When software reaches a point in its product life cycle where it is no longer subject to system updates or security patches, it has reached the end of its life. This will occur to all types of software at some point. A good example of this is when Microsoft announced the end of a particular Windows product such as Windows 98 which reached the end of life stage almost a decade ago now in 2006. Typically, in replacement of an EOL software, a developer or manufacturer will release a new, updated version to address market needs.
While end-of-life is a standard part of the product life cycle of a piece of software (or hardware) it is important to be aware of the risks associated with EOL software. In the realms of cyber security, EOL software can put a business or organisation at increased risk.
Why is EOL Software a Risk?
Without access to the necessary software updates and bug fixes, a software will quickly become vulnerable to cyber attacks. Use of such software puts an organisation or business at a higher risk of attack from malicious hackers, capable of exploiting the EOL software in order to commit further cyber crimes such as extortion.
If there’s such risk associated with EOL software, why would an organisation continue to use such systems?
A Legacy System
The answer to the above question is quite simple. Systems such as these are referred to as ‘legacy systems’. Types of software and hardware, that although they have come to the end of their product cycles, they still very much meet the requirements and the demands of an organisation or business. Helping to complete operational tasks or addressing critical business needs. When a software is so essential to the organisation and has been for many years, it can be difficult to source a replacement, or accept the change. Which explains exactly why legacy systems continued to be utilised, despite the risks they can pose to the organisation’s cyber security.
Next Steps to Deal With EOL Software
So, what should you be doing if your organisation is still operating with EOL software?
Firstly it is important to stay aware of software changes. If you are unsure of the current status of software used within your organisation it is advisable to contact the developer directly for updates on the EOL process and when you can expect to no longer receive further software updates. By doing this you can plan ahead accordingly. For the most part, when a software, much like Windows, is set to reach end-of-life, the developer should give its customers plenty of notice and time to adjust to new launches.
By moving away from legacy systems and opting for the latest versions of company-wide software, you will instead ensure your company mitigate any risks and potentially prevent losses both financially and to your reputation. Despite the simplicity of continuing to rely on legacy systems and EOL software, choosing to do this is putting your business at risk of great damages. It’s not worth the risk of putting your business and even your customers/clients at risk.
The Risks This Software Poses to Your Cyber Essentials Certification
An organisation found to be using legacy systems will find they are at risk of failing the Cyber Essentials certification. If you are looking at the certification standard for your whole organisation, moving away from legacy systems will need to be taken into account unless you certify just a subset of your IT estate. While it is mostly expected for a whole organisation to be within the certification scope, segmenting still allows you to secure a subset of your business and to manage your cyber risk. This is due to you being aware of the EOL system and at least having the opportunity to minimise the damage that could be caused if an attacker exploited the software.
The Importance of a Cyber Security Audit
Cyber security audits are a great way to identify areas of your organisation where cyber security could be falling short. In a large organisation, various departments could have different protocols in place and be using different software. A security audit will take into account all the different solutions, procedures and processes that are in place, while identifying security gaps, the risks and more. This will help the teams identify where software may have reached EOL or where vulnerabilities are present to protect the valuable and private data that’s held internally.
Cyber security audits and health checks can be completed by external cyber security service providers able to complete a deep dive into the internal operating systems of the organisation, identifying key areas that pose a risk to the business and suggest improvements to fine-tune operations with a cyber security focus. Such audits can take a closer look at software and hardware at the centre of business operations and suggest changes, where necessary. This may include providing alternative solutions to provide your business with the most appropriate solutions for handling data and information, without relying on risky EOL software.