Every software product has a lifecycle. Knowing key dates in a program’s lifecycle can help you make informed decisions about the products your small business relies on every day. This guide helps small businesses understand what end of support is, why it is important to be prepared and when to update, upgrade or make other changes.
The date when software is no longer supported
“End of support” is essentially the expiry date of the software. It happens when software is no longer supported by the product developer that makes it. It will no longer receive security updates, general software updates or technical support.
Sometimes a software upgrade will be sufficient, but you may need to upgrade your hardware (computer or server) if that is too old to support the new software. In most cases, the software will continue to work after the end of support date, but without the support from the developer, you will be more open to suffering cyber security incidents. It is also only a matter of time before other software and hardware developers stop working with the outdated software.
The risk of a cyber security incident significantly increases when unsupported software is used
In 2017, the global “WannaCry” ransomware attack targeted people using unsupported operating systems. There were over 200,000 victims in 150 countries who were unable to access their locked down files.
Criminals know some users still use software that is no longer being protected by the developer’s security updates. Over time, criminals are more likely to break into these older, unsupported software programs than those still being protected by the developer. The techniques criminals use will evolve over time, but the defences of unsupported software will remain as they were at the time of end of support.
Every program is different
The timing of when operating systems reach end of support varies. Microsoft’s Modern Lifecycle Policy covers products with continuous support and servicing. Microsoft’s Fixed Lifecycle Policy covers products with defined end-of-support dates. You can search on Microsoft’s website for specific end of support dates. Apple does not have a defined end of support policy, but you can manually check on the Apple website when your operating system last received a security update.
If your IT is managed by an outsourced provider, talk to them about the end of support for your operating systems or critical software.