Back in 2014 Microsoft announced that in 18 months it would cease to support older versions of Internet Explorer on currently supported operating system platforms. As of January 12th, Microsoft is making good on that promise and will only support the latest version of its web browser on supported OS’es. You might think that this will mean less zero-day exploits of older versions of IE (one of the biggest security risks to date) because people will be forced to abandon the older browsers, but not so fast! Microsoft is trapped within their own doublespeak, and the catch is “lastest version of IE released on a particular supported platform”.
What on earth does that mean?
If you happened to only skim (instead of read) their 2014 announcement or the news stories released this week about this new policy, you might have come away with the impression that Microsoft was finally dropping support for older versions of IE, namely 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Depending on your business need, this may have been cause for celebration or hair pulling, but a slightly deeper dive on this tells a less draconian tale. In a nutshell, depending on the operating system, some older versions will still be getting patched and updated, but only because the newer versions of IE were never officially released on a particular OS. Still confused? That’s OK, it’s Microsoft, so just shrug and take away the following:
- Microsoft will still be patching older versions of Internet Explorer as far back as version 7, but…
- Patches for versions 7-9 are likely to be hard to get, if not near impossible for normal consumers.
- Don’t use older versions of IE unless you have a compelling business restriction that prevents the use of IE 11.
- Businesses relying on websites that require the use of older versions of IE should be upgraded ASAP. You are putting your employees/clients/customers in danger.
- Remember #3? If you have to use Internet Explorer, you should be using version 11. It has competent backwards-compatibility capabilities that should work with websites that require older versions of IE to function.