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I have some games which work on Windows only, but I don't want to buy a new Windows, I would rather keep Windows 7 as a second OS for gaming and use Linux or BSD for working, browsing, etc. As far as I know vulnerabilities in multiplayer game clients are very rare, so there is only a very low chance that somebody hacks the system while I am gaming. Some people argue that it is a massive security risk that I keep an EOL OS even though I would not use it for browsing, just for playing the old games I downloaded from safe official sources. I don't agree, because I don't think such a system has a big attack surface, but I am curious what do experts say?

update based on the comments

Looks like game clients are not safe at all: https://www.networkworld.com/article/2166509/researchers-find-critical-vulnerabilities-in-popular-game-engines.html

Still this is not a Windows 7 related issue, I guess Windows 10 can be hacked through these game vulnerabilities too. So the question remains, for this specific game only usage does Windows 10 give any security advantage over Windows 7 and if so what?

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    Is this a dual boot setup ? If it is the case my worry would be that a compromised Windows contaminates the Linux partitions or destroys all data on the disk (ransomware). The simple solution is to run Windows in a virtual machine but since you mentioned gaming that may not be a solution if you need performance and responsiveness. It depends on what software you use.
    – Anonymous
    Apr 5 '20 at 19:13
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    "...I don't want to buy a new Windows..." - it is still possible to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10 with no cost (no hack, nothing illegal). There are lots of information about this on the internet. "As far as I know vulnerabilities in multiplayer game clients are very rare..." - what is this knowledge based on? This search suggests otherwise. Apr 5 '20 at 19:18
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    @inf3rno: "Image viewers are rarely hacked for the same reason." - nice comparison. Image, video and other codec libraries are notoriously known to be often buggy since they are optimized for speed and don't assume bad input. Apr 5 '20 at 20:02
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    @inf3rno: First it is still possible to upgrade to Windows 10 for free as I already said. If this is not possible (maybe some games will not play) the risk is probably manageable (i.e. risk is not zero but impact is low) if you encrypt the disk of your Linux system as you proposed and if there are no potentially vulnerable devices (like a router or printer) in the network which could be hacked when somebody managed to hack your Windows system. Apr 5 '20 at 20:08
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    @inf3rno: "Are there vulnerable routers?"* - vulnerable routers are about as common as vulnerable image/video/codec libraries, or even more common. Apr 5 '20 at 20:21
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From a general perspective it is safe enough.

I know that many times you will have to run an old OS due to compatibility issues with software, in your case - games. I still practically use XP due to that in some scenarios and I do that in a very safe manner.

In your case things may be easier than average: on the online gaming part you can allow only the ports used by the gaming services/servers and you can secure everything else. You may even close-up browsing-related capabilities completely or block most of the TCP ports with very few exceptions.

In this one should not take game vulnerabilities into account since those are not breaches of the OS, but of the games. On the OS part you should be pretty good overall for many years ahead.

In the specific situation of Windows 7, things are looking good. There are still 2 more years of actual support of it (see the MS descriptions about this) and by the end of this period Windows 7 will already have a low enough coverage not to be a primary target of exploiting anymore.

Even if universal exploits are found (that are cross-versions and affecting any Windows OS) most of them will still be able to be community patched.

So I would not worry. Gaming on Windows 7 will still be good for years and the obvious choice of old enough games. Even if groups like GOG try to make most games work with Windows 10, older ones will work better on older OS'es. For a specific older game, you won't have any advantage whatsoever by using Windows 10 from a security perspective or any other.

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  • Blocking HTTPS outbound entirely won't work - most launchers as well as GOG/Steam clients use it in one form or another. Old MMO game launchers in particular used the IE component to display content Apr 6 '20 at 12:08
  • The point is you only need a few ports.
    – Overmind
    Apr 6 '20 at 12:15
  • true, but not browsing unfortunately. Apr 6 '20 at 12:16
  • On the browser side you can improve security with the actual browser by switching to an alternate more secure/more customizable one.
    – Overmind
    Apr 6 '20 at 12:21
  • not really if that browser is embedded in an MMO launcher or some such. Apr 6 '20 at 12:22

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