What's wrong with XP? Nothing, but plan to migrate soon or leave your PCs open to attack

By | April 12, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

The news that Windows XP is on a two-year end of life countdown is worrisome. Microsoft will cease support for the world’s leading OS in two years (April 2014). From a security perspective, that means that organizations and consumers will have to upgrade to Windows 7, or perhaps Windows 8, or live without security updates for newly discovered vulnerabilities — an unacceptable option.

The 10-year-old operating system remained the market share leader as of January 2012, according to Net Applications, a marketing analysis firm, with around 47% (actually gaining a bit in January). That’s remarkable resilience in the face of pretty steady growth by Windows 7 (around 36%).

Part of the XP success story has been the miserable failure of Vista, which was shunned by most enterprises who looked at its bloated system requirements and few, if any reasons to upgrade. Windows 7 has been far more successful, especially in the consumer market, but still, many organizations are very happy with XP, thank you.

So, this is almost entirely an issue for businesses and other organizations, rather than individual consumers, who have been moving to Windows 7, especially as they replace their computers. About 8% of the market is still stuck with Vista, which is now on Extended Support through April 2017, when security and other software fixes will cease. We’re likely to see some end users who don’t get or appreciate the importance of the message to continue to run their aged computers on Vista, leaving them wide open to attack, but some sort of gap is inevitable.

Unless Microsoft changes its mind — and that’s hard to imagine, as I’m sure they studied this pretty hard before making the announcement — organizations need to start planning to upgrade their installed XP base. The expense and logistics will be considerable for many companies, which will also need to vet their applications on the next OS they adopt.

While all this makes business sense for Microsoft, it’s bad news for the enterprise. In fairness, 10 or 12 years on one OS is a pretty good run, but that’s cold comfort when you’re perfectly happy with what you have. But the alternative is Patchless Tuesdays for enterprises, and open season on exposed PCs for cyber attackers. No organization is going to let that happen (I assume?).

So, if you have not yet begun to migrate from XP, start moving in that direction. Microsoft customer service is awaiting your call.

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