You might view the release of a new version of software as a ploy to get you to part with your money just to get an upgrade that offers a few new features and has some bugs ironed out, but even when you view this practice with a degree of cynicism, there are valid reasons why it could be especially hazardous to stick with an outdated operating system and ignore the invitation to upgrade.
It is a good idea to learn more about what the proposed upgrade is bringing to the table, of course, and it is just as relevant to understand the potential issues you might have to face if you stick with what you have already got.
Increased vulnerability to security breaches
Arguably, the number one danger that you are exposing yourself to by continuing to use an unsupported and outdated operating system is the threat it poses to your document security.
Almost every version of outdated software that is installed and operational has potentially got some serious security vulnerabilities and if you find your data is compromised it could even risk a threat to your organization overall.
There are a number of different kinds of system securities that can be compromised when your software or operating system has gone beyond its useful life.
The reliability and structure of your computer system may be noticeably weakened by an attack and usability can also be affected with users potentially discovering that they are locked out and unable to use their computer normally, or at all.
The threat of ransomware
To be more specific with regard to your increased vulnerability, one of the primary threats that prey on outdated systems is ransomware.
You only have to recall the global reaction to the WannaCry attack which infected hundreds of thousands of computers to appreciate the disruption and cost to your business that this sort of incident can inflict.
A fundamental reason why this form of ransomware enjoyed such damaging penetration is believed to be the common denominator that well over half of the infected computers were running an outdated version of the Windows operating system.
This high-profile attack served to highlight how vulnerable you can be if you are still relying on an old version of the software or a system that has not benefited from updates to deal with new threats identified.
A shared problem
It is also worth highlighting the wider dangers of sticking with an outdated operating system as any device that is connected to your network could be susceptible and if that happens there is the potential for some serious disruptions to your business operation.
It might seem like scaremongering by suggesting that an infected device connected to your network could cause wider issues but it really isn’t that difficult to envisage a scenario where an initial security incident escalates into something more troubling and disruptive.
When support stops
It can be expensive to upgrade your operating system and it is perfectly understandable that you might try to hold back on that investment for cash flow reasons, however, there comes a tipping point when that strategy starts to appear flawed.
That specific point might be when your software stops being supported and all the updates and security patches that have been providing ongoing protection come to an end.
The reality of not receiving any more security patches is that your system will become increasingly more vulnerable as time goes by.
The hackers who are working tirelessly to attack and infect as many systems and computers as possible will often be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of finding a potential target that has left the backdoor to their system open to them.
That is what you are potentially doing without regular security patches to keep them away, raising the prospect of malware and ransomware exposing those frailties.
It is not just your data that is at threat
If you are running a business and you are doing so with an unsupported and outdated operating system it is worth pointing out that it is not just your own data that is at threat.
The hard truth is that unsupported operating systems start to take on the characteristics of Swiss cheese, with giant holes appearing that greatly lower your resistance to an attack.
This level of exposure to attack is not only bad news to you and your business but it could have more far-reaching consequences if you are tasked with handling sensitive and confidential information as part of your standard data collection procedures.
There would be a lot of explaining to do to your customers if it was discovered that credit card numbers and personal details held on your system had been hacked.
It goes without saying that a security breach could prove very costly for your business, both in terms of the reputational damage that you might suffer as a result of the incident, and if you then face a legal challenge for damages.
If you are using outdated and unsupported software or your system is in urgent need of an upgrade there is a reasonable prospect of losing data or system corruption, even without a malicious data breach.
The other potential scenario you could face is when your system just stops working altogether without any prior warning or notice.
If that happens and you are unprepared for that scenario it raises the prospect of finding that you are unable to recover valuable data that has not been backed up.
You don’t have to be an IT expert to understand the inherent dangers associated with continuing to use an outdated operating system or software program and if you are using a version that is no longer supported there is the chance that you might struggle to get any help from the original provider.
You could probably find someone who has the know-how to get you out of a tight spot, but the cost of that action could be far greater than the financial outlay required for updating your operating system.