The Cyber Risks of Using Legacy Products

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Recently an organization contacted Adaptive Office Solutions about a cyber security incident. The company’s old, legacy email account –  that they barely used –  had been hacked, and a malicious actor gained access to their entire contact list. They then used that list to contact countless businesses and individuals asking for gift card donations for a “good cause.” 

Turns out, the company’s email password was never changed and was easily found on the dark web. Additionally, the client had never set up 2FA. Obviously, this cyber attack could have easily been avoided, but we thought there was a good lesson here… How using outdated operating systems, software, and hardware can expose your business to cyber threats. 

In an article by ITConvergence, they wrote, “An outdated operating system is a software system that is no longer receiving official support and updates from its manufacturer or developer. This means that the system is not being actively maintained, and security vulnerabilities and other issues may not be fixed.

The specific definition of an outdated operating system will depend on the system in question and its manufacturer’s support policies. For example, Microsoft no longer supports Windows 7 or earlier versions, while Apple no longer supports macOS versions prior to macOS 11 (Big Sur). Similarly, various versions of Linux distributions may have different support lifecycles, depending on the community or company behind them.

It’s important to note that even if an operating system is still receiving official support, older versions of the system may be considered outdated if they are missing critical security updates or features that are present in newer versions. It’s generally recommended to use the latest version of an operating system that is compatible with your hardware and software, in order to ensure the best performance and security.

The Main Vulnerabilities in Outdated Operating Systems

Cybersecurity threats are a growing concern for businesses and individuals alike, with attackers becoming increasingly sophisticated and aggressive in their tactics. One of the main ways that attackers target computer systems is through vulnerabilities in outdated operating systems. These vulnerabilities can leave computer systems open to a wide range of attacks, including malware infections, data theft, and other malicious activities.

One of the main vulnerabilities in outdated operating systems is the lack of security updates and patches. As operating systems age, they become more susceptible to new and emerging threats, and vulnerabilities that were not initially known or addressed can be discovered. Without ongoing support and updates, these vulnerabilities remain unpatched and leave the system open to attack.

Another vulnerability in outdated operating systems is the lack of compatibility with new security technologies. As new security features are developed, they may not be compatible with older operating systems, leaving them vulnerable to attack. For example, newer operating systems may have better encryption algorithms that are not available in older systems, making them more resistant to attacks such as data theft.

In addition, outdated operating systems may lack modern security features such as two-factor authentication, which can make it easier for attackers to gain access to sensitive information. They may also lack modern security tools such as intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, and antivirus software, which can help detect and prevent attacks.

Finally, attackers often target outdated operating systems because they know that many users do not prioritize system updates and may be using systems that are years out of date. This makes them an easy target for attackers who can exploit known vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive information or launch attacks against other systems.

Outdated operating systems pose a significant cybersecurity risk, leaving computer systems vulnerable to a wide range of attacks. It’s important for individuals and organizations to prioritize system updates and upgrades to ensure that their systems are protected against emerging threats and new attack vectors.

Examples of Attacks Targeting Outdated Operating Systems

WannaCry Ransomware

One of the most significant attacks targeting outdated operating systems was the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017. This attack exploited a vulnerability in the Windows operating system that had been patched by Microsoft several months prior, but many organizations had not installed the update. The attack spread rapidly across the globe, infecting hundreds of thousands of systems and causing widespread disruption and financial losses.

Heartbleed Bug

The Heartbleed bug was a vulnerability in the OpenSSL encryption library that affected many operating systems, including Linux and Windows. This vulnerability allowed attackers to steal sensitive information, including passwords and encryption keys, from systems that were running outdated versions of OpenSSL.

Apache Struts Vulnerability

In 2017, Equifax suffered a massive data breach that exposed the personal information of millions of customers. The attack was made possible by a vulnerability in the Apache Struts web framework, which was running on an outdated version of the Equifax server. The vulnerability had been patched several months prior, but the company had not installed the update.

Stuxnet Worm

The Stuxnet worm was a sophisticated malware attack that targeted industrial control systems running on outdated versions of the Windows operating system. The attack was believed to have been carried out by a nation-state actor and was designed to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. The attack spread across multiple systems, causing physical damage to centrifuges and other critical infrastructure.

Mirai Botnet

The Mirai botnet was a network of compromised Internet of Things (IoT) devices that was used to launch a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack in 2016. The attack targeted a domain name service provider and brought down popular websites such as Twitter and Netflix. The Mirai botnet was made possible by vulnerabilities in outdated firmware and operating systems that were running on compromised devices.

These are just a few examples of the types of attacks that can target outdated operating systems. It’s important for individuals and organizations to stay vigilant and keep their systems up-to-date to protect against emerging threats and vulnerabilities.

Performance Risks of Using Outdated Operating Systems

Compatibility Problems with New Software and Hardware: One of the biggest performance risks of using an outdated operating system is that it may not be compatible with new software and hardware. As technology advances, software, and hardware manufacturers release updates and new products that require more powerful and capable operating systems to run smoothly. When you’re using an outdated operating system, you may not be able to install the latest software or hardware upgrades, which can limit your productivity and functionality.

Slow System Performance: Outdated operating systems can be a drag on system performance, causing slow boot times, slow application launch times, and sluggish overall performance. This is because newer software and hardware are designed to work with modern operating systems that are optimized for speed and performance. When you’re running an outdated operating system, you may not have access to the latest performance enhancements, resulting in a slow and frustrating user experience.

Crashes and System Instability: When you’re using an outdated operating system, you’re more likely to experience crashes, freezes, and system instability. This is because new software and hardware are designed to work with modern operating systems that provide stability and security updates. When you’re running an outdated operating system, you may be missing critical updates and patches, leaving your system vulnerable to instability and crashes.

Limited Security: Outdated operating systems are also more vulnerable to security risks, as they may lack the latest security updates and patches. This can leave your system open to cyber attacks and malware infections, which can compromise your data and put your privacy at risk. In addition, running outdated software and hardware may make it difficult to implement the latest security measures, such as two-factor authentication or encryption, leaving you vulnerable to hacking and other cyber threats.

Legal Risks of Using Outdated Operating Systems

Compliance with Regulations and Standards: Many industries are subject to regulations and standards that require the use of up-to-date software and hardware. For example, the healthcare industry is subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires organizations to implement reasonable and appropriate safeguards to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronically protected health information. Using outdated operating systems that do not comply with these regulations and standards can result in legal consequences, including fines and penalties.

Liability for Data Breaches and Other Security Incidents: When you’re using an outdated operating system, you’re more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and data breaches, which can result in legal liability. If your system is hacked and customer data is compromised, you may be liable for damages resulting from the breach. In addition, if your system is used to launch attacks on other systems, you may be held responsible for the damages caused by those attacks.

Failure to Meet Industry Standards: If you’re using an outdated operating system, you may not be able to meet industry standards and best practices for security and privacy. This can result in a loss of customer trust and damage to your reputation. In addition, if you’re in a regulated industry, such as finance or healthcare, you may be subject to audits and inspections to ensure that you’re complying with industry standards. Using outdated operating systems can result in failing these audits and inspections, which can lead to legal consequences.

Breach of Contract: If you’re using outdated operating systems, you may be in breach of contract with vendors, partners, or customers. For example, if you have a contract with a customer that requires you to maintain up-to-date software and hardware, using outdated operating systems can be a breach of that contract. This can result in legal consequences, including financial damages.

Using outdated operating systems can result in a wide range of risks, including security vulnerabilities, compatibility issues, slow system performance, and legal consequences. It’s crucial to keep your operating systems up to date to ensure that you have access to the latest security updates, performance enhancements, and compatibility improvements.

To ensure system security and performance, here are some recommendations:

  • Keep your operating system up to date: Regularly check for updates and install them as soon as they become available. This will ensure that you have the latest security updates and performance enhancements.

  • Upgrade to a newer operating system: If your current operating system is no longer supported or is severely outdated, consider upgrading to a newer operating system that is compatible with the latest software and hardware.

  • Use antivirus software: Install and regularly update antivirus software to protect against malware and other cyber threats.

  • Implement strong passwords: Use strong passwords that are difficult to guess or crack. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords.

  • Regularly back up your data: Back up your data regularly to protect against data loss from system crashes, malware, or other security incidents.

In conclusion, using outdated operating systems can be a significant risk to your system’s security and performance. It’s important to keep your operating systems up to date and follow best practices for system security to ensure that you’re protected from cyber threats and legal consequences. By following these recommendations, you can keep your systems running smoothly and protect your data and privacy.”

The Main Risks of Using Outdated or Corrupted Software 

In the ever-expanding realm of technology, the reliance on software has become ubiquitous, permeating nearly every facet of our personal and professional lives. Yet, as we navigate this digital landscape, a looming concern arises: The risk of using outdated or corrupted software

This concern is more than one of mere inconvenience, it can affect cybersecurity and operational stability. From cyber threats to compromised functionality, the hazards of disregarding software maintenance underscore the necessity of staying vigilant in a rapidly evolving technological environment.

In excerpts from an article by UpGuard, they wrote, “Organizations ultimately need to trust their sensitive data in the hands of third-party vendors when they sign on as customers. Despite this trust, a data breach caused by the poor data security practices of a SaaS provider remains the responsibility of the client organization. 

This article outlines the top 7 cybersecurity risks introduced by SaaS solutions and how organizations can address them before they result in data breaches. 

Top 7 SaaS Cybersecurity Risks

1. Cloud Misconfigurations

As SaaS environments operate in the public cloud, organizations must consider cloud applications’ unique cyber threats.

Cloud misconfigurations occur when a SaaS provider or SaaS customer fails to secure the cloud environment, compromising data security. Such lapses in security management expose organizations to many cyber threats, such as:

  • Cloud leaks

  • Ransomware

  • Malware

  • Phishing

  • External hackers

  • Insider threats

A common misconfiguration in cloud computing is allowing excessive permissions. This misconfiguration occurs when an admin provides too many access rights to an end-user, resulting in a permissions gap. Excessive permissions are a significant security concern as they often facilitate cloud leaks, data breaches, and insider threats.

A well-known example of a cloud service provider misconfiguration is Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) default public access settings for S3 buckets. Aside from considering misconfigurations on the cloud provider’s end, your organization should also look inwards at its own security measures; Gartner predicts 99% of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault by 2025.

Another example of a critical software misconfiguration is the Microsoft Power Apps Data Leak. UpGuard researchers discovered misconfigured OData APIs in Microsoft’s Power Apps portals. This oversight resulted in the exposure of 38 million records across 47 organizations.

2. Third-Party Risk

SaaS services generate third-party risk – the risk deriving from any third party in an organization’s supply chain. Third parties can pose different levels of risk to an organization’s information security. For example, an organization will likely consider a contracted office janitor a low-level security threat, whereas a SaaS vendor is likely high-risk. 

Most SaaS apps will access or store an organization’s sensitive data, including publicly identifiable information (PII) and other privileged information. Your organization may have strict security measures to mitigate cyber threats, but your protection is only as strong as the weakest link in the supply chain. Organizations must implement effective third-party risk management programs to consistently monitor and manage the unique cyber risks their SaaS vendors contribute to the attack surface.

3. Supply Chain Attacks

A supply chain attack occurs when cybercriminals target an organization through vulnerabilities in its supply chain. Vulnerabilities of this nature often arise from a vendor’s poor security practices. 

Cybercriminals can compromise your organization’s sensitive data by targeting the source code, updating mechanisms, or building processes of your vendor’s software. For example, the largest cyber attack on the US government to date was facilitated by an IT update from its SaaS vendor Solarwinds. 

Your organization can’t rely solely on robust internal cybersecurity practices to prevent supply chain attacks. Security teams need detailed visibility into the entire vendor ecosystem to identify and remediate supply chain vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them. 

4. Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

A zero-day vulnerability is an unpatched software vulnerability that remains unknown to developers. Cybercriminals can exploit these vulnerabilities through cyber attacks, often causing data breaches and data loss across affected organizations. 

Zero-day vulnerabilities are particularly damaging when identified in popular SaaS platforms –  a significant number of organizations could potentially be affected, causing a mass shutdown of operations. Organizations must be able to rapidly identify existing vulnerabilities in their SaaS apps to prevent further security issues from occurring through delayed remediation. 

5. Insufficient Due Diligence

Vendor due diligence is the thorough assessment of a potential vendor by an organization before sharing sensitive company data with them. A due diligence assessment verifies the accuracy of a vendor’s claims regarding its security posture and regulatory compliance. It also identifies vendors’ existing security risks, allowing client organizations to request remediation before entering partnerships. 

Many organizations do not perform adequate due diligence by only assessing vendors during the onboarding process. If one of your SaaS vendors suffers a cyber attack, the threat actors can leverage its compromised systems to access your organization’s sensitive data. Public exposure of this data means your organization, not the vendor, deals with the regulatory, financial, and reputational consequences.

6. Non-Compliance 

Regulatory compliance and certification with security frameworks indicate an organization has adopted an acceptable standard of cybersecurity practices. Even if your organization complies with all relevant regulations and frameworks internally, you are still at risk of non-compliance if your SaaS vendors are non-compliant. 

Your security team must regularly monitor and validate its SaaS vendors’ compliance with industry standards and regulations to highlight any security gaps for remediation. Otherwise, your organization runs the risk of data breaches, resulting in hefty fines and reputational damage. 

7. Unclear Responsibilities

Unlike traditional data center models, the security of cloud environments is the responsibility of both an organization and its cloud service providers. Your organization’s SaaS vendors will each have differing shared responsibility models outlining the roles and responsibilities of each party.

Security teams must consider each SaaS service’s unique security requirements or risk creating cybersecurity gaps under the assumption the vendor is responsible. Organizations should also remember that insufficient data security is ultimately their responsibility in the event of a data breach. 

How to Manage SaaS Security Risks

Organizations must integrate SaaS-specific security processes into their existing information security policies or risk joining the 90% of organizations that will inappropriately share sensitive data if they fail to control public cloud use by 2025. 

Below are 7 ways your organizations can effectively manage SaaS security risks and avoid costly data breaches.

1. Implement Cloud Security Mechanisms

Organizations are encouraged to adopt Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) to enable greater visibility over cloud security controls and security policies. SASE is an emerging cloud security architecture that offers more advanced cloud data protection functionality than traditional network security solutions. 

SASE architecture drives zero-trust network access (ZTNA) by enabling the least privilege principle and identity access management (IAM) mechanisms, like Cloud Infrastructure Entitlement Management (CIEM) and multi-factor authentication. 

SASE also facilitates the use of modern cloud security solutions to manage access control across SaaS applications, including:

  • Firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS)

  • Secure Web Gateways (SWGs)

  • Cloud Access Service Brokers (CASBs)

  • Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

2. Establish an Incident Response Plan

Even with a robust information security policy, security incidents still occur. If a data breach occurs at the hands of a SaaS vendor, organizations must minimize its impact to avoid costly damage. 

Your organization’s incident response plan should cover specific scenarios, ranging from malware infections to customer data breaches. An effective incident response plan performs the following roles:

  • Outlining all key stakeholders

  • Streamlining digital forensics

  • Shortening recovery time

  • Protecting your organization’s reputation 

3. Exercise Thorough Due Diligence

Organizations must routinely assess SaaS vendors’ security postures at all stages of the vendor lifecycle, not just during the vetting process. With most large organizations managing hundreds or thousands of vendors, performing due diligence effectively throughout the entire vendor ecosystem can quickly become complicated. Implementing a vendor tiering process is the most efficient way for your security team to prioritize high-risk vendors, like SaaS providers, during routine risk assessments. 

4. Visualize the Third-Party Attack Surface

Organizations can only respond to the cyber threat they can see. As innovative SaaS solutions continue to streamline business functions, your organization likely has an increasing list of vendors. It’s easy to lose visibility into the attack surface – as your vendor inventory grows, your security team doesn’t necessarily follow suit.  

5. Provide Staff Training

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to adopt work-from-home (WFH) models, which have since remained. This transition to remote working increased the number of endpoints operating on workplace networks, such as personal phones and laptops. Introducing these additional attack vectors expands the attack surfaces and creates security inconsistencies, as admins do not have direct control over personal device settings. 

Your organization’s information security policy should include staff education initiatives to keep all employees informed on security requirements. Training should cover a variety of topics, such as:

  • Social Engineering Tactics: Educates staff about common social engineering cyber attacks, such as phishing and spear phishing. 

  • Clean Desk Policy: Ensures all work technology and material are either taken away or stored securely outside work hours. 

  • Acceptable Usage: Sets forth what employees can and cannot use/access on work devices and the network. 

6. Assess Compliance Regularly

Organizations must send routine security questionnaires to ensure high-risk vendors, such as SaaS providers, are complying with all necessary regulatory requirements. Manually recording hundreds of responses and tracking each vendor’s compliance status is an incredibly time-consuming process.

7. Consider Fourth-Party Risk

Your vendors generate third-party risk – and so do their vendors. Popular SaaS providers use hundreds to thousands of critical vendors, adding another layer of complexity to the already tedious third-party ecosystem.

Identifying your fourth-party vendors can be difficult as it’s often up to your service providers to disclose them. Maintaining an accurate inventory requires constant revision and back-and-forth with your vendors.”

The Biggest Threats of Using Old Hardware 

In excerpts from an article by Fellow, they wrote, “Using old or outdated systems can bring about unnecessary risks to the business and have some serious negative effects on productivity and efficiency. Not only do older systems impact your workflow, but they also make your organization significantly more susceptible to cybersecurity risks, financial damage, and even reputational damage. Updating outdated technology can certainly feel like a daunting task, but this is an extremely important undertaking for individual and organizational success.

Failing to update systems often turns them into liabilities more than assets, as they can’t catch up anymore to get the job done. If you don’t update, upgrade, or replace out-of-date technologies, you may very likely fall behind the industry expectations, and your company could also be exposed to all kinds of different risks.

8 signs you’re using outdated systems 

  • Slow speed

  • Dysfunctional workflows

  • Security issues

  • Decreased productivity

  • Overspending 

  • Poor support 

  • Competitor takeover

  • Compliance risks 

4 Risks of using outdated systems

Data loss

Several risks are associated with using outdated systems; one pertinent risk is data loss. Some of us are more familiar than others with computer crashes and glitches that have resulted in delayed or even failed projects. Data loss is practically impossible with modern technologies—like cloud-based applications—because data is stored remotely and securely in systems that can’t be impacted by your computer crashing. When you work with systems that are old and outdated, your chances of experiencing crashes and data loss are significantly higher. 

Security breaches

As previously mentioned, security breaches become a major issue and setback when using old technologies and systems. Cybersecurity attacks or breaches become much more pertinent when you have outdated systems and software that can affect your entire network. Outdated systems essentially expose you and your team to additional risks for breaches in security and put the integrity of the entire organization at risk. The results of cyber attacks can be catastrophic, so it’s not worth sticking with old systems. 

Increased spending

While a lot of companies choose not to update their technologies because of the cost associated with doing so, old and outdated systems tend to end up costing organizations significantly more money. Because outdated tech is more likely to experience failures, this impacts your productivity, efficiency, and bottom line. Moreover, outdated technology or legacy systems need more assistance and maintenance, which means that you’re constantly spending more money to keep these failing systems in place. An example of a false economy is assuming integrating a new system will cost you more than maintaining an old one. 

Slow growth 

If you’re noticing really slow (painful) growth, this is a common risk factor associated with using outdated systems. A lot of businesses lose their competitive edge by choosing to use outdated technologies. Organizations that stick to legacy systems are likely to see slower growth because the cost of business tends to grow faster than their revenue. On the other hand, companies that choose to use new technologies to their advantage tend to see top-line growth that is mirrored by a less expensive cost of business operations. 

Parting advice 

Old IT systems may be putting the success of your business on the line. Some of the most telling signs that you’re using outdated systems are when you notice that your technology works at a really slow speed, when you experience dysfunctional workflows, security issues, and decreased productivity, and when you experience overspending. You may also experience poor support for the outdated systems that you’re using, and see competitive takeover and more compliance risks than ever before. It’s important to consider the risks of continuing to use outdated systems and to determine if the risks are worth it—often, they’re not!”

In a Nutshell… 

One primary risk of outdated systems is the lack of security updates and patches. As time passes, these systems become more susceptible to attacks, as new vulnerabilities may be discovered. Also, outdated systems might not be compatible with modern security technologies, leaving them exposed to various cyber threats.

Key vulnerabilities in outdated systems include the absence of essential security updates, compatibility issues with newer technologies, lack of modern security features like two-factor authentication, and being targeted by attackers due to a perceived lack of updates.

Outdated systems also pose performance risks, including compatibility problems with new software and hardware, slow system performance, crashes, and system instability. Using outdated systems can also lead to legal risks, including non-compliance with regulations and standards, liability for data breaches, and breach of contract.

Finally, using outdated or corrupted software and systems exposes organizations to cybersecurity threats, performance issues, and legal consequences. To mitigate these risks, organizations are advised to keep their operating systems and software up to date, implement strong security measures, and prioritize cybersecurity training for their staff. By staying proactive and vigilant, organizations can avoid the pitfalls associated with using outdated technology and enhance their overall security posture.

At Adaptive Office Solutions, cybersecurity is our specialty. We keep cybercrimes at bay by using analysis, forensics, and reverse engineering to prevent malware attempts and patch vulnerability issues. By making an investment in multilayered cybersecurity, you can leverage our expertise to boost your defenses, mitigate risks, and protect your data with next-gen IT security solutions.

Every single device that connects to the internet poses a cyber security threat, including that innocent-looking smartwatch you’re wearing. Adaptive’s wide range of experience and certifications fills the gaps in your business’s IT infrastructure and dramatically increases the effectiveness of your cybersecurity posture.

Using our proactive cybersecurity management, cutting-edge network security tools, and comprehensive business IT solutions, you can lower your costs through systems that are running at their prime, creating greater efficiency and preventing data loss and costly downtime. With Adaptive Office Solutions by your side, we’ll help you navigate the complexities of cybersecurity so you can achieve business success without worrying about online threats.

To schedule a Cyber Security Risk Review, call the Adaptive Office Solutions’ hotline at 506-624-9480 or email us at