Risks of Running Microsoft Windows XP


After 12 long years, Microsoft stopped all support for Windows XP across the globe, including in New Zealand. The decision came about as they refocus the resources towards supporting more recent technologies.

It is estimated that there are still millions of people still using the Windows XP operating system. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that they are putting themselves in serious danger running the outdated software. We have put together a quick rundown of what it means to be running Windows XP and how to mitigate the risks that you are exposing yourself to by doing so.

Microsoft has stopped providing Microsoft Security Essentials for download on Windows XP
If you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you’ll continue to receive antimalware signature updates for a limited time. However, Microsoft Security Essentials (or any other antivirus software) will have limited effectiveness on PCs that do not have the latest security updates. This means that PCs running Windows XP will not be secure and will still be at risk for infection.

Internet Explorer 8 is also no longer supported
If your Windows XP PC is connected to the Internet and you use Internet Explorer 8 to surf the web, you might be exposing your PC to additional threats. Also, as more software and hardware manufacturers continue to optimize for more recent versions of Windows, you can expect to encounter more apps and devices that do not work with Windows XP.

Future security patches for Windows 7 and 8 will make it easier for attackers to compromise unsupported XP systems
Making matters even worse for lingering Windows XP users is the fact that future patches for Windows 7 and Windows 8 will make it easier for attackers to compromise unsupported XP systems because of the architecture and code base shared between Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8. When patches are provided for Windows 7 and 8, exploit developers can analyze the patch, reverse-engineer the security updates and then apply what they’ve learned about the vulnerability in the common code base to attack XP.

Understanding these security risks of running Windows XP is critical. However, even more critical are the actions and mitigation efforts that people running Windows XP should take immediately.

1. Upgrade or replace Windows XP systems
Since all Windows XP systems will eventually need to be retired anyway, most organizations would benefit by investing existing resources in expediting the upgrade. Check out our article on tips for upgrading from Windows XP.

2. Isolate XP systems
This could be achieved via a combination of techniques including personal and network firewall rules, router access control lists, proxy restrictions and isolated VLANs. In all likelihood, the cost of associated architectural changes to isolate vulnerable XP systems may outweigh the cost of simply upgrading; additionally, the systems would be far less functional and still carry a residual risk of compromise and infection through any remaining PC communications.

3. Don’t forget Windows XP Mode
Windows XP Mode was included in Windows 7 to make the transition to the new operating system easier. Unfortunately, the end-of-life of Windows XP makes the use of Windows XP Mode within Windows 7 essentially as dangerous as a separate physical Windows XP system. If possible, XP Mode should be disabled entirely if it is not receiving security updates and patches.

If you have no other option, the aforementioned actions may help offer some mitigation to the Windows XP end-of-life; however, for those serious about security, you know what you need to do.

We Want to Hear From You
Send us an email at enquiries@advancedcomputers.co.nz or post onto our Facebook Page and let us know if you are still running Windows XP. Do you have any tips or advice for those who are?

If you think you need any help with Windows XP then feel free to call us today on 09 4448823 or send us an email at enquiries@advancedcomputers.co.nz for expert advice. We do have XP upgrade package from $299 incl GST. Contact us for more details.

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