Security

Still running Windows 7 instead of Windows 10? You're at greater risk from malware says report

The trend was consistent across Windows PCs in both homes and businesses according to Webroot.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Only 15% of the total files determined to be malware in 2017 were seen on Windows 10 systems, while 63% were found on Windows 7 PCs - Webroot.
  • Among PCs used by businesses, there was an average of .04 malware files per Windows 10 device, half the .08 files per machine running Windows 7 - Webroot.

The average Windows 7 PC houses twice as much malware as a Windows 10 machine, according to figures from Webroot.

The trend was consistent across Windows PCs in both homes and businesses, the security firm found, in an analysis based on machines it monitors.

"While fewer malware files were seen in 2017 than in 2016, the numbers are more striking when viewed by operating system," says the Webroot report.

"Only 15% of the total files determined to be malware in 2017 were seen on Windows 10 systems, while a full 63% were found on Windows 7, the next-most-common OS for businesses."

This imbalance was despite more than half the systems (54%) observed by Webroot running Windows 10, compared to less than 33% running Windows 7, 8% running Windows 8, 1% running Vista, and less than 1% XP.

SEE: System update policy (Tech Pro Research)

For PCs used by firms, Webroot saw an average of .04 malware files per Windows 10 device, half the .08 files per machine running Windows 7. Detections were higher for home PCs running Windows, although the latest OS again proved more resilient, with .07 files per Windows 10 device, versus .16 for Windows 7. Interestingly, malware was found almost as often on Windows 7 devices as the now unsupported Windows XP, with .17 files per Windows XP machine.

"While Windows 10 won't solve all security woes, it's a step in the right direction. Combined with advanced endpoint protection that uses behavioral analysis and machine learning, adopting Windows 10 can greatly reduce enterprises' vulnerability to cyberattacks," Webroot states.

It's worth noting that the full suite of protections cited by Webroot are unlikely to be available to all Windows 10 users, particularly home users and small businesses. For example Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection — a cloud-based, malware-detection system that spot threats by examining a wide-range of system behavior, looking for everything from suspicious memory manipulation to keylogging — requires an E5 volume licensing deal.

According to Microsoft's figures, 18% of Windows 7 and Windows 8 devices, and over 50% of Windows 10 devices, are using Microsoft's own Defender anti-virus software.

Microsoft has mounted several campaigns highlighting the security benefits of moving from Windows 7 to Windows 10, even going as far as suggesting patches are unable to keep Windows 7 secure.

However, again, several of Windows 10 flagship security features are not available to all Windows 10 users, requiring either the Enterprise edition or subscriptions to different Microsoft cloud services.

In recent months, some third party figures have started to suggest the number of computers running Windows 10 has overtaken Windows 7 for the first time. However, analysis of Microsoft's Windows user figures suggests the number of PCs running Windows overall seems to be falling.

    Also see

    win10vswin7.png

    The malware detected on Windows 7 machines vs Windows 10.

    Image: Webroot

    About Nick Heath

    Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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