On Tuesday 12th January 2016, Microsoft stopped support for Internet Explorer versions 8, 9 and 10. Back in April 2014, they ended support for their popular Windows XP operating system. What does this mean and why is it important to avoid using software that is no longer has support?
The main concern for using software with no support doesn’t have much to do with not being able to get any help when things go wrong. It does have a lot to do with security.
Large or popular pieces of software get regular updates from the people who make them, i.e. the developers. These updates usually get installed through the Internet, and they can do different things like providing more features or addressing compatibility problems with other software or hardware.
But most importantly they’re about security. They fix up security vulnerabilities that nasty cyber-criminals have found (or could find) and could exploit. Large software programs like Windows, and popularly used programs like Internet Explorer are always being probed by criminals looking for weaknesses. Sometimes the developers find the weaknesses first, sometimes the criminals do. (Interesting note: If the criminals find the weaknesses first, it’s called a Zero-Day exploit.)
Either way, when a weakness is found, it needs to be fixed. Failing to fix it gives criminals a much better chance of compromising a computer, which more often than not leads to a malware infection.
Unsupported software is a ticking time bomb
When a piece of software is still supported by its developer, in most cases this means the developer will try and issue a prompt security fix when a vulnerability is discovered.
However if a piece of software is no longer supported, even if the criminals do manage to find a weakness (and they probably will eventually for popular software) there will be no forthcoming fix, and you’ll be potentially exposed to that weakness every time you use that software. Some weaknesses are so severe that you don’t even need to do anything wrong. Merely using the vulnerable software is enough to get your computer compromised!
Essentially, using software that is unsupported is a ticking time bomb. It is likely that at some point a criminal will find an exploit and could cyber-attack you.
And that is why it is so important to avoid using software with no support. Don’t worry though, the shelf life for most software is a relatively long time. Just because the latest version of a piece of software is available, most developers will continue to support previous versions for some time before that support is dropped. Windows XP for example was supported for an incredible 13 years!