Batten down the hatches

Hackers can’t hack what they can’t touch. Follow this pro tip from our old Windows XP safety primer:
“Barring being purely disconnected, if there’s a single tip that could make any Windows PC more secure, it’s this: Stay away from administrator accounts. If you’re blasted by malware, it can only do as much damage as the account it infects. Admin accounts give baddies the keys to your computing kingdom.
Once [Windows 7] stops being patched, stick to using a Standard account for your day-to-day activities if at all possible. Use an admin account to create the locked-down login and stock it with the software you need—keeping our previous program advice in mind—and then don’t stray from Limited land unless you need to install or update software. (And even then, only stick in the admin account for as long as is absolutely necessary to get the installation done.)”
You can go even further though. If your Windows 7 computer doesn’t need to connect to the Internet, physically disconnect it from the Internet. Pull the ethernet plug right out, or disable Wi-Fi.
Alternatively, if you only need legacy Windows 7 support for a program or two, you can run Windows 7 in a virtual machine on a modern, supported operating system, be it Windows 10 or some flavor of Linux. (Again, moving off of Windows 7 as much as possible should be the goal.) If the virtual machine gets compromised, you can just wipe it and start over, with no harm to your main installation. Just make sure you’re backing up the Windows 7 data so you can replace whatever’s lost.
Even with all these precautions in place, your PC can get pwned if you tell malware to come in. Use safe browsing practices to avoid being fooled into downloading malware by phishing attempts, malicious emails, fake updates and error warnings, drive-by downloads or other tomfoolery.
It’s not specific to Windows 7 security, but make sure you’re backing up your data and using a password manager, too.

Make plans to move on

Windows 7 was great while it lasted, but now it’s gone. While these tips will help you keep using the operating system for longer, running an unsecured OS in today’s hyper-connected world is inviting trouble. Start thinking about your future options, whether it’s snagging a free Linux distro, trying for a free Windows 10 upgrade, or straight-up buying a new Chromebook or Windows laptop. When the next catastrophic bug rears its head, you don’t want to be left in the lurch.
Be careful out there.

This story, “Windows 7 is dead: How to stay as safe as possible after the security updates stop” was originally published by PCWorld.