Globally, 22 per cent of PC users continue to run the outdated Windows 7 operating system, according to cyber security firm Kaspersky.
Microsoft ended Windows 7 support on 14 January 2020 as the 10-year period for which it promised to provide support for the operating system, which was released in October 2009, came to an end.
The move to cease support meant that technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect PCs were no longer available for the product.
“Microsoft strongly recommends that you move to Windows 10 to avoid a situation where you need service or support that is no longer available,” the vendor said at the time.
Turns out not everyone heeded the call to upgrade.
Kaspersky, which conducted a study based on anonymised OS metadata provided by consenting Kaspersky Security Network users, found that almost one quarter – 22 per cent – of PC users were still using Windows 7.
Indeed, Kaspersky’s research suggested that consumers, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), and very small businesses (VSBs) globally occupied almost the same share – 22 per cent each.
Kaspersky’s findings also showed that only a small percentage – less than 1 per cent – of people and businesses still use even older operating systems, such as Windows XP and Vista, for which support ended in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Overall, roughly 24 per cent of users were still running a Windows OS without mainstream support.
On the other hand, about 72 per cent of users surveyed said they were using Windows 10, the latest version of the Windows OS.
The good news for those still operating Windows 7 is that, in the lead up to the end-of-life date, Microsoft bowed to the reality that enterprises wouldn’t realistically purge Windows 7 by its January 2020 retirement, announced it would sell extended support for three years past that deadline.
And so, individuals and businesses can rely on Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) for a price, but only up until the expected end date of January 2023.
This looming end-of-support date is something that typically gives cyber security firms like Kaspersky heart palpitations, or perhaps, more importantly, an opening for new commercial opportunities.
With this in mind, it should come as little surprise that the cyber security firm is warning those who may still be using Windows 7 about the vulnerabilities that could remain without update patches to resolve issues, providing cyber attackers with potential ways to gain access to a system.
Kaspersky senior product marketing manager Oleg Gorobets stressed that businesses should update their OS sooner rather than later.
“Updating your operating system might seem like a nuisance for many,” Gorobets said. “But OS updates are not just there just to fix errors, or to enable the newest interface. The procedure introduces fixes for those bugs that can open a gaping door for cybercriminals to enter.
"Even if you think you are vigilant and protected while online, updating your OS is an essential element of security that should not be overlooked, regardless of any third-party security solution’s presence. If [an] OS is obsolete, it can no longer receive these critical updates. If your house is old and crumbling, there is no point to install a new door.
“It makes more sense to find a new home, sooner rather than later. The same attitude is needed when it comes to ensuring the security of the operating system you trust with your valuable data every day,” he added.