|End of support for XP heightens PC vulnerabilities
Microsoft will end support for the persistently popular Windows XP and it could put everything from the operations of heavy industry to the identities of people in danger.
In the US, technical support ends in a few hours.
(Bill Gates announces Windows XP in 2001).
But Microsoft says Windows XP “can still be installed and activated after end of support. Computers running Windows XP will still work but they won’t receive any Microsoft updates or be able to leverage technical support. Activations will still be required for retail installations of Windows XP after this date as well.’’
The company has released a handful of Windows operating systems since 2001, but XP's popularity and the durability of the computers it was installed on kept it around longer than expected. Analysts say that if a PC is more than five years old, chances are it's running XP.
While users can still run XP after Tuesday, Microsoft says it will no longer provide new security updates, issued fixes to non-security related problems or offer online technical content updates. The Redmond, Washington-based company says it will provide anti-malware-related updates through July 14, 2015, but warns that the tweaks could be of limited help on an outdated operating system.
Marcin Kleczynski, chief executive of Malwarebytes, says that without patches to fix bugs in the software XP computers will be prone to freezing up and crashing, while the absence of updated security related protections make the computers susceptible to hackers.
He added that future security patches released for Microsoft's newer systems will serve as a way for nefarious people to reverse engineer ways to breach now-unprotected Windows XP computers.
Mark Bernardo, general manager of automation software at General Electric Co.'s Intelligent Platforms division, says moving to a new operating system can be extremely complicated and expensive for industrial companies. Bernardo, whose GE division offers advisory services for upgrading from XP, says many of the unit's customers fall into the fields of water and waste water, along with oil and gas.
“Even if their sole network is completely sealed off from attack, there are still operational issues to deal with,'' he says.
Meanwhile, many small businesses are put off by the hefty cost of upgrading or just aren't focused on their IT needs.
Mark McCreary, a Philadelphia-based attorney with the firm Fox Rothschild, says small businesses in the US could be among the most effected by the end of support, because they do not have the same kinds of firewalls and in-house IT departments that larger companies possess. And if they don't upgrade and something bad happens, they could face lawsuits from customers.
But he says he does not expect the wide-spread malware attacks and disasters that others are predicting _ at least for a while.
“It's not that you blow it off and wait another seven years, but it's not like everything is going to explode on April 8 either,'' he says.
McCreary points to Microsoft's plans to keep providing malware-related updates for well over a year.
Meanwhile, without updates from Microsoft, regular people who currently use XP at home need to be extra careful.—AP/The Standard