Ken Colburn, Data Doctors
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Rich asks, "Now that Windows XP is officially retired, what exactly is going to happen if I keep using it?"
The retiring of Windows XP is by no means anything like a Y2K scenario where your computer will suddenly stop functioning properly. No one really knows exactly what will happen.
What could happen if you continue to use Windows XP is up for significant debate, now that Microsoft is no longer going to provide security updates.
The last security update for Windows XP was published on April 8, so any exploits that are discovered from this point forward will not be investigated or fixed by Microsoft.
So until a new exploit is discovered, it's actually business as usual for anyone who decides to continue using Windows XP.
Think of it as a car that has questionable seat belts and airbags. You could drive it for the rest of your life and never have a problem, or you could be seriously injured tomorrow.
Add to the equation, that as new safety issues are discovered on your car, the manufacturer no longer announces recalls to fix the known problems. This is essentially the state of Windows XP.
As with any situation where the possibilities are open-ended, you're essentially gambling with your data and identity by continuing to use Windows XP.
Security patches are generally created after the hacking or security community makes it known that a new exploit had been found. Cyber criminals then package up exploit kits based on the discovery and sell them on the Internet.
Some security experts are fairly certain that hackers have been stockpiling known vulnerabilities in anticipation of Microsoft's last security update. An unpatched vulnerability will be much more valuable on the open market.
Another concern is that hackers could reverse engineer future updates for Windows 7 and 8 to see whether a similar vulnerability exists in Windows XP, which won't get fixed if it does.
For a number of reasons, your best long-term solution is to migrate to a supported operating system so you aren't constantly worrying about what might happen.
Remember, Windows XP was originally developed when the Internet was a lot less dangerous.
If you are going to continue to use Windows XP in the short-term, there are a few things that you should make sure you do:
- Get the most recent update by running the Windows Update process.
- Stop using Internet Explorer and switch to either Firefox or Chrome so you at
least get browser updates.
- Minimize your use of Office 2003 as it's also no-longer supported and will
also be targeted.
- Make absolutely sure you have a solid anti-virus program, preferably
that also has web-based threat detection as part of the protection package. Free
programs, such as Microsoft's Security Essentials, have been shown to be much less
effective against newly discovered threats than complete protection packages, such
as Trend Micro's Titanium Security.
- Keep your web surfing to a minimum and stick to sights that you have
bookmarked so you know that it's not a booby-trapped fake site. Even Google search
results can be rigged with malicious websites.
Whatever you do, don't ignore this very serious security issue. Start planning your migration to something more secure before you can be exploited.
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