FTP and Telnet have long been considered a security risk because username, password login information and all subsequent commands are transmitted as plaintext. Secure Shell or SSH is an application layer protocol as well, however, it provides secure encrypted communications over an insecure network and should be used anytime sensitive data is transferred. This is why some vendors are beginning to offer it as a secure alternative to both Telnet and FTP. Also, many Web hosting service providers are limiting or removing Telnet and FTP access for their customers, due to security concerns and replacing it with SSH. Although SSH is installed by default, on recent Red Hat Linux systems, SSH software is not part of the typical Windows desktop installation. So, if you use a Windows-based desktop you'll need to install a third-party program in order to communicate over SSH to a Red Hat server.
Operating systems will continue to support the FTP and Telnet protocols and I am sure programs that use them will always be available. However, you should consider whether the security risks of FTP and Telnet warrant their continued use. Keep in mind that older software can be costly to maintain and may not continue to work effectively with newer applications. I recommend retiring software that's old, underused or over-maintained. To learn more about the lifecycle of the products you are using, contact the vendor. Microsoft has a Support Lifecycle policy at http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifeselectindex, which provides guidelines for product support availability. Windows 2000 Professional recently retired Mainstream Support, while Mainstream Support for Windows XP Professional runs until the end of 2006 (Extended Support runs until the end of 2011.) Microsoft also recently issued MS05-033, a security bulletin that alerts users about a vulnerability in their Telnet Client in Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Professional. This is a separate application to Microsoft HyperTerminal, but shows the importance of vendor support for the products you use.
This was first published in October 2005