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One Step Ahead
October 30, 2007, Volume 54, No. 10


One Step Ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

Higher Risk for Security Breaches

Your home computer from 2001 may seem to be chugging along fine, doing everything you need it to do, but saving a few bucks by keeping an outdated computer in service could cost you in the long run. Older computers connected to the Internet are at a higher risk for security and privacy breaches than newer systems. It is a violation of University policy to put confidential research or administrative data onto a computer that cannot be properly secured. 

Here are a few ways in which older computers are vulnerable:

• Manufacturers like Apple and Microsoft routinely retire operating systems (OSs).  After a specific date, they stop releasing security updates for older products, leaving the computers they run on and the data stored on them exposed. Microsoft officially supports, and supplies patches for, Windows XP and Vista; Apple only supports OSs newer than 10.2. Older OSs like Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows NT, and Windows 98 cannot be patched and are vulnerable to attack. Older versions of applications such as MS Office could pose risks as well.

• Modern OSs have built-in firewall software, which plays an integral part in protecting your computer and data. Firewalls are activated by default by the manufacturer. A few years ago the technology wasn’t available.

• More secure versions of web browsers like Firefox and Internet Explorer 7.0 require processor speeds and RAM not available in older computers. They also include pop-up blockers and trusted site lists to keep your web traffic secure.

For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - October 30, 2007, Volume 54, No. 10