As 2019 gets ready to draw to a close and companies begin planning for success in 2020, there’s one IT task that should be at the top of their to-do list—an update to Windows 10. Those still sticking with Windows 7 must update their machines prior to January 2020 in order to remain secure while taking full advantage of modern, cloud-based services such as Office 365.

A decade ago, Microsoft released Windows 7, and the operating system quickly became popular amongst both professionals and personal users. As of October 1, 2019, more than one-third of active PCs continued to run Windows 7, and it wasn’t even until the beginning of 2019 that Windows 10 finally surpassed Windows 7 as the more popular OS.

Windows 7 is very popular, but just how important is it to make the switch?

 

Windows 7 Will Leave PCs at Risk

Among the most crucial end of life concerns for Windows 7 is that security patches for Windows 7 will no longer be released, leaving PCs running Windows 7 vulnerable to serious attacks like Smominru, a massive, cryptocurrency-mining botnet infecting Windows systems.

Small businesses continuing to use Windows 7 will arguably be the group most at risk with the end of Windows 7 security updates.

 

No Windows 10, No Office 365

While there’s no doubting the importance of the security concerns soon to be associated with Windows 7, perhaps just as impactful to companies is the fact that, beginning in January, Office 365 apps will no longer be able to run on systems not running Windows 10.

As one of the most popular tools available for productivity and collaboration, Office 365 is a critical component of many companies’ operations. Without the latest versions of Office 365 and the full compatibility offered, the daily functions of most organisations would be significantly hindered.

Email, calendars, meeting tools, presentation creation, spreadsheet creation—all would be gone. Clearly, with Office 365 only compatible with Windows 10, businesses who don’t make the switch could see serious ramifications.

The take-home message? The sooner companies upgrade to Windows 10, the better.

 

After the Update

So, what’s next on the list of company New Year’s resolutions?

It turns out that simply updating to Windows 10 isn’t enough to keep your organisation’s data entirely secure—companies will need to ensure that each of their machines is configured correctly, too, if they want to maintain their privacy. In this case, the default settings aren’t good enough!

 

Windows 10 Spying - DC Networks

Is Windows 10 Spying on You?

To be clear, upgrading to Windows 10 is entirely necessary, and one way or another, businesses will have to leave Windows 7 behind. However, it’s also very important for Windows 10 adopters to be aware of how to protect their privacy when using the new OS.

There are possible Windows 10 configuration settings that can allow for massive amounts of data collection. There are features of the OS hidden within Cortana, that allow the OS to log everything that is said, typed, and clicked.

Both companies and individuals are encouraged to be aware of this, and follow the steps below in order to maintain their privacy.

 

How to Ensure Privacy In Windows 10

First things first—companies new to Windows 10 should immediately take action to protect their privacy by adjusting their privacy settings. Perhaps most important is disabling the Windows 10 keylogger and preventing Cortana from tracking all speech and dictation:

  1. Open Windows Settings, then select Privacy.
  2. Within the left-hand side menu is a section called Feedback & Diagnostics. In this section, users have the option to select how much information they send to Microsoft. Select Basic to send minimal data.
  3. Again within the Settings and Privacy menu, select Diagnostics & Feedback. Beneath the section labelled “Improve Inking & Typing Recognition,” toggle the selection to OFF.
  4. Within the Settings menu, select Privacy again and head to the General tab. One feature titled “Send Microsoft information about my writing to improve my typing and writing in the future” should be toggled to OFF.
  5. In the Speech, Ink & Type menu, select “Stop getting to know me” to prevent Cortana from logging speech and dictation information.
  6. Finally, navigate to Settings, then Privacy, then Activity History and ensure that the box next to “Let Windows collect my activities from this PC” is unchecked.

Users may also want to turn off location tracking by navigating to the Location menu within Privacy settings, click Change beneath the section titled “Allow access to location on this device,” and then toggling the slider to OFF.

 

Wrapping Up

With the increased risk of cyber security breaches and with Office 365 no longer compatible with Windows 7, it’s time for even the most loyal users of Windows 7 to move on. At the end of the day, companies’ PCs and powerful collaborating programs like Office 365 are all just technology, and in the world of tech, staying modern is the name of the game.