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So what’s the risk of using unsupported software?
Hi everyone, Leo Notenboom here. I got a question this morning, actually, about, well, I’ll just read it to you. Cheryl asks, “Can you offer any suggestions on what to do if we’re using Google Chrome that’s no longer supporting Windows Vista? Some of us (me) don’t want to buy a new computer just yet? Is there a risk to using Chrome if it’s unsupported?”
Well, the answer actually depends more on you than anything else. I do want to clear up one possible path for you though that you didn’t mention and that is simply that your machine is currently running Windows Vista.
It is possible, I’m not saying it’s guaranteed but it is possible that it might actually support a newer version of Windows so it is possible that you may be able to upgrade Windows itself, either to 7, 8.1 or even 10, maybe and then have Google Chrome support that version of Windows. That’s a fairly major change but it does not require getting new hardware; you don’t have to go out and buy a new computer to make that happen.
So I at least wanted to put that out there. That’s one possible path. Now I realize that it’s also not free so what I’m not going to assume that’s a path you’re going to take. The reason I say that it depends on you, well, first we have to understand exactly what it means for software to be unsupported. This actually came up earlier this week in I think a discussion elsewhere.
When software is unsupported, all that really means is that the software is no longer going to be changed: no new features or no new fixes for a specific platform. So you may find that Google Chrome will continue to be updated on Vista or not but none of the changes implemented in Google Chrome will be specific to Vista or will address any vulnerabilities or problems that are found on Vista.
Now, as I say that, it’s more likely actually that they will stop updating it completely on Vista, but it can go either way. It actually can, so what does that mean? Well, it means that Google Chrome will continue to work. I mean obviously it’s still a working browser on your system, and it will continue to browse things however you end up using your browser to navigate the internet, but what it really means is that if, for example, a vulnerability is discovered in Chrome, or in Windows or in something that can be exploited through Google Chrome, using Google Chrome, that exploit is not going to be fixed.
In other words, we don’t know about it today. Sometime in the future it gets discovered and it’s publicly known, and then malware authors or others can go out and start using that exploit knowing that Windows Vista users are going to remain vulnerable to that exploit, essentially forever, if it involves something related to Google Chrome.
So, coming back to depending on you, what kind of a person are you? Are you someone who understands what it means to be safe on the internet? Are you someone who knows how to determine whether or not an incoming email is valid or not? If an attachment is safe or not?
If you are uncertain about those things, if you feel really uncomfortable about being to make those kinds of determinations, or if you’re someone who does install a lot of software or open random attachments or just go to places on the internet that you shouldn’t go, then yeah, this is a problem and you’ll want to fix it.
I’ll discuss a few options for fixing it in a second. In reality, if you can educate yourself, if you can start to feel comfortable about being able to determine what is and what isn’t safe to do on the internet, you can probably continue to use Chrome for quite some time, probably until it’s time actually replace the machine for other reasons.
The one thing I definitely I want to throw into the mix here is, because there are no guarantees, please make sure that you are backing that machine up regularly and I mean full image backups so that if by some chance you happen to catch an infection through Google Chrome or through any reason, any vector that it may come at you, then once you discover that, you have the option of restoring your entire machine to the time before that infection incurred, and you can not do whatever it was that caused the infection.
Seriously, a backup is by far the number one way to protect yourself from just about anything, and I’ve been saying this to Windows XP users, the folks that are still hanging on to XP, and it applies now especially for Vista and especially folks such as yourself that are using Vista and Google Chrome. Keep backing up; make sure you are backing up daily.
My rule of thumb is monthly full image backups with daily incrementals. If you don’t know what that means I’ve got a ton of articles on askleo.com that discuss how to back up and what those terms actually mean and how they keep you safe.
So backing up is your first line of defense if you continue to use unsupported software. It’s advice I’ve been giving to Windows XP users; it’s advice that I now give to Windows Vista users, and obviously, as more and more software becomes unsupported on Windows Vista, it just becomes that much more important.
So, like I said, it kind of depends on your own comfort level and your own ability to really understand what is and is not a safe thing to do. If you’re comfortable understanding what safety really means for you, you can probably go on for some time. If not, if you’re concerned about this, then the options are kind of limited, to be honest. You can look for other browsers that do continue to be supported. I honestly don’t have a list for you.
You can certainly look into browsers like Opera or Firefox or some others; I mean there’s a bunch of browsers out there. One of the problems with several of the browsers is they aren’t really completely independent browsers. They are browsers built on the same base as tools like Firefox and Chrome and Internet Explorer so it gets a little bit more difficult to understand which one is truly a different browser that actually might continue to be supported on Vista.
But that’s one path to go. The other is, like I said, earlier, operating system upgrade is an option. If you’re really, really concerned and you don’t have the money for an operating system upgrade, and you don’t want to take that path, then the other thing, the only other thing that I can really suggest is an operating system switch. In other words, switching to a free operating system such as one of the Linux variants.
Those obviously will continue to be supported. They are going to be supported on your hardware. If you’re running Vista, there’s a variant of Linux out there that’s going to run, and I’d be shocked if it weren’t something as common or as popular as Linux Mint or Ubuntu. Either of those two will have with them a current versions of Firefox that continue to get supported and I believe you can actually get Chrome or Chromium as it is sometimes called to install on those operating systems.
But ultimately, it all really comes back down to you whether you feel comfortable. I think you can. I honestly believe that it’s perfectly possible for an individual to continue to use unsupported software as long as that they understand the risks that they are taking; that they make intelligent decisions about what they do and do not do on the internet; what attachments you do and do not open; when in doubt, don’t open it. That’s the rule of thumb that applies everywhere but especially if you are running on unsupported software.
And backing up. Backing up is your ultimately safety net. If you can’t insure that you’re running a good, daily backup of some sort of your entire system then pretty much no matter what damage malware might do, you can undo it fairly quickly without losing a bunch of information.
So that’s my advice. If you can, consider an OS upgrade. If you can’t, just stay safe. Be safe and start backing up. I hope that helps. For other folks who are watching this who are in this same situation, let me know what you think. If you’ve got additional ideas that would help someone in this particular situation stay safe, again they are running Windows Vista with no path to upgrade and they are finding that Google Chrome is no longer supported.
How risky do you feel that is and what steps would you take to stay safe in a situation like that? Until next week, as always, by the way, as always here is the link for you to visit this video on askleo.com if you are watching it anywhere else come visit this link. This is where I have the moderated comments. This is where I actually read all of the comments that are left on this article and I appreciate everybody’s input and ideas. Until next week, I’m Leo Notenboom. Do remember to have fun, stay safe and of course, don’t forget to back up. Take care, everyone.
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- Hey! The World Didn’t End! – I reflect a little on the sudden realization that Windows XP’s end-of-support date came and went and … nothing happened.