Stop using old software!

Are you setting yourself up for a problem?

Running old or infrequently updated software on your computer is a risky business. Although the majority of software developers do continue to release updates to fix security issues, this is not always the case. For example, when Windows XP reached its End of Life (EOL) in 2014, Microsoft stopped issuing updates and patches, meaning that not only has Windows XP over the last few years been a minefield of security hazards, many software developers also stopped guaranteeing that their new applications would be compatible with it.

So, what are the dangers of End-of-life software?

• Software incompatibility: New applications are optimised for the most recent operating systems, meaning that when using EOL operating systems, you can’t upgrade to the latest, more improved applications. Any legacy applications you insist on hanging onto have already reached their EOL or they will soon.

• Security vulnerabilities: As mentioned above, no more security fixes are being issued by Microsoft for XP and Windows Vista. A firewall and anti-virus are not sufficient protection as hackers can still exploit vulnerabilities within these operating systems, thus enabling them to gain access to your files and personal data.

• Compliance issues: Regulated industries like healthcare and e-commerce deal with lots of sensitive customer data. Entrusting personal and or critical information to a decade-old OS or an unsecure application, could, in addition to security lapses, result in big fines, company shutdowns, or possible prison time.

• High operating costs: The costs of maintaining and fixing bugs on any post-EOL software can be high. The expense of paying Microsoft to patch an EOL operating system can be more expensive than simply replacing it. Let alone the high cost of a critical app failing.

• Poor performance and reliability: If you’re still running legacy apps or old versions of Windows, then you must be using archaic computers and servers, once again adding to your risk since any out-of-warranty devices are likely to break down. If you are running a business, downtime alone could be more expensive than an overdue upgrade.

Programs are transitioned to End of Life because the costs associated with manufacturing parts and providing assistance can become too high for the manufacturer, who has found new ways to streamline products and operations. Some programs that have had their support officially terminated or not been updated for over 2 years are: Windows Essentials 2012 and MS Office 2007 and earlier.

Even newer programs can put you at risk if they haven’t been updated for a while. Although some do automatically check for updates, others don’t so you do need to check them on a regular basis.

Philip Brooks