Outdated software may seem benign, especially if it’s working as intended.
Solutions that haven’t been properly maintained and managed, however, can expose companies to significant danger, putting networks and data at risk. Here’s what businesses need to know about the potential pitfalls of outdated software, and what they can do to reduce their total risk.
The State of Outdated Software
According to a recent research study, 95% of businesses are using outdated software on their websites. When it comes to operating systems, meanwhile, approximately three-quarters of business PCs are still running Windows 10, even as its end-of-support date looms.
The most common reason that companies keep using these outdated software solutions? Inertia. Users are familiar with current tools and technologies, and unless these systems are creating immediate problems, many companies don’t see the value in making a change, even if that change is a simple update.
Why? Because that update might cause unexpected downtime or remove a function that staff use every day. As a result, many organizations put software updates on “to-do” lists that never get done because something more pressing always comes along.
Why Outdated Software Opens the Door to Danger
Opting to avoid software updates creates two significant problems.
First is a false sense of security. If current systems aren’t experiencing any failures and users aren’t reporting any issues, IT teams may take a “no news is good news” approach. The issue? It may not be a case of attacks not happening, but rather a case of attacks not being properly identified and documented.
The second problem is interoperability. Here’s why: The longer software goes without being updated, the higher the risk that it won’t work with new technologies or frameworks. This puts companies at a disadvantage as they look to adopt new IT infrastructure solutions such as cloud-based storage and AI-driven analytics. Issues with interconnection can create situations where data is damaged, lost or becomes inaccessible.
Top Threats Tied to Out-of-Date Technology
While staying the course with outdated software has the advantage of simplicity, it also opens the door to potential business threats, such as:
Out-of-date software is more likely to experience critical failures that can’t be easily resolved. Consider a storage solution that hasn’t been updated in months or years. While patches and fixes may have introduced the ability to automatically back up data on a schedule or on demand, companies that haven’t updated their toolsets won’t have access to these features.
As a result, if software fails, data may be lost forever.
Outdated software may also be out of compliance. Many regulations such as HIPAA, PCI DSS and the CCPA require companies to demonstrate due diligence in efforts to secure critical data and reduce the risk of compromise.
Choosing not to update software introduces the potential for system failure and may cause compliance challenges for companies if data is stolen or damaged.
Older software naturally carries increased cybersecurity risks. This is because malicious actors are constantly looking for new ways to compromise systems and access data. When they discover and exploit software weak spots, vendors respond with patches that remove the issue and close the gap. If companies choose not to update software, however, the vulnerabilities still exist.
Three Steps to Reduce Software Risks
When it comes to reducing software risks, companies can benefit from a three-step process.
Step 1: Identify Outdated Solutions
First, businesses need to identify which software is outdated, how long it has been outdated, and what risks it may pose.
For example, while some solutions may simply need a patch, others may no longer be supported by manufacturers. Understanding where software is outdated lets companies assess the risk of each solution and prioritize upgrades accordingly. In general, the more resources used and data accessed by software, the greater the risk if it is out of date.
Step 2: Create a Plan to Stay Current
Next up is creating a plan: How will solutions be updated or replaced? What impact will this have on operations, and where are some potential pitfalls in the process?
Here, it’s often worth partnering with an experienced IT provider that can help streamline the upgrading process and minimize potential downtime.
Step 3: Stay the Course
Single updates aren’t enough to solve the problem. While getting all software solutions up to speed is a great start, technologies and threats are continually evolving. As a result, companies need to stay the course. This means scheduling regular reviews to better ensure that software updates are being applied and to address any issues that occur as new solutions are implemented.
Save the Date
Out-of-date software can leave companies struggling to close security gaps and remain in regulatory compliance. By identifying where software falls short, creating a plan of action, and regularly reviewing software deployments, businesses can stay current — and stay safe.
Jody Jankovsky is the founder and CEO of Black Line IT, serving over 500 clients in 30 years and earning spots on Inc. 5,000’s Fastest Growing Companies list twice. Recognized in the Chicago Tribune, renowned brands rely on his tech expertise. Jankovsky is also a key speaker on technology, cybersecurity and business software