What does the end of life of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 mean for manufacturers?

On the 14th January 2020 Microsoft will end support on Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. After this date, Windows 7 will go the way of Windows XP in becoming a legacy operating system, meaning Microsoft will no longer offer security patching or support, with all the risks and complications that go alongside that.

From this date, operators still using Windows 7 and/or Windows Server 2008 R2 will be putting themselves at a significantly increased risk of being exploited by cyber security attacks.

The effect that operating legacy systems has on security was clearly demonstrated with the WannaCry outbreak in May 2017. Within the NHS, embedded devices such as MRI scanners were running Windows XP, leading them to being more susceptible to being exploited by this attack causing widespread disruption.

So, given there has been a startling increase in the number of security attacks against Industrial control systems (ICS), such as programmable logic controllers (PLC), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems and human machine interfaces (HMI) over the past few years, the need to address the risks of operating legacy operating systems for manufacturers can’t be ignored.

 

What does that mean for my OT systems?

Operational Technology (OT) installations have a longer life expectancy than those in the IT world, so although many OT vendors provide extended support for their hardware and software, if the operating systems which they operate upon falls out of support, does this end of support mean end of life for OT systems?

When considering an upgrade to your operating system, it would be prudent to review your complete system architecture, as it could open up a whole host of options for also upgrading the applications you use – previously not supported on the legacy operating systems being ran.

You also need to consider if important systems and applications you are running can and are supported on these newer operating systems.

Taking Wonderware InTouch for example; anyone running a version of InTouch older than InTouch 2014 R2 will find that this is not supported if your operating system is updated to Windows 10. So, upon embarking on an O/S upgrade an upgrade of your InTouch application will also need to be considered.

 

But is this such a bad thing?

In maintaining legacy systems, companies may be overlooking the cost of the missed opportunity for operational improvements. If you’re relying on old applications, you’re not allowing your business to realise the benefits which newer, improved applications could bring.

By being proactive in keeping systems up-to-date you can reap long term benefits in improving your operational efficiency. You can gain access to the latest features and support, whilst protecting your business against these cyber threats and potential disruption at the same time.

 

For more information take a look at our latest webinar.

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