A significant 14% of PC users in South Africa are still using the end-of-life operating system Windows 7, which stopped receiving mainstream support in January 2020.

The numbers come from a study by Kaspersky on anonymised operating system metadata from the Kaspersky Security Network.

When an operating system comes to the end of its lifecycle, no more updates are issued by the vendor – including critical security fixes.

Although a trusted operating system may seem fine on the surface because it does everything you need it to do, if the vendor no longer supports it, it could be susceptible to attacks. When operating systems reach end-of-life, vulnerabilities will remain without update patches to resolve issues, providing cyber attackers with potential ways to gain access to a system.

Among those still using Windows 7, consumers, small and medium businesses (SMBs), and very small businesses (VSBs) occupy almost the same share – 14%, 11% and 12% respectively.

It’s noteworthy, that 12% of VSBs still use the outdated OS, particularly considering that they do not have dedicated IT staff responsible solely for cybersecurity – which makes it more important to ensure their OS is up-to-date. For now, businesses can still receive extended paid support for Windows 7, but this means extra expense and won’t be available indefinitely.

Kaspersky’s findings also showed that only a small percentage (fewer than 1%) of people and businesses still use older operating systems, such as Windows XP and Vista, support for which ended in 2014 and 2017, respectively.

The bottom line is that 16% of users in South Africa are still running a Windows OS without mainstream support.

However, 79% of users are using Windows 10, the latest version of Windows OS.

“Updating your operating system might seem like a nuisance for many,” comments Oleg Gorobets, senior product marketing manager at Kaspersky. “But operating system 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 operating system is an essential element of security that should not be overlooked, regardless of any third-party security solution’s presence.

“If the operating system 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.”