Windows XP is officially on its last legs – as far as Microsoft is concerned. There is less than a year remaining before official support ends for the 11-year-old operating system on April 8, 2014.
For users, the biggest impact of this will be that Microsoft will no longer release security updates for Windows XP vulnerabilities after that date. This wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that so many users are still using XP. Net Applications data says that even now, more than a third of all PCs are still on XP. It was not until August 2012 that the number of Windows 7 users exceeded Windows XP users according to this data.
The potential for criminals to take advantage of this situation is significant. As long as there are significant numbers of XP users, they will continue to be targeted – and new exploits will continue to see the light of day. In the absence of any security patches from Microsoft, these will be all that more dangerous. (To highlight how they’re still finding new security holes in Windows XP, consider this: every Patch Tuesday in 2013 so far has had at least one Critical bulletin that covered XP.)
All users still on XP should consider upgrading right away. Most users may be due for an upgrade in their systems anyway, since it’s been years since XP was sold to end users. However, enterprise and other Windows XP users may well have had reasons not to migrate up to this point – for example, custom software that requires XP to work. However, running software that will never be patched is a significant gamble – particularly software that has been as enduring a target as Windows XP is.
These organizations should be preparing migration plans and getting ready to implement them later this year. If they make the decision to stick with Windows XP past April 2014 – with an operating system that by that time will be more than 12 years old – then they should be prepared to deal with the security fallout as well.
For our part, we will continue to provide new rules for Deep Security and OfficeScan Intrusion Defense Firewall, which we recommend that users apply to protect themselves from new threats. These allow users to minimize the threats that out-of-support operating systems like Windows XP face; as an example these products allow us to continue to provide protection for customers who still maintain Windows 2000 systems.
We’re trying to make the Security Intelligence Blog better. Please take this survey to tell us how.