The single most popular browser on computer desktops around the world is Internet Explorer 8 - and its days are officially numbered.
Because, from January 12 2016, Microsoft is only going to provide support and security updates for the following operating system/browser combinations:
- Windows Vista SP2 and Windows Server 2008 SP2: Internet Explorer 9
- Windows Server 2012: Internet Explorer 10
- Windows 7 SP1, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2: Internet Explorer 11
In a nutshell, if you’re running an older version of Internet Explorer you have less than 18 months to upgrade.
(By the way, if you’re wondering why Microsoft is still saying it’s okay to run Internet Explorer 9 on Vista, it’s because more recent versions of the browser don’t run on that godforsaken operating system).
Microsoft announced its “important information” about the future support of Internet Explorer in a blog post this week.
“After January 12, 2016, only the most recent version of Internet Explorer available for a supported operating system will receive technical support and security updates.”
Quite what this means when Microsoft releases Internet Explorer 12 (will everyone running IE 11 find it stops being supported overnight?) is unclear, but hopefully that wrinkle can be ironed out when we come across it.
What’s clear, however, is the primary reason why Microsoft says it is pushing users to switch to the latest-and-greatest version of Internet Explorer.
“Outdated browsers represent a major challenge in keeping the Web ecosystem safer and more secure, as modern Web browsers have better security protection. Internet Explorer 11 includes features like Enhanced Protected Mode to help keep customers safer. Microsoft proactively fixes many potential vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, and our work to help protect customers is delivering results: According to NSS Labs, protection against malicious software increased from 69% on Internet Explorer 8 in 2009 to over 99% on Internet Explorer 11. It should come as no surprise that the most recent, fully-patched version of Internet Explorer is more secure than older versions.”
Will Microsoft succeed in getting everyone to willingly upgrade their browser? Somehow I doubt it.
There are still an alarming number of folks still running Internet Explorer 6 (4.2% globally according to Microsoft’s own “Kill IE6” site), despite the lack of updates, and publicity campaigns that have warned users time and time again that the ancient browser is riddled with security holes.
And then there were even people who even devised foolhardy ways of tricking Microsoft to carry on serving up free security updates for Windows XP, after its official end-of-life.
Remember this - running out-of-date software which no longer receives security updates is playing into the hands of online criminals and hackers. That’s even more true when the software in question is your web browser, exposed multiple times every day to webpages that could have been compromised and might have exploit code lying in wait.
If you run Internet Explorer at home or in your business, start thinking now about your migration plan - and make sure you aren’t caught on the hop come January 2016.
This article originally appeared on the Optimal Security blog.