leaked names*, you would have 139 customers or clients that now have had their entire identity taken from them. This is a process that can take from 3-7 years to reclaim not to mention the untold number of dollars that it will cost YOUR COMPANY to make this happen.

The next time you have retired assets that your boss told you to “get rid of” don’t just think of your potential feel good moment of running into that boss’ office and telling him you got rid of all of those “old” computers and were able to do it for no money. Think about that boss’ reaction when you have to tell him the guy that did it for free just stole you client’s identities and you now have to deal with the absolute costs associated with a breach – along with the unknown costs of lost business. EPC offers true, peace of mind and for very little time on your part. We offer fluid solutions to fit any company in any industry.

Contact EPC and learn more about our Industry-leading Data Security operations. We would love to help you review your protocols to make sure you are compliant within your industry.

*The data to describe an average size breach is from 2012. We expect the average size of a breach to continue to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future.

Please feel free to contact EPC and learn more about our Industry leading Data Security operations. We would love to help you review your protocols to make sure you are compliant within your industry.

How Many Hurdles are In Between a Thief and Your Phone’s Data?

Let’s face it: If you can rember 5 phone numbers of even your family members in today’s time (unless it’s part of a jingle), you are on the cusp of being an informational genius at this point.

Today, we as technology-addicted humans put in not just phone numbers, but intimate family-based information, account numbers to insurance and bill-paying outlets of all kinds and most importantly: PASSWORDS to the stuff that helps you and/or your company make money.

But what are you doing to protect that literal electronic treasure trove you have on your phone? A recent article over at CNN.Com (listed below) has found that only one in three smartphone users are using a password to protect their data. That means that 7 people, literally have an open-door policy to – well – anyone. Having just changed phone companies (oddly enough, to the exact same phone, just a different carrier) I realized as I was choosing the passcode for my new technological terror how as a connected IT professional, just how critical it is to have a password in place.

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At any one time, I have access to company’s websites, my own websites, personal information of every kind all within a moments touch to help me make my day more productive, and to have one, mobile, digital “place” to get all of the information right now. And THAT’s why there’s a passcode, not only to get “into” my phone, but also the information management software that’s on my phone.

What are YOU and the people (especially your sales staffs) doing to help ensure that if one of their phones, with sensitive customer information were found/stolen? Are you using a password to block instant access to your mobile phone’s content? Read the article via the link below and then tell us here what YOU and your company have implemented to prevent the true nightmare scenario…

“Three of 10 Smartphone Users Don’t Use Passwords” at CNN.Com

Are Hackers Tracking You via Your Cell Phone?

While it sounds like something from the movie Enemy of the State, new research from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering indicates that attackers can capture the same information used by cellphone companies to track cellular handsets to pinpoint a target’s location. This attack leverages features of the GSM communication stack to perform location tests without the alerting the target.

These location tests are used by cellular providers to find the best path on their networks to route calls and can be accurate to a 10-block area in metropolitan areas. 3rd party access to this data usually requires a warrant. However using commodity hardware and open source technology, the researchers were able to directly capture this information. They did not have to contact the local cellular company for access.

The authors conclude that this formation could be used by oppressive regimes to track down dissidents or for thieves could target a person and identify when they were no longer at their home.

The authors have contacted carriers and phone handset manufactures, such as AT&T and Nokia to discuss mitigation techniques and are working on responsible disclosure statements for cellular service providers.

Source Article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120216165701.htm#.T0JUDgoV6-4.email

Playbook security hole makes personal information available

RIM PlaybookResearch in Motion just cannot catch a break with their tablet, the Playbook. Not only are sales lagging behind Apple and Android offerings, forcing RIM to cut pricing to $299; but now security researchers have discovered email and other personal information could be stolen via malware. The security weakness is exploited using Playbook Bridge, a software designed to link to a Blackberry phone via Bluetooth. While Bridge protects information in transit, a file readable by any native application on the Playbook contains the users BBM username and password. A rouge application could potentially read this file and use the contained credentials to retrieve any information stored in the user’s BBM account.

RIM has acknowledged the vulnerability and promised a fix in the upcoming Playbook OS 2.0 update, which is due to be released in early February 2011. RIM has also recommended that users avoid installing applications from untrusted sources, which will reduce the risk of exposure.

Source: CIO.com – Email, Personal Information on PlayBook Left Vulnerable to Hackers

Do you know who your friends are?

It sounds like a plot out of  a summer spy movie, but security researcher Thomas Ryan tested what would happen when posting a fake profile of a real-life Abby Scuito. The results? Over 300 “friends” in the military, information security, and intelligence fields, a few job offers, and invitations to security conferences.

Ryan, the co-founder of Provide Security, said the goal of the study was to determine how effective social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn would be as tools in covert intelligence-gathering activities. He crafted “Robin Sage”, a 25 year old Navy cyber threat analyst who graduated from MIT. Even though the profile had some red flags, like a 25 year old having “10 years experience,” it took less than a month to make connections with many in security related fields. Virtual friends shared photos, personal information, invited Robin to conferences, and a few even expressed interest in hiring her.

If Robin were a foreign agent, she would have had access to a lot of very useful information, said Ryan, who is scheduled to present his findings at the upcoming BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas.

Even if you are not in the spy game, what can you learn from this?

  • Like your momma said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
  • If you don’t know them, don’t friend them.
  • Always be mindful of how information posted online could be used against you by identity thieves. For example, how many answers to your security questions for your bank account can be gathered from your Facebook profile?

Social networking has the potential to bring friends together regardless of distance, just be careful who you invite to the party.

Article Inspiration: CIO.com – Fake ‘Femme Fatale’ Shows Social Network Risks