Posted on: 20 January 2021

Protect your computers from the dangers of “end-of-life” software

In modern life, it is difficult to see how we could function without the use of computers. Computing capability is constantly evolving and even in the last few years, there has been huge advancements in what computers can do.

With these technological advancements, software developers can create software that allows users to make the most of the power in their computer, with new software coming from companies like Microsoft, Apple or Linux every few years. When more and more operating systems are released, it becomes uneconomical to support older software, which means that older software may not be protected against cyber-attacks.

Carry on reading to find out more about “end-of-life” software and how you can protect your business against cyber-attacks.

What is “end-of-life” software?

“End-of-life” software is software that has reached the final point of its life cycle, usually following the introduction of several newer pieces of software. The provider of the software will no longer support the product that is deemed to have come to the end of its life cycle, as it may be uneconomical to do so, software user levels may have dropped, or the provider may want to encourage customers to buy newer products.

When a product has come to the end of its life cycle, the provider may do the following:

  • Stop selling, distributing and promoting this version of the software.
  • Remove training or technical assistance for the product.
  • No longer provide software updates and new features that may be introduced into newer versions.

What are the dangers of using “end-of-life” software?

Without support from the developers, software may become unstable and difficult to use, but there are also some more serious consequences to using “end-of-life” software.

Security problems

Probably the most concerning issue of using “end-of-life” software is that there will be no more security updates for the software, potentially leaving your computer vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Not having the most up to date software means that criminals will be able to access your files, sensitive data and any financial information that you store, far easier than software that has regular security updates.

Incompatibility issues

When sharing files, such as spreadsheets, word documents, presentations, emails or images with colleagues, customers or elsewhere, you will need to have a similar level of compatibility, which you may not have if your software is no longer supported.

This will not leave a positive impression with customers if your business can’t communicate or provide services effectively. Your business could also suffer if communications are disrupted due to incompatibility.

Compliance concerns

Many industries have specific standards that they must uphold to be able to trade, especially with the introduction of data protection rules, such as GDPR and the Data Protection Act.

Businesses must meet legal requirements when it comes to protecting customer data, and using software that is no longer supported would likely be seen as a lack of protection for customer data in the event of a breach.

Additional costs

Something that may be putting you off upgrading to newer software is the actual cost of upgrading all of your equipment.

However, spending the money on newer software means that you may ultimately save money in the long run, by having more reliable software that has better functionality and capabilities.

Insurance risks

Some cyber insurance providers may expect you to use software that is fully supported with security updates to give you the best chance possible of avoiding cyber-attacks.

Check your cyber insurance policy to see whether or not you need to start using software that is better supported to ensure that your policy is valid.

Reduce “end-of-life” product risks

“End-of-life” will still offer some functionality and may be ok to use as long as you take some precautions. Take a look at some of these ways you can reduce the risks of “end-of-life” products to your business.

Communications updates

If you know that your software version has been available for several years and may be coming to the end of its cycle, sign up for regular communications from the provider to keep up to date about any decisions to stop supporting the software.

Regularly update software

Have a company policy to update or upgrade software after a certain amount of time, or to immediately replace software if you start to see signs of ageing, such as an increase in bugs or performance issues.

Reduce the risks

If you rely on using an “end-of-life” piece of software, mitigate risks for your business by doing the following:

  • Remove any sensitive data from the end-of-life software that you are using and store it somewhere that has more security.
  • Keep the most recent security update active.
  • Implement strict cyber-security and make sure that your team know how to maintain good cyber-security at your business.
  • Do not allow remote workers to use end-of-life software, as this is when it could be at its most vulnerable through being unprotected by your firewall.
  • Develop a cyber-incident response plan and have it regularly tested to ensure that it protects customer data in the event of an attack.

Recent changes to Microsoft products

In early 2020, Microsoft announced that they would be ending support for:

  • Windows Server 2008 and 2008R2
  • Exchange Server 2010
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 7 Professional for Embedded Systems

As of 13th October 2020, Microsoft also announced that support for the following products would be ending:

  • Office 2010 Client
  • SharePoint Server 2010
  • Windows Embedded Standard 7
  • Project Server 2010

These were popular pieces of software for computer users, but Microsoft had finally decided that they would be focussing on newer products.

Cyber insurance with Premierline

At Premierline, our trained advisors can tell you more about Cyber Insurance and how it can protect your business. We currently work with Hiscox, one of the leading insurance providers for Cyber Insurance, to find the best cover for our customers looking for cyber protection. Get in touch to speak to one of our trained insurance experts about your cyber and data insurance options. 

Source: Zywave Inc. - Risk Insights: Dangers of End-of-Life Software

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The information and tools contained in this guide are of a general informational nature and should not be relied upon as being suitable for any specific set of circumstances. We have used reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the contents but the information and tools do not constitute professional advice and must not be relied upon as such. To the extent permitted by law, we do not accept responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information or tools in our Insight Hub.