In early 2020, support for Windows 7 came to an end. This operating system joins the list of others, such as Windows XP, that no longer receive any kind of support from Microsoft. The slightest flaw discovered in these systems will put users at risk indefinitely. And not only that, but through these security flaws the other computers connected to the network can be endangered. Even if they are Windows 10 with the latest security patches.
Today using a system like Windows XP is totally counterproductive. Without going any further, many of the modern web pages do not work properly on this operating system. And neither are TLS / SSL connections. Although Windows 7, at the moment, does not have problems of this type, at any moment it can become an equal or even worse threat to XP within a local network.
Problems That Legacy Operating Systems Can Cause
Every time malware (especially Trojans and ransomware) hide advanced methods to infect other computers within the same network through vulnerabilities known as EternalBlue.
If a computer on the network, regardless of whether it is Windows 7 or Windows XP, falls victim to this type of computer threat, this malware will directly be sent through the network to all other computers. And depending on the configuration and the security software we use, we may or may not fall victim to it.
The same goes for direct cyber attacks. 7 and XP are direct gateways for all types of hackers. If an attacker manages to gain control of these computers, he will be able, without much effort, to connect to the other computers on the local network.
Also, both XP and Windows 7 use old, unsupported, and incompatible protocols. Without going any further, Windows 7 cannot communicate with the latest versions of Windows 10 because this second version has SMB 1.0 disabled by default.
With Windows XP things go further, and as we have said, this operating system not only does not have updated browsers (which adds a plus of danger), but it does not directly support today’s secure connections, so many of the webs do not load.
How to protect your network of computers with Windows XP or Windows 7
Ideally, if we have a computer on our network that still runs Windows XP, we should get rid of it. Sooner. Not only because of the security problems involved in having it connected, but because in the face of the Internet it will not do us much good either.
If we have a computer with Windows 7, what we must do is update to Windows 10 for free with the trick that Microsoft offers us. Windows 10 performs the same as Windows 7 in terms of performance and needs the same minimum requirements. However, the security improvement we get is incalculable.
In case, ultimately, there is nothing left but to keep using the same insecure operating system, then there are some tips to help us stay safe.
Disconnect your computer from the Internet
If you use that computer to connect to the Internet, badly done. If we use the computer for work or to play multimedia content, it is not necessary that it be connected to the Internet.
Therefore, unless it is strictly necessary, the best thing we can do for our security, and that of all who connect to our same local network, is to disconnect computers with Windows XP and Windows 7 from the Internet.
In this way, it will be more difficult for them to become infected with malware. And if they do, they will not be able to endanger others.
Set Windows 7 and XP as connected to a public network
If we have these computers connected to our router, one way (not very efficient, by the way) to isolate them and try to protect the other computers is to configure it as connected to a public network.
This configuration, which is usually inside the firewall, is responsible for blocking all functions to share data and resources and communicate with other computers.
It would also be recommended that all other computers be configured as a public network. None could communicate with each other or with other resources (such as printers or NAS) on the network, but at least they would be safe.
Isolate Windows 7 Windows XP computers on the router itself
Another configuration that we can also take into account is to isolate the computers with Windows 7 and Windows XP within the network. We can use different VLANs or directly configure them within a totally different network at the IP and subnet mask level.
If the computer is connected via Wi-Fi, then we can use the typical “guest Wi-Fi network ” to connect all obsolete computers to the Internet. As this network is usually isolated from the rest of the local network, these computers will not pose any problem for the rest.
Use another internet connection
Another way to continue using these computers, and connect them to the Internet, without endangering others is by using another Internet connection. Although it is more expensive, we are investing in security.
We can hire a second connection for our house, or use a 4G data connection to connect said computer to the Internet.
Properly protect all computers
In addition to these basic security measures, it is also our responsibility to properly protect all computers on the network.
In the case of computers that have Windows 10 installed, we must take basic security measures, that is, install all the updates from Windows Update and have a good antivirus protecting our data.
When we talk about outdated operating systems, then things change. With Windows XP the truth is that there is little we can do, since there is hardly even an antivirus to protect this system. However, we can properly protect Windows 7 for now to prevent this system from falling into the hands of hackers. At least for now.