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“Grossly negligent”: Millions of PCs are running outdated Windows

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Saturday 15 January 2022

“Grossly negligent” Millions of PCs are running outdated Windows

Microsoft no longer supports Windows for private users from version 7 and below, security gaps are no longer closed. Nevertheless, more than three million users in Germany still use the outdated systems. Security experts strongly recommend upgrading.
In Germany, more than three million PCs are running an outdated and insecure version of the Microsoft Windows operating system. This is the result of a study by the security company Eset. The majority of the insecure systems, namely 2.7 million devices, are operated with Windows 7. The insecure systems also include the outdated versions of Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 8, which together can still be found on around 450,000 PCs. Support for Windows version 8.1, which is currently still used on 1.3 million PCs in Germany, will also expire in a year. The approximately 44 million users of Windows 10 are on the safe side. The latest version of Windows 11 does not yet play a role in the statistics. “The use of outdated software is grossly negligent,” said Thorsten Urbanski, security expert at Eset. For private users and especially companies, the use of outdated system software can be expensive in the event of damage. “One vulnerability, for example in an operating system that is no longer supported, is enough for attackers to have a foot in the door and permanent access to the victim’s computer.” At the same time, Urbanski also referred to a positive trend. Many private users have used the past year and brought their computers up to date. “In a year-on-year comparison, around two million less insecure Windows computers are online in Germany.” Looking to the future is also positive. “The use of Windows 8.1 is declining, and horror scenarios like the end of support for XP or 7 will not happen in 2023.”

Hundreds of sensitive vulnerabilities known

Companies and government agencies not only run a higher risk by ignoring the end of support for Windows 7 and other outdated versions of Windows because it makes cyber attacks easier. According to experts, anyone who does not take care of the updates is also violating the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The EU directive requires that the “state of the art” be observed when processing and using personal data. Windows 7 was released over ten years ago on October 22, 2009 as the successor to the unsuccessful Windows Vista and was used by PC manufacturers until 2014. The successor, Windows 8, also had initial problems and failed to convince many users. Therefore, many companies in particular remained loyal to Windows 7 after 2014. Among the Microsoft operating systems, Windows 7 was generally considered mature and secure. After the end of official support from the US software company, however, many security gaps were discovered that were no longer closed. In 2020, the number peaked at 388 officially registered problems. Last year, the CVE system, used to track security vulnerabilities and other vulnerabilities in computer systems, recorded 253 cases. After all, companies and organizations can still purchase paid updates from Microsoft. Private users, on the other hand, no longer have access to the security updates. Security experts warn that this could have fatal consequences for online banking, for example.



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