One cybersecurity problem shared by companies of all sizes is devices running out-of-date operating systems.
Many companies still use outdated devices, whether it’s because a device only needs to be used occasionally, or because bespoke software cannot run on newer operating systems.
The problem is if you continue using a device that has an unsupported operating system, you leave your business open to attack.
Once an OS stops being supported it means there are no more security patches for newly found vulnerabilities and no more feature updates.
The latest operating system to lose all support is Windows 8.1, which was released in 2013 and was officially retired on January 10th, 2023.
Here are some key things you need to know about the retirement of Windows 8.1 and what it means for your business:
The OS will still technically work.
When an operating system reaches the end of its life it doesn’t simply stop working. Your device will continue to function exactly as it did before, so many companies will continue using the OS without understanding the security risk.
You will no longer receive security patches.
Software and OS vulnerabilities are sought out and exploited all the time; this is what cybercriminals do for a living.
The vulnerability cycle generally begins with cybercriminals finding a software loophole, then writing code to exploit it, giving them some level of system access.
The software developer generally learns of this once cybercriminals start breaching the system. They then write code to fix the vulnerability, and then send the fix to users via an update, protecting devices from further exploitation of that loophole.
When an OS reaches the end of its life, the developer has moved on to focus on newer products. This means the vulnerabilities may remain undiscovered and without patches, leaving devices open to exploitation, for days, weeks, or even years.
Approximately 61% of vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over 5 years old.
Options for Upgrading.
If you have a device that is running Windows 8.1, you have 2 options for upgrading – Windows 10 or Windows 11.
Chances are, if your device was released in line with Windows 8.1, it may not meet the minimum requirement of a new operating system. In this case, you will need to look at replacing your device.
Advantages of upgrading include:
- Better built-in security
- Faster processing
- Capability for more modern features
- Improved accessibility features
- Updated productivity tools.
What happens if I don’t upgrade?
Security and Compliance Issues
Your data security is at risk if you stay on Windows 8.1. Without security updates, vulnerabilities will stay unpatched leaving your system open to breach. One compromised system on a network can easily pass malware onto other devices connected to the network, which in turn can bring your company down.
Additionally, if you have to comply with data regulations such as HIPAA, you’ll also run into issues. Data privacy rules dictate that you must make reasonable efforts to protect data, using a device with an outdated OS may jeopardise meeting compliance requirements.
The older systems get, the slower they get. Slow systems and outdated software can lead to dissatisfied employees. Over 25% of employees have considered quitting a job due to frustration with outdated software.
An outdated system can hold your staff back; they will miss out on modern security and accessibility features and will have to contend with bugs and other problems that may never be fixed.
Incompatibility with newer tools
Software and hardware developers only ever work forwards. Once Microsoft retires an OS, its compatibility is no longer a priority, and in many cases, isn’t even a consideration.
When you are unable to use the most up-to-date software and hardware tools, it can hurt your business; you begin to fall behind and become less competitive.
Get help with your Windows upgrades.
We can help you upgrade smoothly from an older operating system to a new one, or if you need to replace your device, we can point you in the right direction. Contact us today to schedule a chat about upgrades and where your security stands.