When it comes to technology, the industry is constantly changing to be newer, faster, and safer. But, for many businesses, it is not practical or necessary to purchase the “latest and greatest”. According to a recent eFax study, there are 43 million fax machines still in use in the world today. That is the perfect example of using old (legacy) equipment in a new age.
The latest and greatest is not always necessary, but the continued use of legacy technologies, like fax machines, can create headaches for businesses and the MSPs that manage their IT.
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Aging office machines are vulnerable to modern threats
The problem, Gordon Williams, a consultant in San Diego who studies legacy technology, points out, is that legacy technology is often connected to more extensive office networks. Yet, the equipment was built for a different era when cyber threats weren’t lurking everywhere.
For example, a fax machine built and sold 20 years ago likely has little or no built-in protection.
Another “sleeper cell” in the office environment is an old copier. “Nothing could seem like less of a threat than that old, clunky copy machine. But many of these legacy machines are now connected and integrated into the larger network, and remain unprotected, meaning that hackers can find their way in, and suddenly penetrate deep within a network,” Williams says.
“It’s important to remember that the old fax machine tied into the office network is just as much of a threat as a phishing email,” Williams advises.
Mitigate legacy threats
Fortunately, there are steps that your business, working with your Technology Partner, can take to mitigate legacy threats, including:
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- AUDIT: Close off legacy threats by having your Technology Partner complete an audit of your devices. Audit everything including the fax machine or the copier, even landline phones and old computers.
- REMOVE REDUNDANCY: Analyze the necessity of every item on the audit list. Does the device help office productivity? How accessible is that device to the network? Removing the legacy fax may be a good idea if it is now integrated into the network. And will removing the device cause disruption to productivity?
- IMPLEMENT SEGMENTATION: For the equipment being kept, make sure the network is segmented to keep the legacy machine “walled off” from the network.
- TURN OFF AUTO-ANSWER: An option for businesses where fax must get through, is for devices to be configured so that auto-answer is off; that way, each incoming fax can be manually evaluated.
- UPDATE FIRMWARE: Update firmware frequently on old copiers. Most legacy copiers have internal operating systems that must be updated to keep them secure.
- ENCRYPT: Ensure encryption is enabled and activated on old printers. During transmission, the data is most vulnerable to interception.
Old copiers, phone lines, and fax machines can also pose other threats. Copiers and fax machines, for example, can store plenty of data internally in folders and drives.
Beware of obsolescence
“Obsolescence in itself is dangerous,” Williams says.
Northwestern University’s Weinberg College’s IT department has this to say about obsolescence:
“The longer a piece of software or hardware has been available to the public, the longer digital criminals have had to find their weaknesses, and the less likely you’ll be able to protect yourself against their intrusions.”
So, in addition to old fax machines, copiers, and land-line phones, computers themselves can pose cyber threats, as well.
“An old clunker computer sitting in the corner of an office may be convenient for someone to jump on and check their email, but it is probably also a gaping hole in security if someone isn’t taking precautions,” Williams warns. This also applies to unsupported computers or devices, such as Windows 7 machines.
The past isn’t a prologue when it comes to technology, the past is peril. Update and eliminate old devices today to stave off new threats. That is where Technology Lifecycle Management comes into play for your business.