Cybersecurity Insight

Outdated Web Browsers Present Big Security Concerns

17 Dec

Browsing the Internet is pretty simple these days. Pretty much every computer in almost every place has an Internet connection, and for the average user all it takes to access web pages and other content is a web browser.

Some of the most common web browsers are, of course, Internet Explorer, Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and the most popular of all – Google Chrome.

Since 2008-09 there has been a major shift in browser usage. Internet Explorer used to be the king of the hill when it came to web browsing. In 2009 IE garnered about a 70% share of users for their browser, with Firefox having just under 30%, and all the others muddled within a 1% share. However, as security has become the major concern for Internet users and businesses, their web browser of choice has drastically changed.

Today, Google Chrome takes the cake when it comes to web browsing. Chrome has a nearly 70% share of users while Firefox has about 20%, and IE, Safar, and Opera share the remainder.

One of the main reasons Chrome is so popular today is its inherent security. Of course, there are several other benefits including consistent updates, add-ons, and speed. However, security is the most pressing issue of our time, and users are beginning to choose their web browsers accordingly.

Internet Explorer was the browser of choice for a long time. Well, perhaps not by choice, really, so much as that most people used Windows-based computers in their homes and offices, all of which came equipped with Internet Explorer. So, unless you made the decision to download another web browser, IE was all you had.

IE has seen many different versions over the years, and we’ve now surpassed version 11, which Microsoft is ceasing support for.

Ceasing support for old web browsers brings up concerns when it comes to security.

Older web browsers no longer get updated, which means there are no security patches or fixes along with support to prevent certain forms of malware.

However, some people need to use older browser versions because certain website or web apps don’t work on newer browser versions. Rather than re-write the entire code base for an app, most of those companies prefer to just let people use older versions of browsers.

This leads to an interesting conundrum. While most of us want to be safe online and actually do care about what security measures we’re taking, some of us don’t have a choice in the matter.

It happens most often in the workplace, where an employee may need access to another company’s platform but must use an older browser version that is no longer supported by the developer. Of course, this presents security concerns throughout the organization.

So, what recourse do we have? In reality, not much. We can do our part by keeping our web browser updated. Browsers like Firefox and Chrome do this automatically, so it’s nearly impossible to be using an old version. Consequently, some websites don’t support newer browsers due to outdated code. In order to view the site, an older browser must be used.

So we find ourselves in between a rock and a bit of a hard place. We want to be secure, but sometimes we can’t be. It’s not our fault most of the time, but in the end, we’re putting ourselves and our companies at risk by using old, unsupported web browsers.

Can we find our way into a standard practice? Will websites and apps universally support all browsers? Who knows if or when that time will come. What we do know is something needs to happen and happen quickly before we find ourselves in the web browser black hole that we can’t get out of.