After releasing the last patches and security updates for Windows XP, Microsoft ended support for the 13 year old operating system at midnight, April 8, 2014. Does this mean your XP machine will stop working? No. But it doesn’t mean you’re safe either.
Now that the date has past, getting hacked is a greater danger than ever for XP users. Ten years ago getting a malicious virus meant losing time or data. Today, getting hacked often means the theft of a user’s identity, leading to ruined credit ratings and loss of funds from credit, investment or bank accounts. The hacker profile has morphed from individual, mischievous geeks to well-funded, organized crime rings.
Even those who don’t use Windows XP are more vulnerable today than we were on April 8th. There are many external threats. For example, it’s estimated that 95 percent of ATMs were still using XP in late 2012, and that only 20 percent of them have been upgraded since then. To ensure ATMs are protected, many banks have contracted with Microsoft to continue to provide updates.
More concerning is the number of computers running Windows XP on their Point of Sale (POS) systems. We all remember what happened last Christmas, when cybercriminals installed malware on POS systems at Target and Neiman Marcus. Those systems were up to date, so it’s reasonable to assume that hackers will have a much easier job with unpatched XP systems. Today, when you swipe your credit card at a checkout stand using XP, there’s a bigger risk that your credit or debit card data will be compromised.
If I still have XP, what should I do?
Stop using Internet Explorer. It is no longer supported on Windows XP, meaning vulnerabilities are no longer being patched. Firefox and Chrome are continuing to support their browsers on XP, for now.
Use your Chrome or Firefox browser to go online and buy a new computer with Windows 7 or 8. See our blog Windows XP End-of-Life: What Computer Should I Buy?
If you are a large business and have been putting this off because you don’t have the IT resources to upgrade a large number of computers now, you can pay Microsoft for extended support. You already know this will cost you more in the long run, because you will have to do the work eventually.
If you are a small business and have a good managed service provider, they’ve probably already recommended replacement. Follow that advice as soon as possible.
If you must continue to use a computer with XP, here are some other tips:
- Disconnect the PC from the Internet.
- Disconnect the PC from the network.
- Do not use your computer for Internet browsing or email.
- Remove admin rights from your user account. This means software can only install using the Administrator account. Most (but not all) malwares cannot install without admin rights.
If you must use software that only works on XP, what else can you do?
If you have Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate edition, you can use Windows XP Mode to run your application. In Windows 8 (or Vista if you are the last person on earth using it) you can install Windows XP in a virtual machine using VirtualBox or another VM program.
There are also server virtualization and cloud computing workarounds, but this kind of work should be done by experienced IT professionals.
If you have any questions, we’d be delighted to help you.
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