Support for Microsoft Windows XP Ends April 8, 2014

If you use Microsoft Windows XP at home or at work, you’re not alone! Windows XP, the operating system released by Microsoft in 2001, is still the second-most popular version of the Microsoft operating system.

  • According to NetMarketShare, as of June, 2013, 38.7% of PC’s still used XP.
  • Researchers at Net Applications estimate that 30% of the World’s PC’s still use this venerable, 12 year old operating system.
  • Bloomberg Businessweek reports that approximately 420,000 of the World’s ATM’s (i.e., 95%) still use Windows XP as their operating system.

And that has security experts around the World very concerned. Why? Because last year, Microsoft announced that it would no longer offer security updates for the Windows XP operating system after April 8, 2014. And that has cybercriminals around the World rejoicing. Why? Because the malware industry – i.e., the highly sophisticated organizations that develop the commercial attack tools that cybercriminal gangs, hacktivist organizations, and even some governments use to attack computer networks – is an extremely lucrative one that’s growing rapidly.

In an August, 2013 interview with Computerworld security researcher Jason Fossen, an instructor for the security training firm SANS, opined that in the past six months the commercial release of cyberattack tools has slowed. Fossen believes that this slowdown has been caused by the malware industry holding on to tools that – if the tools were released today – would normally be addressed by Microsoft in a few weeks or possibly a few days. And the limited time frame for using these tools makes them less valuable on the black market – and the malware industry realizes this – so they’re holding on to these tools until Microsoft stops issuing security fixes for Windows XP. Once this happens, the same tools will fetch a much higher price on the black market. e.g., “The average price on the black market for a Windows XP exploit is $50,000 to $150,000, a relatively low price that reflects Microsoft’s [timely] response,” said Fossen.

To make the situation even more confusing, however, this month Microsoft announced that XP would no longer be “a supported operating system” but also announced that “To help organizations complete their migrations, Microsoft will continue to provide updates to our anti-malware signatures and engine for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015.” What does this mean, exactly? It means that, if you already have Microsoft Security Essentials installed, you will continue to receive anti-malware signature updates through July 14, 2015. However:

  • Microsoft warns that PC’s running Windows XP after April 8, 2014 should not be considered secure.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials will not be available for download on Windows XP after April 8, 2014.

The bottom line, however, is that – if you use Microsoft Windows XP at home or at work – it’s time to find a new operating system.

If you need help find a new operating system for your computer you should contact Ernie Dambach or Carl LeBlanc at Tahoe Tech Group in Tahoe Vista. You can visit their Web site or just pick up the phone and call: (530) 580-8324