If you have an older computer, chances are it runs some older software. If it's software that is no longer supported by the vendor, that can be a problem.
From time to time, hackers find security weaknesses in software and use them to compromise a PC. In most cases the software company responds quickly with a patch, protecting the security of the software and the computer running it.
But when a company no longer supports a software – it's called end-of-life – it stops providing security updates. Those flaws discovered by hackers remain open doors to any computer running the outdated software.
Helping the hackers
"Hackers benefit from users' failure to uninstall end-of-life applications, as the exploits they wrote for the old versions continue to work and continue to have value on the black market," said Kasper Lindgaard, Director of Secunia Research at Flexera Software. "Too many users install and forget.”
Secunia Research has published a report in which it analyzes the security of privately operated computers in 14 countries. It found that in the U.S., one in 20 applications on consumers' computers are end-of-life.
Even the operating system can be end-of-life, as in the case of Windows XP, still being used despite the fact that Microsoft no longer supports it. The report found 12% of U.S. Windows users are working with an unpatched version of Windows.
Not high on the radar
“Maintenance of software is not high on the radar of average computer users, who tend to install whatever application they need to support whatever they need to do,” said Lindgaard. “They then tend to leave it sitting in their system, forgetting to uninstall or update it."
Here's what Secunia Research found on U.S. consumers' computers:
- Adobe Flash Player 18, which went end-of-life in April, is on 80% on U.S. consumers' computers.
- Apple QuickTime 7.x and Apple iTunes 12.x tops the list as the U.S.' most exposed applications.
- QuickTime has a market share of 55% and 18 reported vulnerabilities, 61% of users have not installed the latest updates.
- iTunes has a market share of 40% and 106 reported vulnerabilities, and 47% of users have not installed the latest updates.
Other vulnerable applications in the top 10 include Adobe Reader, Oracle Java 8, and Mozilla Firefox.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to keep up with what software is end-of-life. It requires you to pay attention.
In nearly every case, the software vendor will send a letter or email to inform the user that support is ending. It's important to be on the lookout for these notices and respond accordingly.