At some point, all software will reach the end of its useful life. This means that manufacturers will no longer develop or service the product and discontinue all technical support, upgrades, bug fixes and security patches. As a result, end-of-life (EOL) software will have known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can easily exploit. This article discusses the risks of continuing to use EOL software and discusses best practices for organizations to mitigate this risk.
The Risks of End-of-Life (EOL) Software.
Known but unpatched vulnerabilities are among the highest cybersecurity risks. One survey found that 60% of data breaches stemmed from unknown known vulnerabilities. Another report found that 3 out of 4 cyber attacks in 2020 exploited security vulnerabilities from 2017 or earlier.
Organizations may be hesitant to transition from EOL software for a number of reasons, such as:
- New software lacks necessary features
- Limited resources
- Migration challenges
- Lack of responsibility to replace software
This is especially true when EOL systems are still operating. However, continuing to use EOL software also comes with a myriad of risks, such as the following:
- Increased cyber security risk— Without developer security fixes, EOL software becomes riddled with security risks that hackers are often quick to exploit.
- Software incompatibility—New applications will be designed for current software, meaning EOL software often cannot accommodate newer apps. Organizations that continue to use EOL software will likely need to hold on to legacy systems and applications even as newer and better versions become available. This poses additional risks, as out-of-date applications may soon reach EOL as well.
- Inability to follow the rules– Regulations requiring companies to meet the minimum requirements for data security are increasing. As a result, organizations that use EOL software and fail to adequately protect sensitive customer data may be considered non-compliant. The consequences can be fines or company closures.
- High operating costs— Attempting to maintain, patch, and bug-fix EOL software without developer assistance can be costly. In some cases, the cost of trying to patch EOL software can exceed the cost of replacing old software to begin with.
- Poor performance and reliability issues—If your organization is running outdated software, there is an increased likelihood that your software or systems may break. Such errors can result in costly downtime and additional operating costs.
Proactive management is a necessary step to prevent unwelcome surprises and keep your organization secure.
Manage End-of-Life (EOL) software.
While many organizations are prepared for the initial lifecycle stages that come with introducing new products, few companies are prepared for what will happen when the time inevitably comes for these software components to be phased out. Consider the following tips for EOL management:
- Create a lifecycle management plan. Effective end-of-life planning reduces cybersecurity vulnerabilities, reduces the risk of downtime, and helps companies comply with regulations. Your lifecycle management plan should include all aspects of a product lifecycle, from the introduction of new software to EOL and extending to plans to phase out unsupported software.
- Understand device history. Use device management software that automatically captures important information about devices when they connect to the network (eg model number, IP address, certificate status). Such software can provide your organization with a very detailed network overview and will enable your organization to push software and firmware updates, certifications and other necessary upgrades to thousands of computers on your network simultaneously.
- Monitor EOL status. Stay up-to-date on EOL notifications for all critical components in your organization. Most major vendors have lifecycles for products and product components, including EOL dates. Best practices suggest that you review the EOL dates of new software before selecting it for current use. Planning for EOL helps your organization avoid surprises when devices or software are no longer supported, allowing your organization to plan and budget for replacements.
- Maintain consistent cybersecurity practices. Ensure compliance with cybersecurity best practices. Some areas to consider include policies around changing default passwords, password strength, regulatory compliance (such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and the National Defense Authorization Act), and how often risk levels are assessed.
- Communicate early and clearly. Inform customers of any upcoming EOL issues and your plans to resolve them. Being communicative and transparent can help your organization improve customer loyalty and trust during EOL transitions.
It is clear that obsolete software exposes organizations to increased levels of risk. Additionally, many insurance companies will ask for EOL management information as a prerequisite to obtaining cyber insurance. Through proper planning and device management, businesses can remain adequately protected against these known cyber vulnerabilities.
If you would like additional information and resources, we are here to help you analyze your needs and make the right coverage decisions to protect your business from unnecessary risk. You can download a free copy of our eBook, or if you’re ready make Cyber Liability Insurance part of your insurance portfolio, Request a quote or download and get started with our Cyber & Data Breach Insurance Application then we’ll get started for you.