Windows XP end of life: What to expect

Marketing Team - Friday, February 28, 2014

     Still using Microsoft XP in Your Business?  

Microsoft announced January 22, 2014 that after it ceases support for its Windows XP OS in April, it won't stop issuing new signatures and updates for its XP antivirus software engine until mid-2015. That represents a major about-face by Microsoft, which previously said that as of April it would cease updating all of its XP-compatible security software, including the free Microsoft Security Essentials.

Microsoft's Malware Protection Center, which announced the extension, pitched it as a way to help businesses and consumers move to a newer version of Windows. "To help companies complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to anti-malware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015," Microsoft's malware team said.

The team indicated that Windows XP will still receive its final set of OS security patches and other updates on April 8, 2014. "After this date, Windows XP will no longer be a supported OS.

Make no mistake, however: Continuing to use Windows XP after April 2014 will become a much riskier proposition. "Anyone connecting a Windows XP computer to the Internet after Microsoft drops its support in April 2014 is not only putting themselves at risk, but also endangering all of us on the Internet -- as their computers could be hijacked into botnets and used to spread malware." an independent security researcher warned recently.

XP holdouts do not need to use Microsoft's antivirus offerings. Independent German security software testing lab AV-Test recently questioned twenty seven (27) different vendors and found that all plan to continue XP support for at least the next two years. "Trend Micro, for example, has already confirmed that it will keep its products up to date until at least 2017.

The testing firm, AV-Test, said that it will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of vendors' security suite software running on Windows XP. Even so, anyone who continues to use Windows XP after April 2014 must take additional steps to protect themselves beyond using up-to-date antivirus engines and signatures.

For starters, AV-Test recommends that after April, Windows XP users should spend as little time connected to the Internet as possible, and never do so using Internet Explorer. "We also recommend the use of an alternative browser such as Google Chrome or Firefox, which will continue to be kept up to date with the best possible security, if the announcements made by their developers are anything to go by."

Outlook Express users should also ditch the product. "Switch from Outlook Express to another mail program because Outlook Express is part of the XP operating system and will therefore also receive no updates whatsoever after the end of support," said AV-Test. The testing firm noted that among the many alternatives, perhaps the best known is Thunderbird, which Mozilla has promised to continue updating for Windows XP, at least for the foreseeable future.

Greg Taylor
Technical Operations Manager
Western Integrated Systems

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