On January 14, 2020 Microsoft will reach it’s end of life (technical term for it will no longer be updated or supported). For any practices that are using the Windows 7 operating system this means that after that date, no more security updates will be available and if the operating system crashes, Microsoft will no longer provide support to fix any issues. Aside from the obvious inconvenience of no support, this poses a security risk for any users, but even more so for health care facilities. The lack of security updates will make a dental practice’s software even more vulnerable to hackers who are attempting to access patient protected health information and it becomes a security risk and a HIPAA violation.
Practices using Windows 7 must consult with their IT support professionals to determine what needs to be done to upgrade to Windows 10. This includes the server, workstations, and peripheral devices, such as cameras, printers, x-ray sensors, extraoral x-ray machines and any other devices that run currently on the Windows 7 platform. This upgrade may involve just a software installation, but it may require some hardware changes/upgrades as well. The latter may be especially important if a practice’s server is running Windows Server 2008 R2, which also reaches it’s end of life in terms of support on January 14, 2020. Since upgrading both software and hardware has an impact on a practice’s budget, it is a good idea to consult with an IT professional sooner rather than later, in order to plan for the needed changes.
Since many people tend to procrastinate on these types of upgrades, it may be difficult and more expensive to schedule IT support as the deadline gets closer. In addition, hackers will be prepared to exploit computers still running the unsupported software, which will make any computer running Windows 7 after January 14th an easy and preferred target.