Security Blog

From Endpoint Protector Canada

Windows XP users: You must upgrade. Now.

Windows XP - Upgrade Now Header

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will be cutting off all support for Microsoft Windows XP (and Microsoft Office 2003). Don’t misunderstand the significance of this: You must upgrade. Now.

US Robotics v.92 modemWindows XP is very old: it was released in 2001. That’s three years before Facebook even existed and six years before the very first iPhone was announced. At that time, Google was a privately held company with just 400 employees, and US Robotics was excited to unveil its new V.92 dialup modem.

Thirteen years is a long time for any software company to keep a piece of software running. But age is not the key factor here. Since Microsoft is pulling the plug on all Windows XP updates, it is not safe to continue running it. At all. Not on your own computer, not on a computer in the back room.

Windows XP “just works”. Can’t I keep using it a little while longer?

No. When Microsoft cuts off support for Windows XP on April 8th, all users of Windows XP will become targets for hacker attack–more so than ever before.

Up until April 8th, the process goes a little something like this: Microsoft becomes aware of a severe security exploit. Their programmers then create a fix for that exploit and release it to your computer (be it Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8) via Windows Updates. Your computer is then protected from that particular attack vector–most likely before it ever becomes an issue.

After April 8th, Microsoft will continue to do the same for Windows 7, Windows 8… releasing patches for all the security issues they find. However, since the patches are no longer released for Windows XP, this gives hackers an “easy alert” system when new exploits are found. They can then download the patch for Windows 7 or 8, reverse engineer it to find the software bug it sets out to fix, and then test Windows XP to see if that exploit exists on Windows XP. If it does, they can create tools, viruses, malware and malicious web code to exploit every Windows XP computer, and there will be next to nothing you can do to protect yourself.

What could they possibly do?

Hackers don’t do what they do just for the fun of it. The most popular motivations involve financial gain or identity theft. If you’re running Windows XP, beginning April 8th it will become progressively easier for hackers to steal your banking information, private company information, lock you out of your online accounts or even destroy all your files (both personal and business) and take over your computer–or worse.

Do I have to buy a new computer?

Realistically, you’re better off buying a new computer. Upgrading your existing computer could cost nearly as much as purchasing a new system, and you’ll still be on the old hardware–meaning chances are you might have to replace it soon anyways.

That said, if your computer is reasonably new (say, less than 3 years old), you may meet the minimum specs for a Windows 7, or possibly a Windows 8 upgrade. If you believe your system may meet the requirements, you can use Microsoft’s Upgrade Assistant [Download] to test whether your system can run the current version of Microsoft Windows.

Keep in mind, meeting the minimum (keyword: minimum) requirements does not mean your system will perform well with the new software. Whether or not this is an economically wise course of action will depend on many factors: do you have a current backup of all your files? Does your hard drive perform at the necessary speed or will you need to upgrade to an SSD? Do you have enough RAM and CPU power to perform well? Will your hardware outlive the warranty period of a new system? Do you require a technician’s assistance to perform the necessary upgrades? Will the downtime of the upgrade process affect your business?

Buying a new computer with Windows 7 or Windows 8 already licensed and installed will mean you’ll be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, and will have newer specs to run the more modern operating system and software which goes with it. Downtime would also be reduced since you can swap out the old hardware for the new and be up and running fairly quickly.

In conclusion…

If you’re on Windows XP, you need to upgrade. Be it the hardware or just the software, something needs to be done. For your safety as well as the protection of your confidential company and customer data, this has to be done before the cut-off date set out by Microsoft: April 8, 2014.

Our technical team would be pleased to provide recommendations for individual computers or entire business networks. We can help ease the upgrade process by providing for all your hardware and software needs with courteous, knowledgeable on-site service.

Call Positive E Solutions Inc. in Barrie, Ontario today to determine the options available to you and your company: (705) 733-0171.

Stay safe!

– Robbie