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Security Risks Associated with Legacy Technology

Discuss about the Legacy Technology Security Issues.

Legacy technology in the context of computers connotes to such computer system, programming language or the software which has become outdated, redundant and obsolete but is still in use by people and organizations instead of getting the same updated to the latest version. A technology’s legacy is not specifically decided by the age but may also be referred basis the lack of support from the technology merchant or a system that is no longer capable of meeting the entities requirements. Due to the lack of upgradation of the old systems with the latest edition, it poses certain security risks as well.

Security is the biggest concern for all organizations because of which legacy systems should be upgraded on a continuous basis as old technology is more susceptible to being hacked because of ease for the hackers to get inside systems which are still running on the older versions of the operating systems. The same is so as the security upgradation has not been done to the level required. The said danger all the more enhances if the vendor does not provide latest versions on a timely basis. Cyber attackers are more inclined towards hacking the application layer of the systems. Software applications which were tested in the year 2013 found that more than ninety percent of it was hit by security issues. Furthermore if the software provider is not up to date then the organization is more vulnerable towards security risks. Thus it is easy for the hackers to enter into computer systems which are sill deploying the older versions of hardware and software applications (Goldstein, 2015). More so, the vendors are not interested in developing the upgrade versions of the older systems simply because the same will deter the newer applications from capturing the market.

Although it s considered that terminals which are of no use now may seem to be more safe as compared to the modern applications since its usage is restricted by the application and is highly command driven but even though this closed system poses to be more secure but the same is not ultimate if the actual purpose is only defeated i.e. the organizations to cope up with the changing business environment. The old systems easily accept the inputs from various people without getting the same validated. Due to the same the developer of the codes write such codes which has the ability to interpret whatever the user enters (Laney et.al. 2004). However there may be situations wherein these developers may miss out something in the code string which would provide a path to the hackers to enter some undesirable values due to which the entire computer system may run down leading to a loss of considerable information.

The legacy technological systems no longer serve the purpose of the organizations, especially those who work on a global platform. For them security is of much importance whether it is security against crashing down of the system or against the possible attackers and the hackers of the confidential information as it has great reputational value. The organizations who believe in restoring their legacy systems should make efforts to ensure that the modern security hooks are successfully applied to the older versions computers, but the same is not possible for all host applications due to reasons such as the vendor only stopped the product in totality or discontinued its operations. For example if a company has tailored its legacy version to a great extent then upgrading the same would call for tailoring the entire customisation again. If any patch is missed out then it becomes more difficult to roll out the next patch (Lehmann, 2015).

Challenges Associated with Upgradation

The organizations are seen to suffer with regards security of their important information and data both internally and externally and the legacy systems are more vulnerable; to security infringes because of lack of coping up with the new and emerging security needs. Due to the same one of the most preferred ways for securing the data and information stored in the host computer is to develop a secure terminal emulation system which would primarily focus upon modernising the legacy host application and thus resolve the security issues. Legacy technology security issues are a matter of greater concern in this era of technological advancement due to varying causes. The cost involved in updating the older versions to which the vendor has not provided an upgrade is very high. Secondly protection of the information of the customers such as their credit card information for organizations who processes such data is of utmost importance (Weiss, 2012). Thus it is crucial for them to employ the vendor-supplied critical security patches but unfortunately all emulators do not support such patches i.e. PCI DSS requirements due to which working on the legacy systems poses security threats both to the customers and to the business houses as well.

Furthermore, the legacy terminals are more susceptible to virus attacks. For example as per Microsoft, the older version of Windows XP is more exposed to virus attacks than the latest versions of Windows. Thus it is very clear from the above example that legacy is a problem both with regards the security and innovation. Switching over to Windows 7 may be a difficult task for the organizations that have a huge number of systems deployed (Zoufaly, 2002).

Thus it is very clear that upgradation is the best option available to fight against the security threats posed by the legacy systems. But all the legacy systems do not offer the privilege of upgradation due to the upgraded path being blocked or the cost is too high. At the same time it is not possible to get away of the said system, in such a scenario other means have to be adopted so as to enable mitigation of risk. Such as sandboxing of a platform which is highly susceptible to risks via virtualisation. Thus makes the entire system isolated against the other systems of the firm. Oracle Virtual box is one such software which enables emulation of the Windows 95 or the XP with the legacy applications within a self contained window on the latest system which is more secure and less risky (Korolov, 2014). The said virtual system can be kept away from the accessibility of the outsiders or some specific insiders as well.

Second method that can be used by the legacy technology to mitigate the security threats is creation of effective patches which can deal with the known weakness upstream of the risky application. Such as the legacy database products are more susceptible to the SQL Injection attacks wherein an enquiry which has been sent to the information block gets into the language rules of the application software and modifies important data which was otherwise kept confidential. In such a scenario the virtual patches play a very important role. The said patch comprises of certain rules in a firewall packet inspector or the server which scans and detects the SQL Injection Syntax and immediately takes action by jamming the application before it reaches the legacy product being aimed at (Campara, & Mansourov, 2008).

On a concluding note it is very evident that legacy systems pose high security threats and fighting the same is also complex. The older versions are more risky due to security lapses such as easy accessibility by the malware attackers, lack of vendor support due to which updates are unavailable, the older systems are less security threatscape as at that point of time security threats were not at such an advanced stage, the security patches are not available for all the older versions of the systems and most striking is the fact that some legacy products both software and hardware run only in a legacy environment which makes it more vulnerable to security threats as the organizations are by default forced to continue its usage for specific information. Although methods are being deployed to fight the same yet it is at a very nascent stage and needs further development.  

References:

Campara, D., & Mansourov, N., (2008), How to Tackle security issues in large existing/ legacy systems while maintaining development priorities. Technologies for Homeland Security.

Goldstein, P., (2015), Legacy Federal IT Systems Are a Ticking Time Bomb of Risks, Available at https://www.fedtechmagazine.com/article/2015/12/legacy-federal-it-systems-are-ticking-time-bomb-risks (Accessed 17th October 2016)

Korolov, M., (2014), Forgotten risks hide in legacy systems, Available at https://www.csoonline.com/article/2139382/data-protection/forgotten-risks-hide-in-legacy-systems.html (Accessed 17th October 2016)

Laney, R.C., Linden, J.V.D., & Thomas, P., (2004), Evolution of Aspects for Legacy System Security Concerns, Available at https://aosd.net/workshops/aosdsec/2004/AOSDSEC04_Janet_VanderLinden.pdf (Accessed 17th October 2016)

Lehmann, A., (2015), The Challenges of Maintaining a Legacy system, Available at https://blogs.askcts.com/2015/04/07/the-challenges-of-an-internal-app-support-team/ (Accessed 17th October 2016)

Weiss, A., (2012), The Hidden Security Risks of Legacy Software, Available at https://www.esecurityplanet.com/patches/the-hidden-security-risks-of-legacy-software.html (Accessed 17th October 2016)

Zoufaly, F., (2002), Issues and Challenges Facing Legacy Systems, Available at https://www.developer.com/mgmt/article.php/1492531/Issues-and-Challenges-Facing-Legacy-Systems.htm (Accessed 17th October 2016) 

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