Microsoft Windows 8.1 Support Has Ended: Now What?
Have you heard of Bankcard? Before VISA and MasterCard, Bankcard was Australia’s answer to credit cards. Bankcard dominated the credit card space for several years, with over five million customers at its peak in 1984.
But in 1986, a dispute arose between the major banks on whether to include Bankcard in their introduction of EFTPOS. At the time, several banks were actively promoting MasterCard leading to the start of Bankcard’s demise.
The banks’ withdrawal of support for Bankcard saw its use rapidly decrease over the following two decades. And with a lack of support, Bankcard finally exited the market in 2006.
For many Australians, withdrawing the locally operated credit card was partly caused by our growing love of international travel. With travellers being able to use the more widely accepted VISA and MasterCard overseas, the outdated Bankcard was no longer fit for a modern and sophisticated nation.
Imagine, trying to use a Bankcard in London to get a cab to Heathrow and being told it’s not accepted, causing you to miss your flight home.
Similarly, using outdated technology can expose you to a significant risk of cyber attacks. One thing many companies, regardless of their size, share in common is their tendency to use computers with outdated operating systems (OS).
While you may feel this risk is overstated as the computers may only be issued occasionally, the fact they are still connected and operating on your network poses a real danger. Or that computer’s software is incompatible with newer operating systems. Either way, you are exposing your business to being attacked.
Generally, when a larger software company like Microsoft announces they are retiring an operating system, they no longer support it. Therefore, in the future, the developer will not provide any new features, updates or security patches for newly found vulnerabilities.
The most recent operating system to lose all support was Windows 8.1, initially released in 2013. Microsoft officially retired support on 10 January 2023, issuing companies with the following warning:
“Continuing to use Windows 8.1 after 10 January 2023 may increase an organisation’s exposure to security risks or impact its ability to meet compliance obligations.”
So, if you’re still using Windows 8.1, here’s what you need to know.
Windows 8.1 OS still technically works.
Even though Microsoft has decided to retire Windows 8.1, it doesn’t mean it stops working. So many companies may continue using Windows 8.1 without realising the security risk it poses. Technically, Windows 8.1 works the same as before it was retired. However, it’s a far less secure operating system without ongoing support.
You no longer receive critical security patches.
Approximately 61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over five years old due to unsupported operating systems.
Typically, to stop a breach from occurring, the developer writes a code to fix that security vulnerability. Then, developers will send the fix, as a security patch, to users via an update they install. For example, Apple issues an update for its operating system for the iPhone regular and pushes notifications to its users.
But when the OS reaches the end of its life, fixes such as these are no longer released. Without the patches, your OS is now vulnerable to future cyber threats.
What are the options for upgrading?
If you have a computer still running Windows 8.1, there are two upgrade options – Windows 10 or Windows 11. However, if the computer runs such an old OS, your system may not meet the requirements for one or both. In this case, you should consider buying a new computer. Unfortunately, Microsoft has said there is no free option to upgrade from 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11.
The key advantages of upgrading your OS include the following:
- Better built-in security
- Faster processing
- Capability for more current features (e.g. facial recognition)
- Improved accessibility options
- New or enhanced productivity tools (e.g. snap layouts in Windows 11)
You don’t want to upgrade, now what happens?
Ongoing security and compliance concerns
Using Windows 8.1 as your operating system, your data security remains at risk. Without security patches, your OS is still exposed to vulnerabilities leading to a breach. Additionally, once a cybercriminal has hacked your system, it can lead to further violations or malware infection spreading to newer devices.
Suppose you must comply with a data privacy regulation, like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In that case, you may run into further issues. For example, data privacy rules state you must make reasonable efforts to protect data. So, using a device with an outdated OS is not adhering to that legislation nor meeting your compliance obligations.
Your employee’s productivity can slow.
77% of surveyed employees are frustrated with outdated technology, including operating systems. Failing to invest and update your OS can decrease productivity and poor employee morale.
It will be incompatible with new tools.
When Microsoft retires an OS, they no longer worry about prioritising its compatibility with other tools they introduce. However, some developers don’t want their tools and software to be compatible with an outdated OS because of the liability that could incur.
The most important reason to be concerned is the brand and reputational damage using outdated software and hardware. As a result, your business can become less competitive and impact your customer service.
Do you need support with upgrading to Windows 10 or 11?
About the author
Yener is the founder and Managing Director of Intuitive IT. Prior to running his own business Yener worked for a number of corporate organisations where he gained invaluable experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how IT can complement and improve business outcomes.