Four out of five companies and municipalities in Japan face a deadline of sorts Wednesday, the day Microsoft Corp. ends technical support for older versions of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser. About 30 percent of them use versions that may now be at risk.
Although the application will continue to work, Microsoft will no longer release security updates for older versions to guard against hackers.
The company estimates that 80 percent of firms and local government offices use the program. Microsoft Japan spokesman Masanori Kanazawa said about one in three of the total use older versions of IE.
If vulnerabilities are left unattended, computers could be exposed to viruses, which in turn could lead to data being compromised, according to government-affiliated IT security agency Information-technology Promotion Agency.
The many firms nationwide using IE may be slow in upgrading to a newer version as they want to ensure their computer systems will operate smoothly with it.
Despite a global shift toward other browsers such as Google Chrome, Japan largely remains loyal to the Microsoft version.
According to web traffic analysis website StatCounter, the latest version, IE 11.0, ranked top for web browsers on desktop computers in Japan, with 26.6 percent of the total in December, followed by the latest version of Google Chrome, with 26.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the outdated IE 8.0 version is still used by 1.5 percent of people in Japan and IE 10.0 by 1.4 percent, it showed.
The StatCounter survey indicates that Japan and South Korea are the only countries in the world where Internet Explorer 11.0 boasts the largest share, while the latest version of Google Chrome leads the field in most other nations.
Microsoft’s decision to end tech support is intended to encourage computer users to update their browser and use the latest, highly secure version, said Microsoft’s Kanazawa.
Older versions of Internet Explorer date from before the age of organized cybercrime, cyberterrorism and online extortion, and are seen as particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“The latest version will continue to receive security patches and is made to be protected from today’s advanced cyberattacks, so we highly recommend the latest version to users,” Kanazawa said. He added, newer version may also run faster.
The latest version of IE varies depending on the operation system: It is IE 9 for Windows Vista, and IE 11 for Windows 7 and 8.1.