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CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Mark Holbrook, Technical Account Manager
Mark Holbrook

Yes, we’re talking about that one unsupported computer at your city. Or more than one. Maybe you think you’re saving money by not supporting what you see as an unessential computer. Maybe people barely use this computer. After all, it’s just a computer (or two). As long as your IT vendor supports everything else, you’re fine. Right?

If you recall the myth of Achilles, the gods made him completely invulnerable—except for his heel. Sure enough, Paris shot an arrow in Achilles’ heel during the Trojan War—and that arrow killed Achilles. It’s such a great lesson that people still use the phrase “Achilles’ heel” thousands of years after Homer told this story in The Iliad.

Even just one unsupported computer is your Achilles’ heel. It’s like having a well-locked city hall building but leaving a door or two wide open all day, every day.

Let’s look closer at some critical weaknesses of any unsupported computer on your network.

1. Lack of sufficient antivirus software

Without enterprise-grade antivirus software, an unsupported computer will either have no protection or uncertain protection. Free or cheap consumer-grade antivirus software is not good enough for a city, and you can’t rely on employees to keep virus definitions constantly updated.

Each city computer needs enterprise-grade antivirus protection supported by IT professionals who will keep virus definitions up to date, monitor for possible virus attacks, and quickly identify and address issues.

2. Lack of regular software patches, updates, and vendor support

Having an employee now and then click on Windows updates is not a good practice for unsupported computers. We’ve seen unsupported computers sometimes have months of software updates not applied. And then, employees wonder why the computer runs slow or they can’t properly use an application.

Software patches and updates fix security vulnerabilities and bugs while also adding new features and functionality. For security, compliance, and performance reasons, every computer you use needs regular patching and updating. Employees are not trained IT professionals and may forget to patch, apply the wrong patches, or not know what to do when they encounter issues. Because of those reasons, some employees fear applying patches at all—which is not good.

In addition, we see instances of unsupported computers running obsolete operating systems on aging hardware—leading to more security risks and the chance that the computer will break down any day. Such old computers and operating systems are often not supported by vendors. If they break, there is no one to help.

3. Uncertainty around data backup

If your computer is unsupported, how is the data on that computer getting backed up? While you might think certain computers are important, it makes sense that any computer you’re using for city business likely contains some data worth protecting.

Backing up data through manual methods such as a flash drive or hard drive introduces too much risk into your city. They are unreliable methods because you cannot guarantee that employees will regularly back up data or back up all required data. IT professionals following a data backup and disaster recovery process is the only way to be certain that a computer’s data gets backed up.

4. Uncertainty around passwords, authentication, and authorization

Who is accessing your unsupported computers? How easy is it for people to access these computers? Sometimes, unsupported computers won’t have any required login. Or, the passwords might be weak and shared across many employees. This situation poses both a physical security and online security risk—and increases the risk of a compromise.

Physically, a disgruntled employee or non-employee may sit down at an unsupported computer and acquire or destroy sensitive information if the computer is not appropriately password-protected. Online, these kinds of computers are low-hanging fruit for hackers. It’s not hard to hack into these computers and, through them, gain access to your entire system. This is a good example where the weak link idea especially applies.

IT professionals can help you manage passwords, authentication procedures, and authorization policies on all your computers. Leaving one or more computers with uncertain login issues can become a major security risk.

5. Unknown software and applications residing on the computer

IT maintenance and monitoring often requires a bit of friendly discipline—especially around employees downloading software and applications. Software needs IT support, vendor support, patching, and updating to not only work properly but also comply with policies and laws. When non-technical employees are downloading and “managing” software by themselves, you introduce security and compliance risks.

Without IT professionals supporting your software, how will you know if a major security or performance problem exists? Who will fix that issue? Plus, the use of unsupported software without security oversight means you could be exposing confidential and sensitive information to unauthorized users or installing malware onto your computer that will lead to ransomware.

So, what are your thoughts about that unsupported computer now? If you really aren’t using it for anything important, consider decommissioning it and getting it off your network. Otherwise, get that computer supported!

Want to make sure you’re supporting all computers on your network? Reach out to us today.