After reading our article on the basics of upgrading your hardware and software, you’ve decided you may want to start replacing some of your equipment. But you’re still asking yourself, do I really need to do this? In this article, we’ll talk more about the actual risks of not upgrading your hardware and software, and how it can affect the security of your environment.
The phrase, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” couldn’t be more true when it comes to computers in your business. If you have 100 computers, and one of them is using old software or hardware, you can still be at a high risk for security flaws. A good way to think about this is if you have locks on all of your doors, windows, garages, etc. in your home, but you leave one of them unlocked, you’re leaving an entry point for a thief to get in.
Exploring the Negative Effects of Outdated Hardware on Business Productivity, Efficiency, and Security
Upgrading your “hardware” is the physical device itself. This means replacing the physical computer such as a laptop or a desktop. As time goes on, eventually every computer reaches a point where it is no longer supported. So, what does it mean when your computer is “no longer supported”? Well, this can mean a few different things.
From a purely physical standpoint, it’s going to be very difficult and costly to repair the computer when something inevitably breaks. Standard extended warranties typically keep computers in warranty for 3 years and such that they are easily repaired. Once you go beyond that 3-year mark, repairing your computer can lead to serious downtime for the affected employee if they don’t have another computer to use.
Depending on your business, outdated hardware can also lead to falling out of compliance with any major standards that you may require. HIPAA, SOX, PCI, and more have hardware requirements that must be met in order to stay compliant.
Once a device is no longer supported, it will stop receiving updates from Microsoft and internal firmware upgrades from the manufacturer. Not only can this cause incompatibilities, but this can also lead to major holes in your security if the software is not kept up to date.
From Bugs to Breaches: The Risks and Consequences of Running Outdated Software in Your Business
As mentioned above, outdated software can lead to major security issues. Over time, devices lose support from Microsoft, and no longer receive security-based updates. Think back to Windows 98, Windows XP, Windows Vista… do you think these operating systems are still being kept up to date by Microsoft? If you’re unsure, the answer is no. They are no longer supported, and thus would be considered a major security flaw.
Now think a little closer to the present. Something as “new” as Windows 7 is no longer supported in 2023. It may come as a surprise, but Windows 7 has not been supported since early 2020! That means if you have any Windows 7 machines in your business, you are at risk and should look to upgrade as soon as possible.
Microsoft alone pumps out a lot of updates to their operating system. In 2022, a single version of Windows 10 received 29 updates throughout the year. That’s an update every two weeks for an entire year. Most people don’t realize this since their computers are just set to “auto-update” and the updates are installed without them even knowing.
Exposed and Vulnerable: How Outdated Hardware and Software Can Open the Door to Hacking and Ransomware Attacks
“Hacking” into something, isn’t exactly the flashy way that it is shown in movies or TV shows. It all starts with a vulnerability. A good example to use for hacking is your home. Think about a weak entry point into your home. Maybe it’s an old window, a broken lock, a glass sliding door, or even just forgetting to lock the back door. All of these things would be a “vulnerability” in your home. Something that someone could theoretically get through and get inside your home. A computer vulnerability works the same way. An old computer, or old software will have flaws that may or may not be patched, and thus provide a “vulnerability” to the hacker.
So, you have a vulnerability, now what? A hacker would see a vulnerability and “exploit” that vulnerability in order to get into a system, program, or operating system. Much like if a burglar would “exploit” a bad lock, or smash a glass door, in order to get access to your home.
Once this vulnerability is exploited, it puts the burglar in your home. They are free to do or take whatever they want. In the computer world, this puts the hacker theoretically “in your PC”, free to do whatever they want. Once they have access to a piece of software or computer, they can do a lot of damage to your business, including the dreaded ransomware.
You may have heard the term Ransomware before. It’s a well-known malicious software that prevents an organization from accessing its data until a sum of money is paid. It can come in many forms, however the most common stem from password protected folders all the way up to encrypting an entire company’s infrastructure. 236.1 million ransomware attacks were reported in the first two quarters of 2022. This does not mean that all attacks were successful, but it goes to show how common hackers are trying to get into systems. Many victims of ransomware don’t report actual losses to ransomware, but roughly $49.2 million dollars were stolen from ransomware attacks in 2021. All of this only means that you need to care about security before it affects your business.
Do you have old and outdated software and hardware causing your business risk?