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Huge mistake Windows users make that puts them at risk of hacks

Huge mistake Windows users make that puts them at risk of hacks
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It's been a little more than a week since the massive WannaCry ransomware attack began infecting computers. The attack resulted in hundreds of thousands of infected computers in over 150 countries worldwide.

One reason WannaCry ransomware was so rampant is due to the way it was deployed. Instead of relying on victims to click on malicious links, WannaCry spread itself between vulnerable computers connected to the same network. However, the vulnerability should have been fixed months ago. Are you making the same mistake WannaCry victims made?

How Windows users are putting themselves at risk

According to NetMarketShare, nearly 90 percent of all desktop computers worldwide run a version of Windows operating system (OS). Of those, only 26 percent are running Windows 10. That means that the other 74 percent are running older versions, many of which are no longer supported with security updates.

Cybercriminals used a leaked NSA tool to exploit a Windows flaw dubbed EternalBlue to spread WannaCry ransomware. Microsoft knew of this flaw months ago and patched it with a security update in March. Unfortunately, older versions of Windows, like Windows XP, don't receive security updates any longer and did not receive the patch.

That's why it's a bad idea to run one of these older versions of Windows if you plan on connecting your gadget to the internet. Without critical security updates, you're putting yourself at risk of being infected by the latest digital threats.

What you need to do now

If you are running a Windows operating system and plan on connecting your gadget to the internet, you must use an OS that Microsoft still supports with security updates. Windows XP and Vista are no longer supported.

Most Windows machines are set to download and install updates automatically by default. If you haven't changed your automatic update settings then you should be fine. Here's how to check and make sure:

On Windows 10, click Start (Windows logo), choose "Settings," select "Update & Security," then on the "Windows Update" section, click on "Advanced Options." (Note: the "Windows Update" section is also handy for showing you updates that are currently being downloaded or applied.) Under "Advanced Options," just make sure the drop down box is set to "Automatic."

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