It has had a good run; in the five years following its release, there were around 400 million copies in use around the world.
But that is all coming to end now, with the announcement from Microsoft that on April 8 2014, they will no longer support Windows XP, warning anyone using it after that date will face increased security risks.
Although Microsoft has decided to continue providing virus warnings for the ageing Windows XP operating system until 2015, but it only means it will provide signatures for well-known malicious programmes that help Windows XP spot when viruses, trojans and other cyber-threats try to compromise a PC – even these security updates will only be provided until July 14 2015.
It still means Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) customers will not receive security updates, hotfixes, support or online technical content updates. And more worryingly any new vulnerabilities discovered in Windows XP after this ‘end of life’ date will not be addressed by any further updates from Microsoft.
It’s not just about security
However, these security risks are not the only problem with continuing to run XP, rather than migrate to the newer Windows 7 or 8. The IT landscape has change significantly in the 13 years since its launch and XP is now unable to meet the needs of modern, more mobile businesses utilising a range of devices to interact with their networks.
Just a few of the issues beyond security worries include:
Software Constraints – running XP forces limitations on the software infrastructure within organisations, with the latest and most important versions of many business applications unable to run in XP.
Compatibility Issues – most software developers and hardware manufacturers will not provide support for XP, with hardware rarely offering drivers for XP.
User Confidence – with the publicity surrounding its demise, any business continuing to run XP will run the risk of denting user confidence with a perceived lack of investment.
Competitive Disadvantage – with XP clearly being designed for a different age, it limits the use of the most advanced technologies and applications, reducing user productivity and effectiveness; Microsoft’s own Office 2013 will not run on XP.
Despite these issues, security remains the focus and Microsoft now admits that the threats now faced by individuals and organizations are significantly different to those when Windows XP Service Pack 3 was released in 2008. Rather than actively targeting remote services, modern attackers will now attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in client applications, like web browsers.
Attackers have also refined their tools and techniques to ensure they are more successful at finding and exploiting vulnerabilities, making obsolete the security features built into Windows XP, which can no longer defend against modern threats.