End of Life Hardware

Posted by Rob Schnetzer on Wed, Feb, 05, 2020 @ 14:02 PM

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Has Your Network Hardware reached End-of-Life?  Why Does That Matter?

With Windows 7 recently reaching its official end-of-life (EOL) date, the problems associated with unsupported software have been top of mind for many of us.  But what happens when a critical piece of hardware in your office hits its end-of-life?

First, let’s define the term end-of-life.

End-of-life simply means that the parent company of a device or piece of software has decided to stop updating or supporting it. This happens for a myriad of reasons, but most of them have to do with the age of the software or device. In the case of Windows 7, it was a decade-old operating system designed in an age when the internet was only used by 23% of the world’s population. Today with 58% of the world using the internet, the landscape of cyber security threats has changed, making it necessary to engineer programs and devices that are hardened from attacks by bad actors. Software and hardware from 10 years ago just doesn’t meet that requirement.

Let's add that end-of-life on hardware doesn’t necessarily mean it stops working; it may work perfectly and continue to work for years to come. The problem is that your device may also have security holes that remain unpatched and vulnerable to hackers for as long as that device is in use on your network. This poses risks to your business and your customers’ information; in some cases this security risk can have even legal repercussions. If you are holding your customer's business-critical information, you have a duty to be a good steward of that data. Keeping your IT infrastructure up-to-date is the first step in doing so.

Be it software or hardware, most older technology was just not built for the rigors of modern use on the internet. Unlike wine, devices and operating systems don’t tend to age well. To maintain security across your business network, you must be aware of the support status of all your devices and make sure they are being properly updated.

You probably have a whole host of managed hardware devices that are very dependent on security updates. Those can include:

  • Firewalls72e923e8eee3f9d912648f6611d5762c
  • Routers
  • Modems
  • Managed Hubs
  • Network Interface Controllers
  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • And anything else connected to the internet

A list this long can seem daunting, but there are many  resources available to help you to check on the status your devices. If you have partnered with a Managed Services provider to support your IT needs, they should be able to tell quickly and easily about the status of any device connected to your network. A competent support provider will also be able to tell you about warranty coverage for your device and when that will expire. TL;DR, a managed services provider can make life a lot easier by keeping on eye on such matters, allowing you to focus on running your business.

That said, if you manage your own IT network devices and suspect a one of those devices is long in the tooth, here's our advice:

If the device is still an important part of your business but not an access point for the internet, you should “air gap” it. In other words, if you can use it offline then continue to do so. It doesn't matter how old and vulnerable a given device is if a hacker cannot connect to it. 

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However, any EoL devices or software that require a connection to the greater internet should be swapped out for newer infrastructure as soon as possible. As we mentioned above, end-of-life hardware and software do not receive security updates and are thus inherently unsecured. Keeping such devices connected to your network creates a vulnerability that attackers can use to access other, more important, pieces of your IT network.

If you're curious to see which parts of your IT network may have hit their EoL date it isn't too hard to check. Most companies publish lists of their products and associated EoL dates via their websites. Here are a few examples:

Finally, here’s a great website for defunct devices of all types.

If you have questions about how to handle end-of-life for any of your hardware or software, contact us today.

Topics: Cybersecurity, Internet of Things, End of Life Hardware