There are now less than two weeks left until Microsoft terminates support for the incredibly long-lived Windows XP. Rarely has a tech product lasted as long as XP has – from XP’s launch on October 25, 2001 to its last Patch Tuesday on April 8, 2014 a total of 12 years, 5 months, and two weeks will have passed. Despite that, as of the month of February, StatCounter data indicated that almost one in five PCs still used Windows XP.
There has been plenty of concern—and in some quarters, hysteria—over this event. When it would happen has been known for some time. Informed users also know that Windows XP was developed in very different circumstances—the famous Bill Gates trustworthy computing memo was sent after Windows XP had been developed and released to the public.
The end of support for Windows XP concretely means two things: newly discovered vulnerabilities in Windows XP will not be patched anymore, nor will they be documented and acknowledged by Microsoft. This represents an increase in the risk of using Windows XP. Over time, this risk will increase as more issues are found and exploited – although it may also fall, as the ever-decreasing numbers of Windows XP users means it will no longer be worthwhile to create exploits for an aging operating system.
However, managing and mitigating risks is what security is all about. We will continue to provide our customers with the necessary tools to help manage the risks facing Windows XP systems. The most valuable tool in managing these risks is virtual patching/vulnerability shielding; products like Deep Security and OfficeScan with the Intrusion Defense Firewall (IDF) module scan and inspect network traffic before they reach the user’s applications, providing an opportunity to protect servers and endpoints from vulnerabilities.
Another solution can be in hardening the endpoints. Endpoint security software will still protect users, if the security software vendor provides continued support for their products. (Trend Micro will continue to provide support for our endpoint software on Windows XP until 2017.) In addition, locking down these systems may be even more appropriate. For example, Trend Micro Endpoint Application Control can help lock down systems by preventing unwanted and unknown applications and processes from running.
The underlying point is this: yes, Windows XP’s end of support is something that people should worry about—but it is something that can be planned and prepared for. The tools and expertise are available for users to help protect their systems and networks as needed. We have prepared a primer titled Managing Your Legacy Systems to go into this topic in more detail.