by George Beitis
Microsoft is officially ending support for Internet Explorer 8, 9, and 10 on the 12th of January 2016. This means Microsoft will no longer be releasing security or any other updates for these products.
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, once the dominant browser in the market, has seen its usage percentage in the market steadily decline over the years. Failing to adopt newer features quickly enough and not ensuring standard compliance at the same pace as other competing browsers, it fell significantly behind in the browser wars for both users and web developers.
You can find representative internet usage statistics here: https://netmarketshare.com/. This also resulted in Internet Explorer gaining a reputation for being slow and buggy with you needing an additional browser to be able to get things done on the net. Internet Explorer is found preinstalled in most Windows Operating system versions which is most likely the primary reason for its stronghold in the browser market still, despite fierce competition.
As part of its browser and product strategy Microsoft decided to release a new browser, the Microsoft Edge Browser, as the official browser of Windows 10, its latest operating system. The change of the name reflects Microsoft’s efforts to distance the new browser from the bad reputation of its predecessor. Combined with an aggressive adoption strategy for Windows 10, Microsoft decided to stop support for older versions of Internet Explorer and will now be offering support for Internet Explorer 11 and Edge. This also allows Microsoft to focus on providing better support for Internet Explorer 11 and Edge. The last patch, coming out on the 12th, will be prompting users running Windows operating systems older than 10, to upgrade to Internet Explorer 11. As most users regularly receive updates from Microsoft, it is a matter of time before most home users are using Internet Explorer 11 thus reducing the risk of exposure to malware attacks that will be targeting these older versions of Internet Explorer as more vulnerabilities for them are discovered and left unpatched.
In the business world though things are not as clear cut as they might be in the home user realm. A lot of web based applications were designed to run on specific versions of Internet Explorer such as 8 or 9. Despite the fact that plenty of systems were upgraded to supported newer versions browsers a lot were not. And for those that were, it is not necessarily the case that the organizations using them have upgraded to the latest versions of the corresponding systems in order to support the latest versions of Internet Explorer. System Administrators often resorted in finding ways to make sure workstations did not automatically upgrade to newer versions of the browser and break business applications, often resorting to Microsoft’s own solutions (search for Internet Explorer blocker toolkit).
This leaves a lot of organizations all over the world stuck using older versions of Internet Explorer that are now no longer supported and will impose a new security threat vector. Organizations will be forced to deal with and find ways to mitigate these new risks. Even with the presence of alternative browsers, a frequent phenomenon in business environments, ensuring users do not use older versions of internet explorer is not an easy task. Solutions to this issue might come in the form of virtualized versions of older Internet Explorer but those solutions will come at a significant overhead and financial cost. These are costs most SMBs will not be able to afford.