Monday, April 14, 2014

Windows XP: Through The Looking Glass

April 8, 2014: a day that will live in infamy. As of the eighth of April security patches for XP were no longer being provided. Without security patches these systems will continue to operate, but unprotected. And, if you have learned anything from this blog you know that good security is the linchpin for keeping our online lives safe from malware that steals our personal information.

One of the best things about Windows XP is also its great undoing. Because it was the most popular Microsoft operating system to date it had a huge user base, and was supported for 12 years. But, because of that long and popular run, thousands of XP machines will continue to run unprotected simply because it has anchored itself so well with users. The theory was once floated that if you wait long enough no one will bother exploiting an old operating system since so few people will be using it. That just isn't true, especially with Windows because the new versions are still built on the foundation of XP. Hackers can reverse engineer patches for Windows 7 and 8 and use that as an advantage to exploit the vulnerabilities in Windows XP.

Microsoft has pulled the plug on Windows XP, but maybe you haven't.
  • Maybe you still use Windows XP because your software isn't compatible with new versions of Windows.
  • Maybe your computer can't be upgraded to Windows 7.
  • Maybe you have heard horrible things about Windows 8.
  • Perhaps you believe you are a careful Internet user and there is a low risk of being compromised.

Here are some reasons it makes sense to move on from XP.
  • New hardware and software may not be compatible with XP.
  • Third party companies will no longer create products, write new software, or support existing products for an operating system that is no longer officially supported.
  • A steady path to regular upgrades and updates may seem expensive in the short term, but in the long term you won't generally have to throw everything away and start from scratch.
  • Steady upgrades make it easier to learn new features. The longer you wait to upgrade the steeper the learning curve.
  • Many companies will offer good discounts on upgrades to their software as long as you don't fall too far behind on staying current. It is less expensive than having to buy a new license all over again.
  • Some companies will offer you discounts on their software if you are switching platforms (i.e. from Windows to Mac).
  • Making a clean break from Windows XP gives you an opportunity to consider other operating systems like Mac OS X, Linux, or Chrome OS.

If you are still married to that tired old software that only runs on XP consider buying a new computer with a new operating system anyway. As long as that old software does not require use of a network connection you'll be fine. Notice I said, "network connection". An old XP system connected to your home network can still be infected even if you never use it on the Internet. Other systems connected to the Internet can spread malware to other devices on your network. A safer alternative would be to virtualize your Windows XP system and sandbox it. You can run the virtual machine on your new computer whether you stick with a new version of Windows or move to another platform. Talk to your local IT people to find out more about virtualization.

You can read more about it from Microsoft at: Microsoft XP End of Life

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