It’s hard to believe but it’s over. The announced end of the Microsoft OS Windows XP now is a reality. 8th April 2014 will be the day the best operating system that has ever existed will die.
Chronicle of a death foretold
I had my first computer in 2002 and was a Windows 98 SE… When I changed of computer in 2005 I remember now how I was happy because it was a Windows XP Professional Service Pack 1! So, a couple of years later I updated to SP 3.
In 2008 Microsoft announced that Windows XP would no longer be traded and would be replaced by Windows Vista. Later, Microsoft announced that would end the support to Windows XP in 8th April 2014, what in practical means no more updates, but since 2013 the company has no released any update to this system. This means you will no longer receive security updates that help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal your personal information or damage your business data.
Since 2005, I saw Microsoft embarrassment with the infamous Windows Vista, an operating system so bad that I never installed it on any of my machines, then tested Windows 7 (but found an unstable system especially when there is a power outage), Windows 8 (but found a poorly designed system with unnecessary and confusing menu and buttons) and finally Windows 8.1 “Blue”, which was my chosen to be the successor to Windows XP someday in all my machines. I say someday, because I’ll keep using my beloved Windows XP Professional until programs such as Java, Flash Player and Browsers like Firefox, Opera and Chrome offer support.
Also, some of my favorite programs and games only work on XP. And damn the Internet Explorer! I’m working on XP right now and I’m sharing my desktop print screen with you:
R.I.P. Windows XP
Windows XP has remained popular because it was stable, fast, powerful, and relatively simple to use. What’s more, many people still run XP simply because after more than a decade, it’s what they’ve become accustomed to using. But every life cycle must end eventually, and for Windows XP, that end date is April 8, 2014. It’s a lifetime that’s seen two US presidents, three UK prime ministers and three popes but Microsoft is finally ceased support for Windows XP.
According to a survey conducted by Net Applications, nearly forty percent of global desktops still use Windows XP, only slightly fewer than those using Windows 7, which has forty-five percent market penetration. All of the alternatives, Vista, Windows 8, Linux and Mac OS X account, for five percent or less of the desktop operating system market.
“OK,” you may say, “we still use XP but we’ve never contacted Microsoft for any support. Why is this relevant to me?”
It’s true that your XP machine won’t suddenly die right now, but its days are certainly numbered. The biggest problem is that you may not be able to trust it any longer. Without the Microsoft security updates from now on, if (or more likely ‘when’) the bad guys detect a security hole, that lets them take over an XP machine without the owner’s knowledge, they will.
If the machine is yours, they’ll be able to monitor your activity, read your emails and crack your online banking security. You’ll probably only notice when you lose your broadband connection (as your ISP identifies you as a source of thousands or millions of spam emails), or when you spot suspicious withdrawals from your bank account, or worse. Anti-Virus programs such as Norton, McAfee or any of the others will not protect you completely from this type of risk.
Should we fear the zero-day exploit?
Although it sounds like a sci-fi film title, it’s real and nasty, and possibly in existence now waiting to do its worst after April. A “zero-day exploit” is a security breach that’s so significant that fixing it can’t wait: it needs immediate action, in zero days’ time, in fact.
The hackers that cause us such nuisances are far from stupid or naïve. In places such as the old Soviet Union, China and elsewhere, they are highly trained, and well rewarded for what they do. Their work is valued, and their behaviour is becoming increasingly strategic, and harder to combat.
If someone in the criminal underworld has got a way to penetrate XP completely, they’ certainly will use it from now on when the Microsoft team will be no more watching, and unleash it once the updates were closed and XP’s defences are gone.
Should we fear this? It’s by no means impossible, and several security industry experts have already raised concerns. Obviously, that the more alert we are, the harder it will be to pull off, but if a zero-day exploit does appear this year, there’s no doubt there won’t be an easy fix, and there will be some very expensive damage done to those affected.
Plan ahead to avoid the meltdown
If you’re using Windows XP and your machines are connected to the Internet, you probably should be concerned about your security from now on. That said, moving on may not simply be a case of buying and installing Windows 8.
What about all those programs that you use? How many can’t run on the new operating system? Is your machine new enough (or good enough) to support the latest Windows? What happens if it all goes wrong? Do you have a disaster recovery plan that’s more substantial than simply backing up your data?
If you don’t have a ready answer to all of these questions, you may be heading for avoidable trouble. The time to start planning is now:
1. Start with the obvious: check to see which desktops and laptops are still running Windows XP.
2. Rank your machines in two ways: importance and urgency. Systems that score highly in both measures need an action plan soon. Unusual or specialist software, or machines you run accounts on, for example, should get higher ratings: they may need special attention.
3. Identify the real PC “problem children” and give them each an action plan: There are short-term steps you can take, for example disconnecting key systems from the internet, but some applications may be impossible to make secure in the long term. For these you might end up sourcing new software.
R.I.P. Office 2003
While closes the useful life of Windows XP, Microsoft ends the support for Office 2003. So, using Office 2003 after the support ends will expose your business to application limitations and security risks, leaving you vulnerable and exposed to potential cyber-attacks and can also limit your productivity and efficiency.