Legacy systems have been a large issue for security professionals. These systems often suffer from outdated technologies, and updating them can be difficult – if you're able to even update them at all. For many legacy systems patching isn't an option; this is a major security risk and attackers view these outdated systems as “low-hanging fruit” when seeking to exploit a system. If a system is being used that is no longer supported with patches, it's important to retire it – or you have to accept being vulnerable to exploitation.
Many legacy systems are still supported, and it's important to regularly patch them. Estimates suggest unpatched vulnerabilities are linked to 60 percent of data breaches – and further studies have found that some 44 percent of exploits target a vulnerability that is two to four years old. This means most data breaches come from unpatched vulnerabilities – and in many cases, attackers are exploiting vulnerabilities that were discovered years ago and can be used to target legacy systems.
Legacy systems (and legacy exploits) are easy targets for attackers. For one, relying on legacy infrastructure can make patching across these legacy devices a total nightmare. Old technology combined with a failure to patch is a recipe for disaster. However, newer technologies, like automated patching software, can help legacy system administrators step up their security seamlessly.
Unpatched Legacy Environments are Vulnerable
If you don't patch for vulnerabilities, your system is going to be vulnerable – there's just no way around that. And yet, failure to patch for these exploits remains a major problem. Even in the case of critical exploits, like BlueKeep, many organizations are failing to patch in a timely manner.
The threat of BlueKeep is so severe that Microsoft issued a rare update for operating environments they no longer support. And yet, even months later, reports suggest nearly a million internet-facing computers are still unpatched.
While there are many drawbacks to relying on legacy systems, one of the biggest issues with using a system that's past its expiration date is the security risk that poses. When a company ends support for a system, that means it will no longer receive updates – including security updates and patches. This means that new vulnerabilities can be exploited by attackers at whim. Malicious actors are known to focus on vulnerabilities that affect widely used legacy systems. Attackers aren't stupid: They know you aren't patching your system, and that's exactly how they will find a vulnerability to exploit.
Patch Vulnerabilities, Protect Your Organization
For organizations of any size, patching for vulnerabilities can be more difficult than it seems. Networks can be quite expensive, and may include everything from apps on users' mobile devices to on-premise legacy environments. An enterprise's network may contain a mix of different software and other applications that need updates as well. In other words: There can be a lot to deal with, especially if you have to patch everything manually. And relying on legacy infrastructure can complicate the matter even further.
There are many reasons why organizations rely on legacy systems – but maintaining them and keeping your security suite up-to-date remains important, regardless of what systems you're using. Many companies are hesitant to deploy patches or update their devices because they're afraid of what might happen – and too many fail to consider what will happen if they don't. A malfunction with an update might cause some downtime – but a data breach would be a much bigger problem. If current infrastructure is too old to allow patching, it must be updated; legacy systems shouldn't be used as an excuse not to patch. If they're unsupported then retire them; if they are still supported patch them!
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