Microsoft ends support for Windows 7 today © Getty Images

Microsoft ends support for Windows 7 today

National Cyber Security Centre recommends sensitive data be moved to a supported device and not be used for tasks like accessing online banking.

PC users running Windows 7 have been warned to upgrade to avoid possible cyber attacks as support for the software ends.

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The 10-year-old operating system will no longer receive critical updates from today onwards, meaning Microsoft will stop patching any weaknesses that appear, making machines vulnerable to hacker attacks.

According to NetMarketShare estimations for the end of 2019, Windows 7 is still one of the most popular Windows operating systems with a 32.74 per cent global share, second only to Microsoft’s most recent version, Windows 10, at 47.65 per cent.

GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has told the public not to access banking, emails or other services containing sensitive information from devices on Windows 7 due to the high risk.

End of support is a long-running measure by Microsoft, as it shifts from dated technologies and increases focus on newer ones.

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“The NCSC would encourage people to upgrade devices currently running Windows 7, allowing them to continue receiving software updates which help protect their devices,” an NCSC spokesman said.

“We would urge those using the software after the deadline to replace unsupported devices as soon as possible, to move sensitive data to a supported device, and not to use them for tasks like accessing bank and other sensitive accounts.

“They should also consider accessing email from a different device.”

Reader Q&A: How much data is on the internet?

Asked by: Kushil Ganatra, Middlesex

One way to answer this question is to consider the sum total of data held by all the big online storage and service companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.

Estimates are that the big four store at least 1,200 petabytes between them. That is 1.2 million terabytes (one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes). And that figure excludes other big providers like Dropbox, Barracuda and SugarSync, to say nothing of massive servers in industry and academia.

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Affected computers will remain functional but will no longer be secure.

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Companies which may not be ready for the move can choose to pay Microsoft for extended security updates through to January 2023 – though it is sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year, to encourage businesses to upgrade.