This cybersecurity issue affects both small and large companies alike, as many older computers still run outdated operating systems on which staff may only occasionally access. Furthermore, companies often rely on customized software that doesn't run on older OS versions for operations.
Cyberattacks can occur when an OS becomes outdated. This implies that it no longer receives support from Microsoft or any other developer, meaning there will no feature updates or security patches to address newly discovered vulnerabilities.
Windows 8.1 was the latest operating system to be discontinued by Microsoft in 2013. Released in 2013, this OS was officially retired on January 10, 2023 with a warning sent out by the company:
"Continuing Windows 8.1 use after January 10, 2023 could expose an organization to security risks or hinder their ability to meet compliance obligations."
Here are a few facts you should be aware of regarding Windows 8.1's retirement.
The OS will still function technically
Even after an operating system's end of life, many companies continue to use it despite knowing about the security risk. Technically speaking, it functions exactly as before retirement; however, due to a loss in support and security patches, it becomes less secure overall.
Your system will no longer receive security patches
Every day, hackers search for software and OS vulnerabilities to exploit. They do this as a form of profit; typically they identify an issue in software and then craft code to take advantage of it. Your system is at risk.
Software developers gain this information when hackers attempt to break into systems. They then write code to fix the vulnerability, which is then sent directly to users via an update. Doing so provides protection on your device against potential hacker attacks.
Once an OS's lifespan has elapsed, patches for it can no longer be made as the developer is now focused on newer products. Unfortunately, this leaves devices vulnerable to malicious attacks for years, months, and even years.
About 61% of security flaws in corporate networks date back more than five years.
If your computer is still running Windows 8.1, there are two available upgrades. Windows 10 and Windows 11 can be chosen; in this instance, it may be necessary to purchase a completely new computer.
Microsoft states that you cannot upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11 at no cost. However, you can enjoy the following advantages by upgrading:
- Security features that are better integrated.
- Process times are faster.
- Capability to utilize more modern features, such as facial recognition.
- Accessibility features have been enhanced.
- Microsoft Windows 11 introduces new productivity features, such as snap layouts.
What happens if I don't upgrade?
Security & Compliance Questions
If you continue to use Windows 8.1, your data security is at risk. Any vulnerabilities that remain unpatched will persist without security updates, leaving your system highly susceptible to being hacked. A single hacker on a network could spread malware or a breach to other devices as well.
Compliance with data privacy regulations such as HIPAA can present challenges if your OS is outdated and unable to ensure adequate security of stored information. A malfunctioning OS may make this task more challenging.
Older systems tend to run slowly, leading to decreased productivity. Employees who work with outdated software often complain about its negative effects on productivity; 77% surveyed felt frustrated by outdated technology. People who are frustrated may also leave; they are 450% more likely than others to be open to moving and finding employment elsewhere.
Your staff may be hindered by an outdated operating system. They lack access to time-saving tools and may encounter bugs that cannot be rectified.
Incompatibility with Newer Tools
Hardware and software developers often don't look back. Microsoft recently decided to retire an OS, meaning they won't prioritize compatibility anymore. Some may opt not to make their product compatible due to this risk.
It can be detrimental for your business if you experience problems with modern software and hardware. Not only do you lose market share, but the operating system that runs on it may be outdated - meaning if you keep using it, the problem will persist.
Get Assistance With Windows Upgrades
We can assist you in upgrading from an outdated operating system to one that's more modern. Let us guide you to find the ideal system for you - contact us today to discuss upgrades and your security options!