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Impact of Legacy Systems and Potential Security Risks of Using Unskilled Implementers

Organizations have struggled with retaining the staff necessary to maintain legacy systems (Robertson, 1997). Many of these systems were developed by an earlier generation of software developers using obsolete programming languages (Robertson, 1997). Some of these languages, such as COBOL, are mentioned only in passing in current college curriculums. Businesses are faced with the realization that legacy systems represent a considerable investment in hardware, software, and development (Kim, 1997). A primary difficulty of outsourcing the implementation of legacy systems improvement is the risk that unskilled implementers present to the organization (Heygate & Spokes, 1997). The United States Department of Defense (DOD) has discovered reusing legacy systems can lead to unforeseen technical complications and financially prohibitive difficulties when integrating with newer technologies (Elband, Eveleigh, Holzer, & Sarkani, 2013, p. 155).

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Many legacy systems use inconsistent and insecure software development life cycles (SDLC). The applications, while appropriate for their original implementation, are unsophisticated when compared to modern coding standards and requirements. The lack of familiarity with an obsolete programming language may introduce serious and hard to detect security issues. Older programming techniques did not consider technical exploits such as injection, broken authentication, cross-site scripting (XSS), or insecure direct object references (OWASP, n.d.). These types of security risks are extremely common and the risk is exacerbated by the accessibility of hacking tools that can easily find and exploit these common vulnerabilities. Unskilled implementers increase the probability that these types of security risks are introduced within the environment.

Unskilled implementers represent significant risk to legacy systems data. Risk assessments often focus on the risk to the application itself; however, the value of a legacy system is often that data within the application (Ryan, 1997). Moving data from a legacy system to a modern architecture could involve file conversion processes. Oftentimes, file conversion is a scripted process that will convert data in bulk. Incompatible database structures could result in data corruption, undetected loss, and unintentional manipulation. If the original file format is not properly documented in a file specification, trial and error are the frequent means to create a conversion utility.

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Posted in Hardware Post Date 11/25/2015


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