Unsupported, Undocumented Platforms: A Risk Too Great

News and information from the Advent IM team.

In the ever-evolving world of technology, staying up-to-date with the latest software and security measures is paramount. However, some industries, like manufacturing, even security manufacturing, can lag behind in adopting new technologies due to various reasons, including cost concerns, legacy systems, and the belief that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This resistance to change can sometimes lead to serious consequences, especially when it comes to using outdated operating systems like Windows 7 in manufacturing computers.

We have seen recently, that even if a business has taken pains to update corporate systems and protect them accordingly, the lack of an information asset register can mean a rogue platform may still be operating, unpatched and unsupported with a total lack of ownership to ensure its secure operation. In this blog post, we’ll explore the dangers and risks associated with relying on unsupported operating systems such as Windows 7, in the manufacturing sector and anywhere else for that matter.

Security Vulnerabilities

One of the most significant dangers of using Windows 7 in manufacturing computers is the exposure to security vulnerabilities. Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020, meaning it no longer receives security updates, patches, or bug fixes. This leaves any system running Windows 7 susceptible to a wide range of cyber threats, including viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Manufacturing companies often store sensitive data such as production processes, product designs, and customer information on their computer systems. Failing to keep these systems updated and secure can result in data breaches, intellectual property theft, and financial losses. With a focus on securing a corporate network, other computers may be forgotten or fall outside the remit of the cybersecurity team, but still require support. We experienced this on a huge scale with WannaCry and NotPetya and its rampage through unpatched systems.

Compliance and Regulation Concerns

Many industries, including manufacturing, are subject to strict compliance and regulation standards. Depending on the products being manufactured, there may be specific regulations related to data security, product quality, and safety. Using an outdated operating system like Windows 7 can make it challenging to comply with these standards, potentially leading to legal consequences, fines, and damage to a company’s reputation.

Decreased Productivity and Efficiency

Efficiency and productivity are vital in the manufacturing sector. Outdated software can lead to system crashes, slow performance, and compatibility issues with newer hardware and software applications. This can result in production delays, increased downtime, and higher operational costs as employees spend more time troubleshooting and less time on productive tasks.

Lack of Support

With the end of support for Windows 7, obtaining technical support and assistance for any issues that arise becomes increasingly difficult. This lack of support can lead to prolonged system downtime, extended repair times, and increased maintenance costs as companies may have to rely on third-party providers for assistance.

Missed Opportunities for Innovation

Technology is constantly advancing, and new software solutions are being developed to enhance productivity and streamline operations in the manufacturing industry. Sticking with Windows 7 prevents manufacturers from taking advantage of these innovations and staying competitive in the market. Embracing newer operating systems and software can lead to improved automation, data analytics, and predictive maintenance capabilities.

The dangers of using Windows 7 in manufacturing computers are clear and should not be underestimated. The security risks, compliance concerns, decreased productivity, lack of support, and missed opportunities for innovation make it imperative for manufacturing companies to migrate to modern and supported operating systems.

While the transition may require initial investments and adjustments, the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. By staying current with technology, manufacturing companies can enhance their cybersecurity, meet regulatory requirements, boost productivity, and position themselves for success in an increasingly competitive industry. It’s time for manufacturers to recognize the risks of Windows 7 and take proactive steps to safeguard their operations and data.

A good place to start is your Information Asset Register. You can use this to track what platforms are live, who owns them, who has access and privileges on them, and who owns change management for them. You can append a range of important and helpful information to your Information Asset Register.  This will help you plan securely to end-of-life platforms that offer security risk to your organisation and establish ownership of the risk should you choose not to replace it with a supported platform. Talk to us if this is something you need help with.

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