Luzerne County is working on a plan to upgrade all Windows 7 workstations to Windows 10, IT officials say. That project will be completed “by or soon after” the date the old operating systems reaches end-of-support.
(TNS) — The looming end of support for the Windows 7 operating system — cited as a concern for voting machines by election security experts — will not pose major problems for governmental bodies in Luzerne County, according to information technology managers.
However, the owner of a local computer shop urges owners of home computers that run Windows 7 to upgrade to Windows 10, the most recent Windows version, for both security and performance reasons.
Windows is a family of computer operating systems produced by technology giant Microsoft Corporation. Consumers, private businesses and public entities use Windows, which has by far the largest share of the operating system market.
Microsoft currently supports three versions of Windows: 7, 8 and 10. (Microsoft never released Windows 9.)
Windows 7 was released in October 2009. As part of the company’s 10-year support lifecycle, Microsoft will stop providing security patches for Windows 7 on Jan. 14, 2020.
Computers that run Windows 7 after that date will still work, but will be far less secure than machines that run Windows 10, according to computer security experts.
Some voting systems that run Windows 7 could be vulnerable next year, according to an Associated Press article published last week.
Luzerne County officials, in response to those concerns, said the three voting systems the county is considering for purchase are all secure and certified by state election officials.
The county’s computer network, hit by a cyberattack in May, will not be impacted significantly by the end of support for Windows 7, according to Mauro DiMauro, county director of information technology.
The county is working on a plan to upgrade all Windows 7 workstations to Windows 10, DiMauro said. That project will be completed “by or soon after” the date Windows 7 reaches end-of-support, he said.
Also, 51 computers that run Windows 7 will likely be replaced by new computers that run Windows 10 by March 2020, DiMauro said. Funding for those new computers is part of the county’s 2020 capital plan budget, which county council is expected to approve before Sept. 1.
The cyberattack discovered May 25 was not related to Windows 7 or operating system issues, according to DiMauro. The virus that infected some county-owned computers was a “zero-day attack” unique to the county network, he said.
Wilkes-Barre city is in the process of upgrading Windows 7 machines to Windows 10, according to Frank Hershberger, the city’s director of information technology.
“We have upgraded a large number of our PC’s over the last 12 months and continue to upgrade as funding allows,” Hershberger wrote in an email.
About 30 percent of the city’s computers run Windows 7, and the city is evaluating whether to upgrade the operating system on those machines or replace them outright, according to Hershberger.
City officials are exploring grant funding to cover the costs of the upgrades and replacements.
“We should be able to have everything we need upgraded by early Q1 of 2020,” Hershberger wrote.
All computers in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District run Windows 10, according to Gene Manning, the district’s technology administrator.
The district moved to Windows 10 computers two years ago, according to Manning. Even computers the district receives through donations are checked to be sure they are capable of running Windows 10, he said.
Home users should upgrade any system that runs Windows 7 before support ends in less than six months, according to Bob Chopick Jr., co-owner of Custom Computers, Inc. in Kingston.
Anyone who continues to use Windows 7 after support ends is “taking a risk of any security hole that is discovered,” Chopick said.
Computer hackers target older, unsupported operating systems when trying to spread viruses, he said.
Owners of Windows 7 computers more than a few years old should consider buying a new computer rather than just upgrading the operating system, according to Chopick.
New computers provide more powerful processors and faster solid state drives in place of older spinning hard drives, he said.
The difference in performance can be striking, Chopick said.
A Windows 10 computer with a solid state drive “will run circles around” a system running Windows 7 on a spinning hard drive, he said.
Also, software manufacturers will gradually stop supporting Windows 7 after Microsoft stops supporting it, according to Chopick.
Eventually, the current versions of popular web browsers such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox will not run on Windows 7, though that will not happen right away, he said.
©2019 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.