Microsoft has ended security updates and technical support for older versions of the Internet Explorer web browser. The changes were announced in August 2014 but have come into effect this month.

The move, which applies to versions 8, 9 and 10 of the browser, affects an estimated 20% of web traffic and could leave users of these browsers open to cyber attacks.

A statement on Microsoft’s website confirmed that only the most recent version of Internet Explorer would receive security updates and technical support, and encouraged all users to ensure they were using the most up-to-date version of the browser.

Research from Computerworld suggests that only 55% of those using Internet Explorer were using the latest version, meaning numerous individuals could be leaving themselves open to hackers.

Some commentators have taken to calling affected browsers ‘hot potatoes’ which users should drop as soon as they can.

Despite this warning, many users appear unconcerned. In research carried out by Camwood, more than 1,000 Internet users were quizzed about their web use. Of those asked, over half said that Internet Explorer was their main browser.

Of these, 26% claimed they would upgrade before the end of support deadline, but a worrying 74% said they didn’t have plans to upgrade at all.

In response to the findings, Adrian Foxall, the CEO of Camwood, said: “Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of internet users still don’t recognise regular updates as a vital part of basic internet security.”

However, this is not the first time that Microsoft has withdrawn all technical support. In April the corporation ceased all tech support for Windows XP and although many predicted a spike in cyber attacks against users, any such attacks seemed to be minimal.

Estimates from NetMarketShare suggest that Internet Explorer is losing its monopoly on the web browser market, with IE now accounting for 57% of the market. This compares to 25% for Google Chrome, 12% for Mozilla Firefox and 5% for Safari from Apple.

Some suggest that Microsoft’s warnings to users to upgrade may in fact have had a negative effect, instead driving some to use rival browsers such as Chrome.