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Could Legacy Technology Be Compromising Your Cybersecurity?

Could Legacy Technology Be Compromising Your Cybersecurity?

Business change is now the new constant. During the last 18 months, businesses have risen or tumbled from view, based on their ability to respond quickly and effectively to sweeping change.

Digital transformation, IT modernization, planning, and deployment have become more important than ever for IT decision-makers. Yet, even today, many companies still continue to operate their businesses on outdated or inefficient legacy technology. 

As time passes and legacy technology becomes more entrenched, the skills gap widens and companies face an uncertain and precarious future. Security can become compromised through minimal investment, causing businesses to fail.

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Evaluating the Legacy Tech Landscape

As a result of this rising tide of legacy technology, NinjaOne surveyed 1,000 IT decision-makers in the US, UK, Australia, Germany and France to gain real insights and reveal the full picture. The resulting report, Global IT Technical Debt in 2021, sheds light on the key areas, including the challenges old technology brings to technology investment plans and strategies. 

Our survey paints a worrying picture for UK businesses, pinpointing a number of areas where other countries are moving forward at faster rates. In terms of IT investments, modernization efforts and growth, the UK is showing signs of weakness. Respondents indicated that the hardware and the software used by their organizations was around seven years old, slightly older than the international survey average. 

Just 49% of IT leaders in the UK reported an increase in IT budgets, compared to 59% globally.

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Investments in IT modernization increased by 54% in the UK, compared to 61% in other countries surveyed. And, as many UK organizations are experiencing declining IT budgets, this is creating challenges with legacy technology.

Rising Software Vulnerabilities and Long-Term Business Risk

Respondents told us that their biggest problem when maintaining legacy technology is managing new and existing security vulnerabilities, as well as staying compliant with security and data privacy regulations. Nearly half of those surveyed told us that they had experienced a cybersecurity incident due to insecurities within legacy technology.

Not only does legacy technology impact businesses in terms of stifling innovation, missing market opportunities, and exposing them to cybersecurity risks, it also places a huge strain on resources.

IT leaders told us that its maintenance accounts for a significant portion of their teams’ time. In fact, on average, UK IT technicians spent 16 hours a week on legacy tech maintenance. With an average salary of £47,000, this maintenance could cost businesses more than £18,800 annually.  Legacy tech maintenance can drive up labor costs and also pull personnel away from longer-term strategic tasks that add real value to the business.

Reasons to Plug the Technology Gap

Outdated technology eventually reaches an unpatched state, as vendors withdraw support and the end of life phase kicks in. At this point, unpatched assets may frequently be attacked and eventually breached by cybercriminals. Hence, the existence of old technology anywhere in your business environment represents a serious threat. 

  • There is often a multitude of reasons why companies aren’t acting quicker to plug the technology gap. Reasons include:
  • Limitations on resources to stay up to date with security trends, findings, and vulnerabilities.
  • When using legacy equipment, locating, obtaining and applying updates can be a labor-intensive, time-consuming process.
  • There may be planning bottlenecks, with not enough time available to manage, plan and implement new technology.
  • Expenditure costs for newer technology are also a barrier.
  • Evolving compliance, security, and data privacy regulations demand additional IT time, pulling focus from other tasks.

Hackers have great success by exploiting the fact that many people fail to update their hardware and software regularly. This is precisely how the WannaCry attack in 2017 operated.

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Nearly all (98 percent) of the targeted 160,000 targeted computer systems had failed to update to Windows 7 when made available. This delay meant the criminals found it significantly easier to hack those systems that didn’t have the latest security measures in place. 

The Roadmap to a More Secure Future  

Even big players with endless budgets face the legacy tech dilemma. Does the cost to fix it and carry out regular maintenance outweigh the cost of purchasing new equipment? 

But it’s not just about cost. It’s also about opportunity cost. Could the focus on the immediate financial impact be causing longer-term financial loss as newer technologies will not only enhance security but also strengthen the business, improve agility and heighten the customer proposition?  

To tackle the challenge, companies need to make tech debt a broad issue and devise a strategy that speaks to the individual needs of a company within the context of its marketplace. Here are some ways that you can manage old technology and improve your business outcomes:

Audit: Take stock of all of your organization’s technology at least once a year. Ensure all software is up to date and hardware is running efficiently and securely. 

Replace: Put a hard stop on the length of time you keep the hardware. Once a laptop reaches five years old, replace it. 

Document: Update IT infrastructure on a regular basis and make policies and special procedures available to the entire team. Today’s IT documentation software makes it easy to automate the process, reducing the maintenance burden.

Encourage: Instil a culture of communication and have the entire team flag have any device issues straight away. Encouraging early intervention will help avoid potential disasters.

Managing tech debt isn’t all about making sure the computers work. Far from it. Out of date technology presents a real threat and can easily devastate a business. Ensure that this is clearly communicated at all levels. Action will not only safeguard against security threats, but it will also benefit the wider strategic goals of your business. 

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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