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Four out of 10 consumers still use obsolete operating systems on computers

(Image credit: Future)

Four out of 10 consumers still use obsolete computer operating systems, including extremely old ones like Windows XP and Vista, according to Kaspersky research.

Even though newer versions of such OS are available, the Russian security software companies found that around 41% of consumers still use either an unsupported or approaching end of support desktop OS like Windows XP or Windows 7.

At the same time, 40% of very small businesses and 48% of small, medium-sized businesses and enterprises still rely on these systems.

In most cases, the end of the lifecycle of an OS means that no further updates will be issued by the vendor, and this includes updates related to cybersecurity which creates a security risk. 

Yet security researchers or cyber attackers may find previously unknown vulnerabilities within these systems. Subsequently, these vulnerabilities may be used in cyberattacks and users will be left exposed as they will not receive a patch to resolve the issue.

Windows 7 is still a popular choice for consumers and businesses, despite extended support coming to an end on January 2020.

According to StatCounter, Windows 10 has a share of 56.43% for the year globally, followed by Win 7 with 33.08%, Win 8.1 with 6.05%, Win 8 with 2.03%, Win XP with 1.79% and Vista with 0.55%.

In the UAE, Windows 10 has a share of 57.87% for the year globally, followed by Win 7 with 32.35%, Win 8.1 with 6.14%, Win 8 with 2.69%, Win XP with 0.73% and Vista with 0.19%.

Widespread use of Windows 7 is a concern

(Image credit: Kaspersky)

More than a third (38%) of consumers and very small businesses, and 47% of small, medium-sized businesses and enterprises, still run this OS.

For the small, medium-sized and enterprise business segments, the share of Windows 7 and the newest version of Windows 10 (47% of workstations work on this OS) is the same. 

 “Statistics show that a significant share of users, both businesses and individuals, still use workstations running an outdated or approaching end of lifecycle OS. The widespread use of Windows 7 is concerning, as there are less than six months to go until this version becomes unsupported. The reasons behind this lag vary depending on the software in place, which may be unable to run on the newest OS versions, to economic reasons and even just down to habit,”  Alexey Pankratov, Enterprise Solutions Manager, Kaspersky, said.

Unpatched OS is a cybersecurity risk

Moreover, Pankratov said that an old unpatched OS is a cybersecurity risk – the cost of an incident may be substantially higher than the cost of upgrading.

“This is why we recommend that customers migrate to supported versions and ensure that additional security tools are in place during the transition period,” he said.

Looking at the specific versions of outdated OS used, 2% of consumers and 1% of workstations used by very small businesses rely on Windows XP – an OS which hasn’t been supported for over 10 years.

Less than half a per cent of consumers (0.3%) and very small businesses (0.2%) still prefer Windows Vista, for which mainstream support ended seven years ago.

Remarkably, some consumers (1%) and businesses (0.6% of very small businesses and 0.4% of SMBs and enterprises) missed the free update to Windows 8.1 and continue to use Windows 8, which has not been supported by Microsoft since January 2016.