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So, does end of support mean end of life? Hi, everyone. Leo Notenboom here for askleo.com. The big news that came out this week (I don’t know if I want to call it “big” news) but the news that came out this week was a reminder that Microsoft would be ending support for versions of Internet Explorer prior to version 11.
In other words, Internet Explorer version 11 will be the only formally supported version of Internet Explorer after the 12th. So what does that mean? Well, one thing I can tell you that it doesn’t mean is that somehow these older versions of the browser are going to stop working.
The problem is, and what’s actually motivated me to take this as the topic this week are some headlines that I’ve seen related to the impending end of support for these older versions of IE that seem to imply that the browsers will actually stop working on Tuesday and that’s simply not the case.
The browsers will continue to work. They simply won’t be supported. Well, what then does “supported” really mean? All “end of support” really means is fundamentally two things: the most important thing is that if a bug is found in these older versions of Internet Explorer, it will not be fixed. Period.
Now, for most bugs that’s not a big deal. Where it becomes important is if that bug turns out to be a security vulnerability. Now it’s important to realize that the bug’s discovery is what we’re triggering on here. The bug is already there. If there is a bug that would be found later it’s probably something that’s already there and has been there all along.
It’s the discovery of that bug that’s important because discovering it means then that hackers and others could potentially exploit the new knowledge of that failure in order to do something malicious with those versions of the browsers. So that’s the fundamental, that’s the most important issue is that if a bug is found, and if that bug happens to be a security vulnerability or provide some kind of vulnerability into the browser that could be misused, then that bug will not be fixed.
In other words, continuing to use those versions of the browsers could be put you at higher risk of malware. The other issue is that literally they will not support it. In other words, to whatever degree you actually have true support, in other words, you can call up or write in or use a forum for Internet Explorer help that will no longer be there.
It’s not a big thing. To be honest, it doesn’t feel like that there’s a whole lot of help there to begin with, so it’s not like we’re really losing a lot from Microsoft in terms of actual technical support. The more important thing of course is this concept of issues, potentially of found security vulnerabilities not being fixed.
It’s important to realize that all of these older versions of the browsers, be it IE 6,7, 8, 9, they will all keep working, it’s just they may run this additional risk of being compromised by malware if, and only if, a bug is actually found that provides a security vulnerability.
So, what are your options? Well, there are three. One is simply assume the risk. And to be honest, this kind of what people who are still running Windows XP are actually doing. They are assuming the risk of if some kind of vulnerability is found in Windows XP or Internet Explorer 8, which is already past its support date, then they know that those bugs will not be fixed even if they are security problems.
That’s a risk they are willing to assume, and obviously, those pieces of software, those products are still working, it’s just that there’s this additional layer of risk. To mitigate that risk, what you need to do is basically what you should be doing anyway. Making sure that your anti-malware tools are up to date and turned on.
Making sure that your firewall is up and running. Taking regular backups – the litany of what it takes to stay safe on the internet applies especially if you’re running software that is no longer being supported by its vendor and that is particularly true when that software happens to be the operating system or the browser.
In the case of Windows XP, both. Obviously, also, keep your common sense at play. I mean I know that common sense isn’t common. It’s a very difficult term to define but it is important, particularly when you’re running unsupported software that you simply be cognizant of the fact that you’re running at slightly higher risk and you approach the internet just a little bit more skeptically and a little bit more securely.
This approach of assuming the risk is not 100%. That’s one of the reasons that I go back and say and make sure that you’re taking regular backups because when something happens, the backup is probably your fastest, easiest and most reliable way to undo whatever may have happened because of the security vulnerabilities that you may actually be carrying with you.
Option two. Update to Internet Explorer 11. Obviously, if you’re running Windows 10, that’s a non-issue because Internet Explorer 11 is what came with Windows 10 but if you’re running Windows 7 or Windows 8 or even Windows Vista, you have the option of upgrading to Internet Explorer version 11. If you haven’t, this is what most people will recommend.
It’s certainly what Microsoft is recommending by making this announcement this week. It’s actually what I recommend and in fact, it’s what I recommend even if you don’t use Internet Explorer. The reason is very simple. Even if you don’t use Internet Explorer, perhaps you use a different browser like Chrome or Firefox, there are components of the system – Windows itself or some installed software that actually still rely on components of Internet Explorer, to display things like Help pages or other kinds of content.
So it’s important that Internet Explorer always be kept up to date, regardless of whether or not you actually use it as your browser. So, that’s the recommendation that most will give you and that’s the recommendation that I fundamentally fall back to if you can upgrade to Internet Explorer version 11.
Now as a corollary to that, whether or not you upgrade to Internet Explorer version 11, another option is to use a different browser. I tend to use Chrome and in fact, apparently, I’m not alone. I took a quick look at the stats for askleo.com and roughly half of the visitors that come to the site use Google Chrome as their browser.
Internet Explorer itself is actually way down at about the 12% level. Nonetheless, using a different browser is another way to avoid some of the issues that may crop up with Internet Explorer especially if you choose to or can’t upgrade it to version 11.
So if you can’t use Internet Explorer version 11, for whatever reason, then that’s when I recommend that you use a different browser like Chrome or Firefox or any of a number of others so that you avoid any potential security implications from running this older, out-of-support software. Chrome and Firefox continue to be updated regularly.
So, my bottom line recommendation: Update Internet Explorer to version 11 if you can. If you can and you’re happy – fantastic, you’re done. If you can’t or your unhappy, you don’t like Internet Explorer 11 then that’s when I recommend that you actually switch to a different browser and if I were to pick one, I would pick Chrome but Firefox, of course, is another good example, and there are other alternatives out there as well.
And as I said, it’s important to realize that clickbait headlines aside, older version of Internet Explorer: versions 10, 9, 8, even version 6 is out there somewhere, they all still work. They will all still continue to run. The risk that you’re running by having those versions is simply that some kind of bug will be found that turns out to be a security vulnerability that will not be fixed.
So you’re running with a vulnerable browser. That’s why I and others are pushing you to move to Internet Explorer 11 or a different browser that is supported and will in fact have any vulnerabilities fixed in the future.
As always, I would love to hear what you think, what browser you’re using. What issues you have or don’t have with Internet Explorer. Here’s the link to this article out on askleo.com with a full transcript and moderated comments. Like I said, love to hear what you think.
I’m Leo Notenboom. This is askleo.com.
Remember: have fun, stay safe and don’t forget to back up.