Is Visual Basic still used in 2024?

Is Visual Basic still used in 2024?

Visual Basic, a third-generation programming language derived from BASIC foundations, was released in 1991. Version 6 was released in 1998, but has now lost practical relevance, as its mainline support was discontinued in 2008.

Visual Basic 6 programs do run on the latest versions of Windows, as Microsoft still ensures VB6 compatibility. That’s why VB6 applications are still being utilized across segments – healthcare, retail, finance, construction, and others.

In this short overview, we’ll discuss why strategic business leaders must approach Visual Basic migration today to future-proof their operations.

VB6 migration by a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner
Empowering leaders on their digitization journey since 2007
Learn more

COM and ActiveX issues

One reason to approach VB migration not talked about enough – COM and ActiveX issues.

In the early 90s, VB installations came with large catalogs featuring providers and their custom-built controls. Today, however, these outdated VB distributions – charts, calendars, data visualization – are merely a memory, and there is no longer support for their control libraries on modern Windows versions.

To support more affordable, older PCs, VB adopters were choosing 16-bit executables that had 16-bit controls. In the present times, such applications are confined by their 16-bit architecture – modern PCs don’t support 16-bit modes.

The so-called component model was based on the COM architecture – a sophisticated inter-process system. Today, luckily, no one writes anything relying on COM architecture, as there are alternatives including simple RESTful services and even SOAP/XML services.

COM and ActiveX capabilities to control Windows services now present a considerable security vulnerability. That means, they can directly manipulate and manage key functions and processes of the operating system. COM and ActiveX components, if exploited or compromised, provide control over sensitive, critical services. This causes data breaches and other related issues that make the system more susceptible to attacks.

Security vulnerability taken seriously

A more apparent reason to consider VB6 rewrite – malicious programs causing serious security vulnerabilities.

Vilsel worm

The so-called Vilsel worm, a prominent Visual Basic Script malware, keeps appearing in the threat landscape. This recurring Vilsel virus, first reported in 2015, has already been modified several times and demonstrates global presence even today, in 2024.

The quite harmful worm is built using pseudocode in the aging builds of the Visual Basic compiler options. Considering pseudocode is an intermediate code, it’s being executed step-by-step by a compatibility program. The modern analysis methods don’t work to examine the virus, which creates the need for a VB decompiler. Some variants further encapsulate the executable, causing some less robust anti-VB6 protections to crash.

This worm propagates itself through email, exploiting vulnerabilities to spread from computer to computer. Most commonly, such viruses entice recipients to open an attachment or click a link, thereby executing malicious code and infecting the system.

The activities the program can perform:

  • Email spreading
  • File modification
  • Performance deterioration 
  • Backdoor exposure 

ILOVEYOU, Nimda, and other older threats

Let’s discuss several globally reported threats that exploited security vulnerabilities within the VB ecosystem. More specifically, these threats have spread by exploiting security weaknesses in the VB Script, VBA programs, and other Microsoft technologies in the VB environment.

The threats in question:

  • ILOVEYOU – a worm that spread through email in 2000 and used VB Script to overwrite existing files across systems running within Microsoft Windows
  • Nimda – a hybrid that spread in 2001, infecting both web and client machines running Windows, utilizing multiple infection vectors
  • Melissa – a virus that infected Microsoft Word in 1999 by using VB Script and spread through email replicating itself and sending infected documents to contacts in the Microsoft Outlook address book
  • Sasser – a worm that exploited a vulnerability in both Windows XP and 2000 to take over systems without requiring user interaction

In 2024, ILOVEYOU, Nimda, and others listed above are not actively spreading or presenting sensible menace. But still, their methods and techniques have influenced more sophisticated, modern-day malware.

While these may not be prevalent, the specific security vulnerabilities they exploited are still quite relevant. They underscored the importance of timely security updates, proper configuration, and vigilance in defending against malware and other security threats.

.NET expertise, proven repeatedly
200+ successful .NET projects
Learn more

VB6 end of life – why migrating becomes inevitable

Business leaders are facing the reality of their mission-critical applications becoming outdated and unreliable, in particular VB6 applications.

The reasons are apparent – no active mainline support, customer demand, and changing business landscape. Insufficient performance, limited functionality and scalability, security vulnerabilities, compatibility issues – obsolete applications cause numerous undesired outcomes.

VB6 migration – prominent cases worth mentioning 

An Post

An Post is one of Ireland’s largest organizations providing retail, financial, postal, and other specialized services. With over 9,000 employees all throughout its network covering retail and delivery, the company also provides governmental services, in particular to the National Treasury Management Agency.

Years back, An Post started utilizing a bespoke attendance system for everyday salary and wage management. The system, called STREAMS, is a client-server application originally employing VB6 Microsoft. 

To protect their investment over the next decades, the enterprise has made the decision to migrate VB6 code to the VB.NET platform, a more scalable environment.

The solution

An Post involved third-party software engineers to perform the migration that involved 194,000 lines of code. The project included design, integration, deployment, thorough testing, and subsequent end-user training.

At the first stage, the team has covered manual assessment to determine potential challenges and bottlenecks. During the next stages, the contractors respectively handled VB6 to VB.NET migration.

The benefits

By moving away from their outdated, client-server product, An Post significantly optimized resource allocation. Now they can proceed with creating a scalable web environment sharing libraries with other .NET components.

The organization has protected considerable investment while benefiting from processes appearing identical. To ensure desired continuity and performance, the company is leveraging ongoing support and maintenance, which includes biannual updates and patches.

To date, the enterprise is using a supported VB.NET application for its mission-critical operations.

Vertex Group

Vertex Group is a leading UK business process outsourcing organization serving customers across industries. With over 9,000 employees, the company is delivering business consulting, workforce technology, and staffing to clients across the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

For its mortgage division, Vertex Group has several flagship systems, in particular a loan processing solution. The system, called Omiga, is a mission-critical application that employed VB6 Microsoft with some Visual C++.

To enable business stability and compliance, the enterprise strategically decided to change VB6 to .NET code.

The solution

Vertex Group selected C# as the .NET target programming language to migrate the bulky 616,000 lines of code. The decision is explained by the fact that it had already been used earlier for additional .NET components.

The project was handled by involving both internal software developers and external, third-party contractors. The strategy involved utilizing an automated update assistant that applies artificial intelligence, manual testing, and automated test cases to validate functional equivalence, which ensures unmatched accuracy.

The benefits

To date, the enterprise can leverage a responsive and functional development and production environment while enabling business continuity and ensuring regulatory compliance.

Full-cycle, custom software development
On-demand products that enable market advantage
Learn more

How we can help

Abto Software has the specialized expertise for transitioning mission-critical applications without disruption. 

Our engineers handle discovery and planning, code assessment and preparation, and smooth VB6 migration. Our clients forget about operational and performance shortfalls, security vulnerabilities, compatibility issues, and other undesired shortcomings that vanish after approaching VB6 conversion.

Our services:

  • Business analysis and consulting
  • Project setup and kick-off
  • Code migration
  • Code finalization
  • Acceptance testing and improvement
  • Quality assurance and deployment

Your benefits:

  • Higher performance and efficiency
  • Expanded functionality and scalability
  • Improved security through updates and patches
  • Enhanced compatibility across platforms and devices
  • Long-term support and maintenance
  • Cloud compatibility

Abto Software – a trusted VB migration partner handling technical challenges to fuel your growth.

Contact us

Tell your idea, request a quote or ask us a question